Meditations on the Twenty-Third Psalm

Psalm 23
Ver. 6. " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever" We have just seen, that in the riches of christian experience, the pilgrim saint becomes intimately acquainted both with joy and sorrow. This we have been! taught both in the school of God, and by His written word.
And here I would have thee carefully note, Ο my soul, in thy meditations, that the pilgrim is now seen, not, as it were, with a cup in each hand, but with a guardian angel on each side. " Surely," he says, " goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." And mark well the first word he utters in this bursting forth of his heart's fullness; " Surely." Is not this an appropriate, a triumphant note of faith, after such deep and varied experience? There are no doubts, no fears, no uncertainty here. A quiet, happy confidence fills the soul; it is the full assurance of faith. It reminds one of the last word that the blessed Lord dropped into the ear of His Bride before He went away. "Surely," He says, " Surely I come quickly." Oh! that it had dropped into her heart, and maintained its right place there, until His return! The word of the Lord in the heart, and the Person of the Lord before the mind, will alone give the experience, faith, and victory of the Twenty-third Psalm.
How conscious the man of God is, as he journeys along, of the dignity of his companions. He is accompanied with royal honors. Not indeed like earth's mighty ones, with steel-clad attendants, which dazzle the human eye; but with the goodness and mercy of the living God. Such, we may say, is the pilgrim's body-guard as he journeys through the wilderness. And when faith has said this, what more can it say? Could heaven itself furnish more suitable companions for this checkered scene? Impossible! They are ever in attendance, always ready, equal to every emergency, more than a match for every foe; they are noble, high-born, invincible; yet gentle and kindly as the pure love of heaven. And this is no fancy picture; nothing can be more real to faith. " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
Do think of this, Ο my soul; here pause a little; meditate; let thy thoughts dwell on this blessed truth. Beware of thinking too much of thine own condition—thine own circumstances; but think rather, of thy heavenly attendants, "goodness and mercy:" and still more, think of Him who sends them, and for so long a time—" All the days of thy life." Canst thou speak any more of feeling, as it were, alone in this world? Faith sees these messengers of love sent down from heaven, to guard and follow thee all thy pilgrim days. But why, it may he asked, fix on goodness and mercy f Because, " goodness" meets all our need; and " mercy" forgives all our faults. It is only with such that we can get along. The Good Shepherd has trod the sheep's path Himself, and He knows best what they need: not that He needed, in all respects, what we need; no, He was " without sin." But, as a man, He has walked the path, under Jehovah's care, along which His sheep and Iambs are now passing. He goes before His flock; they follow Him.
There are three things connected with the Lord our Shepherd, which all the sheep of His pasture should know well. 1. He has gone through, in experience, the bitterest trials of the wilderness; so that He knows every step, every difficulty, every danger of the way, from having walked it Himself. 2. He died for the sheep. Having first gone over their path, He laid down His life for them. 3. He arose again from the dead to fold, watch over, and nourish the flock for which He died. Thus He is qualified in every way to be the Shepherd of God's sheep. Hence the beautiful doxology, " Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Heb. 13:20, 2120Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20‑21).
In this beautiful sixth and closing verse, our pilgrim, whom we have followed so far and so closely both in his joys and in his sorrows, may be said to have reached a moral eminence, from which he surveys the past, the present, and the future. He is placed, as it were, at the center of a circle. If we speak of christian position, the Christian, we know, is in Christ, and He is the center of all blessing and glory. And here, in this privileged place, the believer speaks only of goodness and mercy as to the whole of his wilderness life. He knows what joys and sorrows are. His experience has been great. He knows the green pastures and the quiet waters. He has tasted, too, the bitter waters of Marah, and waded through their depths. The shadows of death have darkened his path, and spread their gloom over everything in the valley. And he knows too, the rich provisions of the King's table—the royal banquet—the anointed head, and the overflowing cup. Nevertheless, in reviewing the past, in surveying the present, he can truly say, " Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life." And in looking on to the future, the affection of the child, the love of home, can only see a Father's house: "And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever"
" Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me:
And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be."
Our fellow pilgrim, with whom we must soon part, is now calmly and triumphantly anticipating his last change. His heart, with the prospect, overflows with joy and praise. All is bright; but the looked-for hour of his departure is the brightest of all, and certainly must be the happiest. Thus should it be with all Christians, and especially with those who have been taught of God, "TO wait for his Son from heaven." This is the true hope of the Church; not death, though that may take place before the Lord comes. When the great truth of the Lord's second coming has its right place in the heart, the desire to depart becomes more the power of affection, than the bare belief of a doctrine. The Lord Himself, personally, is known and loved; and the heart longs to be with Him, It matters little whether the way be through the portals of death, or, with all saints, rapt in clouds to meet Him in the air. (1 Thess. 1:9, 109For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9‑10). iv. 13-18.) Those who are taken home before the rapture, have the advantage of knowing the Lord in that separate state. This will be additional, and precious experience.
The position of the waiting Christian in this world, may be one of great interest and usefulness; and the ties that bind him to it, may be many and tender; still, when the eye of faith looks across the boundary line, and sees who are there, and what is there, the heart instinctively longs to join the happy throng. The loved one, or the many loved ones who have gone before, are especially thought of, though, there, the joy of each will be the joy of all. True, there will be individuality—perfect identity, but a perfect blessedness common to all.
"We look to meet our brethren
From every distant shore; -
Not one shall seem a stranger,
Though never seen before:
With angel hosts attending,
In myriads through the sky; -
Yet 'midst them all, Thou only,
Ο Lord, wilt fix the eye."
And what grace, we may say, notwithstanding all our murmurings, to make the closing scene of our wilderness journey, the happiest, the calmest, and the brightest! Here the soul is near the Lord, and grace shines—faith triumphs—glory dawns—and praise abounds. Placed, as it were, on the margin of the two worlds, and seeing everything in the light of God's presence, divine goodness—unmixed goodness, crowns the whole path. Even as to his darkest earthly days, the pilgrim can see nothing now but the goodness and mercy of God. Everything is now lost sight of, but the constant, unfailing care of the Lord our Shepherd. He speaks only of the goodness that so wonderfully met all his daily need, and of the mercy that met all his daily failure.
Bat now the end comes—the scene closes—the Father's house is full in view. One eye alone is bright in that social circle—one heart alone is rejoicing. " I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." As one not long ago said to a tender hearted parent, who was greatly overcome with what seemed a last farewell: "Father—can't you—é spare me?—I am only—going to Jesus—and you—shall soon follow." Such were the soothing and remarkable words of a dear daughter who had reached the interesting age of nineteen, to an affectionate father. But who was calm—who was bright, in that touching scene? She only; and many other similar words she said, but these were uttered with a look of tender sympathy for her dear father, as she observed him sink down in his chair to give vent to a flood of tears. She now sought to comfort him who had so often read and prayed by her bedside. What grace from God! What mercy to a father—to a family! His be all the praise. It is but the deep, tender sympathy of the Good Shepherd, as He folds the lamb in His bosom.
And now, after many an hour's meditation with deep and mingled feelings, over our beautiful Twenty-third Psalm, we must leave it for other themes; but its lessons, in connection with a Father's hand, remain. He can engrave on the tablets of the heart, that which no waste of time can ever efface. The recollections of the past may draw a shade over the present, but the future is all, and only bright. The great thought in the closing words of the psalm is home. All the vicissitudes of the wilderness are over; and the only thought that now fills the mind is home—an eternal, happy home. "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." There, the worn and weary pilgrim finds his perfect rest; there, the one who was a stranger on earth, finds his heavenly home; and there, the servant whose work is finished, enters into the joy of his Lord.
" There at our Savior's side,
In heaven our home!
We shall be glorified;
Heaven is our home!
There with the good and blest,
Those we love most and best,
We shall forever rest,
In heaven our home!"
The Lord grant, that both reader and writer may, in due time, reach that happy home! Of all thoughts—of all words, what can be sweeter to the heart than " Home, sweet home?" And, even now, may all who have followed us in our studies through the psalm, be able, in blessed experience, to say, " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."