The promise. As we finalize the last verse of this short but rich psalm, there is surely a promise of protection of God’s goodness and mercy. This word “surely” is not like our “surely” which we use today. You know, the “Surely, you can’t be serious!” phrase. There is a certainty in this final word of encouragement.
The protection. The promise of protection is two-fold: goodness, which is the extension of God’s kindness, His righteousness, and bestowing of good things; mercy is the withholding or retraction of God’s punishment and anger. Goodness is revealed when we are obedient. Mercy is revealed when we are disobedient.
The pursuit. Since the shepherd always leads in front, there must be “sheep dogs” who follow behind. Those two rearguards of goodness and mercy are like the hounds which pursue the fox. In fact, the word “follow” is more often translated as “to pursue” or even “to chase.” The word is literally a dogged word (Please do not groan so loudly).
F.B. Meyer in the Shepherd’s Psalm wrote, “In the East the shepherd always goes in front. And our Good Shepherd never puts us forth to the work or warfare of any day without going before us. But His shepherd-dogs bring up the rear. We have a rearguard against the attack of our treacherous foes.”
Michael Card wrote a song, The Hound of Heaven, based on a poem by an opium addict, Francis Thompson. The song and poem speaks of God’s pursuit of us, likening our Shepherd to a hound. Once the wandering sheep surrenders to God’s pursuit, he hears a voice saying,
“I did not take him for your harm /
I only wanted you to seek them in my arms/
The dark and gloom you said you could no longer stand /
Was, after all, the shadow of My loving hand /
How little worthy of My love could anyone be /
Who else could ever love you, save only … Me”
There is not only a promise of blessings to me, but a call for these blessings to come through me. Perhaps the writer is saying that goodness and mercy will be my legacy which follows after me. Wouldn’t we all like to have it said of us as our epitaph: “He was a good man,” or “she was always full of mercy.” Jesus said, “A good tree will bear good fruit” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Since God follows me with such assured goodness and mercy all the days of my lifetime, then while I am here on earth, I should likewise extend goodness and mercy to others.
“Bless you Father, for pursuing me with goodness and mercy.
Let me bless others by doing the same. Amen.”