Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)
When I was a small child, my Southern, Christian church congregation would sing from “Hymns of Glorious Praise”, a power packed anthology of hymns with a brown cover and a cross. Being a lover of words and music, I loved to sing the songs between the covers of this hymnal and later would learn to play many of them on piano while the congregation sang. I learned to comprehend truth from the Bible by singing the lyrics of old songs such as “At Calvary”, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy”. The saints belted these songs which still live deep in my heart as an adult.
I also remember just singing the word “Surely” for years, without even realizing that “Surely” actually would mean “for sure, without a doubt and absolutely”. As I got older in church, I realized that as I sang the words to “Surely Goodness and Mercy“, that it meant God would be with me all the days of my life.
Recently, in church, we sang a modern version of those lyrics called “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. I love the tune and how it reverently wafts into my heart causing me to want to bless the Lord as the verses state the truth in Psalm 23.
God’s truth has lasted now for thousands of years. We find Goodness and Mercy in Psalms 23:6, both of which are emphasized in the hymn and the newer version of “Psalms 23 (Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy)”. Now, I usually view God as guiding me into all truth through His Word and prayer. When I read in Psalms 23 and sing that Goodness and Mercy follow me, I wondered why I am followed by, not lead by them.
As one who loves to study word origins, I decided to dig a little deeper into the original meaning of the Hebrew words that make up Psalms 23:6. “In the original Hebrew, the word for goodness and mercy is “che-sed”. “It is a derivative of the verb ‘chas,’ which means ‘sparing’ and ‘having mercy.’ The contextual meaning of this word is precisely: ‘refrain from killing, injuring, or distressing.’ In today’s fruit of the Spirit, che•sed is translated as ‘goodness.’ God’s goodness is with us to help and guide into truth. ” 1
So, God is sparing us from harm with his Goodness. I imagine that He spares us moment by moment when situations arise that would try to harm, but I also think that His goodness must continue to spare us even after an event has happened that could have brought injury. He is still working on our behalf long after a situation has tried to disturb and hinder our lives.
While walking into a business recently, a stranger, who happened to arrive at the same time as me, spoke some words to me which to him were probably harmless because he was thinking that he was joking. However, as I entered the building, my heart became overcome with sadness that he would have spoken to me in a way that could have been construed as a joke OR as a put down. I’ll be honest, I saw a friend later and told her how his words had jolted me. She gave me a hug and told me he most likely was joking.
Nevertheless, his words continued to ripple in my heart. Like a stone dropped into my heart lake, I sensed that these words would stay with me. And they did. I felt disturbed, irritated and aggravated that someone would use words in such an irresponsible way. After singing the “Surely Goodness and Mercy” song in church two days later and studying the word meanings, I can say that God’s Goodness is protecting me. Even if the person meant the words as a put down, I know that God is sparing me from their effects. He is helping me release the hurt and causing me to appreciate how His “sparing” also helped me to not respond in anger to that person. I am also thankful that he provided a friend soon after this encounter with the stranger to hug me because I really needed it and her words of encouragement.
Goodness and Mercy together are blessings of the Lord and will follow us. “The Hebrew verb translated “follow” pictures these two virtues—goodness and mercy—as actively pursuing David. It can be said that these twin components of divine love are like two sheepdogs that help the shepherd corral his flock. They shadow the flock in order to steer them in the right direction. When the sheep go astray, these sheepdogs bring them back. When we slow down, they spur us on. So it is with goodness and mercy that pull up the rear. They are constantly driving us closer to the Good Shepherd. ” 2
What a great mental picture to see the dogs steering the sheep. Oh, how I need the steering of God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. It is comforting to know that God is guiding even if from behind because his goodness and mercy will lead me closer to Him, to His Comfort and to His Truth.
After words are spoken to us, God spares and points us into truth. The words that the stranger had issued to me in the parking lot, didn’t define me; only God’s view of me is the truth; Not the view of a stranger. I am thankful that the effects of his goodness and mercy sunk deep into my heart lake causing the ripples of the word stone from the stranger to dissipate and dissolve. Only His truth remains. His goodness and mercy continue to be there, to follow me and rectify the issue.
On more occasions that I realize, I know that His mercy has provided the start-over that I needed when I made a mistake. God’s goodness and mercy have spared my life from destruction. I notice that God allows His attribute of being good and merciful to also clean up my messes. He gives us free will and at times, well let’s just say, we blow it. We make mistakes. Thankfully, he not only sees our chosen path but is helping to recover us when we haven’t listened well to Him.
I want to listen to Him so that I will feel his direction as to what to and how to speak and interact with people. His goodness and mercy aren’t just for this generation or the previous one. They are for all of us in each generation both now and forevermore.
Psalms 100:5 “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (NKJV)
I hope you will think about the goodness and mercy that God has provided to all who trust in Him.