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 this arrangement at a choir conference many years ago and, even today, I cannot read or recite that Psalm without hearing the music in my mind. One evening, while reading my Bible and humming along, I realized I might be missing or misinterpreting, some of the words.
I have always felt comforted by this Psalm and reassured by God’s promises, without ever noticing the commitment being made by David. King David praises God for His protection and His blessing, but when he writes “goodness and mercy shall follow me” might he not be speaking of David’s own actions?
If he’d written, “surely goodness and mercy shall greet me” or “surely I shall find goodness and mercy” we would know he was speaking of receiving God’s goodness and mercy. 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 the commitment of 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 will 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.