Psalm 23:6 “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
When I was a kid growing up in Africa I would often disappear into the bush to play and explore for the day and when I came home my mother would ask me, “Where have you been?” Sometimes we need to be confronted with questions that cause us to stop and reflect, so that we retrace our path. Where have you been? As sheep some of us have stopped following the shepherd, the one who “leads me.” Some have strayed, “even though I walk through the valley.” Some are experiencing His protection in the problems, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” While others are feasting at the table, “You prepare a table before me.” Where we experiencing His abundance, “My cup runs over” It is here that we all want to stay but the next question is “Where are you going” The sheep have been feasting in a protected pasture, but now it is time to move on. “Where have you been” is a rearview mirror question that causes us to look back, but we don’t live here. We all need to reflect to redirect but then we must look forward through the windshield to what is ahead. The problem today is that we lead lives where we either never look back or ones that are so backward that they have become stuck in the past. We need to look back not live back. It’s like driving a car, it’s good to glance up at the rearview mirror and pay attention to what is behind you every once in a while but you need to keep your eye on the road ahead. The Psalmist reminds us that life is not static that God keeps us on the move “surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” As Christians we like to camp out because its comfortable and convenient but God moves us from one pasture to the next because growth produces new needs and we need new grass. Shepherds move sheep with their sheep dogs that move the sheep by nipping at their heels. This is where the Psalm gets interesting because here the psalmist reveals God’s two sheep dogs and they are not what we might think! God’s two sheep dogs are goodness and mercy they follow us all our life. Sheep don’t appreciate the dogs and in truth neither do we, we see them as a pain and a problem not a gift to move us to God. God send His sheep dogs after us not to scare or hurt us but to guide and move us to the next pasture and to protect us from predators. When we stray God doesn’t yell and say “serves you right if you get lost” He doesn’t leave us. No he sends His sheep dog goodness, Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Before you read any further take some time and reflect on what good things God has done for you.
In Exodus 34:6 when Moses asked to know God, this was the answer, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” There are two sides of mercy, one forgiveness, He restores us, another Grace, He gives us the opposite of what we deserve. In 1 Timothy 1:15-16 Paul reminds us of God’s mercy “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” God moves us with His mercy, you can’t shake the sheep dogs they follow us all the days of our lives moving us toward the house of God. God’s goodness and love follow us, the word “follow” literally means, “pursue.” God’s beauty and love chase after us every day of our lives. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, we have been given much more than we deserve and we have more than we need. Shepherds slept on the ground exposed to the elements away from their loved ones so that they can care for the sheep. Jesus our great shepherd gave up everything for us, he exposed Himself to the winds of wickedness and the storms of sin to save us so that we could dwell in the house of God. David desired to dwell in God’s house enjoying His presence, protection and peace not for a little while but forever. God’s presence, protection and peace are permanent. Here we see Psalm 23 come full circle, it starts with “the Lord is MY Shepherd” and ends with the result of that statement “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Is the Lord your shepherd? Are you saved? You can only confidently state this last verse if we can state the first one “The Lord is my shepherd”. Sheep who know the shepherd know that they hold a privileged position, we have a God who truly cares for us as a good shepherd. No matter what else may happen in this life we know that goodness and mercy will follow us. Let me invite you again to pray psalm 23 with me:
Lord because you are my Shepherd, I commit my needs to you. Provide green pasture for me to lie in and still waters to sooth my soul. Restore and refresh as You love me by leading me in right paths for Your name’s sake. Deliver me from danger as I walk through wickedness. Protect me with Your power and prepare a table to feed me so my enemies can see Your provision. Anoint me with the oil of Your healing as I drink from Your full cup of peace, secure in the knowledge that goodness and mercy will always follow me and I will live with You forever. Amen