Summary: If I pursue the Shepherd goodness and mercy will pursue me
Since we began this sermon series six weeks ago:
• A homicide bomber killed 84 people in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
• 84 people were killed and over 300 others injured in Nice, France when a terrorist deliberately drove a cargo truck into a crowd.
• An 84-year-old French priest was beheaded by an ISIS knifeman.
• Here in the United States, nearly 2 dozen police officers have been killed in the line of duty.
• Both political parties in this country held tumultuous conventions and both nominated deeply flawed candidates who are both facing numerous investigations and lawsuits and who have the highest unfavorable ratings for any Presidential candidates ever.
And that’s just a small sampling of some major event that have happened in our world and in our country over the past six weeks. So in some ways, much has changed in our world, but on the other hand, the thing that has not changed is that if we look around at the world around us, there are many legitimate reasons for us to worry and be anxious. The other thing that has not changed is God’s antidote for our worry and anxiety. Here’s how we summarized that antidote when we began six weeks ago:
If Jesus is my Shepherd
I have everything I need
This morning, as we conclude this series, we’ll see that David brings Psalm 23 full circle and that he closes this beloved Psalm by saying the same thing in a slightly different way. Let’s look at that last verse:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
(Psalm 23:6 ESV)
Here is the main idea in David’s closing verse:
If I pursue the Shepherd
goodness and mercy will pursue me
Before we look at some practical steps we can take to make sure that we pursue the Shepherd so that goodness and mercy will pursue us, let’s take a moment to define some of the terms that David uses here.
Let’s begin with the word “follow”. In English, that word can have kind of a passage connotation, but the word David uses here means to pursue closely. The word is pictured perfectly by the cars on a roller coaster. If you’re on a roller coaster and you’re not in the first car, you sure hope that your car follows the one on front of it and doesn’t get separated from it. So that is why I have chosen to use the word “pursue” rather than just “follow” when talking about both our pursuit of God and goodness and mercy pursuing us.
The second word we need to define is “goodness”. That word describes things that are good, kind, beautiful, pleasant and agreeable. It might be helpful to think of it in terms of God’s blessings.
The word translated “mercy” is often translated “steadfast love” in the ESV translation. It is often associated with God’s forgiveness in which He withholds that which we deserve as a result of our sin.
It might be helpful to think of those ideas in these terms: Goodness supplies all my needs and mercy blots out all my failures and sins.
Now that is certainly the kind of life I want to experience, don’t you? To not just have God’s goodness and mercy available to me, but actually pursuing me. How great is that!
So how do I live like that? By pursuing the Shepherd in every area of my life. Let’s look at three practical ways we can do that.
HOW TO PURSUE THE SHEPHERD IN EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE
1. Pursue the Shepherd for who He is and not what He can give me
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this sermon series, Psalm 23 is a staple of many funerals and memorial services and that is probably because of the last line of the Psalm:
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
On the surface, that seems like David is speaking of eternal life in the presence of God after his life here on earth is done. And while that is certainly possible, I am convinced that a closer look at that phrase will reveal that David is applying to his life here on earth.
Let’s look first at the word “forever”. If you’re using the ESV translation, like I am, you’ll notice a footnote next to that word that indicates that the literal translation of the underlying Hebrew is actually “length of days”. We’ve already talked about Hebrew poetry several times during our study of this Psalm and especially about how it makes use of parallel thoughts expressed with slightly different words. I would suggest that is going on again in verse 6: