The 23rd Psalm. So familiar, having recited it at every funeral in addition to preaching on it countless times. But in my personal devotions, these words have become way too rote. So, when a new meaning comes my way, I get excited!
Verse 6– where goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. Follow us. Sounds like a tired old dog, lagging far behind. Or a child, unable to keep up the pace. ‘…goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…'(Psalm 23: 6).
I began searching the meaning of the Hebrew verb ‘to follow’. Low-and-behold, nothing passive in this verb. Active, pursuing, chasing and seeking out. Follows us in hot pursuit. God’s love searches high-and-low, in every nook-and-cranny, behind locked doors, and doesn’t stop until it finds. As the Apostle John says: ‘this is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us'(1 John 4: 10).
His is always the first step. He approaches us …with goodness and mercy. In the dance of life, He takes the lead. When I was a student at Princeton Seminary, I was accepted into a chaplaincy program called Clinical Pastoral Education at the Medical Center at Princeton. There were only eight of us in the program. We were learning to effectively listen to others. In class, we did a number of self-revealing exercises. One involved two of us going into each corner of the conference room. Then we were told to greet the others in the room. What would you do? Sounded quite simple to me! Obvious!
I sauntered over to the other three corners of the room, shaking hands with everyone, as I had been instructed. What amazed me was that only one other student did as I did. The others waited for us to come to them. They didn’t budge. Our supervisor informed us that he had never told us to go across the room, but simply to greet each other. What I discovered was that my personality actively reaches out. Takes the first step. Others will be different. But for me, I move forward. That’s my inclination in life.
Whether we step out or hold back, know that God is biting at our heels as we travel the rough and tumble roads of life. He doesn’t lag behind. He’s not lackadaisical. Low on energy. No, He’s on the hunt!
Such love and goodness will come right to us in whatever corner we find ourselves in. All the days of our lives until we’re with Him in His house, forever! Thank you, Lord, for loving us even before we sought you out!
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for taking that very first step in goodness and mercy. In your name. Amen.