On Miscellaneous Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text Psalm 23:6. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
Introduction: (Play video clip of little girl saying the 23rd Psalm - On U-Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3buLQoCN6KY) Surely! The little girl in the clip, couldn’t wait to get to the surely part! She is actually on to something. While this psalm is about the Lord as our Shepherd, and that He is a good Shepherd, the word “surely” lets us know just how good He is, and why. The word “surely” is an adverb, which is often used as an intensive, adding confidence and assurance. For example, when we are asked if we believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, we could respond, “I surely do!” Adding “surely,” communicates the depth or the strength of our faith. In this case, it proceeds the verb “follow.” The psalmist David says that goodness and mercy would “surely” follow him, all the days of his life! The phrase “shall follow me,” speaks of being chased or pursued. David could have said it this way, “Surely goodness and mercy will be hot on my trail, nipping at my heels, all the days of my life.”
Do you want the Lord’s goodness and mercy constantly pursuing you? It would certainly be better than being pursued by a bill collector or a pit bull! What is “goodness” and “mercy?”
The word “goodness,” speaks of things that are good, kind, beautiful, pleasant, and agreeable. Today, we might speak of these things as blessings. The psalmist is confident that the Lord’s blessings would chase after him everyday of his life, all his life! We could also speak of this “goodness” as God’s grace, which means that it comes to us or after us without merit or deserving.
The word “mercy,” is often defined as God withholding those things that we do deserve. We might think of it as God’s providential, protective hand in our lives! The Hebrew word translated “mercy,” checed , can also be translated “lovingkindness.” God’s “lovingkindness,” is His divine love that condescends to His creatures. It is frequency associated with forgiveness.
Notice Micah 7:18. It says, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy (lovingkindness).” This quality in Yahweh that pursues us, is one by which He seeks to bind Himself to His people.
It is in the word “surely,” that we are made to see the Shepherd’s disposition. A disposition is defined as the prevailing tendency or inclination of a person or individual. We say, “He has a tendency to fly off the handle,” or “She has a tendency to get jealous,” or “He is always worrying and fretting over something.” God’s prevailing tendency, the dominant inclination of His heart, is to follow after us with His “goodness and mercy.” God is constantly watching after you, and His grace is constantly working in you! It is God’s nature to love, sacrificially, selflessly, extravagantly, ...beyond our wildest expectations. So the psalmist can say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” because that is how and who my Shepherd is!
Occasionally, when our grandchildren are at our house, I take them to the park near us. Actually, we walk to the park, which is about three or four blocks away. Like all children, my grandchildren are excited and run ahead of me. As they run ahead, I follow after them, making sure they are safe. We cross two streets to get to the park. Once we are there, I am constantly within reach to pick them up if they fall, grab them if threatened by a dog, car, or stranger; to help them swing, slide, and climb. For the whole trip to the park and back, I am constantly present, most of the time chasing after them, to make sure they have fun, to share in their joy, soak up their smiles and laughter, and of course, insure their safety. My grandchildren could say, “Surely, Papa’s love and kindness will follow after me all the way to the park and back.” Why is this so? It is who I am, how I am, and the way I am. So it is with the Lord, our Shepherd.
As Christians, we can move forward into an unknown, uncertain future saying, “Surely,” because the Lord is our Shepherd! Verse 1 reads, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The word “want” means lack. Surely our Shepherd will supply our every need! There will nothing lacking in our lives. Psalm 34:9-10 says, “O fear the LORD, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him. 10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.” The apostle Paul says it another way in Philippians 4:19. “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack for intimacy. David said “my shepherd.” A little girl once said, “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want.” There is a real truth in that statement. A shepherd knew each of his sheep by name. There was an intimate relationship that formed between the shepherd and his sheep!
The Lord as our Shepherd, knows everyone of His sheep by name! Jesus as our Good Shepherd said in John 10:28-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” We may forget the Lord and walk away from Him, but He never forgets us. Others may walk away from us and forsake us, but not the Lord our Shepherd. Psalm 27:10 says, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack of rest and provision. Verses 2-3a reads, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul.” The picture here is a safe and secure place where the sheep can feed, water, and rest without being threatened.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us not to fret or worry about things like food, clothes, money, the daily provisions of life. Why? We have a Heavenly Father who will take care of us. We can rest, be at peace, knowing He will provide! Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack of guidance. Verse 3b reads, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.” Sheep are led, not driven like cattle. If it weren’t for the leadership and guidance of a shepherd, the sheep would find themselves without sufficient resources to feed and rest. Sheep are dumb and lack foresight. The shepherd is wise and chooses paths that are safe and productive.
Jesus says, “Follow me,” and when He does, we can be sure He will lead us in right paths. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In Mark 8:34, Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack of protection. Verse 4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Sheep are not predators. They are prey. Sometimes the shepherd must lead his sheep through dark and dangerous territory. Even so, the sheep are never left alone or unprotected.
God our Shepherd is with us in live’s most devastating moments! Jesus has gone before us and conquered all our fears, all our foes! John 16:33 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack of nourishment to meet every situation. Verse 5 reads, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” The enemies of the sheep were powerless when the shepherd was present. All they could do was watch as the sheep grazed and enjoyed the uninterrupted care of their shepherd.
In Bible times and eastern culture, there were laws of hospitality. If a fleeing or stranded traveler reached your town or door step, you were obligated to take that person in for two nights and days. There are several stories in the Old Testament that speak of visitors or travelers being threatened when forced to stay overnight in a town away from home. During that time, you were to give that weary, threatened traveler, plenty food, shelter, drink and protection.
Jesus our Shepherd is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Knowing Jesus can warm and gladden our hearts in every situation.
With the Lord as our Shepherd, there is: No lack of peace and assurance for eternity. Verse 6b reads, “....and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Jesus our Shepherd said in John 14:2-3, “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 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.”
Years ago, we were amused by a little old lady in a television commercial for Wendy’s Hamburgers, who went around saying, “Where’s the beef!” Perhaps you are tempted to look around and ask, “Where’s the goodness and mercy? Where’s the lovingkindness?”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Have you ever thought of verse 6 as a promise? The Lord our Shepherd, has promised to provide or supply goodness and mercy everyday of our lives, all of our lives! The problem is, we often fail to recognize it! We are so trained to think that we must chase after what we call “good things,” like a big screen television. It is foreign for us to think about good things chasing after us! God has a conspiracy of beauty and love, nipping right at our heels, but our eyes aren’t trained to see it in our lives. So often we miss it.
When we were in Israel, we walked over, around, and through all sorts of archaeological “digs.” To the untrained eye, they all looked like a pile of rocks. The trained eye of an archaeologist however, could bring that pile of rocks to life, revealing it’s secrets! God’s art is all around us, the beauty of moments which are often overlooked.
Where is the love, beauty, kindness, grace, forgiveness that you are overlooking in your life? Is it a smile on a child’s face, or a hug? Is it a bright, sunny day? It is a memory of a wonderful moment in your life? I remember a statement I read years ago, that has never left me. The statement was, “We traffic every day in overlooked blessings.” I suppose it was the word “traffic” that got my attention. Traffic is an everyday reality. We are held up by people traffic, and car traffic. What about blessing traffic?
A class of third and fourth-graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School were asked to complete the following sentence: “By faith, I know that God is . . .”
Amanda answered: “..forgiving, because He forgave in the Bible, and He forgave me when I went in the road on my bike without one of my parents.”
Brandon answered: “...providingful, because He dropped manna for Moses and the people, and He gave my dad a job.”
Paul answered: “..caring, because He made the blind man see, and He made me catch a very fast line drive that could have hurt me. He probably sent an angel down.”
Jeremy answered: “...merciful, because my brother has been nice to me for a year.”
An anonymous child answered: “...faithful, because the school bill came, and my mom didn’t know how we were going to pay for it. Two minutes later, my dad called, and he just got a bonus check. My mom was in tears”
Hannah answered: “...sweet, because He gave me a dog. God tells me not to do things that are bad. I need someone like that.”
It is amazing how much better life gets when you start actively, purposefully looking for God’s goodness and mercy in every experience. It will change your life!