Psalm 23 is a well known scripture even outside of religious influences. In fact, I bet most of the visitors who just read the two words that began this post started saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”, inside of their heads. This post isn’t going to be about the 23rd Psalm, however… though I do want to allude to one verse – the 6th – and only to half of it..
Here are three different translations of the first part of the 6th verse:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ~ KJV
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life ~ NIV
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life ~ NASB
I have highlighted the only difference between the three translations. Isn’t it interesting that the 3 different translations used a different word to translate the Hebrew word that sits in the original language? What is that word, you ask? Good question.
The Hebrew word in question is checed which is pronounced as HEH SED with a throat clearing sound for that first letter ‘C’ in the word. What is beautiful about that word is that the English language trips all over itself trying to find a short definitive response that makes sense to the readers. Consider that those 3 different translations use 3 different words to try and explain it.
Mercy, Love, Lovingkindess – all great words but all short of the full meaning behind hesed. I got to studying this word because it is used in the book of Ruth when Naomi is addressing and blessing Ruth for her kindness towards her. Heced points to a covenant loyalty – it entails faithfulness.
Ruth lives out that word when she speaks those timeless words:
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”
She said those words to a woman that had nothing left to offer her except empty hands and a home in a land where she would be an outcast. Naomi recognized this devotion from Ruth as heced.
Maybe that is why I like how one group on the internet has described this Hebrew word:
The consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious love of our Father God
Isn’t it awesome to think that when David penned the words, “Surely goodness and heced will follow me…”, that in his mind he pictured something far stronger than those three English words that we have been given.
Growing up in the 80’s church, especially the church of God, there would inevitably be a Revival meeting. For those not aware, a revival was usually a week of nightly church meetings where the sermon was delivered by a ‘well-known’ evangelist in that denomination’s circle of influence.
The aim of these events appeared to be threefold:
- Encourage the faithful to be more faithful
- Get those back-slidden people to recommit their lives to Christ
- And.. to get the lost to accept Jesus as their Savior
Ultimately, I think success was measured by the numbers that came in – “22 people recommitted to Christ, 4 Saved!!” It would probably be worth mentioning that 18 of the 22 had recommitted themselves at each of the past 4 revivals and that a year later only 1 of the newly saved could be found still practicing their new-found faith.
Looking back I wonder if there was confusion in the campaign. Think about what the word revival means. Can something that has never been alive be revived? A large portion of the focus of a revival was to ‘win lost souls to Jesus’. But then that isn’t truly revival is it? On the surface it appears that a revival would really be meant for the congregation that was dying away… forgetting that first love.
If a congregation needs reviving, is the cure an evangelist coming into town? What happens when the evangelist leaves – does the congregation begin a new downward spiral to apathy?
The church of the 21st century has replaced that outdated revival technique with campaigns and events. But, alas, it appears that the same confusion that existed in the 80’s still permeates the present.
- We attempt to treat the symptom and not the disease
- We blend edification and evangelism and end up watering down both
- We still use numbers to determine how successful the campaign was
I’ve mentioned before that the health of an organism isn’t determined by number but by function. I don’t determine how well I feel in the morning by counting my toes and fingers but by how well all the members are functioning to their purpose.
Maybe I have it all wrong, but it seems to me that edification(equipping of the saints) and evangelism are two separate functions. And, I would surmise that evangelism is dependent on the success (health) of the edification. Just to put those statements into perspective: you don’t have a novice chef cook dinner for the President anymore than you would have a puking, expert chef cooking for the President. The body of believers need to be trained and healthy in order to function correctly.
A healthy body is built on at least 6 things:
- Ability to breathe
- Clean Water
- Nutritional food
- And Love
In the church body those would correlate to:
- Reliance on the Holy Spirit
- Life in Christ
- Proper instruction in the Word
- Seeking God’s will
In school we were taught the food pyramid so that we would understand the importance of what keeps us healthy. I have tried to order the lists above in the order of importance as I understand them. We could quibble about how important shelter is over food and water depending on the environment but those are usually the exception and not the rule.
This post has already gone on for too long so let me cut to an important observation. I believe we are guilty of being more concerned about the bottom 3 items than we are the top 3 and that is getting the cart in front of the horse. Don’t get me wrong, we are not necessarily overlooking the first 3 items, but, in some cases, we are substituting for them.
Just to give you some food for thought:
- Has pragmatism or expediency replaced the Holy Spirit in your decisions
- Has self help, self empowerment, or living your best life now replaced the abundant life that Christ purchased for you
- Do you get more excited about a new best seller or gospel tool than you do the Word of God
It’s just confusion and gimmicks when we choose a shallow replacement.
Recently I had an opportunity to watch Cadillac Records. I enjoyed the movie as it covers a genre of music that speaks to me and there is one scene from the movie that has continued to stick with me for both the song and the cinematography.
What movie moment has haunted you?