Goodness and Mercy
As David concludes the 23rd Psalm, he is optimistic about the future.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, 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, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Throughout the psalm, David poetically explains the Lord’s tender care in terms he as a shepherd would have understood (v. 4-5). He recounts the Lord leading across green pastures, to still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death into great blessing waiting on the other side.
David illustrates the Lord’s blessing with a picture of a bountiful banqueting table and an overflowing cup (v. 5). The final section of the 23rd Psalm begins with the adverb aken (Hebrew: אַ֤ךְ) translated “surely.” David uses aken as in “most assuredly” to underscore the importance of what he is about to say based on his previous comments.
This is where David’s history and future meet. His purpose in recounting God’s goodness goes beyond retelling the past like an old man trying to relive the good old days. Rather, David looks to the future with confident expectancy based on God’s past interactions in his life.
David sees his future characterized by God’s goodness and mercy. The word “goodness” describes God’s resolve to actively seek the well-being of those under His care. The Lord is the Great Shepherd who always chooses the right path, the best pastures and the freshest waters because He knows what is best for His sheep.
Similarly, the word translated “mercy” is variously defined as loving-kindness, undeserved favor or unfailing sacrificial love. Like a sheep that went astray, wandered into a ravine or needed rescuing from the jaws of a predator, David had experienced God’s mercy firsthand. While he did not merit God’s favor, kindness and love, all were given freely and unconditionally.
David confidently expected God’s goodness and mercy to not only follow or accompany him in the remaining days of his life, but that it would also be an experiential reality throughout eternity.
David concludes his psalm saying, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6). The statement parallels the king’s heart-cry expressed in another psalm:
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps. 27:4).
David had come to know the Lord’s goodness over the course of a lifetime. He experienced the Lord’s care in every facet of life and the Lord had never failed Him.
Based on God’s past faithfulness, we, like David, can be confident of the Shepherd’s continued care not only in this mortal life, but in the very presence of the Lord forever!
1) In the Sierras, Lake Tahoe (1868). (By Albert Bierstadt/[Public Domain]/Wikimedia Commons/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios [Psalm 23: 6, Albert Bierstadt after the style of Maxfield Parrish])
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.