Goodness and Mercy
By Charles E. McCracken
GROW January 15
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. PSALM 23:1-6
As David concludes the 23rd Psalm, he is optimistic about his future because he had experienced God’s faithfulness in the past.
Using the imagery of a shepherd, David recounts the Lord leading across green pastures, beside still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death into lush pastures waiting on the other side.
Throughout the psalm, David poetically explains the Lord’s tender care in terms he as a shepherd would have understood: Your rod and Your staff comfort me . . . You anoint my head with oil (v. 4-5).
He illustrates the Lord’s sumptuous provision using the picture of a bountiful banqueting table and an overflowing cup (v.5).
The final section of the 23rd Psalm begins with the adverb “surely,” the translation of the word aken (Heb. אַ֤ךְ). David uses the word, surely, as in “most assuredly” for emphasis. It underscores the importance of what he is about to say based on what has just been said.
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.” Instead, he’s looking to the future with confident expectancy based on God’s past dealings 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. He’s like a 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 a predator, David had experienced God’s mercy firsthand. David did not merit God’s mercy (favor, kindness, love); it was given freely and unconditionally.
David confidently expected God’s “goodness and mercy” to not only “follow” or accompany him into the future, but also that it would be an experiential reality in the remaining days of his life.
David concludes the psalm saying, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (v. 6). The statement parallels the heart-cry of King David expressed in another psalm. He exclaimed, 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 area of his life and the Lord had never failed Him. Based on God’s past faithfulness, David had an expectant confidence of God’s continued care not only in this mortal life, but in very presence of the Lord forever!
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, text content only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author.