The beloved Twenty-third Psalm has been set to various tunes since Bible times, but my favorite version is “The Lord Is My Shepherd” by Jimmy Owens. I learned the arrangement at a choir conference many years ago and even today I cannot recite that Psalm without softly humming the Owens music.
One evening while reading my Bible I was singing that song when I realized that I had been missing or misinterpreting a crucial point.
I have always felt comforted by the words of the Psalm and felt reassured by God’s promises to me without ever noticing the commitment being made by David in writing this Psalm.
The Psalm praises God for his protection and his blessing, but when David states that goodness and mercy shall follow him might he not be speaking of his own actions?
If he were to say, “surely goodness and mercy shall greet me” or “surely I shall find goodness and mercy” we would know that he was speaking of God’s goodness and mercy being bestowed upon David. However, while some translations do say, “goodness and mercy shall pursue me” or “shall be with me”, most of the translations use the familiar “shall follow me.”
To me that opens up the possibility that this phrase is a commitment from David, in response to all the providence of God, to leave only goodness and mercy in his wake throughout his life.
Theologians and Bible scholars would probably scoff at this interpretation, but I like it. It feels right to me to return something for God’s wonderful comfort and blessing, to promise God to pass on this same goodness and mercy to those I encounter.
I delight in the mental image of leaving the pathways I walk strewn with goodness and mercy like rose petals, as I become a veritable litter bug of blessings.
All the days of my life.