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.
The Psalm itself consists of two pictures — what we call "the shepherd," and what we should not err in calling "the king." Both have to do with character, spiritual character, relation to God. They may apply to other things, national or ecclesiastical, but here is their chief intent. The poem supposes the man who speaks to have spiritual life in him, and the good man thus utters his confidence in the protection and in the care of that God under whose loving fatherhood he has been brought on his way. In the second part of the Psalm we have another figure — a different sort of allegory altogether. It refers, perhaps, to a more advanced stage of the Christian life. I call this parable "the king." And it reminds us of the "certain king who made a marriage supper for his son." It tells of man made a partaker of the Divine nature, and coming into intimate communion with God. And all tells of the richness, variety, and depth of the soul's satisfactions in such communion. And then comes the good man's utterance of his subjective feelings after taking this review of life. Reasoning from the past to the future, he says, "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." By just giving a little turn to the, last expression of the text I see three things —
1. Firm faith. "Shall follow me." "Goodness and mercy." These are just the two things into which God's beneficence, generally considered, naturally divides itself. Goodness to creatures; mercy to sinful creatures. An angel is the object of one; man of both. The good man says, "I have needed both; I have had both all my days, and surely they shall follow me all my days."
2. There is also the idea of settled purpose. "Shall follow me." By daily habits of devotion, by the culture of a child-like faith, by holy familiarity with Divine things, I will seem to myself to be constantly engaged in God's service.
3. Then comes the assurance of expectation and hope. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord." We take the faith and feeling of the man to expand and enlarge, till they embrace the great and ultimate future of the life that is to be, and he says, "I feel that I have been led onwards to that. These capacities and affections of mine, the stirring of a spiritual life within me, were never made to find their perfection here. I carry within myself, in my own religious consciousness, a prophecy, an earnest of something greater than the life that now is."
4. Observe the beautifulness and the blessedness of a Christian old age. Age is a thing that may be very beautiful. It is when "the hoary head is a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness" — when there are no marks upon the countenance of extinct volcanoes, dark shadows from wrought-out passions, impressions of darkness and crime, but when the life has been spent for God. It is, if I am not mistaken, Scougal — the author of that little book The Life of God in the Soul of Man — takes a review of life, looks back upon its prominent events, its afflictions and its trials, and upon his inward experience, and ends all by saying, "I am this day such and such an age, and I bless God that ever I was born." Voltaire does just the same thing as to the review, but with a totally different result. In one of his books you may find a review of his life. The querulous old man puts together all that he had gone through, finds it dark and disappointing, and concludes by saying, "I am this day so and so, and I wish that I had never been born." There is the difference! "I thank God," says the one, "that ever I was born," because he can take the 23rd Psalm, and in the 23rd Psalm he can read the history of his inward life. And the other man, though he had great ability and great genius, and had a long and wonderful life, which, however, nobody would say, or pretend to say, that he spent it in walking with God, he says, "I wish that I had never been born." Poor man! — they smothered him with flowers and killed him with fame — and it came to this! And the last thought is, that the best way to be able to end life with an utterance like this is to begin it well.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.