Goodness and Mercy - Psalm 23:6
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever.” (23:6, NKJV).
When we got the news last week that the shelter-in-place directive was being extended for another month, I can’t say I was surprised and I knew I had to let our kids know that it meant another month of mainly staying at home. We know we are fortunate to have a roof over our heads and food to eat, but still I’m leaving room for my kids to express their sadness over not seeing friends and not being able to celebrate mommy’s birthday like we had planned. As we come to end of Psalm 23, I find it today to be a beautifully hopeful picture of God as our Shepherd and Host whose ways we may not understand but whom will never fail us.
“Surely goodness and mercy (love) shall follow me all the days of my life.” What an incredible promise of God’s care throughout one’s entire life on earth and into the next life! Remember that David has already shifted from God as Shepherd to God as Host and now he shifts from being a guest to being something more. David envisions being in God’s very own household for eternity, implying much more than having guest status. This gives me a vision of a son coming home to a father’s estate to be welcomed fully. In fact, Jesus paints this very picture in John 14.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (14:2-3, ESV).
Psalm 23 as a whole gives us a voice to express our confidence in God amidst very challenging times. David is not shy to mention “the valley of the shadow of death” while proclaiming he “will fear no evil”. David knows God is a shepherd who leads sheep to green pastures of provision when the environment is dry and arid. This is a shepherd who can lead the thirsty to waters when the flash-floods have passed. God will use His protective rod and guiding staff to ward off enemies and lead us to good paths of quality life.
And here at the close of Psalm 23, David can praise God for His provision of a feast at the Host’s table while recognizing “enemies” in his presence. Perhaps we can imagine David is writing this psalm as he flees to the desert to escape his own son Absalom’s rebellion, his army weakly positioned to protect him. We know from 2 Samuel 17:28-29 that David found three unlikely hosts who fed him, gave him drink and cared for his men during this time of distress. All looked lost but God provided in the desert.
This is a Psalm that holds in beautiful tension the ability to see God’s hope and strength right in the middle of the mess. Even the Hebrew word for “follow” has a sense of a persistent following as if being pursued. David is contrasting the wrathful pursuit of his enemies with the loving pursuit of God his protector.
I don’t know what kind of word you need today, but we all can meditate on this beautiful and strong picture of a God who pursues us with goodness and love amidst the mess. He will not abandon us in this life nor the next. Because our future is secure, we can live the present with great hope. Jesus is at work building our future home on the Father’s estate and He has left us His very own Spirit to strengthen, guide and lead us until Jesus comes again.
Living Out God’s Word
Can you find a way to praise God in the middle of whatever mess you might be facing? Sometimes before the praise comes, we need to give voice to the realities of dark valleys and enemies that we see around us. My pastor/counselor friend used to say, “The path to praise is through lament!” Meaning, like the Psalms often do, we can voice our concerns, worries, emotions, fears and anger to God because He can handle the full range of our emotions. God is not repelled by our honesty and in fact wants it. As we hand over our lament to God, He will help us see His loving presence and we will be more able to authentically praise Him for the goodness and love that was always there. So try praying honestly to God today for those you know whom are struggling and for your own life as well.
Father, You are so faithful to promise me goodness and mercy in this life and the life to come. Help me to see Your constant presence even as I see so much messiness around me and in my own life at times. Thank You that You aren’t repelled by the mess! I want to pray for those I know really struggling financially, emotionally and physically right now. May they experience Your love and mercy wherever they are. And I want to experience the depth of Your love even more today. Thank You for Your amazing promises of a forever home with You! I will put my trust in You today. Amen.