In the Old Testament, that rich word hesed, which the ESV translates “steadfast love,” carries a connotation not only of love but also of strength and steadfastness. Our love can become sentimental, a sweet but fleeting thought on a Valentine or butterflies in the stomach. God’s love is different. It is strong and steadfast. It is utterly determined. He has contracted to place himself in covenant relationship with us and to make us his own.

Yes, his love for us is a contractual agreement, but it is so much more than cold, lifeless obligation. He has generously determined to satiate our souls with happiness. He has chosen to betroth us to himself: “I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness” (Hos. 2:19–20).

God’s love is simply this: a passionate, unwavering, joyous determination to do us good and to bestow upon our souls eternal happiness, no matter what the cost. Here’s how the prophet Zephaniah described it: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). God’s love for us isn’t some duty-driven obligation; no, he “takes pleasure in those who fear him” and “hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:11). He “delights” in his steadfast love (Jer.9:23–24; Mic. 7:18). His love isn’t a detached commitment to bless you, nor is it a grudging compliance with old vows after all affection has waned. No, it’s his delight. — Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009).

I have just completed a seven-part Bible Study called Ancient Words. It explores seven key Hebrew words we need to understand in order to really understand the gospel. This article is an excerpt from this Bible study. The Bible Study is available on Amazon. It is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.