“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, they 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 forever.” – Psalm 23:4-6
Yesterday, we read the first verses of Psalm 23 in which David told of God’s perfect care for him. He led him to green pasture and beside still waters. As his Good Shepherd, the Lord nourished David so that his soul was restored. Then, David faithfully walked along the road of righteousness. Out of his nourishment and strength, David served the Lord.
One might expect the rest of the psalm to be filled with all of David’s success stories in ministry. If he was nourished and then obediently walked with the Lord along the paths of righteousness, there would be nothing but blessing and sunny days, right? Unfortunately, many Christian teachers falsely say that if one is walking with God and being obedient, then his or her life will be full of nothing but blessing. I envision it as the yellow brick road leading the believer in abundance towards the ultimate destination and hope – the new heavens and the new earth.
David shattered this false image as he wrote about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. That does not sound like sunshine and blessing! Even though David was called a man after God’s own heart, he still faced great challenges in this world as all people will do. What brightened his dark valley was knowing that the Lord was with him. David looked to the Lord to be his strength, his guide, and his comfort. In looking to the provision and care of the Lord, David transitioned from his use of shepherd imagery to host imagery.
The Lord prepared a table for David even while his enemies surrounded him. David was invited to come and to feast of the Lord’s goodness, presence, and protection. There, the Lord anointed David with holy oil, reminding him of his calling and of the presence of the Lord with him and in him to fulfill this calling. In remembering and receiving, David found his cup to be overflowing once again.
From that place of overflow, David wrote of God’s goodness and mercy. Our translation of this Scripture says that goodness and mercy will follow David. A better translation of the Hebrew is that God’s goodness and mercy will pursue David. Instead of trailing behind him, the work pursue conveys the sense of God not letting David go. It is goodness and mercy that meets David wherever he is – whether in sin, hiding, or walking away from God.
David has confidence that the goodness and mercy of the Lord will lead him to the house of the Lord. There, he will dwell securely in the presence of the Lord forever. While the road winds and leads David into some treacherous terrain, the ultimate destination is worth every step he takes with the Lord.
There is victory just ahead of you. While your path may seem dark today, entrust yourself to God as David has done and watch him lead you all the way to himself. His goodness and mercy pursue you and will never let you go!
Ask the Lord how he would like to encourage and strengthen you for the journey through these words of David.
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