“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of YHWH forever”
– Psalm 23:6
In these 6 short verses, David has walked through green pastures, dark valleys, and feasts prepared in the presence of his enemies, and now—as Psalm 23 draws to a close—he turns his poetic glance toward the future and the end of his own life. With this concluding verse of the Psalm, David expresses his confidence that, just as YHWH has been his Shepherd and Host thus far in life, so He will continue to guide and guard His servant until the end.
The first interesting note on this verse is that both “goodness” (טוֹב) and “mercy” (חֶסֶד, which is often translated as “steadfast love”) are words often associated with YHWH Himself in the Old Testament (see especially the doxological formula, “For YHWH is good (טוֹב), for His steadfast love (חֶסֶד) endures forever.” 1 Chron.16:34; 2 Chron. 5:13, 7:13; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1,29, 136:1; Jer.33:11). When David says that goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life, he’s not making a sentimental, Hallmark-ian statement that things will be generally good for him in the future, rather he’s making a confession of faith in the future grace of YHWH. He is saying that the character of the one True God will be the pervasive reality and decisive influence in his life.
The second thing to notice is that David says the goodness and mercy (of YHWH) will “follow” him. The word for follow implies an intentional, zealous, unrelenting pursuit and is often used of someone seeking (or being sought by) an enemy. But in this context, David is saying that the goodness and covenantal love of YHWH will be his intentional, zealous, and unrelenting pursuers all the days of his life. What an awesome image of hope that is! Because He has chosen to set His love upon us as His people, the goodness of our God will unceasingly pursue us through all the seasons of life.
And then we arrive at the last line. I believe this shows us the result of the first part of verse 6. This is what the pursuit of God’s goodness and mercy is driving us toward and it is the end that He—in sovereign love—will achieve for all of His own, namely, that we dwell in His house all the days of our life. “House” here really stands for the idea of His favorable, joy-imparting presence. The great hope and desire of the regenerate heart (Psalm 27:4), and the great purposes of God in redemptive history (John 17:1-3, 24, Revelation 22:4) is that we as His people might know and enjoy Him as our God—to our exponential gladness and His eternal glory.
In this image the two hands of Christ represent the goodness and mercy of the Lord that pursues His people throughout life. I chose this imagery since “טוֹב” and “חֶסֶד” are both aspects of YHWH’s character, and we see His character nowhere more perfectly than in Christ—especially in His redemptive suffering for us at the cross (which is represented by His wounded hands). Also, the hands are a fitting image here because the only way we can receive goodness and mercy from the Holy God rather than enmity and damning justice is because Christ bore the fullness of our punishment on the cross. And lastly, I used Christ’s hands because I wanted to show that it is not impersonal “goodness” that God gives His people, but a goodness that flows from, and indeed is, Himself.
The darkness around the hands represents every manner of hardship and suffering that life might bring to God’s people. These trials still crash into the lives of the saints, but as I tried to show with the imagery of the blood, we only receive these things filtered, as it were, through the steadfast love and goodness of God. The death and resurrection of Jesus means that the trials His people face are not condemning, but purifying (1 Peter 1:6-7) and ultimately for their joy and His glory (Romans 8:28-30), and that—at least in part—is what it means for the goodness and mercy of God to pursue after us all of our days.
Lastly, I attempted to represent dwelling in the house of the Lord as a Trinitarian reality. The man beholds (by the Spirit who is represented with outstretched wings before his face), the glory of God (represented by the circle of light that illuminates the New Heavens and Earth), in the person and work of the Son (represented by the wound-shaped “window” through which he is looking). To behold the beauty of the Living God in the person of the crucified and risen Son will be our joy through the ages and the way in which our Triune God will forever reveal His fullness to us….this is our great hope and His great purpose for us. What an invincible gladness is imparted to our soul when our longings are made one with God’s purposes! And that is the gift given at regeneration.
Glory to God the Father, Son and Spirit, whose blood-bought goodness and mercy will unrelentingly pursue us until we stand with great gladness in the presence of His glory all the days of our everlasting life