Sing with me if you remember the song, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days, all the days of my life.” This old hymn uses several phrases from Psalm 23 but reserves the last verse for the chorus.
I used to think of goodness and mercy as an underlying promise, but a friend shared a definition by Chad Bird, that opened my eyes to a totally different view. He writes,
“In the Hebrew of Psalm 23, goodness and mercy do not “follow” us all the days of our lives. That translation is far too bloodless for the verb radaph. It means “chase after or pursue.” The goodness and mercy of God do not follow us like a good little puppy dog, trailing along behind us. Rather, they gallop after us like a celestial stallion. As in the famous poem by Francis Thompson, the Lord’s goodness and mercy chase us down labyrinthine paths like the Hound of Heaven. They stay hot on our heels. The divine love and grace of our Shepherd radaph us all the way to heaven’s gate and into the arms of our waiting Father. We are pursued by mercy. We are chased by grace. We are not merely followed.”
Big difference, huh? I need the underlying promise of the goodness and mercy of God, but they do not lay dormant, they are active. They pursue me—and you! Throughout the Psalm, we see an active God. He makes, leads, restores, comforts, and prepares things for me.
So, what does the pursuit of goodness and mercy look like? Here are a few truths that came to mind:
1) The goodness of God leads me to repentance. Romans 2:4 It holds me accountable and causes me to seek a right relationship with my Father.
2) The goodness of God protects me. Psalm 31:19 “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”
3) The mercy of God is renewed daily. Lamentations 3:23 He knows I need a top-up every morning! So, He meets me at the rise of every day.
4) Mercy is there to meet our every need. Hebrews 4:16
5) I can cast myself upon His mercy in the face of distress. 2 Samuel 24:14
6) His mercy raises me up! Eph 2:4-7
So, goodness and mercy are not only an underlying truth or characteristic of God; they are the action of God to His children.
Since we have a good, good Father, it is no wonder his all-seeing eye traces our every path! It is the privilege of spiritual adoption to know we are not out there fending for ourselves, but rather, the goodness and mercy of our heavenly Father are hot on our heels!
(Chad Bird, Three Hidden Hebrew Treasures in Psalm 23, 1517. Christ for You, July 27, 2019)