God’s Steadfast Love

HESED (Old Testament) … AGAPE (New Testament) – “Steadfast Love,” “Loving-Kindness” – how can a few words describe “the breadth, length, height, depth, and to know the Love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” [Ephesians 3:18-19], as God reaches down to personally touch mankind in its creation and then in its need? From even before the world was created, He planned a relationship of extraordinary Love with His creatures, a motivation that originated at the very center of the heart of God.
What does love always desire? Love does not ask for gifts. Love asks for love. “I don’t want your gifts” says the maid to the lover, “I want you.” Why this? Because love must always give itself to and for the beloved. If love were to give anything else but love, it would not be real love. Now this little baby in Bethlehem is God. It is love, it is God giving Himself.
… When we realize that God is Love, Bethlehem must follow…. Because God is Love, Love had to give itself. It did give itself. The Child in Bethlehem was born because God loved the world. [Berthold von Schenk, The Presence (Ernst Kaufman, Inc: New York, 1945), pg 41]
Unless this aspect of Love is accounted for, one will never understand the Bible. The Scriptures must be the demonstration that God must give Himself, a desire of the heart that compels Him to go to an extent beyond what we could ever have anticipated. The proof of this motivation can be seen in His self-sacrifice on the cross, in the words “Father, forgive them” and in His death for “the whole world” [I John 1:2] – not just for a select favorable few, but even for those who will persist in rejecting Him.

Hope Despite Desolation

The reason for the subsequent sending of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden was so that mankind would not exist forever in this condition. Although a goal of modern medicine is to make the human body never die, one wonders with the capriciousness of nature, along with human greed (such as organized crime, deliberate pollution, and the like), how tired of life one would become after the first thousand years, experiencing the same disillusionment as described in the Book of Ecclesiastes (written from a lifetime of only 80 years). By being sent out of the Garden, humanity would not automatically be consigned to what would eventually become a living hell.

Yet the way to the Tree of Life is “kept” (as Adam would “keep” the garden [Genesis 2:15]) – there would be a way back, an answer to humanity’s broken condition. But it would require an innocent Victim of God’s choosing; Whose Blood would be shed; Who would “cover” or “ransom” all of the sin, all of mankind’s “nakedness” before God and Creation; Who would pour His own Life/Blood into desolate human existence. The Creator himself clothes these sinners from this sacrifice [Genesis 3:21], depicting that one day God would clothe all who would follow Him with something even greater than the sacrifice’s clothing of skins, we would be clothed with Jesus, with His righteousness, holiness, Love and Life [Galatians 3:27] – His Glory.

Hope Does Not Disappoint Us

For I know the plans I have designed for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [Jeremiah 29:11]
At the Cross, God-come-into-flesh experiences betrayal, abandonment, hatred, cruelty, indifference, lawlessness, irresponsibility and more. But this is not new: the Old Testament is filled with the same things toward the Creator, and one wonders why He does not simply blow the whistle and kick everyone off of His Creation.
Yet as St Paul affirms that it is precisely while we are sinners, godless, and enemies of God when He reconciles us to Himself in Jesus [Romans 5:6-11], therefore “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us” [verse 5].
What a contrast this presents to the despair of fatalism! Here is the declaration that the Creator cares deeply about each human, enough so that God the Son would die for us, and that the Holy Spirit could come to live in each of us – we are that noticed by Him Who made this vast Universe!
Being the significant and essential “Image of God” to the Cosmos, there is purpose and meaning for being on this earth, and humanity is rooted and grounded in an eternal existence. What humans do can have enormous worth and value, not just for here, but also as the Creator works within all Creation forever.
Oddly enough, He takes the extreme risk of offering His own Life in ransom for humans so that they might be restored to His original design for them. However, this is not merely a restoration to Adam and Eve’s original state. The Bible, more so in the New Testament, speaks of a final existence not just on this earth, but also in heaven: “seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” [Ephesians 2:6]. Had those first two people not sinned, there might have been a time when their Lord would have turned to them and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your Master” [Matthew 25:21,23] – a destiny which still is intended for all who will be “faithful” to their Creator’s will.

The Startling Characteristic

As we consider the ultimate fulfillment of the Creator’s Plan, Revelation 21:2-4 describes something necessary for us to consider:
I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with mankind. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His People, and God Himself will be with them;
This is backwards! When we think of heaven, we think of when we go to be with God. However, apparently when God thinks of “heaven,” it will be when He comes to be with us. This same sense is found in Ezekiel 37:26-27; in fact, it is echoed in Jesus’ Name, “Immanuel” – “God is with us” –, and in such promises as Matthew 28:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”
The Bible is the story of how God invades our world time and again to get close to us. He shows up after the first sin in order to call Adam and Eve back to Himself. With Abraham He initiates the extraordinary relationship of Covenant, giving this man the astounding nickname, “the Covenant-Friend of God” [Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23]. His compelling desire in His Love is seen again in the wilderness Tent of Meeting placed literally in the midst of the Israelite camp, and which draws to its climax as God takes on human flesh in Jesus, now forever “one” with humanity.
This turn-around of perspective is essential in regard to those “Ultimate Questions.” God actually wants to be with us, not in the sense of tolerating our presence, but rather where He enjoys becoming close with us and looks forward to the day when He will make this happen.


This is the working foundation for the questions such as “Who Am I?” and “Why Am I Here?” Questions like “Why am I not there?” and “Why am I not all there?” may give a chuckle, but they really are also important. If we are to be the reflection of God, why are we not in a perfect world? Why do we still remain in the political, economic, ecological mess in regard to this earth? Why can we not experience heaven now – why must we wait? Why is Creation still “subject to futility,” eagerly awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” [Romans 8:19-20]? Why is there hard-to-understand suffering in the world?
And it takes only a bit of introspection (if we are willing), to discover that there are all sorts of emptinesses within and around each of us. Why are our lives so often in chaos? Why is there a seemingly elusive something that is missing in ourselves, in our culture, and in our world? Contrary to some opinions, this does not refute “the hope which does not disappoint us,” but rather demands that we go deeper into the heart and the motivations of God. We are to wrestle with and to discover just how much He wills to accomplish in bringing us to become more His Image and Soul-Likeness before all the Universe.
As our Lord increasingly makes us the human extension of this all-wise Creator and Savior in Jesus, we join St Paul who realized in the majesty of God’s plan for the Jews: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33].