Surely goodness and mercy – Psalm 23, Part 4

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
– Psalm 23

My son’s shadow is his baby sister. I see this all the time, but recently I was sitting at the park, savoring the fresh air and sunshine, watching her copy his every move. When he ran in a circle, she ran in a circle. When he roared like a dinosaur, she roared like a dinosaur. When he threw mulch like confetti, she threw mulch like confetti.

It’s adorable. And maybe sometimes a problem. But as I sat (for several luxurious minutes) and watched, I noticed one thing: all over the park, they were always together.

This is the point of the whole psalm. The Shepherd is always with his sheep. And because the Shepherd is always there, the sheep are always cared for. And they always will be.

Earlier in the text, the Shepherd was going ahead. He was making preparations for his beloved. And now, he’s following. He’s hemming in from behind. There is no escaping him, no escaping his character. God is good and God is merciful. Every day, we experience his “hesed”, the Hebrew word for his lovingkindness, his active and ongoing affection towards us. 

The cross was demonstration of his affection. The cross was demonstration of the Good Shepherd in his greatest act of goodness and mercy. He pulled us out of our original condition, and through the resurrection, we join in His triumph.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians summaries it like this:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air… and were by nature children of wrath… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us… made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:1-6

Don’t you see the contrast? We used to be dead in sin. We used to walk in our flesh and follow Satan. But for all who believe in his name, the Good Shepherd plucked us out of that hopeless, forsaken sheepfold and through Christ brought us into his own care. Into life. Where we could instead walk with him and be seated in the heavenly places. 

I love the visual W. Phillip Keller gives In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23:

“The tenant sheepman on the farm next to my first ranch was the most indifferent manager I had ever met. He was not concerned about the condition of his sheep. His land was neglected. He gave little or no time to his flock, letting them pretty well forage for themselves as best they could… in my mind’s eye I can still see them standing at the fence, huddled sadly in little knots, staring wistfully through the wires at the rich pastures on the other side… He ignored their needs – he couldn’t care less… I never looked at those poor sheep without an acute awareness that this was a precise picture of those wretched old taskmasters, Sin and Satan.”

If God did not even spare his own son to rescue us, why would he ever fail to continue showering us with goodness and mercy? I read the last verses of this psalm and can’t get over how confident David is, but why wouldn’t he be? It is the hesed of God that we are part of his flock, that we are in his presence. And it is his eternal promise that we will never be displaced. We can be confident that we will dwell forever in the house of the Lord, because God is eternal, he has credited life everlasting to us, and there is no power greater than him to ever stop his reign.

Whether playing at the park, hanging out at home, or stressing me out at TJ Maxx, my baby girl is right beside her big brother because she loves him. She wants to be by him, and she wants to be a part of whatever he is doing.

Wherever we are, the Good Shepherd is right beside us, because he loves his sheep. He wants to be by us, wants to be a part of our lives. This psalms’ precious final words get to be our anchor and hope as we call the Good Shepherd ours. As we live blessed by his continual goodness and mercy. As we long confidently for the day when we’re welcomed into our true forever home. And as we consistently receive the tender care of our near and always present Shepherd.


and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes. – Revelation 7:15-17


Sing: Hymn of Heaven, Phil Wickham
House of the Lord, Phil Wickham

Study: This series of 4 posts is based on a deep dive of Psalm 23, using the Abide Method – Observe, Interpret, Apply. Spend some time in these verses, and feel free to use the prompts and additional scripture references below.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
– Psalm 23

Observe – What does it say? 
How would you summarize the text?
What is the psalmist’s confidence level?
What follows the psalmist?
For how long?
Where will the psalmist dwell?
For how long?

Interpret – What does it mean?
Will life always be good?
How does this give us hope in hard times?
Can you escape the goodness of God? (Psalm 139:7-10)

Apply – What does it teach us about God? 
Is God always good?
How long will he reign in his house?
How long will we get to dwell with God? 

How does it point to the Gospel? 
Why does the psalmist get goodness and mercy forever?
Why does he get to dwell in the house of the Lord forever?

How does it apply to your life?
Is there anything God is calling you to do?

Related: Evil for Good
Did I Just Mess Up My Life?

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