On Tuesday of this week, I walked the hallway of three different hospitals. My first stop took me to the room of a man who is ravaged by cancer. I saluted him earlier this year when he was the Parade Marshall of the Celebration of Freedom Parade. Will’s heroic deeds during World War II helped to pay for the freedoms I enjoy today.
My second stop took me to the room of a man I’ve know all of my life. I’ll always be grateful for his friendship and his help. Johnny was one of the first people to come to my house when I was a 12 year old boy and my dad had just been killed in an oil field accident.
My third stop was the most difficult because it took me to the room of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl. At the age of 2 1/2 years she is fighting an inoperable case of cancer, a neuroblastoma.
Yesterday, I conducted the funeral of a man, I worked with my last two summers of high school. Ralph’s face was usually marked with an ear to ear grin, and I will remember the mischievous sparkle that colored his eyes.
The sadness that has filled the lives of each of these people and their families can only be tempered by the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. A foreshadow of that hope is see in the verses of Psalm 23.
If you feel like you are living under a cloud of despair, and walking a path full of worries and problems, you might find some comfort in the words of this Psalm and the declaration of David: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (23:6).
I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of your life will be filled with good times and happy days. He did say the goodness of God and His mercy are resources that are available when needed.
Unless you have given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace (goodness), you may think they are synonymous. To help you distinguish one from the other, let me define them:
- Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve. Salvation is a good example of this. I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
- Mercy is when God does not give a you what you deserve. When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.
I’ve heard people say: I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me. Not me, I want the mercy of God.
David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely. It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition: It’s a guarantee from God. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said: It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs. One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.
Remember the promise of this Psalm: Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. Think of Goodness and Mercy as your lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.