Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Goodness and Mercy

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Those enemies that we’ve talked about in this psalm, they’re all very real this side of eternity—evil, death, enemies, darkness. But heaven is the greater ultimate reality.

So whatever you’re facing now, whatever you face tomorrow, whatever you face next week, it’s not the final chapter. It’s not the end of the story.

This verse talks about your eternal hope beyond today, beyond tomorrow, beyond next week, forever—to be always and forever at home with the Lord. That is the hope that keeps us going. That’s what gives us courage to press on in the nasty here and now as we think about the sweet by and by—what’s coming, what lies ahead for us.

If you’ll go to a hymnal sometime and look at some of the hymns that have been written in the last couple of centuries, it’s amazing how many of them have a final stanza that talks about eternity, about the forever, about heaven, about our eternal hope.

That’s what makes our lives bearable. This short, relatively miserable stay here on earth is preparing us for something far more wonderful than we can comprehend.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, August 11.

Nancy has been leading us through a series called The Lord Is My Shepherd. It’s been a rich study, and if you’ve missed any of it, you can listen at ReviveOurHearts.com. Now let’s get back to this familiar passage that offers a lot more depth than many people realize.

Nancy: I think sometimes the way we use the 23rd Psalm makes it a little bit of a sappy, syrupy, sentimental sort of thing, because sometimes we don’t realize how rich it is and how practical it is for the nitty-gritty areas we face in life.

It’s a psalm that takes us in a progression through all of our Christian life, and it deals in just six verses here with virtually every situation and season and circumstance you will ever face from here until heaven and beyond. Let me read the passage, and then we’ll pick up in verse 6.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside waters of rest. He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness 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.

And then we come to verse 6:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

So you see, we’re going through a progression here from the places of rest and refreshment and relaxation, the restoration when we wander off, the Lord leading His people, leading His sheep in right paths.

Then sometimes leading them in those very hard places, the valleys of deep darkness, and still His presence is there all the way through that experience. And then the Lord is there with His people in the presence of their enemies.

Is there ever a moment in this whole progression when the Lord is not there? Is there ever a moment when He’s not at work? Is there ever a moment when He’s not active on behalf of His people?

It says to me, you’d better make sure you’re one of His sheep, because if you are, you never have to walk through a moment of this life on your own.

Then you say, “Well, what about the future? What if this happens? What if that happens? What if my life falls apart? What if I lose my job? What if my husband loses his job? What if I don’t ever get married? What if we can’t have children? What if we lose this child? What if we go bankrupt?” and all the things we can think of.

But you know what? Some of those things may happen. Some of those things will happen, but God is still there. He is still present. He is still alive. He is still active. He is still at work in the hearts and lives and on the behalf of His people.

Verse 6 tells us what we can anticipate. Yes, we can anticipate problems from here until heaven, and some very serious ones. I don’t mean to make light of them, but I’m saying there’s a reality that is greater than any problems you may face between now and the time you see the Lord.

What’s the promise? “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” No matter what else happens, one thing I know for sure. In fact, some of your translations will have a marginal note there: “Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

There’s a confidence there. There’s assurance. There’s no doubt. There’s no insecurity. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” The goodness of God.

And you see that in contrast to the evil we saw earlier in this psalm. “I will fear no evil.” There is evil in this world, but I don’t fear it because God’s goodness, which overcomes all evil, follows me all the days of my life.

Goodness and mercy are like a pair of bodyguards, always attending me, always following me, always on my heels; always the goodness of God in spite of the presence of evil.

We also see the goodness of God in contrast with the enemies. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” But here is God pursuing us. There are enemies pursuing with the intent to harm and to destroy, but there’s God’s goodness and God’s mercy pursuing or following all the way.

I was looking last night in John MacArthur’s topical study Bible. He says that the goodness of God is declared in the Scripture to be great, rich, abundant, satisfying, enduring, and universal. That’s what’s following me all the days of my life—that goodness of God.

Because of His goodness and His mercy following me, my past is covered. His mercy—that’s God’s covenant-keeping love, His steadfast love, His mercy that forgives all my iniquities, puts them behind me, remembers them against me no more. Hallelujah!

God’s goodness and His mercy cover my past. It means my present is secure. I’m cared for, followed by God’s mercy and goodness.

It means my future is secure. I will always be cared for by God’s goodness and mercy. There’s no need to worry, to fret, to stay awake at night, or to obsess about the future. Don’t go there, because the only thing you know for sure about the future is that God’s goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.

Don’t borrow trouble. You don’t know that that’s going to happen. What you do know is that God’s goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.

That word follow would probably be better translated “pursue.” His goodness and his mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.

So David is saying, as a shepherd king here, “God’s covenant love has been with me when all was going well, when I was in green pastures and by still waters. God’s covenant love and goodness were with me when I walked through the valley of deepest darkness. So I know, looking at that past track record, as I look to the future I know surely that His unfailing love will follow me all the days of my life.”

God is good when we are not. God is merciful when we have sinned. We know that all the days of our lives we will not be good, we will not be faithful. But God will always be good. He will always be faithful.

And that goodness of God, according to Romans 2, is intended to bring us to repentance—not just initially at the point of conversion, but all through our lives—to make us continually be repenters.

We sin, and then we say, “God, You’ve been so good. You’ve made provision for my sin. You cover my sin with the mercy and the blood of Jesus Christ. Oh God, how could I sin against You again? I don’t want to sin against You anymore. I repent. I turn from my sin. I forsake it.” The goodness and that mercy that pursue us bring us to repentance.

Not long ago I was doing a Revive Our Hearts conference, and as is often the case, several from our team and several from the local committee that was hosting the conference gathered together on the night before the conference for a time of prayer, to seek the Lord and to ask His blessing on the conference.

During parts of that time we all prayed together, but then there was a time when the 30 or 40 of us in that great auditorium spread out throughout the auditorium and were given some time to pray on our own, to pray over different parts of the auditorium where hundreds of women would be coming the next night for the conference. I spent that time seeking the Lord, waiting on Him, trying to listen to Him, to prepare my own heart for that conference.

I remember at one point being up on the platform where I would be speaking the next night, and I was praying. I had been meditating on this passage, Psalm 23.

It was just going through my mind over and over and over again, and I came to this phrase in verse 6: “Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.” As I was standing there on that platform praying, I began to think about how God’s goodness and His mercy have in fact pursued me all the days of my life to that very day.

Things came to mind where God had just poured out His goodness; He had lavished blessing on me. The many circumstances He’s brought into my life that I could not take any credit for—a godly family, the ways He’s blessed me by bringing me to faith as a young child, so many aspects of God’s goodness in my life, the opportunities for ministry and service He’s given me.

Then I began to think about some of my failures—some of the times when I have not been a good sheep, when my Shepherd has relentlessly pursued my heart and brought me to repentance. He found me when I was wandering, brought me back when I couldn’t bring myself back, rescued me from myself and from all kinds of danger and enemies, gave me repentance and then covered my sin with His mercy.

So many of these things were running through my mind of God’s goodness and His mercy, and I stood on that platform and just began to weep and say, “Lord, You are so good. Thank You.” It’s not that all of my life has been easy. You can’t live 46 years and not. Nobody does.

There are things that are hard. There are valleys of deep darkness. But even through those, as I look back, I see that He has been with me. His goodness and mercy have pursued me. They have always been in pursuit of me—always, always.

With a heart overflowing with gratitude, I said, “Thank You, Lord.” And then God increased faith in my heart. Not only has it been true for all of these past years, but it will also be true all the days of my life. His goodness and mercy will always be on my trail, always pursuing me.

You know what else I think that means? Not only do we have that great promise, that great encouragement—no matter where we are, no matter what we’re doing, no matter what’s happening around us, no matter what kind of enemies are lurking, His grace and His mercy will always be on our trail in pursuit of us—but I think it also means that as a result, everywhere we go through life we will leave a trail behind of God’s goodness and mercy to bless those who come behind us.

He pursues us with His goodness and mercy. They will follow me all the days of my life. But then as I walk, there follows behind me a trail of goodness and mercy to bless others.

It’s the fragrance Paul talks about in the New Testament, the fragrance of Christ. Other people look at us and see what we’ve been through and what we’re going through. They see how we respond and how we trust the Shepherd.

They see how God’s goodness and mercy are at work in our lives as we share out of our life message, “Here’s what God has done for me.” And there follows behind us a trail all through life—the goodness, the mercy of God. “Surely goodness and mercy will pursue and follow me all the days of my life.”

Now, I hope this hasn’t sounded like a “Pollyanna” sort of faith. I hope you’ve seen that in this psalm there is the reality of death and darkness and evil and enemies. He’s not promising us (this side of heaven) an escape from those. But He’s promising us a pathway through them and abundance in the midst of them.

God never intended that you and I should walk through this Christian life hanging on for dear life, buried under the circumstances, miserable, exhausted, fatigued, overcome, overwhelmed, over-intimidated. That’s the way a lot of Christians live.

The enemy may be their past. It may be themselves. It may be sinful habits. It may be other people. It may be their circumstances.

Those things exist. But have you seen in this psalm that we can live in an abundant place even in the midst of pressures and problems?

So we come to the last phrase of the 23rd Psalm: “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” To be in the house of the Lord forever is to be in the presence of the Lord, to be where He lives, to be where He is, to be in His home.

Isn’t that what David the psalmist lived and longed for? We read it in Psalm 27. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (verse 4).

David said, “For all of my life now and for all of eternity, the one supreme, overarching desire of my life is to be in the presence of God.”

I have a friend who is a widower with four children. When I told him that I was doing this series on Psalm 23, he said, “I sure love the last word. ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”’

Then, as he reflected back on some of the suffering his family has been through, he said, “Were it not for eternity, forever, this whole thing would be a cruel joke. There has to be more than this.”

He says, “The theology of suffering is cruel were it not for heaven.”

And it’s not cruel, because there is heaven. Forever.

You see, those enemies we’ve talked about in this psalm, they’re all very real this side of eternity—evil, death, enemies, darkness. But heaven is the greater ultimate reality. So whatever you’re facing now, whatever you face tomorrow, whatever you face next week, it’s not the final chapter. It’s not the end of the story.

This verse talks about your eternal hope beyond today, beyond tomorrow, beyond next week—forever, to be always and forever at home with the Lord. That is the hope that keeps us going. That’s what gives us courage to press on in the nasty here and now, as we think about the sweet by and by—what’s coming, what lies ahead for us.

If you’ll go to a hymnal sometime and look at some of the hymns that have been written in the last couple of centuries, it’s amazing how many of them have a final stanza that talks about eternity, about the forever, about heaven, about our eternal hope.

That’s what makes our lives bearable. This short, relatively miserable stay here on earth is preparing us for something far more wonderful than we can comprehend.

I think about some of those well known hymns: “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It.” The last stanza says,

I know I shall see in His beauty,
the King in whose law I delight.

You know the hymn “My Savior’s Love”? The last stanza says,

When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy thro' the ages to sing of His love for me.

And then the old song “He Hideth My Soul.” The last stanza says,

When clothed in His brightness, transported, I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky;
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high!

“My Jesus I Love Thee,” what does the last stanza say?

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright.

And then one of my favorites: “Hallelujah, What a Savior!” It walks through the suffering, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus for us. Then you come to the last stanza:

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Hallelujah, what a Shepherd! We’ll say, “Jesus led me all the way.” What we’re really seeing in this verse is the future, ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 23, that which we see not by sight yet but by faith.

It reminds me of that passage in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 7. Listen as I read several verses.

Then one of the elders addressed me [the apostle John], saying, "Who are these clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?"

I said to him, "Sir you know."

And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”

He was the Lamb of God, slain so that we could be the living lambs of God.

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him [daily] day and night, in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd [the lamb who is the shepherd], and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (7:13-17).

[song by Marty Goetz]

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me by the still waters. He restoreth my soul! He leadeth in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 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.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointeth my head with oil. My cup runneth over!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.1

Leslie: That’s Marty Goetz and his version of Psalm 23. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving us insight into the final word of Psalm 23, the word forever. Thinking about forever will change the way you want to live today.

I say it will change the way you want to live. Behaviors don’t change overnight. God usually takes us through a process of change and growth.

Nancy co-wrote a workbook Bible study called Seeking Him that has facilitated that kind of change and growth for women all across the country. Seeking Him will show you where true power for change comes from, in a chapter on the Holy Spirit.

It will help you develop a personal devotional life of your own so you can stay connected to the source of true change, and it will walk you through a process of growth in obedience, holiness, honesty, and humility.

We’d like to send you Seeking Him. It’s our way of saying thank you when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Your gift will allow us to continue broadcasting in your area and making material available around the world online.

Ask for the Seeking Him workbook when you call 800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

The man who was called the wisest who ever lived made some very unwise decisions. How does that happen? Nancy will explore it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1Marty Goetz. Psalm 23. The Love of God. Copyright Marty Goetz, 2000-2004.

 

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