The Pursuit of Righteousness

Yael Eckstein  |  August 13, 2021

Yael Eckstein kneels in front of and holds hands of elderly woman wearing multiple layers of clothing and yellow scarf on her head,

The LORD detests the way of the wicked,
     but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
— Proverbs 15:9

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

At first glance, this verse in proverbs seems to be stating the obvious. I mean, of course God detests the way of the wicked and loves pursuers of righteousness! What exactly is the Bible teaching us here? As is often the case, we need to look at the original Hebrew to see the nuances that contain the true lesson of the verse.

In the first phrase, the verse doesn’t say “The Lord detests wickedness,” or “The Lord detests the deeds of the wicked.” Rather, the verse states that the Lord detests the “way” of the wicked. In Hebrew, the word for “way” is derech.

This word does not necessarily mean the actual wicked behavior, but the road that leads to that behavior. “The way of the wicked” means the will and plans that the wicked use to achieve their wicked goals. The Bible is teaching us that God detests the choices that enable and lead down the road to wickedness, even before the wicked behavior happens.

The Pursuit of Righteousness

The second half of the verse is even more fascinating. Like the first phrase, we are being taught that God loves “those who pursue righteousness,” not “the Lord loves the righteous.” God loves the desire to be righteous, the choice to go in the right direction, even before any righteous acts are accomplished.

What’s even more interesting is that the Hebrew word for “pursue.” The usual word for “pursue” in the Bible is rodef. Here, the word is meradef, which is a different conjugation of the same verb. The difference is subtle, but very significant. Rodef simply means “pursue.” Meradef actually means “cause pursuit.” In other words, the verse is saying that God loves those who not only pursue righteousness themselves, but who also take it a step further. They encourage others in the pursuit of righteousness as well.

This lesson speaks to me at a very personal level. The work of The Fellowship, bringing love and lifesaving aid to so many needy people, is only one side of the coin. Equally important is that we enable so many people to partner with us and participate in the sacred work that we do.

We not only pursue righteousness; we encourage others to pursue righteousness, as well. May God continue to bless our work and all those who make it possible!

Your Turn:

What can you do today to enable others in your life to participate in works of righteousness and charity?