It’s true that God is “with” me —
he has promised that hundreds of times.
And he protects me, always ready
to shield me when I’m attacked.
But he is not just “shadowing” me,
like I used to think, hearing it said
that he “follows” me every day of my life.
I pictured him watching, behind.
Now I know the truth: he chases me down!
When I run away, he catches right up,
and holds me when I stumble or fall,
not passive but lovingly active!
I remember watching my toddlers
learn how to walk and to run for fun.
I stayed close by, but when they ran off
I hunted them down, grabbed their hands.
And that is what my Abba does:
He pursues me, reaching out for me
with his kind love, chasing me down
to hold me in arms of mercy.
When I read or recite the 23rd Psalm, I love to meditate on those first verses with the lush green grass and quiet flowing waters. My favorite spots for rest and meditation are those near water; there is something deeply refreshing about clear streams, or rushing currents near a waterfall, or even ocean waves. Those last examples are not quiet! But they are refreshing reminders of the Creator’s artistry and the Sovereign’s power and energy.
It was when I was preparing to help translate that psalm into Nyarafolo that I had to dig into the Hebrew words and phrases, to explain them to my mother-tongue translator, Moise. To my astonishment, I discovered that verse 6 had a very different kind of impact in the original language than the English translations I had always used. Their rendering of the first part of the verse is well-known:
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” (KJV) or “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (NIV).
I found out that the word translated “follow” is radap, and when you read through the Hebrew lexicons you find out that over and over it is used in the sense of “pursue, chase, persecute, overtake, hunt”! Not what I expected! The New Living Translation is one that actually dared to use the word “pursue:”
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life” (NLT)
Maybe it is because the sense is usually that of a hunt, even a malevolent pursuit (or persecution!), that the strong wording has been avoided. But I find it deeply comforting that our Shepherd cares about us like that. He doesn’t just stick around, watching the flock. He reaches out to find us, to draw us in with loving purpose. We may stray or run too fast; no worries, he will come after us and bring us into his protection. Here there is no malevolence in the pursuit – it is stipulated that it is his goodness and his unfailing love that are chasing after me. No wonder he even gave his life in order to have me for his own! No wonder he will not let me just take my own path, one that leads to destruction!