Pursued by goodness (thoughts on Psalm 23 for Good Shepherd Sunday)

23 04 2018

We read/sang Psalm 23 this morning and I want to turn now to look at the Psalm
to see what it might help us understand about the Good Shepherd.
It is probably the most well-known Psalm,
used at funerals and weddings alike,
and many of us have a favourite version of it.

I want to particularly talk about the last half of the Psalm this morning,
and particularly the last verse.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me.

Presence and protection.

Though the staff might have been used to pull a sheep out of trouble or danger,
the rod wasn’t for rebuking wayward sheep,
but for fighting off anything that came to threaten the sheep.

You are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me.

Presence and protection.
No need to be afraid.

And then that beautiful image:
surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

 (Joel LeMon helps us understand this verse better).

“The word “follow” here (radaph) is better translated “pursue,” a surprising verb given that it is usually the enemies that are pursing the psalmist with an intent to overtake and destroy. Furthermore, in this same verse, the word “surely” (’aq) is better translated “only.” Thus it’s not the enemies in hot pursuit. Instead, “only goodness and mercy will be chasing me down.”

Not only do we have the presence and protection of the shepherd
we are being pursued by goodness and mercy.

I have been thinking this week
about why goodness and mercy need to pursue us.
Is it that we move so fast,
talk so fast,
assume the worst so fast,
hurt others that quickly,
that mercy has to hurtle down the road,
chasing us down,
calling out to us
what we have left behind in our haste to move on?

Do we dodge God’s goodness,
thinking we are not good enough,
not deserving?
Or maybe it is that God’s goodness
will change us when we are caught by it,
will teach us to live our lives
by laying them down for others
following the pattern of our Shepherd.

Whatever it is,
I am so grateful
that we are being pursued.

Pursued by goodness and mercy,
doggedly pursued
but even moreso graciously pursued.
Goodness and mercy all my days
shall surely follow me.

Thanks be to God.




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