You are my strength, I watch for you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me. — Psalm 59:9-10
In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
Psalm 59 is David’s reflection of yet another narrow escape from death. At the time, David was on good terms with King Saul. He had killed Goliath and fought many battles on Saul’s behalf. David would play soothing music for Saul on his harp and calm the king’s turbulent soul. Saul had even given his daughter Michal to David in marriage. Then, one day a spirit of madness came over the king. As David played music on his harp, Saul took his spear and tried to kill David.
David escaped from Saul’s palace and ran home. However, David’s wife advised her husband to flee for his life since Saul was sure to send his army to the house. Michal secretly let David down through their window and placed an idol in his bed with some goat hair on top. When the king’s soldiers came to find him, they were told that David was sick in bed. Eventually they discovered the ruse, but by that time, David was far away and safe.
Our Acts of Kindness and Mercy
This is the backstory to Psalm 59. In it, David described his pursuers and his innocence. He asked for God’s protection and thanked Him for salvation. In verse 10 David wrote, “my God on whom I can rely. God will go before me…” In Hebrew, the translation is slightly different. We read, “The God of mercy will go before me…” No matter which version you read, both teach us that David was completely confident that God would go before him and protect him.
Now, there is a little-known, but important fact about the original Hebrew version of the Bible. There are instances where a word is written one way but read a different way. In this verse, as always, there is a message in the nuance. It is written, “The God of mercy will go before me…” However, we are instructed to read this verse, “The God of my mercy will go before me.”
What’s the message? David wasn’t only relying on God’s mercy; he was also relying on his own mercy. Judaism teaches that the acts of kindness and mercy that we perform bring about God’s protection. David was a man of great kindness. He served King Saul and others with a whole heart. On that merit, he prayed that God would save him.
I want to encourage us today to do an extra act of kindness. Those merciful acts bring blessings to the giver and the receiver. Do something kind today and may God bless you with His protection!