“For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 16:5, ESV)

“My steadfast love” here is the Hebrew word “hesed.”  It refers to God’s commitment to his covenant and is translated “loyal love” or “steadfast love” among other things.  It’s a difficult word to translate.

The point is that God’s hesed is his commitment to his people to love and care for them.  The word permeates the Psalms as the psalmists recount again and again God’s love for his people and his commitment to them.

It’s shocking then, when we get to Jeremiah and read this verse where God takes away his hesed from his own people!  What has caused God to do this?  Israel’s sin and apostasy and idolatry and failure to turn back to God in repentance. It’s hard to imagine something worse than God taking away his hesed from his people.

He, of course, did exactly that, and we know that not only was the land of Israel destroyed, but the people were carried off into captivity.  So prophesied.  So done.

God being God, the story does not end there because we see again and again in the Old Testament, mercy coming pouring out of the cracks of judgment. Later on in this same chapter, God says:

but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.” (Jeremiah 16:15, ESV)

God withdraws his hesed from his own people, but not for good.

Mercy in judgment.  This is our God.