Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Set Apart Conference in St. Paul, MN, where Ann Voskamp was one of the keynote speakers. One of my dear friends from Spokane flew out here for the occasion with her so-beyond-cute 7 month old baby girl.
Were we ever blessed! Ann's sessions were filled to the brim with truth and encouragement. I could go on and on, but here's one thing I've been chewing on this past week...
She introduced me to the Hebrew word radaph. It means "to pursue, to chase, to attend closely upon."
It's the word David uses in Psalm 23:6 when he writes, "Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow [radaph] me all the days of my life." The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Genesis 14 when Abram heard that his nephew, Lot, had been captured. He wasted no time. He was up and after that nephew of his lickedy-split!
I had always imagined God's goodness and mercy following me around in a sort of "Don't worry, I'm right here. I've got your back" kind of way. But it's a little more intense than that. He pursues me with goodness and mercy.
Ever since we've had sheep, passages like this in Scripture have really come alive to me. I get this whole pursuing thing. One day last spring, my sweet Caleb went out to the field to check on his sheep. He came running back to the house in tears, because a few of his sheep had gotten out and were running up the road alongside the irrigation ditch. We managed to get them back into the field--all except for our ram. Oh, this ram! He and I became good friends that day.
I took off and ran after him. I didn't follow him, by any means. No, I took off in hot pursuit for this guy.
He ran and ran and turned at the bend in the road. When he heard the other sheep bleating in the distance, he tried to get to them by lunging forward and jumping into a ditch full of blackberry brambles. Down he went, disappearing into the brambles. I ran back to the house to put on a long-sleeved shirt and my rubber boots. I looked all over the garage for gardening shears, but all I could find was a small pair of wire cutters. I know. I know. But it was all I could find.
I spent about an hour and a half down in that ditch in an effort to cut my way through to him. He was scared, I could tell. He kept lunging forward, moving deeper and deeper into the blackberries. I found myself saying to him in frustration, "Just be STILL!" Then I had one of those light bulb moments.
Just be still.
I had lots of time down in that ditch to think about this, trust me. You know, all the times God says to me, "Just be still," and I'm not. And then I lunge forward because things are taking too long, or because I get scared. But I love that He still pursues me. He lunges forward, too, right after me. He doesn't have a sorry pair of wire cutters, either. He pursues me with goodness and mercy.
Oh, and the timing of it all! Not by coincidence, I was 2 days away from Good Friday. Two days away from Passover, and here I was in the thicket with this ram of ours. A sobering reminder of the ram God provided for Abraham in Isaac's place and the reality that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed in my place. I was speechless. I've been wanting to write this down for about a year now, but it was all too deep for me. Not until I heard Ann speak this weekend did my thoughts start to form words.
As Easter approaches, it's all I can think about--our ram in the thicket and this beautiful picture of being pursued by my Good Shepherd.