“Goodness Shall Follow Me”?

The words of Psalm 23:6 are familiar to most of us: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …” — but they may bring something different to us than many of us might anticipate:

The picture here is a dramatic one: “goodness and mercy shall follow me” — the word “follow” in Hebrew means “to pursue, persecute, harass, dog”. (BDB) The same word was used in several occasions in the Old Testament to describe how an army chased down a foe until they were captured or defeated. It is picture of relentless pursuit.

So grace and undeserved goodness are going to “chase us down”. It doesn’t take much to envision a “prosperity preacher” having a heyday with that picture! But “the analogy of scripture” (interpreting scripture by other scriptures) helps us understand the true meaning here.

In Psalm 119:71, the Psalmist writes, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” The author looks back on a time of great difficulty in his and says that it was “good”, because of how he learned and grew during that time. In fact, the word “good” is used in almost every verse of that section of Psalm 119:65-71 — which describes his response to being afflicted.

Most of us do not desire affliction or hardship. In our flesh and limited understanding, given the choice we would choose to have peace and ease all of our days. But there are times when God will allow or send affliction because He knows that, as in the life of writer of Psalm 119, it is “good” for us in the long run.

With this understanding, we see that Psalm 23:6 is no “prosperity gospel.” It is not merely material riches and unbridled human “success” which will relentlessly “chase us down” as long as we live. God knows is TRULY “good” and best for us and for His kingdom purposes in the long run, and He will make absolutely certain that these things will indeed find us, and bless us — whether at first we think we want them or not!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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