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Goodness and Mercy in Pursuit

An old curse implores, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, you and I certainly live in interesting times, don’t we! Our children will tell their children and grandchildren about these times of worldwide pandemic, capricious variants, epidemic social change, and unruly technology. These are times that affect our thoughts about the future. What will become of us, we might wonder.

There are marvelous lines from the psalmist David that can encourage as we fret about the future, about what might happen. These are the words of a person whom Scripture describes as “A man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and one who “served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36). It is uplifting to see the hopefulness with which David looks to the future in Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Anyone who knows anything about David’s life would never think David is a Pollyanna personality looking at life through rose-colored lenses. But David goes at life with gusto and a holy swagger knowing that God’s goodness and mercy follow him all the way to his home in heaven. In this psalm, while David acknowledges there is evil in the world, David can also say he does not fear evil: the Lord is with him (verse 4). David is well aware of enemies warring against him, but experiences the Lord preparing a ‘banquet table’ before those very enemies. This awareness teaches him to know that God’s goodness and mercy will forever follow him.

Note David’s confidence in saying, “Surely” God’s goodness and mercy follow him through all of life. The Hebrew word translated “goodness” is the word tov, meaning “pleasant”, “beautiful”, and “beneficial”. If you have attended a Jewish wedding you’ve likely heard the cheering words “mazel tov!”, that is, “good luck”, “good fortune”, “good destiny”. David knows this goodness, or tov, will forever follow him.

The Hebrew word translated “mercy” is the great Hebrew word hesed, meaning “covenant love”. It is God’s love, steadfast and always faithful to His covenant with His people. It is a love that never, ever quits. The apostle Paul tells us that nothing will be able to separate us from this love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 8:39). It is unending love!

The Hebrew word, radaph, translated “follow”, is bold and energetic. In the 144 times it is used in the Hebrew Scriptures, radaph is most often translated as “chase”, “hunt down”, and “pursue”. For instance, radaph is used of Pharaoh’s armies in hot pursuit of the Israelites (Exodus 14:4), and of Saul’s armies hunting down David (1 Samuel 23:25). At the same time that David experiences King Saul following him, he also experiences God’s goodness and mercy pursuing him, and never letting him get away from God’s love. From the time David faced down Goliath to the time he conquered kingdoms, he lived in awareness of God’s goodness and mercy. Bible commentators suggest that God’s goodness and mercy are like sheep dogs nipping at David’s heels, never letting him get away.

Yes, we do live in interesting times of trouble and worry, don’t we! But God’s goodness and mercy are following, pursuing us in the green pastures and in the dark valleys. The Lord’s goodness and mercy will follow us, pursue us, all the way to our eternal home!

TAKE AWAY

Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.

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