Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; save me because of Your lovingkindness. Psalm 6:5 (English)
Return, Rescue, Save – What does active favor look like? David tells us in three powerful verbs. When we reach the point where our sin exhausts us, these are the three verbs we must understand: return, rescue and save.
“Return” is the Hebrew verb shuv. It is used over a thousand times in the Bible with a very wide range of meanings. Jeremiah has more than a dozen nuances on the word. But here, when my sinfulness breaks my relationship with God, the very first thing I need is God’s movement toward me. Turning back toward me is an act of restoration (another meaning of shuv). Unless God turns His face in my direction, I am lost. So, I plead, “Return, O Lord.” Begin Your favor by turning in my direction.
God is graciously inclined to act like this. There are hundreds of examples of God using this same verb to ask His people to return to Him. He is ready to turn in my direction.
“Rescue” is chalats, a verb that means to deliver. But its primary force is strengthening and fortifying, not escaping. It is used for taking up arms in preparation for war. We might think that God returns in order to pull us out, but that is not the idea. God returns in order to offer us reinforcements in the battle. It is help in the midst of my struggle, not rapture out of it.
“Save” is the familiar yasha’. Lord, turn back to me. Bring Your reinforcements. Fight with me so that I come to a place of safety. Give me victory! Without You, Lord, I am defeated. With You, I am unconquerable. Come back to me, Lord. Rescue and save me right here where I struggle.
And, of course, God is willing to respond to my plea. Why? Well, that’s the next wonderful word, hesed, translated “lovingkindness.” It’s the bonus word. It’s the word that tells me why God cares enough to return, rescue and save. It can’t be captured in a single expression like “lovingkindness.” This word is the word that describes God’s faithfulness, steadfastness, justice, righteousness and goodness. In other words, it is the summary of God’s true character. It is the fundamental idea behind God’s covenant. Hesed is the reason God does what He does. It is the foundation of His miraculous acts, the basis of His deliverance, the ground of His forgiveness, the rationale for His redemption, the origin for His kindness and the purpose behind His plans. Without it, nothing happens.
In this verse, David gives us all the words at once. It’s a verse worth remembering. I need this verse today. Maybe you do too.
Topical Index: Mercy