The Hebrew nātāh (H5186) appears 215 times in the OT and literally means “to extend, stretch out,” that is, extending something outward and toward, as one would extend his arm (Exo_7:5) or point a staff (Exo_7:19) or a spear (Jos_8:18). It is used also for stretching out, that is, pitching, a tent (Gen_12:8; Exo_33:7) and as the idiom for stretching out one’s hand against something in a hostile manner (Job_15:25).
This word is often used, however, in a figurative way, such as inclining or leaning toward something. As the psalmist Asaph writes, for example, we are to “incline [our] ears to the words of [God’s] mouth” (Psa_78:1). Of special note is Psa_119:36 : “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” The godly believer is not inclined or reaching toward covetousness (“which is idolatry,” Col_3:5), not “[inclined] . . . to any evil thing, to practise wicked works” (Psa_141:4). Rather he or she is inclined toward God’s testimonies, that is, the solemn testimonies of His will, the serious expressions of His standards for human behavior.
This pictures the same truth that Paul declares in Php_3:13-14 : “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In spite of being trained by our Lord Himself (implied in Gal_1:16-18) and thirty years of Christian growth and ministry, Paul says (in effect), “I haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t reached the prize. I don’t even fully comprehend the prize. I therefore continue to reach forth, to press toward, to pursue, to go after the prize of the knowledge of Christ.” “That I may know him,” was his driving motive (Gal_3:10).
Therefore, an essential part of a consistent Christian life is that we are always “reaching forth.” Sadly, many Christians, and even Christian leaders, get to a point in their lives where they become complacent and satisfied. They might say, “Well, I think I’m okay. I know the basic truths of Christianity, I know what I believe, and I love the Lord. That’s all I need.” Such an attitude shows we have already failed! If we are not always reaching, we begin to stagnate and even slide back.
Dear Christian Friend, are you always reaching?
Scriptures for Study: Read the following verses, noting what each encourages us to do: 1Ki_8:58; Psa_119:51; Psa_141:4; and Pro_2:2.