May 2023 update from Aaron Levenhagen.

by Aaron Levenhagen on May 03, 2023

Pursued by Hesed

At the halfway point of the liturgical season of Easter, we customarily pause to commemorate “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The appointed psalm for the day is Psalm 23. Just fifty-five words in Hebrew; six verses in English … but beloved for its poetic beauty and its virtually inexhaustible theology. I just want to focus on one half of one verse right now: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a KJV).

The word translated “mercy” in this verse is my favorite Hebrew word, hesed. Hesed occurs nearly 250 times in the Old Testament; the majority of the occurrences are in the Psalms. It is a notoriously difficult word to translate—mercy, kindness, steadfast love, covenant faithfulness, lovingkindness. One author offered this definition: “When the person from whom I have the right to expect nothing gives me everything.”

What about the word “follow”? “Follow” is honestly a pretty weak translation; the underlying Hebrew word (rādap) means “to chase, to pursue.” The goodness and mercy of God don’t trail along behind us like some kind of puppy. It’s more like a stallion galloping after us, chasing us, hot on our heels. The goodness, mercy, grace, and lovingkindness of God relentlessly pursue us because our Heavenly Father wants all people “to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4 LSB).

Jesus is “goodness and mercy” in the flesh. He left heaven to pursue us. He was willing to take our sins upon Himself, claiming them as His own, laying down His life for the sheep. And having secured the forgiveness of sins and eternal life by His death and resurrection, even now by the Holy Spirit, He pursues us with His Gospel of forgiveness. Even when we run and hide because of our sin, Jesus doesn’t abandon us. When we wander, He runs after us time and time again to bring us back. The hesed of the Good Shepherd pursues us all the way to heaven’s gate and into the arms of our waiting Father, where we will “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6b, KJV).

— Aaron Levenhagen

 Click here to see Aaron's full May 2023 newsletter.

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