It is always good to be reminded of God’s grace. There are few better places in the Bible to go to study this than the cherished twenty-third psalm.
The goodness and mercy spoken of in Psalm 23 verse 6 has been explained by some as two sheepdogs rounding up and following the flock. The original text of this poem, however, uses a very picturesque verb – it signifies pursuit, and can even mean persecute.
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 23:6
Perhaps it for this reason that the earliest Greek translation of the Bible, known as the Septuagint, translates the Hebrew verb by a term that is used in the New Testament to describe the actions of the Saul of Tarsus – he hounded out the Christians, dragged them from their homes, threw them into gaol and would not let them escape.
It is for these reasons, I suggest, that a better way to picture the goodness and mercy in this psalm is to see them not as sheepdogs but as hound-dogs in pursuit. Like the same way bloodhounds chase foxes, goodness and mercy track the scent of God’s sheep, and follow hard the LORD’s flock, until they find them out, to overtake them with love.
Perhaps rather than bloodhounds, a friendly Labrador is closer to the mark – when these dogs overtake us, they practically lick us to death with divine love, so that there is no place, time or circumstance in the life of true believers, when saints are out-of-sight, or beyond the reach, of the goodness and mercy of God.
Goodness and mercy are probably to be taken together as a single idea – God’s good mercy or the LORD’s merciful goodness. The phrase sums up all the Covenant blessing of God, promised in the Old Testament, and purchased by Christ’s blood.
So whether we walk in sickness, sorrow or suffering, or emerge from dark valleys into bright, open, sunny meadows, we never can escape God’s hot pursuit of love.
I guess we can see this as the Old Testament’s own version of what the New Testament states in slightly different terms in Romans chapter 8:35-39.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord - Romans 8:35-39 ESV
We may be in despair, debilitated, distressed, distracted or even facing death. Indeed we may be exhausted or isolated nursing beloved relatives. We may even be perched in vigil at the bedside of a terminally ill parent: but whatever the case, child of God, dearly loved, be very sure of this: no-one, nothing and nowhere can create any conceivable circumstance that will drive a wedge between us and the hotly-pursuing love of God in Christ.