Goodness and Mercy
An article from SVM Summer 2010
David was a man after God’s own heart. David continuously saw the goodness of God. He was a musician, a poet, a king, and a leader of men. The high regard that David’s men had for him is an inspiration. David in turn loved God and had high regard for him. However, David’s life was filled with war, strife, anarchy and betrayal. In spite of all the trauma and battles he fought, he had only good things to say about God.
The “nickname” he bore tells volumes about his character: “A man after God’s heart!” Perhaps David’s continual trials taught him that only God was true, was merciful, and was always looking after his welfare. David went to God on countless occasions for advice and permission to carry out a battle. We will look into one of David’s most famous Psalms. This Psalm says much about God and David as well because of his utter love and regard for his Creator. Certainly it is appropriate to have the 23rd Psalm discussed in our first issue of The Shepherds Voice!
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Twenty-first century America, entrenched with iPods, cell phones, laptops, and electronic paraphernalia, cannot easily relate to a shepherd’s daily life. We love independence and freedom and our ability to do as we want. A shepherd looks after his sheep. He guards them from wild animals. A good shepherd ensures his sheep have pastures to graze in and do not want for anything. In like manner, God looks after us and willingly provides in our time of need. A shepherd is intrusive in that he cannot allow his sheep to wander because they are animals that can get into more trouble than a two-year-old child who is learning to walk. Not wanting means we have jobs, health, recreation, companionship, and a place to worship God. Not wanting is all-inclusive! In John 10: 3-5, Jesus relays a shepherd’s relationship: “To him the porter opens and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and his sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” Jesus understood the role of shepherd very well. The sheep become accustomed to the master’s voice. David was a shepherd and led sheep around his area for pastures and protected them from wild animals. Our lesson is to let God lead us into green pastures so we will not want. Paul said on an occasion that he learned to be content. We too must be content! So many are still searching for the prize of theological superiority and are looking for the finite criteria of spiritual correctness. They are always in a state of want. If I have a shepherd, I will not want!
He makes me lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.
How many mothers have had to lay their children down to take a nap? The green pastures convey peace, plenty, a worry free environment, and a caring, loving shepherd. The still waters allow a sheep to drink. Roiling waters are frightening to sheep and they cannot drink. We have again the intrusive shepherd who knows best for the sheep and the called ones. There is a very close correlation to sheep and the tender young called ones who need guidance and gentle correction. A mother no more desires hurt for a child than a shepherd for a sheep. He “makes” me take a nap! He “makes” me to lie down! He “makes” me to listen to his words of life! In Hebrews 12: 6 we read, “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” Our freedom and independence will at times bring us a chastening. Have mothers or fathers had to spank their child to get him or her to just take a nap? Of course! It is not cruel and unusual punishment; it is for the child’s welfare. I am sure there were times when David had to use his shepherd’s crook. Using the “c” shape to pull back a sheep or the long rod to prod or whack the sheep into correctness. It always was done to save or protect the sheep. In some extreme cases the long rod would be used to beat off a wolf or other wild animal. The green pastures and still waters are the idyllic scene for a shepherd and his sheep, be they the four-legged woolly kind or the two legged walking kind. God, in his infinite wisdom, wants us to read his word in quietness. We will have plenty so we are not distracted by the worry of making a living (having food and shelter). Jesus emphatically states this in Matt. 6: 27-33 paraphrased: He tells us we cannot add to our height or change who we are. We should not worry about raiment, considering the flowers who do not work, but are presented in beauty to equate to Solomon and his glory. If God can take care of nature, can He indeed take care of us? What are we going to eat or drink? What are we going to wear? God knows we have need of all things pertaining to life. Verse 33 is the key: “But seek you first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” We will have clothing, food, work, housing, and more if we seek God first and allow him to “make” us lie down in green pastures beside the still waters of life! We often make the job harder than it needs to be by our resistance and determination for self-satisfaction. Seeking first, as in searching the scriptures for validation is key to enjoying the green pastures, beside the still waters.
He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
In modern day society we truly need a weekly restoration. Our frame becomes wearied by work, pressures to constantly increase sales, highway construction, airline delays, governmental excesses to the point of bankrupting our society, and a constant barrage of doctrinal divergences that keep us in a state of uncertainty. For example, we are plagued with Passover and Pentecost disagreements. Passover on the 14th & 15th arguments continue to this day. In 1970 we were asked the question, “Brethren why are we here today?” This was on a Monday Pentecost and it was celebrated for some time that way until we learned it was on a Sunday. God still blessed us for the Monday Pentecost and was patient until we learned the truth. I have on my shelf a copy of the, “Systematic Theology Project,” which outlines our current “statement of beliefs.” This project was conducted by a large number of ministers and was talked about and discussed until a common agreement was made and then formally published. Paul emphatically states in Ephesians that we are to come to a unity of the faith —that we are no more children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine and by peoples’ trickery. This is one of the many reasons we need our souls restored weekly! We also need to be led into the paths of righteousness.
From a purely doctrinal point of view, I trust the Biblical admonition, “In a multitude of counselors there is safety!” I believe we have all the doctrines safely in check. There may be some needs for change, but we will need another multitude to take on the task of determining the outcome, not just one or two who determine a doctrine for all to follow. Lying down in peace and quiet and being taught Biblical rightness is pleasing to God. It is also encouraging for the sheep to hear the voice of God and be calmed for another week of hectic activity. My soul is frustrated and disturbed by “children” being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. We each have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. David had wild animals and wild men to fight continually. We have a perverse world filled with lust, greed, lawlessness, and threats of wars and calamities in our end time society. So we need to have our souls restored and assured constantly or we will fall into error ourselves. We also have an adversary who is always lurking in the shadows to tempt us beyond our capacity. Soul restoration is a much-needed weekly experience.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
It is interesting that a rod and a staff comfort David when evil and death are facing him on all sides. Walking through a cemetery at night can be disturbing. There are shadows from the moon, while the wind blowing leaves, distortions from trees, and large headstones all make for a potential frightening experience. Walking in a large valley with many shadows also would be disturbing, especially if there were wild animals or armed enemies about. David is assured because he knows how to use a shepherd’s crook in defense of his sheep. If God is equipped in like manner, David feels safe. Evil and shadows are not daunting to him. David uses common shepherd’s terms to convey a message of hope and inspiration.
We need to use our implements to correspond to how God protects us. In our cars we have GPS systems so we do not get lost. In our homes we have electronic devices that sound alarms when an intruder breaks into our homes. We have an armed military force to protect us from foreign invasion. In our churches we have shepherds who watch out for us by using the “Sword of the Spirit, The Shield of Faith, and The Breastplate of Righteousness!”
We each have to carry our own armament. Satan will attack us, or we will be attacked subtly during the week and become wounded. Our teaching is to ensure our entrance into God’s Kingdom. The shepherds all strive to educate, encourage, and speak the truth in love. The shepherd’s objective is to promote the growth of the body through its building itself up in love. David’s fights were with real animals and real men. Our fight is often with the psychology of theology and with the evil spirit world. Many times our enemies are not seen. They use trickery and deceit to implant doubt and fear to sway the called ones to their ungodly ways. We should not fear either. God has our best interests at heart. We must pray often. We must search the scriptures daily as the Bereans did long ago. Our comfort is in our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will defend us if we ask and seek true understanding. His rod of truth and staff of righteousness will fend off any enemy we have. In II Chronicles 16: 9 we read, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.”
In olden times, there were “knights” who fought for landowners and damsels in distress. They were champions of the people. They were held in high regard for their work and protection. That is what David saw in God, His loving protection against all evil. We should not be remiss in asking God to deliver us out of trouble and fight for us. Remind God of what you read in His word and remind Him of His promises. He will listen to your plea and supplication. Take comfort in God’s rod and staff for protection.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
David plainly states that after the prepared table and the anointing, his cup was not only full, but also running over. God was letting David’s enemies see the favor given to David because of his faithfulness. God prepared a table with a bounty of food and drinks. He anointed his head with oil, which was customary for an honored guest in that time. Do our cups run over with goodness and bounty? Do we get the moral equivalent of an anointing and a prepared table? Do we remember the time Mary came to anoint Jesus’ feet? Simon was thinking that Jesus did not know the woman was a sinner. Jesus told him a story about two debtors and asked Simon who would love the debtor more. Simon said the one who owed the most. Jesus went on to tell Simon about how the woman kissed his feet and anointed his feet with oil and dried with her hair. Jesus compared that with Simon’s lack of any attention to Jesus when he arrived. Jesus plainly told Simon that this woman whose sins were many was forgiven. Jesus should have been given royal treatment as David depicts in his praise of God. God, too, respects our sovereignty and our individuality. God in this Psalm is setting an example for us to follow. We are to treat others as we have been treated. Keep in mind our treatment from God and not from man. We often retaliate in fiery indignation against our brother and do not realize that is the equivalent of our treatment to God. If God is to chasten us he does it in love so we will respond to His loving kindness. Remember that we will have our feet under the table when we eat in the kingdom. We all will be one in mind and spirit. We all will celebrate the Passover on the same night! Pentecost on the same day! This will go on through eternity. We are told we will do in the kingdom as we do here on Earth. Maybe some thought would be in order so we make sure we please our God who shows us love in so many ways we cannot count.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
David is saying that he will have a good life on Earth and live forever in God’s Kingdom. That is the essence of what God wants for all of humankind. Jesus says, I came that they might have life and they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). David understood God’s bountiful goodness. He himself had been privy to God’s mercy. When David was chastened for numbering Israel, he chose punishment from God because he knew that God would cease the punishment in loving kindness. Men are not as merciful as God when those same men punish or chasten others for wrongdoing. Do you want to know that goodness and mercy will follow you all your life? We should all know our propensity for wrongdoing and hope there is a way out of our predicament. God will indeed show us mercy, but he may chasten us, as we need it to perfect us by trial and difficulty. Paul relates a concept for our learning in Rom. 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering: not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
Think about it! Man always desires to punish for wrong. God does us “good” to help us see His patience and goodness to help us repent! What a God we serve! Does it work? It should because Paul continues in verse 5, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.” In verse 11, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” We reap what we sow! What goes around comes around! God is not going to let anyone “in” “who are contentious, and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath” (verse 8).
David understood God very well. We need to experience His “goodness and mercy” on us as well. Jesus said, “Be you therefore perfect even as I am perfect.” We too can become women and men after God’s own heart. Remember, He is no respecter of persons! He treats everyone the same. Goodness and mercy, or indignation and wrath! Our choice!
Please choose the former and live forever in the house of the Lord
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