For our communion meditation we have come to the first part of verse 6, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of life." In terms of the chiastic structure, this is in parallel with the second phrase of verse 1 — "I shall not want."
Could David really mean this, or is this hyperbole? Surely David couldn't mean that he lacked nothing and experienced God's goodness and mercy when he lost his kingdom and had to flee for his life from Absalom. Surely there is a bit of hyperbole here? Did David really lack nothing when he fled from Saul without food or even a sword to protect himself with? Surely David couldn't mean that he lacked nothing in Ziklag when his wives were kidnapped and everything he owned was plundered, and his men were ready to stone him?! And the answer is, "Yes he did mean it." David believed with all his heart that even in that circumstance, since he owned the God who owns all things, he lacked nothing. He was in effect saying, "Lord, you have been with me all my life. You were there when I was watching over my father's sheep. You were with me when I went out against Goliath. You were with me in Ziklag, working all things together for my good." There are four points I want to encourage you with as you come to communion.
The certainty of the blessing ("surely")
The first is that there was no doubt in David's mind about this fact. It is not hyperbole. The first word "surely" captures the certainty that David felt. It is a certainty of faith, not a certainty of presumption. And the reason I can make that distinction is that it is based upon the promise of a God who cannot lie. When the God who cannot lie has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5), then we have the Creator of all, the Sustainer of all, the Owner of all, and the Provider of all things so committed to us that He has promised to provide us with every blessing. And indeed, Paul says exactly that in Ephesians 1. No matter what happens to us, we can speak the "surely" or "certainty" of that fact with faith. This faith is what enabled David to find blessings where no one else could.
The nature of the blessing
The nature of that blessing is given in two words: goodness and mercy. Goodness is the Hebrew word tov. It means good. And such goodness flows from God's throne to those who are in covenant with Him that that stream of goodness turns even horrible things into something that works together for our good. Romans 8:28 guarantees it.
Steadfast loyalty, steadfast mercy, steadfast love
The word for mercy is chesed, a word that is almost impossible to adequately communicate in the English language. It is translated variously as steadfast loyalty, steadfast faithfulness, steadfast love, steadfast mercy, or simply as mercy or love. But it always has the idea of God's covenant commitment to us.
So the word goodness shows that not a thing can happen to us that is not in some way also touched by God's goodness. By faith we need to be looking for that goodness. The second word, mercy" indicates that not a thing can happen to us that is not somehow touched by God's mercy, lovingkindness, steadfast faithfulness, or commitment to us. It's an amazing concept, but if you would spend time meditating on those two words, it could turn your world upside down. Rather than getting frustrated at providences, you will have faith to both see God's goodness and God's faithfulness to you.
I remember the first time that I began seeing God's hand in everything. It was up in Canada. I was newly reformed and convinced that God ordains all things. I had a flat tire, and I was looking expectantly to see what good and what loving merciful act of faithfulness that God was going to bring out of that flat tire. I didn't discover it, but I knew it was there. Another time I was late for a meeting because of a traffic jam, and I was looking for God's goodness, that I knew was there. It was almost like opening up a Christmas present. Then I stubbed my toe, and yes, I began looking for God's goodness in allowing me to stub my toe and God's faithfulness to me. It became a habit. And though I didn't always see what the goodness and mercy were (because sometimes they are shrouded in the fog) I knew they were there, and I began seeing more and more the practical ways in which God's goodness and mercy were constantly with me. That's the nature of this blessing. Everything in life is touched by and transformed by God's goodness and chesed.
The inescapability of the blessing ("to chase," "to pursue," "to hunt down")
The third point is that this is an inescapable blessing. You can't even run away from it, because in the very act of running, you are going to see God's disciplines reaching out to you, and those disciplines are God's goodness and chesed. Indeed, the word, "shall follow me" is used in a military context for chasing, pursuing and hunting down. One old Scottish preacher likened it to two sheep dogs that were chasing down wandering sheep. David from time to time worried about his enemies chasing him down, and he had to use due diligence to avoid capture. But in all of that he knew by faith of a far stronger Being who was hunting him down and peppering him with goodness and mercy. That word "follow" means it is inescapable. You can't run from it. You can't escape from it. If you think that Satan can keep you from God's blessing of goodness and mercy, you are mistaken. All things are working together for your good and God's glory. Be convinced of it, even if you can't see it now because of the fog.
Enduring nature of this blessing
The last point that you can take from this verse is the enduring nature of this blessing. Goodness and mercy are hunting him down all the days of his life. No exceptions. Those two sheep dogs were tailing him even when he was sick in 2 Samuel 15. Yes, even when he is shivering in his last days because he just can't keep warm. It is an enduring goodness and mercy. It's a goodness and mercy that is lovingly working on you when you are backslidden, as well as when you are walking close to Him. It is a goodness and mercy that is working on you when you think you pridefully think that know it all as well as when you are so humiliated by a decision turned bad that you can't imagine anybody more stupid than you are. It is a goodness and mercy that endures through job losses, fights, financial bonanzas and financial losses. If you think you can outrun God's goodness and mercy, get over it. It's impossible.
And so, as you come to the Lord's Table this morning, I want you to thank God that His goodness and chesed is certain, inescapable, and enduring, and ask God to give you eyes to see these sheep dogs who are following you no matter where you wander. Thank God for those sheepdogs that touch everything with God's goodness and chesed. Amen.