The GOod Life, a Study of the 23rd Psalm - Part 11: Surely, GOodness & Mercy Shall Follow Me
We have been studying the “Good Life” that God has made available for us to live, and we have learned some wonderful truths from the 23rd Psalm!
We spent the first eight weeks of this series covering verses 1-4 that give us the analogy of a shepherd’s relationship with his sheep. Then, we saw how there is a transition beginning in verse 5 from God being described as our Good Shepherd to Him being described as our “Hospitable Host.”
So, these last two verses of the 23rd Psalm show us another part of God’s nature: Not only is He that Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep; He is that Honorable Host who crowns us with His lovingkindness and tender-mercies in His house. Yes, He prepares this table before us and makes all things good and ready! Upon entering, He honors us by anointing our head with oil! He fills our cup up to overflowing! Then our response is, “Surely, my host’s goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life! And I will live in His house forever!” Amen! This is living the good life, my friends!
Now we saw how in the beginning of verse 5 God is said to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, and we learned some incredibly important principles about this table that He has spread before us:
First of all, we learned that just because a meal has been prepared by the Lord does not automatically mean that all of His children will partake of it. Why? Because God’s people do not always accept the invitation. Yes, those the Lord has invited generally don’t make showing up to that dinner a priority in their lives.
But we also learned that there is another reason found in this verse why God’s children do not always partake from the Lord’s table. Notice again that this verse includes eating “in the presence of our enemies.” We learned from this that the reason why so many fail to partake of the children’s bread is because they have left the Lord’s table to argue and fight with their enemies. And what we have come to understand is - even if we are successful at avenging ourselves, we are missing the meal. Do you know how many of God’s children are missing out on the party at God’s table because they decided to let their enemies spoil their fun? Don’t leave the table for someone who decided not to come to the party!
But the fact remains that there is a table prepared for us to partake of, and it is up to us to both accept the invitation and to not let anything or anyone distract us from the Lord’s supper. We are to run the race before us, setting our hands to the plow and not looking back (or to the side for that matter)!
Then two weeks ago, on Resurrection Sunday, we looked at another phrase in Psalm 23:5, where David said, “My cup runs over!” We learned that this analogy describes that abundant life Christ came to make available for us, and we saw how this life “more abundantly” describes a life that is “over, above and more than is necessary.” Strong’s says that it means “beyond, super-abundant in quantity, superior in quality and by implication, excessive.” The Amplified Bible gives a great definition to this phrase; it defines it as “to the full, till it overflows.” In fact, this Hebrew word that is used for “runs over” is only used in one other place in the Scriptures, and that is found at the end of Psalm 66:12 when he says, “But you brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Other translations call this place of “rich fulfillment” a “wealthy place.”
So, the picture we have painted here is of a cup that is not just filled full to the brim, but it describes a cup that is actually overflowing and spilling over - a rich, abundance of drink, hallelujah! Therefore, God’s nature is to not only give us enough life, but to give us more than enough life! This is always what He desires to do for us because He is an excessive God!
We saw this in the first name that the Lord used to reveal Himself to mankind - El Shaddai in Genesis 17:1.
This is when He appeared to Abram and revealed one of His names as, “Almighty God.” This name described God as the One who is able to supply and provide every need that we have. It carries the idea of Him being “All-Sufficient”, or you could say, “more than enough!” As I’ve heard my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, say time and time again, “God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo!” J God is too much!
So, it is apparent that we serve a God who is a “too much and more than enough” kind of God! We see this in all of these witnesses as well as in our new and better covenant which is established upon better promises! Church, God’s nature and will is to reveal Himself as El Shaddai to us and to multiply us exceedingly! He desires to keep pouring His goodness into our cups, and fill us with His life until we are overflowing! So, as the Psalmist said, “Open your mouth wide and He will fill it” (Psalm 81:10)! Amen and so be it!
And, finally, last week, we looked at the other phrase that David wrote in Psalm 23:5 when He said, “He anoints my head with oil.” Mind you, the context of this phrase in Psalm 23:5-6 is of a gracious host honoring his or her guests, and the original Hebrew language paints this same picture in this phrase.
We saw how this word “anoints” is not the common word used for the anointing of a king or a priest. It is for this reason that the Hebrew word David used here is only translated “anoints” this one time in the original King James version. And the reason why it is not translated this way any other time is because this word literally describes “to make fat, to thrive or to prosper,” and we saw how it is used this way four times in the Book of Proverbs.
Therefore, based on this choice of words of David, we saw that this describes an anointing all right, but not an anointing for regal or priestly duties. Rather, he was referring to the anointing of a guest at some prestigious banquet with oils and perfumes as a way of honoring them. Yes, the allusion is to the custom of anointing the head on festive occasions, as an indication of prosperity and honor. Therefore, as a whole, it is indicative of the divine favor, of prosperity, and of joy.
So, this oil that our most gracious and honorable Host (the Lord of Hosts, that is) anoints our head with is poured out in such a “full, thriving and prosperous” manner. In other words, He pours oil on our head so abundantly - thus the expression indicates an abundance of oil.
We saw how this correlates with the phrase “My cup runs over” and both phrases, therefore, describe “abundance.” They echo each other in describing the Lord pouring more than enough. Essentially, what David was saying was, “He pours out an abundance of oil on my head, and He pours out an abundance of wine in my cup!”
We also looked at how both oil and wine are types of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Therefore, the good life is the anointed life - the life anointed by the Holy Ghost! Yes, all throughout the Scriptures when we see someone being anointed with oil that is symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on them - either to equip and empower one for a particular office or to set free and deliver one from a particular bondage.
We then looked at one very solid biblical example of how this occurs found in the Gospels: Mary’s anointing Jesus found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12. We looked at this in Mark 14:3-9, where we are told that this event transpired when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. Now Mark just described her as a “woman,” but we know from John’s Gospel that this was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (see John 12:2-3).
We saw that Mary came with an “alabaster flask.” In short, “alabaster” was a stone commonly found in Israel. It was a hard stone resembling white marble So, the container Mary used to carry the perfumed oil was made of a white, marble-like substance. Ointment, oils and perfumes used to be put in vessels made of alabaster, which kept them pure and unspoiled. The boxes were often sealed with wax, to prevent the perfume from escaping. Alabaster was a strong enough substance to keep the oil or perfume completely contained until the time of its use.
Mark goes on to describe this alabaster flask as containing “a very costly oil of spikenard.” Now "spikenard" was a plant that only grew in the Himalaya mountains of India and Nepal. Therefore, Mary's fragrant oil of spikenard was a rare, imported product in Israel. Now, how expensive was this spikenard contained in the alabaster flask? Well, we saw how we don’t have to speculate because in John 12:5, Judas evaluated that it could have been sold for “three hundred denarii." Now, in their day, one denarius was the wage for one day's labor. So, if Judas' estimate of the value of Mary's spikenard is correct, then it would have been worth close to someone's annual salary, equivalent to several tens of thousands of dollars today.
You see, something’s value is only determined by what others are willing to pay for it. So, even though Judas and some of other disciples thought this was a waste does not mean that the Lord did. Mary obviously thought blessing and honoring Jesus was worth more than a year’s worth of wages and more than silver and gold. Amen!
But we saw how there was a “breaking” of that box or flask that had to occur to get out what was precious on the inside - for we learned that “this was a long-necked vessel for storing or holding ointment or perfume, and when the neck was broken off, the contents were used…”
Now this event teaches us several lessons:
One is this - I believe that not only is Mary an example to us of how we ought to strive to honor the Lord, but I also see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of us too. Yes, I see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of our temples - that is, our bodies - as “alabaster” was also one of the stones used to decorate Solomon’s glorious Temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:2). As the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5, we are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house. Praise God! And if this “alabaster flask” is a type of our bodies, oh, what a measure of treasure is contained within us! As 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 states, we are to be diffusing the fragrance of the knowledge of God in every place we go as the Lord’s “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Yes, there is a treasure within these “alabaster boxes” (i.e. earthen vessels) and it is meant to be released to honor and glorify the Lord with! Amen!
But the key to releasing the sweet-smelling aroma and blessing the Lord with it is found in being “broken”- that is, learning to lose our own dignity and pride and get “outside the box” where God can be God to us. We saw that one reason why this treasure stays within our vessels is because we like to stay in control. We don’t want to lose face in front of people. We keep our dignity and pride and, in so doing, we keep that anointing oil on the inside of us.
As an example of this, we looked at what King David said after he had danced before the Lord with all of his might (2 Samuel 6:13-23). When David fully expressed Himself in praise towards God like he did, the Bible says that Michal, his wife, disdained him. And why? Because he did not praise and worship his God the way she thought he should have. She thought, being a king, he should have been more dignified. But we all know David’s response, right? He said, “Woman, I will be even more undignified than this!” Hallelujah! And we saw how Michal’s disdaining David’s worship resulted in her being unable to have children. So, you could say, her fragrant oils and perfumes stayed all “bottled up.”
The other lesson that we learned from this anointing of Jesus by Mary is how the Lord literally “anoints our heads with oil.” In other words, we saw how He does indeed honor and pour out His divine favor on our lives, and it is through other people! Yes, He anoints us through other vessels.
Now we learned that our first ambition should not be to ask God to get other vessels to bless us; our first ambition should be to be the vessels that the Lord uses to bless others. The more you are willing to anoint others by being a blessing to them, the more you will be anointed with His blessing. The more you sow, the higher you will go. So we should desire to be a vessel that blesses others. We saw this in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, where the Apostle Paul said, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor…”
Now people read this and think, “Oh, that explains it. I must just not be a vessel of ‘honor.’ I guess I am just a base vessel.” No, no, no! Paul goes on to say, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” In other words, whether or not we are a vessel of honor is not God’s choice; it is our choice! That’s why he said, “if anyone cleanses himself…” That means, whosoever will!
And we learned that specifically what Paul said we need to cleanse ourselves from is “iniquity.” That’s right, that “sin from within” is the key to being God’s vessel of honor. We saw how iniquity is premeditated, continuing, and escalating sin. Therefore, the heart is what needs to be right in order to be an honorable vessel.
But what we learned is that the Lord desires to honor us like this! He will not be out-done, for we can never out-give God. So, if the Lord commends Mary for such an extravagant and honorable gift, then you must know that He desires to “anoint our heads with oil” in like fashion.
Yes, church, the Lord desires to bless and honor us in such an extravagant way! Mary is our example of that! He desires to give us more than we think we are worth. And it is all because our value is not based on our own estimation of ourselves; our value has been determined by how much the Lord decided to pay for us - and that was A LOT! Amen and so be it!
So now let’s move on to the final verse of Psalm 23, verse 6. In this verse, King David continues with this description of God being our Honorable Host by saying, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”
Church, this statement is so powerful in that it reveals to us what we have to look forward to - again, not just in the next life, but in all of the days of our life here now! Amen!
Now notice the first word we see used in this verse - “Surely!” (And it is worth noting here that this isn’t the only Scripture that gives us this assurance of what God will do for His saints: Psalms 85:9 says, “Surely, His salvation is near to those who fear Him…” In Psalm 91:3, it says, “Surely, He shall deliver you…” Psalms 112:6 says, “Surely he (the righteous) will never be shaken…”)
Some synonyms for the word “Surely” are as follows: “assuredly, certainly, definitely; doubtless, easily, hands down; inarguably, indisputably; undeniably, undoubtedly, unquestionably, unarguably; clearly, plainly, really, truly.” Therefore, when we see the word “Surely” attached to a statement in God’s Word, this means we can take it to the bank! It is a done deal!
You know, we don’t need a Greek or Hebrew scholar to explain all these words in the Bible to us before we start believing them! All you need is enough simplicity and faith to just start actually believing what His Word says and taking it at face value! So here, when the Bible says, “Surely!”, it means “Surely!”
You know how Paul said that not many who are wise, noble, or mighty according to the flesh are called (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-29)? Why is this? Is it because God loves those who are educated and wealthy any less? Heavens, no! The reason why this happens is because, as a general rule, those with all of these things going for them in the world have a tendency to trust in and be distracted by these things.
No, God is looking for the person who is just simple enough - whether they are dumb as a rock or they have an IQ that is through the roof - to read His Word and agree with everything He said. So, when they see a verse like this that says, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” they believe it, and it is so! Amen!
So, let’s say it now - “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!,” “Surely, He shall deliver me!,” and we can take it a step further - “Surely, He shall heal me! Surely, He shall bless me! Surely, He shall save my children! Surely, He shall protect me! etc.”
But do you know why we, under this new and better covenant, can particularly be so confident? It is because He already has delivered us! He already has healed us! He already has blessed us! Yes, He already has poured out His goodness and mercy on us through Christ Jesus! So, as far as God’s concerned, it has already been done! Amen! SURELY, God’s grace is in our account!
If God were a woman, I bet He would have named Himself, “Jehovah Shirley!” 😊 However, this reminds me of that comedy where one guy said, “Surely, you can’t be serious!?!” and then the other guy replied with, “I am serious, and don’t call me ‘Shirley.’”
IN HOT PURSUIT
So, what is it that we can be confident of experiencing every day of our lives? David says that it is God’s goodness and mercy is following us all the days of our life.
Regarding this, “Charles Spurgeon used to call ‘goodness and mercy’ God’s footmen - because in his day, when a wealthy man traveled, two footmen took their place behind him on his coach. Their task was to smooth the way for him. Where he went, they went. When his coach stopped, they jumped down to open the door for him. They would hurry into the inn to make sure his room was ready and his supper served. God’s two footmen are goodness and mercy and they follow us just like those footmen to smooth our journey home.” – John Phillips in “Exploring Psalms” Amen to that!
However, when this verse says that this goodness and mercy shall “follow” us all the days of our life, some have gotten the wrong impression. The picture that we could have regarding this is that God’s goodness and mercy is maybe 50 yards behind us, picking up the rear. But the Hebrew word that David used here is crucial to understand in this context. It is the Hebrew word radaph- which means “to pursue, to set off after someone in order to catch them.” It also means “to chase, to run after, or to be in hot pursuit of.”
In fact, this word is translated “persecute” more times in the original King James version than it was “follow.” David oftentimes used this same word to describe his enemies’ pursuing and persecution of him (see Psalm 7:1, 31:15, 35:3 etc.).
So, this paints a better picture of what David meant in Psalm 23:6: Just as David’s enemies would intentionally and maliciously pursue David to do him harm because of their hatred for him, God’s goodness and mercy likewise intentionally pursue us - but not to do us harm because of their hatred - but to do us good because He loves us! Amen!
So, no, God’s goodness and mercy do not follow behind us at some distance, never catching up to us. No, they are pursuing us in order to catch us every day! For example, it is like you were speeding and now a police car is “following” you with its lights on. That police officer is not “following” you from a distance; no, they are “pursuing” you in order to catch up to you, pull you over, and give you a ticket for speeding.
Church, that is what God’s goodness and mercy is doing for each and every one of us every day: They are in “hot pursuit” of us! The difference is, when they catch you and I, they are not going to give you a ticket (i.e. punishment and judgment); God’s goodness and His unfailing love will provide you with all manner of grace and mercy! Amen!
GOODNESS AND MERCY
Now let’s, first of all, look at the God’s first footman called “goodness.” The Hebrew word that is used here is used over 550 times, and guess what you will not find in these 550 instances where it is used…? Of the 550-plus times this word "goodness" is used, you never one time see any reference to things like cancer, paralysis, tragedy, accidents, sickness, poverty, etc. Isn’t that interesting? It is particularly interesting when you consider how so many Christians, and even ministers, today are equating these bad things with God’s goodness.
For example, you can go to many funerals today of someone who died early of, say, cancer and hear the one officiating their funeral say, “Well, we don’t know why these things happen, but this we can sure of - that God, in His permissive will, allowed so and so to have this cancer in order to teach them something or to protect them from something far worse down the road. We don’t know why, but we do know that it was God’s goodness that allowed them to have this ‘gift’ of cancer.” What a bunch of bologna! That is some seriously damaging doctrine right there!
Did you know that this word “goodness” describes things that are “pleasant, becoming, beneficial and morally good”? In fact, this word for "goodness" is translated as “good, better and best.” It is, therefore, a huge stretch for these who equate evil, destructive things like this to being agents of God’s goodness. No, as we have been learning here @ HPC - if God is good, then He does good.
Let’s look at this way: we are told numerous times in the Bible to "do good” ourselves, right? We are told to be imitators of God as dear children, correct (see Ephesians 5:1)? So, if we believe that God does these things to His children, then why don't we do likewise and go sprinkle flu germs on our kids pillows at night to make them get sick in order to teach them something? No, we don’t do that because we love them, right? Not to mention, there is not a place on this planet that will not lock us up and throw away the key if we abused our children like this. And why? Because this is not “morally good.” Amen?
But, no, this word that David used that is translated “goodness” is the same word that God used throughout Genesis chapter one in describing His creation. So, if you want to know what God considers “good,” then look at His original design in creation, which is completely absent of these evil, harmful things. No, God’s original creation is all life and constructive, not death and destructive!
Now let’s look at the other footman of the Lord that is following close behind - translated “mercy.”
This word comes from the Hebrew word hesed, which I believe is the closest Old Testament counterpart to our New Testament word describing God’s love, agape. This word is defined by Strong’s as “unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.” It is for this reason that many like to define this word as “the unfailing, steadfast, covenant love of God.”
So, not only is God’s goodness in hot pursuit of us, but we also have God’s unfailing, covenant love chasing us down as well! Aren’t you thankful, church, that God’s unfailing love never quits on us and never quits pursuing us? Yes, even when we are unlovable and do some pretty stupid things, God’s love is still in hot pursuit of us!
Now this word for “mercy” is what was used in the very common statement of praise that was made throughout the Old Testament where God’s chosen people said, “For the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” (And notice that both, His goodness and mercy, are referred to in this, the single most popular statement of praise we have in the entire Bible)
In studying this, you will find something very interesting: You will find that when they began to praise God with this “phrase of praise” that the glory of the Lord showed up, enemies were defeated, and God’s people were blessed! (Compare 2 Chronicles 5:13-14)
Now it is important to realize that just simply parroting this particular phrase is not necessarily going to get the same results. What needs to be understood here is that it is praising God out of the heart for His goodness and His mercy that is what will yield God’s miraculous provision in our lives. And specifically, this: when you praise God all the days of your life for His goodness and His mercy like this, His goodness and mercy will follow you all of the days of your life!
ALL OF THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE
Now, finally, that leads me to the last part of this phrase we are covering; notice that David’s confidence was not in the fact that God’s goodness and love pursuing us will happen sometimes or from time to time; no, David said, “Surely, (this will happen) all the days of my life.” In other words, this was not something that he believed would happen occasionally or sporadically; this was not something he was confident would happen from time to time or even “as the Lord willed.” No, David was “sure” that the Lord’s goodness and mercy would be in hot pursuit of him every day of his life.
So, this is something that we should ask ourselves: Do we believe that we have good things and God’s love pursuing us every day? Are we expecting that something good will happen to us today? This is apparently what David believed!
Now the truth is that most people (including Christians) are pessimistic, not optimistic. They will say things like, “Well, if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!” And the problem with this belief system is that it based on their experiences and not on God’s Word. The Bible says, “Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life!” So, that is only what we should be saying!
As the late Oral Roberts was known for saying and even wrote a book on, “Something good is going to happen to you today!” Where did he get this from? From verses like Psalm 23:6!
So, this is what I want you to take away from this today - we need to change our expectations and begin to say out of our mouths every day that “Surely, something good is going to happen to me today!” - all because God has said that His goodness and His unfailing love is pursuing us every day of our lives!
As the Message Bible puts it in Amos 9:13, “Yes indeed, it won’t be long now.” God’s Decree. “Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings! Blessings like wine pouring off the mountains and hills. I’ll make everything right again for my people Israel” And to that, we can give a hearty “Amen!”
Why would the Lord even tell His people this? It was to get their expectations set! Yes, He wanted them to start looking for it, amen?
So, in conclusion, we ought to be living a lifestyle of praising God for His goodness and love in our lives! Yes, as Psalm 34:1 states, we are to bless the Lord at all times like this and let these praises be continually in our mouths! And then, as His goodness and mercy are on the forefront of our hearts, we should boldly declare these truths - expecting God’s goodness and mercy to be manifested in our lives on a daily basis.
Surely, certainly, absolutely, we can take it to the bank, the Lord’s goodness and His unfailing, steadfast love are in hot pursuit of us, God’s children. And these are not seasonal blessings either; they are pursuing us every day of our lives! Amen, and so be it!
Published research findings can certainly be false inasmuch as they can be fabricated. The claims made on the basis of the falsified results may still be true to some degree but the claim that “this data was collected and analyzed in this way and this is what the analysis tells us” is demonstrably false in a disturbing proportion of empirical articles in psychology.
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