Giants in Pursuit
It's fall, and that means hunting season! The evidence is everywhere: triumphant stories told around town, photos victoriously posted on social media, campsites dotting the scenic Outback I call home, and...well...dramatically lower attendance in church several Sundays in a row. Everyone shrugs and says, "You know...hunting season."
Truthfully, it's more than a season. To do it "right," it has to be a year-round pursuit. Between regular training and constant scouting (because, let's be honest, every time hunters are in the woods they have an eye out for their prey, always making note of what they see and where), the hunt never really ends. I haven't even mentioned the literature and television shows, year-round camo attire, and recreational clubs. When someone is intent on the hunt, it's obvious! I spend a lot of time with teenagers, and there's something unique that demographic has in common with hunters. You know what I'm talking about...it's the pursuit.
Boys pursue girls, girls pursue boys, and the hunt is continuous, isn't it? They might say they're not looking, but if you watch for long you'll see it...they're keeping a pretty close eye on each other.
Good moms and dads keep an eye out for all of this too. As the mother of kids that age, it can feel a little perilous...There's something hardwired in these kids to begin to pursue, even if they're not really sure what they're doing! (God, help them!)
My husband and I noticed a couple of very young bucks in our backyard the other day. They recently attached themselves to a group of does that come through our yard often, but it's clear they're not quite ready for all that rut entails. Oh, they spar with each other, but with a playfulness that betrays the seriousness of their endeavors. We're pretty sure they wouldn't even think of attempting to go head to head with a mature contender.
In one moment, they almost seem ready to pursue a doe, then before we know it they've settled into very docile daily habits of eating and chewing the cud alongside their female companions. They're too young this year, but something about the pursuit has been hardwired into them. It won't be long, and they'll pursue for real.
You know, in one way or another, we're all hardwired for pursuit.
The thing about pursuit is that it can lead to something wonderful, whether meat in the freezer, a ring on a finger, or...just fill in the blank with the object of your desire. GOD INTENDS FOR GIANTS TO PURSUE
...But not just anything. Proverbs 21:21 defines the goal.
Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)
What are giants of the faith to pursue? Righteousness and love.
And what will a giant gain when they pursue these things? Life, prosperity, and honor. The scripture says it clearly.
What intrigues me most, however, is what I find when I dig into the meanings of these words.
Here's what you need to know:
RIGHTEOUSNESS = PROSPERITY
The words righteousness and prosperity are actually translations of the same Hebrew word: tsedeq. It literally reads, "Whoever pursues tsedeq and love finds life, tsedeq and honor."
Hmmm...there's an important principle at play here:
Whoever seeks righteousness (right living) finds righteousness (prosperity of soul that results from right living). This is the same kind of logic that says...
"He who seeks me will find me..."
(For references, check out Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverbs 8:17, Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9, and Acts 17:24-28.)
Here's the idea:
Pursue right living, find right living. Pursue salvation, find salvation. Pursue the Righteous One (God), find the Righteous One. Like it says, pursue righteousness, find righteousness.
How is this possible? Jesus.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
It makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it? If I want to be righteous, I must look to Jesus, the Righteous One. He makes it so plain...He who lived rightly every moment of every day paid the price for my unrighteousness (because I couldn't), then put His righteousness on me. All I have to do is ask for this free gift (Romans 6:23). However, it doesn't end there. While my redemption is "PAID IN FULL" (See John 19:30), I have the opportunity to continue to pursue right living and find prosperity of soul to the glory of God.
But...[insert infomercial voice]...That's not all!
GIANTS PURSUE LOVE
Of course they do! Because...
"God is love." (1 John 4:8 and 16)
This just brings us back to our first principal, doesn't it? If we're seeking God, we're seeking Love. And if we want to be righteous like Him, we're going to love like Him. What a thrill!
Still, there's more when we dig into the meaning of this word love. The author of Proverbs 21:21 used a particularly special word for love, hesed.
Hesed is one of the weightiest words in scripture. It's the language of covenant used to describe goodness and kindness that never fails -- lovingkindness -- and connotes compassion, mercy, grace, and covering from wrath. It is the covenantal love Abraham, Moses, and David all relied upon, the mercy Rahab pleaded for, and the lovingkindness that will follow us all the days of our lives that we should dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).
It's the love available to all of us when we pursue Jesus -- the love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), the reason God gave His only son to provide salvation (John 3:16), the love that stretched itself out upon the cross for us (1 John 3:16), and the love which provided for us before we even knew we were sinners (Romans 5:8).
All we have to do to pursue love is look to Jesus for our salvation!
SALVATION BRINGS LIFE
Proverbs 21:21 says that if we pursue righteousness and love, we will find life -- chayah!
The Hebrew word chayah refers to the years one lives, abundant life (think John 10:10), and "quickening; reviving — as when the soul is tired." I'll take it!
Who doesn't get a tired soul and need some reviving from time to time?
I often think of a time in ministry when we were so worn out we were ready to quit. A miserable mismatch of values, beliefs, and a host of heartbreaking disagreements had led to a spiritual exhaustion my husband and I weren't sure we could overcome. It was difficult to imagine continuing in our call, yet there remained a persistent, nagging sensation that God wasn't done with us yet. Because our earnest desire to pursue God Himself never waned, we continued to seek His righteous ways and His leading in our call despite our weariness.
You know what? God showed up. A door opened and the more we peered in, the more our hearts were quickened and revived. It was as if he breathed His life right into the depths of our souls and with each exhale of His Spirit, our spirits inhaled fresh vitality. (How could we expect any less? Jesus did identify Himself as "the life" in John 14:6.)
We were energized for the calling He placed on our lives and bursting with hope for what He would accomplish if we would simply follow His lead. It's been several years, and we haven't looked back once! God has continued to breath His life into our lungs, and we continue to marvel at the energy He gives for His work and His glory! (It really is all about Him!)
GIANTS FIND HONOR
By now, you've got to be dying to know what honor means, right? Right...??
You know I can't wait to tell you!
Honor in Proverbs 21:21 is the Hebrew word kabod.
Kabod is a huge deal.
Meaning "abundance, honor, and glory," it's the word used to describe the place where God dwells in the weight of his glory and majesty. Kabod is heavy because it's where God lives.
It's what led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Kabod is the sort of place where unauthorized and unscrupulous priests would die on the spot if they were disrespectful, what was removed on the day Eli’s daughter-in-law cried out “I-chabod!” (“The glory has departed!”), and the very presence that distinguished the people of God from the entire rest of the world! In these New Testament days when our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), it is the kabod that rests now within the people of God, distinguishing us just the same!
Why is kabod translated honor in Proverbs 21:21?
Because there is no greater honor than that God Almighty would choose to house His weighty glory within us!
The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote...
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
A couple of years ago, I described an incident which I cannot help but recall as I read that verse. It had been a bit of a rough day with my kids and one of those nights...But after things calmed down, we had read Bible, and I had settled them into bed, I was praying with them.
Here's how I penned what happened...
The Lord reminded me of an illustration Joel used in his teaching in our Sunday night service this week of the potter & the clay. God is the master potter and we are the clay.
Knowing the illustration was fresh in the boys' minds too, I used my prayer to thank God that He can re-shape us however He wants, no matter what seems to mess up the design, if we'll just keep ourselves from getting dry and un-pliable.
As soon as I said "amen," Johnny shot up in bed.
"Mom, I have a question."
"What does God put in all those little pots he makes?"
Immediately the answer came to me. "Oh, that's an easy one to answer," I replied, "His Holy Spirit."
"Really?" he inquired.
"Yes," I answered matter-of-factly. "I know that because of what 2 Corinthians 4:7 says. 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.' The Holy Spirit is the treasure God puts in us, even though we're just little clay pots, just to show how amazing He really is. Then the world sees Him instead of us!"
"Huh. That's pretty amazing."
Yes, it is, Son. It most certainly is.
I think we usually get it wrong when we think of honor. We want an elevated status or position; we want others to look upon us with a certain degree of respect or to be honored with the bestowment of privilege, power, or material prosperity.
But hear this:
There is no greater honor than that the God of the Universe would look upon all of creation and say, "That one right there. Yes, that one. I want to put my Spirit -- my glory -- in her (or him)," and that's exactly what we get when we pursue righteousness and love.
I. Am. Undone.
Be a giant in pursuit.
To God be the glory!