Aug12WedPart 12 August 12, 2020
“Surely Goodness And Mercy Shall Follow Me All The Days Of My Life”
As we find ourselves looking at the penultimate phrase of the 23rd psalm, it is easy to dismiss it as simple sentiment that helps tie things up nicely and miss the profundity of what this statement posits. To help make this clear, I will draw our attention to all the different parts of this statement, so hopefully we can grasp the magnitude of its assertion:
“Surely” - This phrase begins with a confident connecting word that implies the truthfulness and assurance of what follows…
“Goodness” - The first thing we are assured will be granted us when we follow the Shepherd is, “goodness.” And this word (“tov”), really does mean, “good,” or we could say, “good things.” This is the same word we see in Genesis 1, where after God creates something, he declares, “And he saw that it was “good.” It is important to note, both in Genesis and in this psalm, it was after the event, where the declaration of “goodness” is declared.
“Mercy” - The next promise is a little more difficult to summarize. The word translated as, “mercy” (“chessed”) is one of the most important words/concepts found in all of the Old Testament and not easily translatable into English. Sometimes this word gets translated, and more accurately as, “loving kindness,” or “steadfast love.” “Mercy” does not adequately express the significance of what is promised here. “Mercy” suggests, despite some failure on the part of the sheep, the Shepherd will overlook and forgive the offence. There is some truth to this notion, but it is lacking, because the emphasis is intuitively placed on the character, or lack of character, of the sheep. The emphasis of this promise, should not be on the follower, but on the Shepherd alone. The idea of “steadfast love” carries the idea that this Shepherd, our God, will alway remain true to his promises, regardless of how bad the followers may fail, God will never fail! He will alway uphold his covenantal promises; he will always be faithful!
“Follow Me All The Days Of My Life” - This may be the most important aspect of the entire phrase. This wording suggests, that the “goodness” and “mercy” God promises those who follow his lead will have it in both their rearview mirrors—they will be able to look back at the times they were following the shepherd, and even when they went through, “The valley of the shadow of death,” they will look back and recognize the “goodness” and “mercy” of God (”And we shall see that it was good”). And they will see it as they look forward through the windshield. What is promised to the sheep to look forward to, “All the days of our Lives?” More “Goodness” and “Mercy!”
The “goodness” and “mercy” that is promised in the Shepherd’s song, is promised for our past, present and future! We will look back and see God’s “goodness” as we chose to follow him, and when we look to what is still to come, we are promised more of God’s “goodness.” Possibly not the same kind of “goodness” and “mercy,” but a more realized and perfected version!