Let Your lovingkindness, O YHWH, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. Psalm 33:22 NASB
According As – Check a few different English translations of this verse and you will probably come away confused. Many translations render this “even as” rather than “according as.” The Hebrew is ka-asher. It is the combination of the pronoun asher with the prefix letter Kaf. It is usually translated “just as” or “as,” but translators use a wide umbrella of English terms to capture this Hebrew word. So, both “even as” and “according as” are possible. Now that we’ve settled the grammar, let’s look at the theological implications in order to understand why a translator might be motivated to choose one of a half-dozen different possibilities.
Notice the implication in the NASB. This translation could suggest that God’s lovingkindness falls upon us in proportion to our hope in Him. In other words, we could read this as a kind of spiritual recipe. The more we hope, the more hesed we get. In this case, the translation turns ka-asher into a comparative. But this implication smacks of works-righteousness, as if God delivers hesed because we have done the right amount of hoping. In order to avoid this, NIV and ESV translations render ka-asher as “even as,” suggesting a temporal connection. With this translation, the verse declares that God’s hesed comes upon us while we hope in Him. Of course, this doesn’t quite eliminate the works-righteousness suggestion because it still implies that hesed is delivered in conjunction with the temporal act of hoping. We might conclude that if we aren’t hoping in Him at all, no hesed will come our way.
You can see how difficult it is to capture the exact meaning of ka-asher. We want to use a phrase that endorses God’s freely given, unconditional hesed, but with each attempt at translation, we end up with nuances that don’t quite fit. Some translations attempt to move away from these implications by rendering the word “while” (“while we hope in You”). Have some sympathy for the poor translator who is caught between theological concerns and linguistic demands. Perhaps we’re better off not translating at all.
In Hebrew, the tension we feel between God’s free gift and our motivating involvement is just part of the general pattern of Scripture. It’s like passages that implore us to pray over and over while other verses remind us that God already knows what we need. Our predilection is to wish for a nice, tight, simple solution. We want the “right” answer. But over and over Scripture gives us muddles – gray areas where things seem to work in both diretions at the same time.
Back to the text. Is God’s gracious love given without restriction and constraint? Yes, of course it is. Does our spiritual condition have an effect on the delivery of God’s grace? Apparently it does. It’s funny how much Scripture really reflects life as it is – a mix of a lot of divergent factors that resist simple, straightforward answers. If that seems to be the case, I wonder why we are so intent on getting the one, correct solution. Do you suppose our desire for the tidy resolution might come from a different worldview – a worldview that Scripture doesn’t share?
Topical Index: Psalm 33:22, according as, even as, ka-asher