GOODNESS AND MERCY
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
In 1915, Ernest Shackleton made a voyage to Antarctica. But soon his ship was frozen in the ice and he had to abandon it. He had to leave the ship and took three of his men in the lifeboat and sailed to Elephant Island, across a thousand miles of the most treacherous ocean in the world. That voyage is one of the great epochs of man.
They came to an island known as South Georgia and landed there on the wrong side of the island. They knew there was a whaling station where they could get help. Then they had to make their way across the mountain range that towered 6000 feet covered with snow and ice. When they got to the top of the mountain, they saw the whaling village in the distance.
Shackleton made a decision like he had never had to make before. He knew that if they stayed on top of the mountain during the night they would freeze to death. They were not mountain climbers, they were seamen, so he made a decision to slide down the mountain. They coiled their ropes and sitting in the coils tied to each other they slid down the mountain of ice and snow some 6000 feet. Arriving safely at the bottom, Shackleton in his typical British understatement said, “This is not the kind of thing you would like to do often.” Writing of this later, he said “I felt there was fourth man with us, the presence was so great.” He described the same presence that was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace – one like unto the Son of man. Do you know that presence? Has he been with you? David is describing the same presence in the first part of verse six. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
In this verse, David is stating his philosophy of life. There are five major concepts that go into a biblical philosophy of life in these few words.
I AM ASSURED BY GOD’s CONSTANCY.
Notice the first word, “Surely.” It will be so. How could he state, “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life?” With such great assurance he said it. Well, if you look back up in the Psalm you hear him saying, “The Lord is… The Lord is.” Not “has been” or “will be” but now in the present He “is.” God is always in the now with us.
Many of us are living today in the great religious experiences of the past, hoping that someday we will have another great encounter with God. But God wants us to experience Him in the now. “I shall not want.” I have received rest from Him… The green pastures, the still waters, are always calming and refreshing. I have received rest from Him in the past – surely it will be there in the future. He restored me in the past from my sin – he will do it in the future. He received me back and forgave me. Restoration, leadership, guidance – He leads me. Surely there is every reason to believe that I shall have that same guidance all the days of my life. If I am faithful, I will never get outside the realm of His guidance. Courage – he gave me courage when I needed it to walk through the valley. When I need courage in the future it will be there. When I need fellowship as I have in the past been able to say, “Thou art with me,” I can say that in the future. Provision – the divinely prepared table will be there in the future. He has anointed my head with oil and satisfied the deepest longings of my soul in the past – “My Cup runs over.” He will keep filling it day after day in the future.
And having said all of that, he comes now to the prospect. You cannot really enjoy life unless you have a good prospect for the future. And the prospect of the future is, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.” This is based upon past experience. Do you have enough past experience of God working in your life to assure your future? Perhaps all of us here today could stand to our feet and say, “Yes! A thousand times yes! God has so worked in my life in the past that I know that He will guide me in present reality and in the prospect of the future.” David is now ready to stake his destiny on God’s constancy. God will be the same in the future. Isn’t that a great way to look at the future? And so that is the first part of the biblical philosophy of life.
I AM PURSUED BY GOD’s LOVE.
Not only was David assured by God’s constancy, he knew that he would be pursued by God’s love. The word “follow” means “pursued.” It is the idea of being pursued with the intent of overtaking. God is pursuing me. He does not just allow these twin angels of goodness and mercy assigned to me to bless me.
All of us know how God pursued us to bring us to Christ. He worked in our hearts little by little and met our needs in the heat of the day. As we have the prospect of the future there is a sense of being pursued. It is the picture of God that has so wondrously blessed in the past that now is actively pursuing with the intent of blessing. How wonderful God is! He is eager to bless. God has assigned two angels, Goodness and Mercy, to follow us with the command, “Bless him, bless her.” And when you know that God is like this, the prospect of the future can be great.
I AM BLESSED BY GOD’s GOODNESS.
The third part of David’s philosophy of life is provided for by God’s goodness. The apostle Paul learned the same thing and said to the church at Philippi, “My God shall supply all of your needs.” Here is a picture of the constant flow of help from God to us. We are pursued with the intent of blessing. A constant stream of goodness is coming to us from God, the Father. Have you experienced a constant stream of God’s goodness coming into your life? You may say, “I don’t since a constant stream of goodness. I am having many difficulties in several areas of life. Where is God’s constant stream of goodness to me?”
By faith, the person who wants it can find it. Remember Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. He had great heartache, pain, and many days of misery. But through it all God was working, and years later his brothers came and stood before him. He was the instrument that God used to feed them in the midst of famine. He held a ceremony where he wanted to forgive them and revealed himself to them. He said to his brothers, “You meant this to me for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Whatever your situation is, how dark the day, how strong the mystery, how unavailable the future seems in prospect, we know the truth of Romans 8:28 – “For God is now working together all things for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.” For good! In Psalm 27 the Psalmist said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He means that he would have failed, given up, and crashed if he had not believed in the goodness of God.
The wonderful thing is that we can pass it on to others. It was Tennyson who said, “The good that men do live alone after them.” Who follows you? Where you go, what follows you? Does blessing follow you are does turmoil? Some people leave turmoil everywhere they go. Behind them they always leave something negative. But other people can leave sunshine, encouragement and blessing everywhere they go. It was said of Jesus, “He went about doing good.” Goodness followed Him.
A biblical philosophy of life assures God’s constancy, pursued by His love, and provided for by His goodness. Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights. The fourth part of this biblical philosophy of life is
I AM PROTECTED BY GOD’s MERCY.
There is something special about this angel of mercy that follows me and that is the immediate cancellation of sin as soon as it is confessed. Martin Luther, so caught up in his sin before he came to his spiritual awakening, cried, “Oh my sin, my sin.” There are medical case studies of psychological and physical illnesses that are produced simply by the foolishness of man doing those things that bear upon his conscience. Even some Christians who know that God has forgiven them, cannot forgive themselves. It was like the doctor said of Lady Macbeth, “More she needs the divine than the physician, for this disease is beyond my practice.” The disease that you and I have called “sin” is beyond the practice of any human cure. And so, we obtain mercy.
A play, entitled, “Green Pastures” portrays how God sees his people through the eyes of an old Negro minister. The play begins with the statement that God created the earth and made it very beautiful. Then man rebelled against God and spoiled the earth and polluted it. God is angry with man over what he has done to the earth and to himself. God asked the question, “What shall I do with man? Shall I just let him loose to destroy himself? If I leave him alone, that is what he will do. Then there comes into the picture the prophet Hosea whose wife has committed adultery and is unfaithful to him. Yet he loved his wife and forgave her. The last scene of the play takes the audience to the cross where God’s inexhaustible mercy is demonstrated. God who had no mercy on His Son offers mercy to us. The fifth statement of this biblical philosophy of life is
I WILL HAVE GOD’s BLESSINGS ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.
In Him I have strength for my daily walk, support in the midst of trials, fulfillment of life’s dreams, protection from evil, abounding love, forgiveness and cleansing, courage and hope, and the privilege to walk with God through it all.
As a young boy growing up on a farm in South Georgia, I loved to walk through the woods, over the fields, and beside the Creek. How wonderful it was to be out in nature. But being just a little afraid, I remember looking back to see if anyone was following or if an animal was stalking me. Now as I walk through the beautiful life that God has given to me, I can sense the presence of the two angels, Goodness and Mercy.
Look back in your life and you will see them following and say, “There is Mercy. There comes Goodness. Both are pursuing with the intent of blessing you. A biblical philosophy of life enables you to see these things.
What is your need today? Is it financial, emotional, physical, situational, or something you can’t quite describe? Do you believe that Goodness and Mercy are following you?
This biblical philosophy of life will allow God to make it happen.
The genius faith is that sometimes it almost gives up – but does not.
William Cowper, an English writer in the late 1700s, wrote a hymn entitled, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”
“God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs and works His sovereign will.
You fearful saints, fresh courage, take; the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”
PRAISE TO HIS NAME!