Pursue: to follow in order to overtake, capture; to proceed in accordance with the plan or purpose. The most important part of this definition is the word "follow". Did you ever stop to consider all the things in life you "follow". In Facebook "speak", we "follow" our friends - keeping up with their lives through the social networking feed we obtain from their posts. In terms of a military command, when we "follow" an order, we are doing exactly as we have been instructed - not veering from the original intent of the order. We "follow" certain news events because they catch our eye and stimulate some form of curiosity within. In all these examples, we "follow" or "pursue" because there is something we count on as a "benefit" to us. If we "follow", maybe we will learn something, be kept safe, or have the inside info on what is going on.
Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor. (Proverbs 21:21 NLT)
I daresay the "following" God honors is the type encompassed in this verse. In the Message Bible, the passage reads similarly, but has a little bit of a different twist: Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind finds life itself—glorious life! The idea of "pursuing" is presented as "hunting" - carrying the idea of chasing after, or searching for something we wish to obtain. Whether we use the word "pursue" or "hunt", the idea is one of searching thoroughly, seeking intently.
If you and I were to refine our "following" or "pursuing" a little, I wonder just how much that change the pursuit? In Facebook land, we have an opportunity to scroll over a person's name, then choose how much of the individual's posts we want to be seeing in our news feed. In other words, we get to determine how much we want to "follow" of their life story! Have you ever excluded some part of a friend's feed only to be asked by them if you saw their post? When you proclaim you did not, the "hiding" of them from your feed is very apparent!
I wonder if we have done the same with God's "feed" in our lives? Perhaps we have been "selective" about how much of God's feed we want. We exclude certain books of the Bible because we have labeled them too hard to understand, not pertinent to our present day experiences, or the like. We dismiss certain commands because they seem archaic and out of touch with what life is like today. We even deny hearing his promptings in our lives, choosing instead to follow our own. If God were to ask us if we got his latest "update", I wonder how we'd all answer this question?
Our writer reminds us of pursuing righteousness and unfailing love. Pursuing so as to overtake it - making it our way of life rather than a thing we view as pie in the sky. Isn't this what the hunter does? He tracks the object of his hunt and then he takes it as his own - allowing it to become whatever it is he needs. If he takes in the meat from it, he finds nourishment for his body. If he uses the hide to make clothing, he finds covering for his nakedness. If he puts the remainder in the ground, he allows the remainder to feed the earth from which he will bring forth crops in season.
Pursuing righteousness and unfailing love is a lot like hunting for game. We find nourishment for our spirit, covering for our shame, and the hope for a harvest to come. God assures us of three things as a result of us pursuing righteousness and unfailing love - the two things we can find in the person of Christ. First, we find life. Isn't this what the game gives the hunter when he takes the meat into his body? In the shedding of blood, he obtains that which gives him life. In the shedding of Christ's blood, we obtained life. In taking in his life, we obtain eternal life!
Second, we find righteousness. Nothing covers over our shame - the influence of things we have done and/or have had done to us in our past - like the righteousness of God. It "covers" us. When we feel "shame" isn't it because we somehow equate the thing we have done or which has been done to us as something as significant as parading around naked? In obtaining God's righteousness, we are "dressed" with the very thing which removes the shame.
Last, but definitely not least, we find honor. There is an old Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day - teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I'd like us to consider why the hunter "turns" the remains he cannot use into the soil. Isn't it to nourish the soil so it will be readied to bring forth a crop later? In fact, he uses it to change the consistency of the soil - making it full of nutrients which will "feed" the growth to come later on. God's righteousness and unfailing love does just this in us - it prepares us for the harvest to come. Satisfying the hunger of today is one thing, preparing for the needs of our future is quite another. As we look at our Chinese proverb, I think what is being said is that when we teach a man to plant a seed, we bring honor to his life. God is all about planting seeds - prepared soil does much more to bring forth a good harvest - honoring the one who gives the seed and the one who will benefit from its growth.
Just as we "follow" some things with definite passion and purpose, it would be good for us to determine if we have the "feed" of God's righteousness and unfailing love "wide open" in our lives. Just sayin!