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)
A major theme of the book of Jonah is that God pursues us even when we try to run away from Him. This week’s fighter verse reminds us of what happens when God “catches” us in the grand hunt of love. Here’s another version of the verse (from Robert Alter’s translation):
“Let but goodness and kindness pursue me
all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for many long days.”
There’s a reason why Psalm 23 famously begins with an image of God as our shepherd and then suddenly pivots to an image of God as our intimate host inviting us to dine with Him at His table. As shepherd, He provides for us and leads us even through the darkest twisting desert canyons of life… but even more amazingly, He does not treat us like animals. No, He offers us His very intimate presence. Verse 5 tells us that He sits us down before a vast feast, lathers our weary head with scented shampoo, and fills our luxurious cups until they are overflowing and our thirst is slaked. Then we read in the following verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me.”
What is “goodness” (tov)? It is relational goodness — to be “good” in that sense is to be good towards someone. Is to be kind.
What is “mercy” (hesed)? It is loyal love — faithfulness forever entwined with affection. It is “aggressive” affection that never ends and returns again and again.
These things will “follow” us. But the word for “follow” here has more of the idea of being chased or being pursued. Kindness and loyal love will hunt you down! You can run, but you can’t hide; relational goodness and faithful affection will pursue you to the ends of the earth. What God is offering here is not merely material provision (as implied by the shepherd image), but the provision of Himself (as implied by the image of God as host). Indeed, David goes on to say what it means to be pursued by the relentless love of God: “I shall dwell in the house of Yahweh for many long days.”
Think about it: God is utterly, unimaginably transcendent, infinitely far beyond the collective dreams of everyone who has ever lived. Yet He invites us to live with Him. He offers us an intimacy deeper than the sea. Even if you try to run away to Tarshish, His love will chase you down. His loving kindness will never quit hunting your heart.
QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH OTHER:
- When life is hard and we wander the “valleys of the shadow of death,” how does this verse reassure us?
- When we feel like we’ve sinned too much and have broken God’s heart too many times, how does this verse comfort us?
- How have you enjoyed God’s pursuing intimacy in the past week?