There is a line in the Psalm 23 that declares, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” I learned that psalm at an early age. It comforted me when I was in “valley of the shadow of death” situations, but something within me (the Holy Spirit- isn’t he something?) urged me to dig for a better understanding.
I read commentaries, including the little book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm Twenty-Three,” and declared “Aha!” Are Goodness and Mercy the names of two spiritual sheep dogs that protect the sheep and keep them from wandering away from the good shepherd (Matthew 10)? Or, are they two guardian angels that are assigned to us to keep us from falling (Jude 24; Psalm 91)
Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water [speaking of the Holy Ghost].” (John 7:37B-39A) Another ‘aha’ moment, with more to come.
Is it possible the answer is in the geography of Israel? Living water is water that flows- a stream, rather than a stagnant pond. Mt. Hermon in northern Israel collects snow in winter, which melts in spring, and feeds the Sea of Galilee. with fresh water. This fresh water lake is home to an abundant number and variety of aquatic creatures. The same water percolates through the soil, making farm land productive. The Sea of Galilee flows into the Jordan River, which likewise nourishes its valley with living water. The water continues to flow until it reaches the lowest land mass on Earth in southern Israel. There it settles. Only by evaporation does any water leave this great pit. Dissolved minerals left behind as the water evaporates makes this stagnant pool much saltier than the oceans. Aside from some pillars of salt and specialized microbes, nothing much grows in and around the Dead Sea.
We are spiritually dead until we receive Christ. His spirit then comes to reside in us. The fruit of the spirit is not ours to keep, but to give to others. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 6:7-10)
David declared, because he received God’s blessings,he was determined to pay it forward. Thus, he expected to leave a trail of goodness and mercy wherever he went. The law of reciprocity is mentioned several places in the Bible. Give, and it shall be given unto you. The spiritual sheep dogs that guide and protect us and the guardian angels that keep us from falling are actually the fruit of the spirit: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. People give to one another due to various motivations: cultural, religious, enlightened self-interest. But, the perfect motivation comes from our perfect God, whose goodness and mercy manifested, for example, in giving us Jesus, the Christ. We can dam the flow as a matter of free will. If so, we deny ourselves the joy of a purposeful life, hinder our relationships with our creator and our fellow man, and block personal blessings. Conversely, allowing the living water to flow, pleases God, who is quite willing and able to bless our socks off.
Let the living water of goodness and mercy flow.
Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.