By Dr. Sandra Hamer Smith, Crosswalk.com
What Does 'Surely Goodness and Love Will Follow Me' Mean?
This verse appears in the popular Psalm 23:6. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” King David wrote this Psalm. It speaks of the goodness of God. One of the rewards of being a Christian is the love that God shows to us. He loves all His creation. However, submitting to God and accepting Jesus Christ affords us special benefits. As Christians, God’s goodness and mercy are available to us even when we miss the mark. We have access to Him through Jesus Christ. We can ask for forgiveness, and it is like we have a clean slate. You will not receive this sort of treatment from man. Man keeps a record of our faults and is quick to remind us of who we were. Sometimes it is hard to imagine someone just forgetting about all the stuff that you used to do, but that’s God. God sees our worth. He sees the brighter picture. Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
I pray that God will help you to grasp what it means to know that goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. The goodness and mercy of God especially follows you when you are hurting. Psalms 34:18 says, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saved such as be of a contrite spirit.” Contrite means to show remorse or be filled with guilt. You can feel God draw near to you best when you are in tears. That is a comforting feeling. Even when no one else wants to listen, God will draw near to you.
You might say goodness and mercy have not always followed me. The Bible says that “in this life you will have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). God’s peace will allow us to remain stable in an unstable world. His peace has already overcome the world.
What Is the Context of Psalm 23?
Most Christians learned Psalm 23 in Sunday School, or your parents made you read it at home until you memorized it. In the Kingdom of God, people are often referred to as sheep. The church leader or pastor is referred to as the shepherd. Here King David uses the imagery of a shepherd to show God’s blessing and protection of His people (The KJV Study Bible, Barbour Publishing, 2011). You might ask, why does my pastor care about what I am doing? I have enough folk all up in mine. As much as we do not like people in our business, pastors are shepherds. God will hold them accountable for how they tended the sheep. We are sheep.
If you go line by line, you realize that since the Lord is your shepherd; you shall not want for anything. I have heard some Saints say that they do not want for nothing. Think about your life. You have everything that you need and many things that you want. You have so much stuff until you must give it away annually. I know people with some incredible closets. A lot of people would be happy with just two week's supply of the clothes in someone else’s closet. God gives us what we need and much of what we want.
When God makes us to lie down in green pastures, that is symbolism for basic needs. Verse three says “He restoreth my soul.” God restores you when life or the enemy seeks to depress you and worry you about the cares of this life. All humans sleep and should wake up refreshed. I remember at times when I have felt that I had a difficult day, I would just go to sleep. When I would awaken, I would feel refreshed and just have a different outlook on things. It is a trick of the enemy to make us feel like our situation is the worst that it could be. That is why you need to read the Word of God and find out what God says about the situation.
God as shepherd also guides us. Psalms 23:4 says “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” We should not be fearful living this life. God is our shepherd. Many times I have driven by the scene of an accident and thought that if I had been five minutes earlier, that could have been me. God is going before us and making the crooked places straight (Isaiah 45:2). We have been ill and sometimes close to death, but God kept us here on purpose. There are twists and turns on this walk called life, but God is always near us.
Verse five says “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.” I have often heard the song say, “You dig one ditch, you better dig two.” Often, your blessing is in the presence of your enemies. Everyone is not your friend, and you are a nice person. Different people have different motives and intents, but the plan of the Lord prevails (Proverbs 19:21).
It is important to note that if you know the purpose that God has for you, you need to stick with the plan and let Him work out the kinks. You can talk to God about issues and ask Him to fix it. Sometimes, I am amazed at what He will do if you just ask Him. It is even better when you can hear that He is listening. So I try to be careful about what I say and do because I know that He is listening, and He will “drop a dime” on you to those around you. God also gives us integrity checks. So step up to the test.
What Is God's Goodness?
God’s goodness is His love. God is love and, God is good. Many of us can say that we do not deserve to be here. Sometimes people do not want God to have mercy on people that have done some awful things. I remember a phrase from the movie Chicago when the defendant was asked why she killed someone. She said, “He had it coming.”
I am still amazed about who God chooses to use. He is not calling us up and asking for permission to use certain people. God looks at the heart and sees how repentant people are. His Word says that He is married to the backslider (Jeremiah 3:14). When we sin, we must repent. God knows that we are not perfect. He knows that temptation and trials are all around. We must get in the Word so that we have some help for what we face.
Look to Luke 15:11-32. Read about the prodigal son. He came in like a spoiled brat and demanded what he thought was his. You normally get these things at the reading of the will. His father gave him his inheritance. The younger son went away, and things did not go as planned. He ended up broke and returned. His father treated him well at his return. Sometimes, God allows us to learn through the school of hard knocks, but He stands ready to receive us.
How Can We Know Goodness and Love Will Follow Us Every Day?
We know God’s record. If you have been around for any length of time, you have experienced God’s goodness and his mercy. If you need confirmation, just search the scriptures. Look at the Bible from beginning to end and the many clouds of witnesses. Most importantly, look at Jesus who God sent as a sacrifice and atonement for our sins. We must not allow ourselves to become puffed up because of God’s goodness. We should show mercy as we would like to receive mercy.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Pheelings Media
Dr. Sandra Hamer Smith is a Christian and wife to Sylvester Smith. She has one stepson, Greg. Smith lives and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. The University of Memphis alumnae has been in education for about 20 years after receiving the call to teach. Dr. Smith primarily teaches language arts. Prior to education, she worked in local and national television news for 13 years including positions as an overnight news anchor, reporter, and assignments editor at two local network affiliate stations. Smith was also a freelance correspondent for BET news. Dr. Smith has freelanced for the Tri-State Defender newspaper and Contempora magazine. She is the author of the self-published novel GLORY…THE HAIR. Smith is also a playwright and poet. The Tennessee native is a member of Temple of Deliverance COGIC, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Golden Key International Honour Society, and Kappa Delta Pi.