May 7th 2023: Ian Jones

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“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

The last verse is important; we recognise when David wrote these words it was in relation to how he saw his life – from two different perspectives. Today, many people only view their lives from one perspective – what this world offers them. They will spend all their time and energy on this. For example, focusing on their career, family or hobbies. It takes up all of their time. Going to church will only be relevant to them at certain times – for funerals, weddings, when times are hard. When times are better, they forget about God.

David was very different. He walked by faith, not by sight. His first perspective was how he could relate to this world. He also had this other perspective, in relation to eternity. Friends, how do you see life? Is it from only a single perspective? Are you willing to give up everything so that you might serve Him? (Parable of the precious pearl of great value). You may be like the rich young ruler who felt the way of eternal life was too costly. Sadly, he turned and walked away from the Lord Jesus.

The first five verses of this psalm all relate to this world, how Christ looks after people. In verse 1 we see the Lord is our Shepherd. David gives the explanation of this in the verses that follow. These are verses which speak of how the Lord blesses us in our lives. Even as we approach death, we have nothing to fear.

But the last verse is linked with the world and all eternity. David is now taking us from this world to now focus on eternity. If Christ is my Shepherd in this life, He will be my Shepherd for all eternity. Wonderful! People at their wedding promise to love one another, but this is ‘til death to us part.’ But David reminds us that if Christ is my Shepherd, He will be with us forever more. Death will not part us.

Mary Magdalene was so distressed on seeing the empty tomb. She thought the man she met was the gardener, but when He says her name she realises it is the Lord. Her immediate response is she wanted to hug Him, to hold onto Him. The encouragement is, if you love the Lord, He promises He will always be with us.

Shepherds in this country use sheepdogs. When David was around, in the Middle East, shepherds went ahead to lead the sheep. Today, sheepdogs chase the sheep in a certain way as they respond to the shepherd’s whistle. God has two wonderful sheepdogs, one called goodness and one called mercy. Goodness is God giving us what we don’t deserve but mercy is God not giving us what we deserve.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life.”

David looks back over his life, his experiences, and says with absolute confidence it is the Shepherd’s provision which has led him and kept him close to Him all the days of his life. Here we find God’s commitment, His goodness and mercy. It is easy to speak of when there’s a lot to be joyful about, but it is much harder to speak about when things are difficult. But even then, God’s goodness follows us. James writes, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4). Count it all joy that God is working His good in us through these trials.

Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, then went to prison. Later on, when God revealed to him the purpose of all of this, he could say to his brothers, As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” (Genesis 50:20a). Friends, God’s goodness keeps us close to Him.

Imagine if God’s judgement followed us all the days of our lives, knowing we’re sinners. But God’s mercy follows us every day. It helps us to keep close to Him. He is full of mercy, full of grace, full of truth. We are reminded of God sending His Son to die for us. Sin has been paid for. If I sin against God, I know He will forgive me and restore me if I repent. He is willing to forgive all who come to Him in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

What effect should this have on us? How do others relate to us? What do we leave behind in our footsteps? Am I good to the Lord’s people?

“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here is a man who is coming to the end of his life and sees death approaching. He doesn’t want to cover up death. Here is a person who does not fear what lies beyond the grave. He looks forward to eternity. Here is a content, happy sheep. This sheep is coming home to the house of the Lord, heaven above. He is going to be with God in glory. There will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears. The wanderings of this world will be no more.

It’s a picture of our life; whilst we’re in this world the Lord has saved and protected us through times of joy, suffering and temptation, bringing us closer to Him. Now, it’s a reminder, our home is not in this world but in glory forever more. Death will come. If we know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be taken up with Him forever more, in glory.

Oh, what joy lies before us. We will really appreciate what Christ has done for us when we reach heaven. To cross the finishing line is our focus. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Lastly, what about those who want to be their own shepherd in this life, to captain their own ship? There’s a place prepared for them too, which is the exact opposite. Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven. We need to warn people. The gospel message is very serious. It is the way to salvation. Rejecting this leads to a time of punishment. Friends, may I encourage you, if you’ve not done so, to come to the Shepherd. There is only one way of salvation – through Jesus Christ.