READ THISThe Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23 has some lines that feel out of place in our world. But mostly because King David speaks of such sweet, honest contentment. And for us – that feels strange.
At first glance, it’s easy to look at what he’s saying and feel he’s totally out of touch. Or at least his life is not like ours. Really David? How hard is your life that you say “goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life”? Really… that is your everyday? The House of the Lord forever? Really. How easy is your life man?
Just to recalibrate what he’s speaking of from his experience….
While it’s not entirely clear at what point during his life he wrote the Psalm, it was at least after the death of King Saul. Saul, the most powerful man in the nation, the father of David’s best friend Jonathan. Saul – who had David hunted down and repeatedly tried to have him killed. David fled for his life – literally. Not just to save his profession or reputation. The King was trying to have David assassinated.
It’s also possible that Psalm 23 was written later in David’s life. After his own son Absolum staged a rebellion against him. This is after Absolum killed his own brother and staged a coup. Now David is on the run again, hiding in the wilderness just to not be murdered by someone he loves. Again.
Ah yes – where were we “Goodness and mercy follow me every day of my life”
First off- it should be noted that mercy is basically not being punished like we ought. Not getting what we deserve. (compared to grace – which is getting what we don’t deserve). So having mercy follow every day is more of an admission of guilt. I need mercy every day – because I will screw up every day. For someone like David with his well-known Bathsheba incident (a significant adultery-murder combo) – he was perfectly aware of how evil he could be, how much he needed daily mercy.
But – goodness? Every day? Even the days he was literally hiding in caves in the wilderness because he was being hunted like an animal?
Note the Psalm doesn’t say “easiness, and niceness will follow me” or that “pleasantries and kind people”.
Goodness can occur in the midst of sadness. Goodness can be felt in the middle of depression, guilt, and betrayal. In fact – in my life – those are the times I’ve noticed it the most.
Maybe that’s more what David is getting at. Goodness – in the midst of all the hard things. Mercy – because we need it.
Not a promise of an easy life – but a dream of one of contentment. Looking around and seeing the goodness and mercy that are with us in a hard life.
Where is God showing you his goodness – right now? Even in the middle of hardship, and sadness, and hurt.
What mercy are you being shown? Those graces given that you don’t deserve.
giver of mercy,
giver of goodness.
Give us eyes to see the gifts all around us,
especially when our eyes want to focus on the problems.
Remind us of your mercy, make us aware of your goodness.
And let us find contentment in that.