Some of our most well-known and beloved Bible verses take on a whole new meaning when one particular word is unpacked. Such is the case with the final verse of Psalm 23. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).
Some time ago I was listening to a John Piper sermon in which he quoted this verse and said that the meaning of “follow” was “to track down,” as in “God tracked you down.” I was a bit surprised by that definition. I had never heard it before and didn’t know what to think of it.
I would eagerly agree that God’s goodness and love have followed me all my life, but to say that this means “God tracked me down” sounded strange to me. I didn’t get it.
Here we are several years later, and I finally got around to finding out what Piper was talking about. I read Psalm 23 this morning and remembered Piper’s comment. So I looked up the word for “follow” and here’s how “radaph” is defined by several reputable Hebrew dictionaries: “to run after, to chase, to hunt, to pursue, to persecute.”
This word appears 143 times in the Old Testament, and in the King James Version is translated “pursue” 80 times, “follow” 19 times and “chase” 13 times. It can be used in a negative sense, and so is translated “persecute” 27 times. Context will determine whether the purpose of the chase is for good or evil. God is chasing us with His goodness and love, so the idea of persecution is obviously not in view here.
But there it is, in black and white – God “follows” us with his grace and mercy with great intensity. He is literally running after us so He can bless us. Let this thought take your breath away: God pursues you. And yes, it is accurate to say the Almighty God of the universe “tracks us down.”
Aren’t you glad He does? I am. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this article and you wouldn’t be reading it.
Left to our own devices, we are wired to run from God, not toward Him. This is the testimony of Scripture: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless” (Romans 3:11-12).
While we have turned our backs on Him, determined to go our own way as the master of our fate and the captain of our souls, He continues the chase. And then, one day, God reaches out and gets ahold of our heart and reels us in.
Jesus described the pull of God’s irresistible grace like this: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 5:44). God’s love is like a magnet that we can no longer repel. Our rebellious hearts of stone become tender hearts of flesh. This is a miraculous internal transformation that only God can bring about. And with this change, everything changes.
We now see our sin as God sees it – utterly sinful and worthy of eternal punishment. With the weight of our guilt bearing down on our repentant heart, we see the death of Christ as incredibly beneficial, no longer foolishness, but the best news we ever heard. We embrace the gospel with unspeakable joy. And we see Jesus as infinitely beautiful, the Lover of our souls, the Holy One of Israel and the Lord of our lives. We bow before Him in humble adoration, a new creature – justified, reconciled, forgiven – and overjoyed!
All this happened because God tracked you down. Rejoice in the Lord, saved sinner, rejoice! God pursued you and brought you to Himself. Aren’t you glad He did?