Most Christians will be familiar with the words from Psalm 23, about goodness and mercy following us all the days of our life.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
Sadly much of the truth of this lovely psalm about the Lord being our shepherd is lost due to familiarity and the tendency to treat the psalm as if it is a children’s poem.
So let me take a few moments to point out to you what is being said, to bless you and prompt your faith.
Talking of faith, the whole of Psalm 23 is a faith declaration. King David is not making some sentimental reflection on his younger days or trying to be sweetly poetic. King David is speaking before God the declaration of his own confidence that God will be to him what he was to the sheep, as a shepherd.
Let me remind you of the psalm, for those who may not know it.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I will not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:1-6
Look at the declarations made by David.
“I will not be in want”, “Goodness and mercy will follow me”, “you anoint my head with oil”, “He restores my soul”, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.
When a person of faith is challenged they respond by making faith declarations, speaking out what they choose to believe. We believe in our heart and we confess with our mouth.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
So David is making a faith confession. He declares that he is not lord of his own life, but that God is his shepherd and that as a result David will not lack anything.
David confesses that God will lead him, not David leading himself, and so David will come to places of refreshing and will enjoy restoration, and will be led in righteous paths, not the ways of man that lead a person to destruction.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
David declares his abandonment on God. David, even as King of Israel, asserts that he is not the lord of his own life or destiny. God is his shepherd and so things will work out well for him, in the same way things work out well for the sheep, who are cared for by a loving shepherd who knows their needs and the broader realities far better than the sheep ever will.
The psalm closes with the verse quoted earlier about good things continuing through life and then eternal blessings in God’s house.
Let me focus your attention now of a phrase from that last verse, referring to ‘goodness and mercy’. “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.
We understand goodness. It means all those good things we could hope for with a loving heavenly Father. It includes God making things work out well for us. It includes God, as our shepherd, making sure we are led to the right place at the right time, protected and provided for. This is the goodness of being led to green pastures and beside still waters. It is the goodness of having our soul restored. It is the goodness of being led in the right paths and protected when we go through the dark valley. That’s ‘goodness’.
The other word connected to it is ‘mercy’. Mercy? Is mercy another form of goodness?
Mercy is something given to a guilty person, punishing them less than they deserve.
The kings and queens of England committed themselves to upholding “Justice with Mercy”. They were to be fully just, upholding justice through the Empire, but softening that justice with mercy.
So if mercy is going to follow you all the days of your life, what would that mean? It might mean that you will continue to get things wrong. It might mean that you will be worthy of some punishment or dealings due to you not making the grade.
It might mean that you get angry, or frustrated, or you act selfishly or with pride, of that you fail to keep your word or you compromise on some standard or other.
It will mean that for some reason or other you will regularly need to be provided with ‘mercy’. And it means that God will provide that mercy to you all the days of your life.
Wonderfully, as Christians, we are forgiven of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ when we put our faith in Christ for salvation. And, as Christians, we can confess our sins each time we commit them and be forgiven all over again.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9
By that means then, mercy follows us all the days of our life.
You have a loving Heavenly Father who is your shepherd, leading you through the issues of life, differently to the way you would lead yourself, because He sees what you don’t see. As He leads you there is provision and protection, guidance and ministry into your life to make you whole. There is also an eternity in God’s House.
There is also ongoing forgiveness, providing you with mercy, instead of the just punishments you might deserve from time to time.
And, through all the days remaining of your life on earth you can be confident you will be constantly provided with Goodness and Mercy.