Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In a time of massive uncertainty, our journey through Psalm 23 has been gloriously comforting. While it’s reminded us of just how much like sheep we are — helpless, fearful, susceptible to dangers, but prone to wander anyway — it’s reassured us that we have a Good Shepherd who cares for us. He leads us with his love and provides for us, even in the dark valleys. We do not have to fear evil, because he is with us.
Psalm 23 has also taken us into the banquet hall of the King as an honored guest. Here, we are welcomed to dine with the King at a lavish feast where our cup overflows, and we can relax even in the presence of our enemies.
This week, we get to focus on the destination that waits for us at the end of this journey, and the traveling companions who will accompany us. Even though we face many unknowns in the immediate future, we can be certain about what greets us at the end of the road.
It’s our final week to focus on Psalm 23. Take a moment to read through the entire Psalm again.
Psalm 23 (NIV)
A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
You prepare a table before me… (Psalm 23:5)
Psalm 23 tells us that God’s goodness and love follow us. More precisely, they pursue us. Goodness and love aren’t reluctantly trailing behind us like children forced to go on Mom’s errand when they’d rather be playing at the park. There is energy and determination in their pursuit.
In modern English, “good” has become a descriptor that’s like mashed potatoes with no salt or butter. If in an online review, you rate a restaurant “good,” it means you’ll go back, but your meal was nothing to rave to your friends about. “Good” is a smidge better than “fine,” or “O.K.,” but not much. It’s the kind of word that begs to be modified with a “very” or a “so” and finished with an explanation mark, because on its own, it’s a little bland.
Because the connotation of “good” has lost some of its richness in everyday life, we may not appreciate the significance of the psalmist applying that word to God and his actions toward us, but we should. Goodness is intrinsic to who God is. He literally defines it. God is good and can’t be otherwise. He is righteous, holy, blameless, just, creative, compassionate, and loving.
The Bible tells us that because God is good, everything he does good (Psalm 119:68). Genesis 1 explains that after every act of creation, God declared his work “good.” Every good thing that we enjoy, from the food that sustains our bodies, to the relationships that nourish our souls, to the simple pleasure of feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces, comes from God. His goodness gives us everything we need. His goodness defines everything we should desire.
In his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imagines a series of letters between Screwtape, one of Hell’s chief tempters, and his protégé, Wormwood. Screwtape reminds the junior tempter that real pleasure can only come from God. Hell can never produce something good. But humans can be tempted to twist God’s original intent. Food isn’t bad, but overindulgence is. Relationships aren’t bad, but because of selfishness and sin, they can become dysfunctional. Simple pleasures aren’t bad, unless they become idols. God’s gifts can be warped, but that is no reflection on the source. God’s desire is to bless us with his goodness.
As the book of James tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). We can trust in the never-changing, always-present faithfulness of God. When we acknowledge the Giver, trust him to lead us, and follow him, we will experience his goodness.
Psalm 145 is a praise song to God. It acknowledges so many of the ways he is good. Take note of all the actions this Psalm models for us — exalting, praising, celebrating, talking and singing about God’s goodness.
1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
Psalm 145:1-13 (NIV)
His goodness pursues us! When we acknowledge God as the source of all goodness and praise him for all he does, we will be less tempted to misuse our blessings. When we celebrate and proclaim his goodness, we help others do the same. Obedience to his will comes easier when we recognize the goodness of our God.
Why is it reassuring that God’s goodness pursues you all the days of your life?
How can you commend God’s good works to someone else? What stories from your own life of God’s mighty acts can you share with the next generation?
In the presence of the Lord reflect on the last 24 hours. How have you experienced God’s goodness? Now pray Psalm 145 back to God. Insert some specifics from your own life that you can praise him for. Exalt in the goodness of God today!