“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6a
Satchel Paige, one of the best baseball pitchers to ever throw a baseball, and also one of the oldest, was asked the secret of his long and happy outlook. He replied, “Well, I never look behind me – cause you can never tell who’s comin’ up and gaining you.” Satchel seems to be saying, “Don’t think about tomorrow because it may be filled with trouble.” Some of us cannot look at tomorrow without worrying. Our tomorrows end up ruining our todays.
As a mature man, King David had learned to place his future in the hands of God. He writes, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (23:6a). In this last verse of the Psalm, David addresses his present and future life with God. In the first five verses he talked about his past experiences of God’s faithfulness. David had experienced God’s faithfulness at work in the past, and because of that, he had hope for the years to come.
Notice that God sends “goodness and mercy” to follow David. “Goodness” is receiving those things from God we do not deserve such as His forgiveness and love. “Mercy” is God withholding those things we do deserve such as His justice and punishment.
When David says “surely,” he is absolutely certain that God’s “goodness and mercy” would follow him all the days of his life. This is a remarkable statement when you consider all that David endured. This is the man who had to flee from King Saul (1 Samuel 18-26), and he was an adulterer and a murderer (2 Samuel 11-12). Under God’s discipline, he endured prolonged agony which included physical weakening and inward grief and guilt for almost a year (Psalm 32:3-5; 51:8); he watched his baby die (2 Samuel 12:15-23); his son, Amnon, raped David’s daughter, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:8-14); his son, Absalom, entered the royal harem (2 Samuel 16:22) and led a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 13-19); and David endured a terrible plague from the Lord as a result of his sin of numbering the people (2 Samuel 24).
David was no perfect man and he had to endure several painful consequences for his sins. Yet David was certain (“surely”) that God’s “goodness” would follow him all of his life. God’s “goodness” provides for our needs. He knows about the hardships we face due to COVID-19. He knows about the doctor bill, the car in the shop, the mortgage that is due, the job that is needed, and the loneliness that weighs you down. Those of us who trust that God is good can be sure He will provide for these needs. God is a good Father and He will not spoil us by giving us all that we want.
For example, a good parent won’t give their child poison no matter how much he begs for it. You do what is best even when your child cannot understand. Ingredients of a cake include good and bad tastes mixed together to make a delicious cake. But some of those ingredients alone such as salt, baking soda, and flour are not pleasant to our taste buds. Our Good Shepherd uses good and bad events in our lives to help us become what He wants us to be (cf. Romans 8:28-29).
David was also sure that God’s “mercy” would follow him all the days of his life. “Mercy” refers to God’s compassion, forgiveness, help, kindness, and patience. God did not give David justice after he committed adultery and murder. He gave David mercy. Oh how much all of us need God’s mercy! If God gave each of us justice we would be condemned forever because God hates sin, and we all have sinned (Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; 8:13; Isaiah 59:2; Zechariah 8:17; Romans 3:23; 6:23; Colossians 3:5-6; Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 2:6; 20:15). But God in His mercy pardons our sin the moment we believe in Jesus because of His death and resurrection (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; Titus 3:5-7).
Surely “goodness and mercy” shall pursue me all the days of my life because God has never failed me in the past. “Surely” because God does not begin a work that He does not complete (Philippians 1:6). “Surely,” because the united testimony of all of God’s people agrees with David that our Good Shepherd never fails us nor forsakes us.
How would our lives be impacted when we wake up each morning if we were certain God’s “goodness” and “mercy” would follow us all day long? How would it influence our lives if we were convinced that God’s “goodness” and “mercy” would follow us tomorrow and the next day and the next day!?! God is not some cruel dictator in heaven just waiting to smack us with His holy hammer the moment we mess up. He is a good good Shepherd who longs to meet our daily needs and extend His mercy and compassion toward us.
The greatest expression of God’s goodness and mercy is seen in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God’s “goodness” freely offers us what we do not deserve – His everlasting life and forgiveness through faith alone in Jesus alone (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). And because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God’s “mercy” withholds the justice and punishment we deserve for our sins the moment we believe in Jesus (John 3:36; 5:24; Titus 3:4-7).
If you have never understood this, Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him as your only hope of heaven. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? Jesus is not asking you to go to church or to clean up your life because He never said whoever goes to church or cleans up his life shall never die. He is not asking you if you pray or meditate every day because He never said whoever prays or meditates every day shall never die. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Him alone?” because He said “whoever… believes in Me shall never die.” If your answer is “Yes,” Jesus guarantees you a future resurrection of your physical body which will never be subject to disease or death. And He also guarantees you life that never ends.
Prayer: Precious Good Shepherd, thank You for the certainty of Your goodness and mercy following me all the days of my life. No matter what happens in my life, I can be confident that Your goodness will provide for my daily needs and Your mercy will display Your kindness and compassion to me. Thank You for the greatest expression of Your goodness and mercy to me through the Lord Jesus Christ Whose death and resurrection make it possible for me to receive that which I do not deserve – Your everlasting life and forgiveness. Through Jesus, I also experience Your mercy which keeps me from experiencing what I do deserve – Your justice and punishment for my sins. Help me to live a “thank You” life for You now by honoring You with my lips and my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.