We are often told to “pursue God” and “draw near to God.” The Bible encourages it: “Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps. 27:8). The Bible makes clear that God can be found by those who pursue Him. So, at times, the action falls upon us to pursue God.
The Bible also makes clear, however, that God pursues us: “You hunt me like a lion” (Job 10:16). The God of the Bible does not sit idle waiting for us to approach Him; He is not passive. Rather, He pursues us.
The writer of Psalm 23 expresses God’s active pursuit of His people with the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6). Many translations read, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,” and while this is an accurate literal translation, it fails to capture the essence of the language. First, the term “mercy” carries a deeper sense than a passing feeling. In Hebrew the word refers to God’s covenantal mercy, something that is sure and certain. It is not dependent upon a capricious emotion but is bound to God’s covenant with His people.
Also, the psalmist is not saying that the goodness and mercy of God follow after me as something I leave in my wake behind me, nor does he mean that God’s goodness and mercy follow me, chasing me but never able to catch me. The term used by the psalmist, usually translated as “follow,” is the Hebrew word radaf, a military term meaning to “pursue with the intent of overtaking.” In other words, God’s goodness and mercy pursue me aggressively, as an army does its fleeing foe, seeking to surround me and overtake me.
Quite often, the cares of life can be overwhelming. When we approach God, He can feel distant and far off. The God of the Bible, however, is One whose covenant mercy pursues us daily. He pursues us. And that is a comforting feeling. He not only asks us to seek Him, but He seeks after us. Today, will we allow ourselves to be found by Him?
Father, open my eyes to all of the ways You are pursuing me. May Your goodness and covenant mercy surround me and overtake me. May I also be aware that You actively pursue all people, like You do me. Amen.