(This is the final post in my series this week on the six verses of the 23rd Psalm . . . you can start at the beginning with Verse One here.)
Psalm 23:6: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Wait, I thought it was “goodness and mercy.”
It is . . . in many English translations of this verse.
But it is also, as in the NIV above, “goodness and love.”
Not just that! Also, “goodness and grace, glory, hope, kindness, steadfast love, loyalty, favor, devotion, righteousness, rejoicing, compassion, etc.”
How can one word mean all those things?
When it is the Hebrew word Chesed (or Hesed; the “H” sound is gutteral like the end of “Bach”), one word can mean all those wonderful things!
Chesed is one of the most awesome words in the Bible, right up there with the Greek Agape – sacrificial love in action – from the New Testament. Chesed is in fact similar to agape, but not exactly.
Both can be translated “love.” Both mean so much more.
I don’t want this post to become a Hebrew lesson, but look back at that list of English translations for chesed. So much is encompassed in the Psalmist’s declaration that God’s “goodness and chesed” will follow him. His life – our lives – is and are infused with chesed, filled to overflowing so the grace, glory, hope, loyalty, compassion, and so on that God pours out in us transforms our relationships with others.
And yet, it gets better still.
Bear with me for one more brief Hebrew digression. The word translated “follows” in most of our English Bibles more exactly means “pursues.” That small difference changes the entire nature of God’s relationship with us, and illuminates our picture of God’s chesed.
God doesn’t just follow me around attempting to shine a little love on my life (ELO shoutout).
No! God pursues me with goodness and chesed.
Most of you reading this blog know there was a significant chunk of my adult life when I actively resisted God’s pursuit. I denied not just God’s goodness but God’s very existence. But God never let go of me, never paused the pursuit.
Too often God is depicted as pursuing us in order to mete out punishment and to smite those who deserve it.
How much more wonderful is our God, who pursues us not with furious anger, but with “goodness and chesed.”
Even though what we really deserve is the smiting.
Becoming one of us was God’s ultimate pursuit of humanity.
He pursued us all the way to the cross.
The night before he died, Jesus gathered with his disciples one last time. He told them he was going to prepare a place for them – and for us. A dwelling place – an eternal home. Then he said he would come back and take them to be with him where he was.
He would take them home.
He will take us home.
Home to the house of the Lord where we will dwell . . .