“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6)
The other Sunday I was driving toward a restaurant when a police car started following me. The first thing I did was check to make sure I wasn’t speeding. So I slowed down a bit. Then I made sure I stopped completely at the stop sign, turned on my blinker, stayed in my lane, and maintained correct speed. He continued to follow me until I turned into Culver’s and he went straight ahead. Most of the time I don’t like it when someone follows me, especially the police. I think I’ve done wrong. But in Psalm 23:6 David reminds me that God’s goodness and mercy follow me every day.
“Surely” indicates a fact as certain as it is comforting. Those of us who grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible remember the “verily” statements of Jesus. “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” This phrase conveyed the same idea. Jesus and David are going to tell us something that is very truly, highly certain, eternally established and totally factual. Knowing whose I am and knowing who God is, there are some things we can be absolutely certain about.
God loves you.
What follows the word “surely”? “Goodness and mercy”. Goodness and mercy follow the child of God each and every day. It’s not goodness alone, for we are sinners and need mercy and forgiveness. Not mercy alone, for we need and receive many things besides forgiveness. Goodness to supply every want, mercy to forgive every sin. Goodness, known as grace, is God giving me what I do not deserve. Mercy is God not giving me what I do deserve. Life is better than what it should be and not as bad as it could be.
Do you know what I do not understand? Negative, pessimistic Christians. Christians whose view of life can best be summarized by three words: “Ain’t it awful?” The economy is bad, the government is out to get you, you can’t trust anyone, people aren’t as good as they used to be. It never ends. The Bible teaches a completely different outlook. The Bible teaches that even though this world has problems and there are struggles we must endure, God is in control and He takes care of His people. God loves us and gives us goodness and mercy every day.
God chases you.
God’s goodness and mercy will follow me. The original Hebrew is even stronger: goodness and mercy pursue me. They not only accompany me, they run after me. What a surprising way to describe God – the God who sits on the throne in heaven is pictured as mobile and active following me around giving me goodness that I don’t deserve and not giving me the punishment that I deserve. Do we dare think of a God who follows us? pursues us? chases us?
This reminds me of a story about a pastor who stopped a businessman from his church and said to him, “Whenever I see you, you’re always in a hurry, rushing somewhere. What are you running after?” The man answers, “I’m running after success, prosperity and a good living.” The pastor responds, “That’s a good answer if you assume that those rewards are in front of you and you have to run hard to catch up to them. But what if the rewards are behind you, chasing you, and you are running away from them? What if God has all sorts of gifts that are chasing you and you need to slow down for them to catch up?” Maybe if you stop pursuing happiness, it will give happiness a chance to catch up to you. God is chasing you with goodness and mercy.
God is with you.
Goodness and mercy follow the child of God each and every day. Think of the days that lie ahead.
- Days at home with toddlers? God will be with you.
- Days at a dead-end job? He will walk you through.
- Days of loneliness? He will take your had.
Goodness and mercy will follow you – not some days, not most days, not nearly all days, not just the good days – but all the days of your life… even the cloudy days, stormy days, busy days, or quiet days. Days filed with joy. Days filled with sorrow. Days when you feel up. Days when you feel down. Every day. Every moment, Every breath. Every heartbeat. There will never come a day throughout all the future in which you will not have two guardian angels, heavenly escorts, Goodness and Mercy, who will chase you into the Lord’s house. God is with you every day.
How should you live?
- You can live with a sense of certainty. I remember the old Batman show. Batman and Robin got themselves in trouble at the end of most shows and the narrator would ask, ‘Will this be the end of the caped crusader?” The answer, “NO”. He’s Batman – he’s the star of the show and no matter what he goes through he’s in the next episode. It’s not a matter of if he’ll get out of trouble, but how will he get out of trouble. You are in God’s next episode. He will work things out.
- You can live with a sense of optimism. Goodness and mercy will follow you. You can expect good things to happen. Even if bad things happen, you can expect good things to come from them. In fact, one of the good things that will happen, is that you are becoming good. After Paul said that all things work together for good, he said that we are being made conformed into the image of God’s Son (See Romans 8:28-29). You are becoming more like Jesus.
- You can live with a sense of favor. God loves you and is moving in your favor. God doesn’t give you favor because He loves you more than everyone else. He gives you favor because you love Him more than anything else. He is your Shepherd, and you are one of His sheep. Since you belong to Him, His favor rests on you all the days of your life.
So what can you do?
- Recognize the good and merciful things that follow you. Right now finish this phrase, “Today was a good day because…” Name at least three reasons.
- Slow down and let goodness and mercy catch up. If you live a life with nothing good and everything seems bad, you need to slow down and allow God’s blessings to catch up. The harder you chase the missing 2% you don’t have, the higher the chances you will miss out on the blessing of the 98% that you do have.
- Receive God’s Mercy. God is chasing you to forgive you. He is not waiting for you; He is chasing you. Like the Prodigal Son’s father, He is running to forgive you (See Luke 15:20). Let Him forgive you.