The Shepherd Psalm: Psalm 23 – Part 5

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”, v. 6

With this soliloquy, the Psalm ends.

Having his head anointed with oil for healing the wounds sustained, and having drunk of refreshing water from the overflowing cup, the sheep was now folded down for the night, and was able to rest peacefully with the knowledge that his shepherd, wrapped warmly in his woollen garment, was lying in the doorway of the sheepfold with his face toward the sheep.

“Surely”, says the sheep. Why was he so sure? Because his Shepherd, being not a mere man but Jehovah Himself, is unchangeable and eternal. Because He has never failed in the past, so He can be trusted for the future. “Surely”, says he with a sure and certain knowledge, “goodness and mercy shall follow me”. Not “goodness” alone, for we need “mercy”. Not “mercy” alone, for we need “goodness”. But both goodness and mercy!

Both goodness and mercy are divine attributes, and they are often linked together in the psalms: “The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting”, Psa. 100. 5; “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever”, 136. 1; these are only two examples. “Goodness” meets every need; “mercy” forgives every sin. “Goodness” provides; “mercy” pardons.

An eastern shepherd always goes in front of his sheep. Likewise our good Shepherd goes before us, whilst “goodness” and “mercy”, both of which are here personified, are said to “follow”. The good Shepherd never puts His sheep in front to search for food or face the foe, but He Himself is the vanguard. “Goodness” and “mercy” follow as a rearguard to protect us. “Goodness” will stretch forth its hand to help. “Mercy” will recover us from straying.

Looking into the future, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”, says the sheep. The day will dawn when he will no longer lie down in green pastures, or be led by the Shepherd to still waters, or walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In that day the sheepfold will be superseded by “the house of the Lord”. This will be realized when time will give place to eternity.

In Psalm 27. 4, the psalmistminstrel voices his one desire that he may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, so that he may behold the beauty of the Lord and contemplate with admiration the glory of the sanctuary. But this was a privilege reserved for the priesthood, to which he did not belong. However, here was a soul who says with certainty, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”. This anticipation is not presumption on the part of believers, but it is a God-given assurance of such a prospect.

To dwell in the house of the Lord will be not transient but permanent for us. The priests entered the tabernacle for only short periods, but the Father’s house will be our abode “for ever”. There is a desire for permanence within us, because our new nature, through regeneration, is keyed not to the temporal but to the eternal.

The thought behind the phrase “the house of the Lord” is undoubtedly the tabernacle, because the temple was not built. Its purpose was for the Lord to dwell among His people, Exod. 25. 8. But “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” is here in view, even “heaven itself … the presence of God”, Heb. 8. 2; 9. 24, where we shall dwell with the Lord Himself. Upon entering the tabernacle, the priests gazed upon the beautifully embroidered curtains and glistening gold vessels. We shall be where the Lord is now in the celestial sanctuary, and we shall behold His glory, John 17. 24. The priests were engrossed with a place but we shall be absorbed with a Person, even the Lord in all His glory and beauty throughout eternity.

(Concluded)

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