Here we are, at the end of this short series we’ve been doing, on Psalm 23. David concludes this Psalm declaring, Psalm 23:6, “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.” I thought it would be fitting to end this series talking about hope. As in, “What is hope? What does it look like? What is our basis for hope? How can we experience hope, or even share our hope?”
David mentions a series of curious phrases. First, he mentions God’s “goodness.” Please take note of this. God’s goodness is a basis for hope. David says, “Only” goodness . . . will pursue me all the days of my life. Now I find this translation curious. Other translations say, “Surely” goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life. The word “only” seems to imply an expectation that only good things will happen to us in life. But we know this isn’t the experience of Christians. For example, the Psalmists lament how good things seem to happen to evil people while bad things happen to the righteous!
I think the proper Christian perspective is that we live in a good world, created by a good, perfect, and holy God. Our world was once flawless, holy, and perfect. But when sin entered this world, our world changed. Sadly, we live in a world affected by the Evil One. The Bible says Satan was liar and murderer from the very beginning. Satan came into the world to steal, kill, and destroy. His influence is evident all over creation, and in the human race. And we know from Scripture how humankind can be deceived, and conspire with Satan to accomplish his evil works. Sin entered through Eve, then also destroyed Adam, then their marriage, then their family. Cain killed his own brother Abel.
When bad things happen, I’ve found no Scriptural reason to blame God. It seems to me that Jesus spent an awful lot of time clarifying this point. People wondered whether God was good, whether he was punishing people in peculiar ways, maybe causing one person to be born blind, or with a disease, or impairment. But God is not the author of evil. Jesus repeatedly clarified that God is like a father. If a son asks his father for bread, does God give him a stone? If he asks for a fish, does God give him a snake? Some imagine a capricious God governing the world like some demented adolescent playing Sim-City or Sim-Earth. “Ah, I’m bored, think I’ll send a firestorm… no, a flood… no, I’ll send a tornado!”
Jesus taught that God in his goodness causes the sun to rise and the rains to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. James 1:17 says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” In Romans 2:4 Paul invites us to contemplate the kindness of God. He says, “Do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” In Romans 12:20-21 Paul invites us to consider the prospect of overcoming evil with goodness. He says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” Surely this has been God’s strategy in human history! God’s goodness and kindness ought to melt the hearts of all.
What is hope? What does it look like? What is our basis for hope? I think hope looks like goodness and kindness. I think a basis for hope is realizing that we were created by a good, perfect God… a God who shows fatherly goodness and kindness to us, and yes even to his enemies.
By the way, this is a point of contrast between the Christian and non-Christian. When good things happen to a non-Christian, they say, “Well, will you look at that, lucky me, the universe is smiling upon me.” What does Paul say in Romans 1:21, “Though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude…” The Christian looks at their life, and says, “Thank you God.” I thank God every day that I wake up, that I have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, a wife, and family, friends to love and enjoy the love of. Work to complete. Goals to achieve. When I get up, I thank God for all the little squirrels, rabbits, cardinals, blue jays, blackbirds, robins, and sparrows that light up my yard. If I’m carving a log, and the grain or some ugly knot falls to my favor, I say, “thank you Lord.”
Even though we live in a world where there is evil, that evil doesn’t prevail. The goodness of God prevails. The goodness of God is on display everywhere. If we pay attention, we realize that the goodness and kindness of God even chases and pursues us. You need to realize that the reason God created you was to love you! The reason he sends the sun, and rain… the reason he gives you bread not stones, or fish not snakes… is because he is a good, good God! Every element on the periodic chart, every ray of sunlight, drop of rain, every bite of food, medicine… do not be deceived EVERY good and perfect gift comes from above.
There is a story where Jesus heals ten lepers. Nine go on about their lives and only one thinks to come back to thank Jesus. I don’t want to be like those nine lepers. I want to be the one who like David acknowledges how God’s goodness pursues, and follows, and chases us. Oh, that we might see it and give thanks!
But it isn’t just God’s “goodness” that David mentions. He says in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and faithful love will follow me all the days of my life.” Please take note of this. God’s covenant love is a basis for hope. It’s so important that we break this down. “Goodness” and “Faithful Love” are two different things. We should understand that there is a general sense in which God’s goodness touches every single human being. We are touched by far more goodness than evil. Goodness prevails everywhere because goodness is greater than darkness or evil.
But in Psalm 23:6 David alludes to God’s “faithful love.” The Old Testament Hebrew word here is pronounced “hessed.” The NT Greek equivalent to “hessed” is called “agape love.” Technically, our Bible translations should just translate “hessed” as love. But this isn’t just ordinary love—God’s love is a special kind of love. God’s “hessed” or “agape” love is a faithful love, a “covenanting” love. When God made a covenant with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, with Moses, with Israel, with King David… it was “hessed or agape” love. God was promising his faithfulness and love to be with his people throughout all generations! In 2 Timothy 2:13 the Apostle Paul kind of marvels how with God… “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
I want you to understand that, like anyone else in the world, we can possess a generic kind of hope in the prevailing goodness of God. But even better, we can possess a specific kind of hope in the relentless, covenanting love of God! This is the kind of love Paul speaks of in Romans 8. In Romans 8:31-35 he asks, “What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
In Romans 8:37-39 he concludes, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8 doesn’t apply to everyone in general. Romans 8 applies only to those who are “in Christ”… who are in a covenant relationship with God. Well, how do you get into Christ? Into covenant relationship? It’s simple! By faith!
Romans 8:28-30, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” A general basis for hope is the goodness of God. But a specific basis for hope is God’s faithful love. If I understand that God loves me so much he spared not even his only son… then how much more will God give those who love him?
He says in Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and faithful love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.” Please take note of this. God’s presence is a basis for hope. In this verse David expresses that our greatest hope of all is dwelling in the house of the Lord as long as we live. For David, the presence of the Lord was symbolized by the Temple, by the Holy of Holies. In ancient times God’s presence was symbolized by the tabernacle, by the cloud of God’s presence, by the pillar of fire that blazed brightly at night. God doesn’t just give hope, he is our hope. God doesn’t just give us rewards, He Himself is our very great reward. God didn’t make us for things. He didn’t make us just for relationships. He made us for Himself, to live, breath, and dwell in his presence.
For David worship in the temple was a kind of dress rehearsal for all of eternity. When you came into the temple you addressed yourself to the presence of God. When you were in the temple, all the things of this world melted away before the glory of God. And this is how it should be for us, as we contemplate the presence of God. Of course, God no longer dwells in temples made by men. The Bible says God dwells in us by his Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is a kind of earnest, a kind of seal and promise, a foretaste of greater things to come!
It is true that Jesus has gone into heaven to prepare a place, a home, a dwelling for us. It is true that when we get to heaven, we will recognize, and be aware of those who have passed away. But in heaven the old order will give way to the new order. In heaven there will be a kind of coronation, a wedding of the Lamb, and all of us will be betrothed to God Himself, to Christ Jesus our Lord. He will be the groom, and we will eternally be his bride. If you are a believer there is a wedding in your future… and it is to the Lamb! When we gather as a church worshipping, and we sit at the banquet table, the Lord’s table, communing… it’s a prelude! One day we will eat and drink at Christ’s banquet table in heaven. And it will be a wedding banquet table, and we will be at Christ’s side, we will be his bride, his first love, forever! Enjoying God’s eternal presence forever is our most ultimate hope.