I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” Psalm 16:2
Besides – The particle al (Ayin-Lamed) in Hebrew has a very wide range of meanings. It covers the ground from according to, on account of, on behalf of, concerning, beside, in addition to, together with, beyond, above, over, by, towards, against and upon. So, when it comes to translating this little connector, the scribe has to decide which one fits on the basis of context. Sometimes the scribe has a particular viewpoint that causes other possible meanings to be hidden. Sometimes the choice of word in the translated language doesn’t communicate all that we need to know. That seems to be the case with this psalm. It’s time to look at the height and depth of David’s statement – and discover the majesty of God’s goodness.
First we must recognize the depth of David’s statement. I have no claim to goodness. All of my good is on account of You. All of my goodness is according to Your pronouncement over me. There is no good in me besides what You give. I wonder if we really think like this. I wonder if we truly realize that life is about holiness, not success or status or privilege or legacy. And on that scale, we come up miserably short. Yes, if there is any goodness at all, it is God’s doing – entirely.
Secondly, God’s goodness is beyond me. It is over me, against me and upon me. It confronts me. It challenges me. It reveals me for who I truly am. Just as the Torah is the schoolmaster that leads me to Christ, the goodness of God stands in judgment over me, forcing me to deal with my sin. I discover that to the very depths of my soul, there is no goodness in me.
Finally, I know that God’s goodness is on my behalf. It is towards me, together with me and on my behalf. My righteousness is on account of Him.
Maybe we need to consider all the possibilities for this tiny little Hebrew addition if we want to take account of the whole range of God’s goodness to men. Maybe we need to hear more than music when the angels sang, “Good will toward men.” Do you suppose that they used the Hebrew particle al?
Yeshua tells us that God is good, and no other. David understood that. But David also knew that YHWH was his Lord, and as his Lord, the character of the master passed to the servant. No, I am not good, but God is and I am His child – and His servant. I am reckoned good on His account and that is enough for me to say bal-aleikha.
Topical Index: Good