Surely Goodness and Mercy

end of the rainbowA pilgrim was I, and a wandering,
In the cold night of sin I did roam,
When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me,
And now I am on my way home.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
And I shall feast at the table spread for me;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

He restoreth my soul when I’m weary,
He giveth me strength day by day;
He leads me beside the still waters,
He guards me each step of the way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

When I walk through the dark lonesome valley,
My savior will walk with me there;
And safely His great hand will lead me
To the mansions He’s gone to prepare.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.

Words and Music by John Peterson and Alfred Smith, 1958

 


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23


 

 

Have you ever been blessed with with something you never expected? Have you ever received something you feel you just didn’t deserve? When everything seems to be going wrong, have you seen things turn out right?

A few years back my wife was in an auto accident and our vehicle was totalled. Thankfully, and most importantly, she was not injured. Unfortunately, it meant we no longer had a vehicle. Some friends offered to let us use their extra car to get us through. After a few weeks they came to us and offered to give us the car permanently, free of charge. We were humbled to have been given such a gift, and to have been given it so unexpectedly. It was such an unbelievable blessing that we had received. We truly had experienced the goodness of God as shown through these friends. This is not unlike the theme that we find in the hymn, “Surely Goodness and Mercy.”

In his hymn, Peterson takes a look at the ever familiar passage of Psalm 23. (The place from which most of us know the title of this hymn.) But He does not start with the Lord as Shepherd, because after all few of us really start at that point.

Instead, the hymn begins by focusing on where we are. Thus it begins, “A pilgrim was I, and a wandering, In the cold night of sin I did roam.” Typically we would expect, in context of the passage, that the where, or who, we are to be sheep. But the idea presented is not simply that we are sheep who have gone astray as described in Isaiah 53:6, but that we are individuals who are on a journey with no clear direction. Individuals who are wandering in the dark. A darkness that comes from the oppression of sin in our lives. It is almost as if to say, we are lost and didn’t even know it, because the darkness of sin had blinded us. It is at this point, when all may seem so wrong that the unexpected and amazing happens. God reaches out to us.

Peterson says, ” When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me.” Think about it. It is not us who found Jesus, but Jesus who found us. (Luke 15:1 – 7) We were wandering in the dark unaware, yet Jesus cane to us.

It continues, “And now I am on my way home.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, our guide, our savior gave us direction and purpose. No longer are we wandering aimlessly, but instead we know where we are going. If we will just follow Jesus and not our own misdirection we will find our way home.

So where is this home we are now heading for? The next part of the hymn declares, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever, And I shall feast at the table spread for me.” The home that God has in store is in his very presence. What is more, it will satisfy our every desire forever.

But we are not there yet. We still live in this world, traveling toward that home. Thankfully Jesus does not stop with simply lead us to the end, but along the way as well. The hymn continues, “He restoreth my soul when I’m weary, He giveth me strength day by day; He leads me beside the still waters, He guards me each step of the way.”

He sets our every need along the way and goes beyond. He revives us, gives us new life through a safe place to rest and refreshing waters.

Even when everything seem wrong, God is there to lead us home. So the hymn continues, “When I walk through the dark lonesome valley, My savior will walk with me there; And safely His great hand will lead me to the mansions He’s gone to prepare.”

By God’s grace, given through Jesus Christ, we know the way home. We know that it is a place He has prepared (John 14) for those who have put their faith in Him. When we see this truth, when we know how we have been blessed with so much, not because of what we have done, but because he found us, then we can join in hymns chorus declaring, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days, all the days of my life.”

 

 

Read more about “Surely Goodness and Mercy.”

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