A college guy walked into a Kinko’s with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. As the manager removed the frame, he noticed something written on the back. It said:
“My dearest Jeffrey, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity. Brittany”
and then P.S.: “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”
Unlike Ruth, Brittany’s love was fickle, not loyal.
Sometimes we think God’s love is fickle. When we backslide, rebel against Him, live in sin, like Naomi had done—we wonder if God will ever accept us again. Even when we come back back to God’s people, back to church, we wonder if God will ever love us the same way.
Like Jeffrey, we’ve experienced so many Brittanys in life that we can’t even imagine a faithful love that will not let us go.
In contrast to the fickle love we’ve experienced, Ruth’s loyal love points to what the Bible calls hesed. We saw this word in 1:8 (kindly). Now it occurs in 2:20 (kindness).
It’s a word we can’t translate directly from the Hebrew. We don’t have an English equivalent. It takes a lot of English words like: loyalty, mercy, love, kindness, lovingkindness—these are all acts of devotion that flow out of a covenant relationship.
Hesed sums up the ideal lifestyle of God’s people who are living in a covenant relationship with Him. It’s the lifestyle Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount of loving your neighbor as yourself. It is an active, sacrificial, selfless caring for others.
Because it’s a covenant word, there always two parties: a person in desperate need and someone with the resources to make a difference. Hesed goes beyond duty or legal obligation. It is a loyal, selfless love that volunteers to do things that no one could have expected of you.
It’s the kind of love we see a glimpse of in the book of Ruth.
It’s the kind of love we see fully in the life and death of Jesus.