Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
Several Hebrew words come out of the practice of hunting. One was radaf, to “chase after” or “pursue”; another was nasag, meaning “to overtake” or “to catch up to.” Of course these words were used in their literal sense, as when Laban pursued (radaf) and overtook (nasag) Jacob fleeing with his daughters (Genesis 31:23).
In our fast-paced culture, most of us seem to be chasing after something. Even Christians feel like they need to be pursuing more and more. When we describe how we are doing spiritually, we say that we’re “in pursuit” of a deeper walk with God or a greater ability to serve. We’re always striving.
But listen to the delightful imagery in Deuteronomy 28:1-2. When Israel seeks after doing God’s will, what happens is not that they will “catch up to” God or his blessings. Instead, God’s blessings will catch up to them! The text says, “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake (nasag) you if you obey the LORD your God.”
The imagery is hilarious here, as if God is running after people with armloads of gifts. What a thought. If we pursue righteousness, we don’t have to worry about finding our reward, because God is chasing after us with it!
Another lovely place where we find imagery like this is Psalm 23:6
“Surely goodness and mercy will pursue (radaf) me all of my life….”
Most translations say that “goodness and mercy will follow me,” but the word here is radaf, which means “pursue”! The psalmist has no worries about his enemies who are after him, because he is utterly convinced that God is chasing him down with his love.
(Photo: Lee Lilly)
See Listening to the Language of the Bible, by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema, En-Gedi Resource Center, 2004. This is a collection of devotional essays that mediate on the meaning of biblical words and phrases in their original setting.
For a friendly, bite-sized Bible study of five flavorful Hebrew words, see 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know, by Lois Tverberg, OurRabbiJesus.com, 2014 (ebook).