[N]one shall live with God, but he that now lives to God…” (John Wesley)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And so now we come to the conclusion of this exceedingly powerful song to God from a king.
The last verse of the 23rd Psalm is a profound declaration of both hope and faith. The banquet and anointing are God’s vindication of the righteous. But vindication, as much as we will enjoy it, is fleeting. David doesn’t want to give the impression that the rewards of God are but temporal bliss. No. The way to conclude is to take it a step further.
Better than being shown to be in good standing with God is the promise of the Divine presence and favor “all the days of my life.” We are not incapable of taking wrong turns even after having been justified and vindicated by God. Will He abandon us if we waver in faith and obedience? Not if we acknowledge our failure(s) before Him.
Surely, David had in mind the whole sordid Bathsheba fiasco when he wrote these words. He had been chosen by God. Anointed to be Israel’s king. He had experienced unprecedented success and victory both on the battlefield and in the political realm. But he had taken a wrong turn. He became an adulterer, a liar, and ultimately, a murderer.
God couldn’t/wouldn’t use him after that wrong turn would He? It all depended on whether the highfalutin king would own his failure(s). When confronted by Nathan the prophet about it, his response was: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). To which the prophet responded “The Lord also has put away your sin…(same verse).
It wasn’t going to be an easy road to walk. As a matter of fact, some of it led through that dark valley he spoke of earlier in the 23rd Psalm. But as long as he owned his failures by properly and overtly repenting of them, he learned an extremely valuable lesson: God’s goodness and mercy would always be trailing behind him to help put the broken pieces back together again.
It’s important to note that David said they would always follow us. Grace precedes us (prevenient grace) but goodness and mercy follow us. That means we can veer away from His grace (the work God has done on our behalf) but we can never in this life outdistance ourselves from His goodness and mercy. And they (God’s goodness and mercy) will always guide us back to the pathway of His grace…if we will allow them to.
The final thing the king wants to convey is the extravagance of God.
The “house of the Lord” was David’s ultimate aim. It’s funny how the ancients seemed to be far more in tune with eternity than we moderns. Abraham was a wealthy man. Yet he chose to live in tents rather than a mansion because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Likewise, the book of Revelation concludes with a description of a new city built by the hand of God Himself.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ (Revelation 21:2-3).
Faith doesn’t simply look to make it through the valley of the shadow of death. It looks beyond to the final play. The author of Hebrews said that is what Jesus did.
[L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…(Hebrews 12:2).
Today’s Christian seems too welded to this life. Wealth, health, and success are continually being trotted out as evidence of God’s blessing and presence in life. But the giants of faith were always looking beyond what this life could bestow. Jesus affirmed David’s prophetic look beyond this life when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you…” (John 14:3). The house of the Lord.
It’s the endplay of God. Beyond justification, vindication, and resurrection is…the house of the Lord…forever.
So let’s take a brief overview of the 23rd Psalm. It begins with a profession: The Lord is my shepherd. And because He is my shepherd…I’ve got all I need. Like a shepherd, He guides and leads me where I need to go. Green pastures and still waters (provision) are the Lord’s desire for me. As wonderful as the Lord’s provision is, I still find my soul in need of restoration because I’m prone to wander, always looking for a greener pasture. Inevitably, because of my poor choices and need for healing, I find myself in a dark valley with enemies who wish to do me harm. I’m afraid. But I stand in faith trusting in God. I make it through. Because I know God won’t let harm come to me.
He rewards me with a banquet where I’m the guest of honor. My enemies have to watch as I’m blessed and vindicated. But that’s not the end of the story. Now, I’m headed to a place God Himself has prepared for me. And while I’m on the way…goodness and mercy follow me.
God is holy. God is good.