By Vicky Moots
Psalm 23:6a: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”. Our good and merciful Shepherd goes before us to lead us, and goodness and mercy are following behind us (our rear-guard). We are therefore surrounded by His goodness and mercy and need not fear the attacks of the enemy. Blessings will follow us as we follow Christ. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” As we receive His mercy, we show it to others.
Goodness is one of the attributes of God and actually means “God-ness.” The Scripture plainly tells us that apart from God, there is no goodness. Matt. 19:16-17 relates the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and said, “…Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”. Jesus was trying to tell him that in order to call Him “good,” then he must believe that He is God, Emanuel, “God with us,” because only God is good. Did he believe that Jesus was really God in the flesh? We know that he did not actually believe that because verse 22 tells us that he went away sorrowful.
That young man had wanted to know what “good” thing that he could do to earn eternal life. This question is often asked today. In Rom. 3:12 the Apostle Paul quoted Ps. 14:3: “…there is none that doeth good, no not one.” There is therefore no “good” thing that we can do to earn eternal life because there is no “good” in the old creation. Any good that we do is through the life of Christ in us after we are born again, born of God, and become a new creation as sons of God.
Goodness is not a work of the flesh; it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Gal. 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…”. God’s goodness will be manifested in us through the fruit that we bear in our lives as we walk in the Spirit, and not through any of our self-works. It is a result of the life of Christ in us.
Goodness and mercy are closely connected to each other as attributes of God. We see this in the words that God spoke to Moses in the mountain. Ex. 34:6-7: “And the LORD passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”. So, we see that the Lord is both merciful and abundant in goodness.
Goodness has already been discussed, but what is mercy? The dictionary meaning of mercy is “kindness in excess of what is expected by fairness; refraining from punishing offenders or harming enemies; the power to forgive or be kind.” All of these meanings were manifested toward us by God when He sent His son to die in our place and to bear our punishment for sin. God did this for us because of His mercy toward fallen mankind. When we deserved death, He gave us life.
Jeremiah declares God’s mercy in Lam. 3:21-23: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” God’s mercies are new every morning because we need them to be able to start each new day.
Psalm 86 records a prayer of David. Verse 5, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” In vs. 15-16 we see that David does call upon God’s mercy and says, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me…”. David in his prayer is echoing some of the words that God spoke to Moses, and they are just as true for us today.
We are also encouraged by the writer of Hebrews to call upon God’s mercy, because we have a High Priest, Jesus, who understands our feelings and our infirmities and short comings, and He is able to intercede for us. Heb. 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Because of the blood of Jesus, we can come boldly into the presence of God without fear. The judgment for our sin was poured out upon Jesus on the cross so that we could receive God’s mercy instead of punishment. God’s goodness and mercy are always present and available in the person of our Shepherd who leads us.
How long will His goodness and mercy surround us? “All the days of my life,” just as David said. Throughout this life we need His goodness and mercy. His goodness and mercy are unlimited and have a life time guarantee. That means we can call upon His mercy everyday for the rest of our lives as we pray and come boldly unto the throne of grace. David realized that this was a sure thing and left no room for doubt when he said, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
We don’t have to guess or hope that God will show mercy to us, because it is based on His merit, not our works. Since God’s goodness and mercy are as eternal as He is, we can also say with the Psalmist, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever” – Ps. 89:1. So, lift up your voice and sing!
Psalm 23:6: “…and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Notice that David says, “I will dwell.” He does not say, “I hope to dwell,” but “I will dwell.” If you were to die today, do you know without doubt that you would go to heaven to dwell in the house of the Lord? Perhaps you might say, “I think so,” or “I sure hope so; I’m trying to live right and do the best I can. That’s all God can expect, right?” Can we, like David, really be sure that we will dwell in the house of the Lord?
What does the word “dwell” mean? It means “to take up residence; to abide; to stay.” It does not mean just to visit for a short time, but to live permanently. David desired to dwell with the Lord, to be able to stay in His presence, and so should we. Ps. 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…”.
How can that be possible? What would be required of us in order to be able to do that? David asked that question in Ps. 15:1: “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill”? There are qualifications for being able to dwell in the house of the Lord, and God showed David the answer in v. 2: “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” This is only possible after we are born again and become a new creation in Christ and receive His righteousness. As a new creation we become a part of His family and have a right to dwell in His house. We cannot earn that privilege; it is all by His grace.
Jesus, Himself, assured us of a dwelling place in His house. John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” The word “mansions” actually means “dwelling places” or “abodes.”
When Jesus stated, “I go to prepare a place for you,” He meant that He was going to the cross, to prepare the way for us to have a place in heaven to abide with Him. The work was finished on the cross, and the only nails that were used to prepare that place were the ones in his hands and feet. He also promised that He would return for us to receive us unto Himself to dwell with Him. All we have to do is to believe.
But how long will He allow us to live with Him? Is there a limit? Not only was David sure of his dwelling place, but he knew that it would be forever, because God’s love is forever. We can be assured that this is true for us also who believe, because Jesus, our Good Shepherd, promised us that it would be so. John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto the eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
If we are His sheep, then we are safe and secure in His hand. We are His sheep forever, and He has provided an eternal dwelling place for us so that we can dwell with Him in His house forever.