Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
- Psalm 23:6 (NRSV)
“The words of Psalm 23 are very familiar to all of us. This psalm is, in fact, one of the most well-known and beloved of all passages of Scripture. Yet, unless we read that psalm through the eyes of a sheep, we miss its magnificent message. Remember how it concludes?
“’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’ (KJV).
“Think of goodness and mercy as God’s sheepdogs. They stay with us, close by our side, ‘all the days of our lives.’ And what helpful companions they are!
“The ancient Hebrews had one word they used most often for mercy, chesed, pronounced ‘kesed.’ It is frequently translated kindness or lovingkindness. While grazing through the Old Testament this past week, I was interested to find no less than five different ‘miseries’ to which mercy brings needed relief.
“ When we’re suffering the pain of unfair and unjust consequences. Genesis 39:21-23 …
“ When we’re enduring the grief of a death. Ruth 1:8-9 …
“ When we’re struggling with the limitations of a handicap. 2 Samuel 9 …
“ When we are hurting physically. Job 10:12 …
“ When we are under a cloud of guilt after we have committed a transgression. Psalms 32:10 and 51 …
“No unfair consequence is too extreme for mercy. No grief too deep. No handicap too debilitating. No sin too shameful.
“Sheep are often in need, so mercy, our faithful companion, stays near.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
Of course, the Scripture that Rev. Swindoll mentions is the story of Joseph, abandoned and forgotten, or so it seemed, in the dungeon, Naomi who had just lost her husband and two sons, David giving Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son, a place in his royal court, Job’s suffering, and David’s confessions in musical form.
When I was growing up, I was told that my parents had eyes in the back of their heads. I even experienced my mother knowing what naughty thing I had done in school that day before my sister, brother and I got off the bus. I was in first grade. 1) I did not know it was naughty at the time. 2) I vowed to never do it again, and I honestly cannot remember what it was that I did. 3) I was shocked, thinking that my mother was all-knowing, not thing that the teacher could call my mother on the phone. That NEVER entered my mind.
We have all heard that God is all knowing and all seeing. We have heard that He is always there. But without some correlation to parents with eyes in the back of their heads, can we conceive of an all knowing God? Not really, why else do we hide in a closet to do something that we are not allowed to do, as if darkness helps us get away with it.
I have a niece who would throw candy wrappers behind my mother’s wardrobes in her closet. Instead of closet rods, my Dad lined her closet with wooden wardrobes, thus a gap between the closet wall and the back of each wardrobe. My parents both passed away without moving the wardrobes. If they had, they might have found hundreds of candy wrappers. If it had been me, I would have known that my parents would move those wardrobes and I would be caught. But the world has forgotten about God being omniscient, which He truly is, and parents having superhuman powers, that parents never really had.
So, if we think we can hide our sins and get away with it, can we be equally blind that God is looking after us and is like Rev. Swindoll’s sheepdog, ever faithful to keep watch over us?
Have you ever seen a sheepdog in competition? Here is a video of a competition in Scotland, with English subtitles. With hardly saying a word, but a lot of whistling, the shepherd leaves the herding of the sheep, the separation of one sheep, and the penning of the sheep to the dog. The shepherd is Bobby Henderson. My Dad’s mother was a Henderson. Could we be related? If there is a Scottish Highland games near you, they may or may not have a sheepdog competition, but they will probably have a demonstration. It is fascinating. You could visit the Highland Games even without being Scottish. Hmmmm. I might figure out some day how the caber toss could be related to the Christian faith.
We think that we can do things on our own, but we all have a tendency of straying. But in the competition, when one sheep was separated from the rest, the sheepdog kept watch and guided the sheep back into the fold.
God is like that. He has an abundance of patience, and He allows us to wander. We can never wander beyond His sight. And He is always there to welcome us.
But let us not be mistaken. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The sheepdog is His Mercy, his ever-present lovingkindness.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.