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Beyond Thanks: Why Does God Redeem Us?

Feb 20, 2018

וַיִּקְרָ֛א יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹ אַיֶּֽכָּה׃

Hashem called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

vai-YIK-ra a-do-NAI e-lo-HEEM el ha-a-DAM, vai-YO-mer LO a-y'-KAH

Genesis 3:9

Anyone living a life of faith has experienced ups and downs. We have trials and crises that shake us. And we have joyous and fortuitous times when we feel that all is right with the world.

As I discussed in the previous post on Psalm 23 verse 2, our relationship with God goes through these transitions with us. When we are struggling, we turn to Him in prayer even as we feel our faith challenged. Whether we want to admit it or not, our faith is tested by difficult times. We find ourselves wondering if the Lord has abandoned us. These doubts are the perfectly normal human reaction to suffering. Even King David in the book of Psalms famously asked the Lord, “My God! My God! Why have You left me?” (Psalms 22:2)

But times of trial and suffering are not the only times when we feel distance from God. Regrettably, there are times when we forget about God. Usually, this happens when we are too concerned with our own material physical desires. We simply put Him out of our mind.

After Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Lord turned to him and asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Obviously, God knew where Adam was. He was not inquiring as to Adam’s physical location. God was saying to Adam, “Where are you? Why are you not where you are supposed to be spiritually? What happened to you, Adam?” Adam, like us in our moments of weakness, just wasn’t thinking about God when his wife offered him some delicious pleasurable fruit to taste. He strayed from awareness of God. When the Lord said, “Where are you?” to Adam, He was bringing him back.

This is the thought that comes to my mind as I read Psalm 23 verse 3:

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Merriam-Webster gives the following definition for the word restore:

to bring back to or put back into a former or original state; to renew

The Hebrew word used here is YESHOVEV. This verb form appears 12 times in the Hebrew Bible. What’s fascinating is that it does not always mean restore. In a number of these instances, this word actually means something completely different. For example, in Ezekiel 38:3-4 the Lord says:

Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen… (see also Ezekiel 39:2, Jeremiah 8:5, Jeremiah 50:6, Isaiah 47:10)

In Ezekiel, as well as in the other verses I cited, this word means to be turned in the wrong direction.

I’d like to suggest that the most accurate translation of the first phrase of our verse – He restores my soul – should be He turns my soul around.

In other words, in our verse, David is saying that he was going in the wrong direction and the Lord turned him around and got his soul back to where it needs to be.

Now look at the end of the verse.

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

For His name’s sake.

The Lord, my shepherd, gets me back on the right track when I stray. He leads me back to Him. He gets me through my lost wanderings. … For His name’s sake.

Every one of us has experienced the hand of God helping us through our difficult times. We have all had experiences that were orchestrated by the Lord to get us back on track; back to Him. When we feel the loving, guiding hand of our Shepherd we feel grateful. We feel protected. But this verse adds a deeper dimension to what we have experienced.

There is a reason that the Lord gets us back on track. There is a reason that he restores our souls to their proper alignment. For His name’s sake. Not for my sake. For His.

God wants something from us.

When we experience the guiding hand of the Lord getting us through tough times; when God restores our souls and brings us back to a stronger relationship with Him, we remind ourselves that God does this for a reason. God wants us to spread knowledge of Him by building intimacy and relationship with us through these circumstances. He wants us to be His agents on this earth sharing who He is and His goodness with others.

For His name’s sake. Name means awareness and recognition. If nobody knows who I am or interacts with me, I have no name. A name means I am known. Our verse is saying that the Lord restores us to Him so that we will increase knowledge of Him in the world.

When we are distant from God, when our faith in Him is weak whether due to suffering or our own straying, He restores us. He brings us back. And when He does, we remind ourselves that He brings us back to Him for a purpose. For His name’s sake.  For the sake of the ultimate task of all people of faith; to create a world in which the earth shall be filled of the knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

God performs acts of redemption and salvation in our lives so that we will increase knowledge of Him in the world.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki serves as Executive Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, and he is cohost of the Shoulder to Shoulder podcast

Related Names and Places:

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 3, Chapter 23

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