The following article is an excerpt from the book Jesus Now by Frank Viola Author
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life …
This is a great promise. Almost too good to be true. Romans 8:28 contains echoes of it:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV)
No matter what is thrown at you in this life, “surely”—which means “of a certainty”—goodness and lovingkindnness will follow you all the days of your life.
Your shepherd’s love will never leave you. And He will see to it that all things in your life—whether pleasant or unpleasant—will work for your good. I’ll never forget after one particularly dark period in my life. When the smoke cleared, I came out on the other side with a sense that God’s goodness and love had not only followed me, but they hounded me. It was as though I couldn’t escape it even if I wanted to. Like Jonah attempting to sneak away from God’s will, only to find himself being accompanied by the Almighty in the belly of the whale—we often discover that our bleakest hour is lined with God’s companionship. His goodness and mercy hunt and chase us down.
A wonderful promise, indeed, especially during the dark seasons. Our good shepherd will eventually bring beauty out of the chaos.
Interestingly, if sheep are mishandled and poorly managed, as we mentioned earlier, they can destroy a piece of land in no time. On the other hand, if they are managed properly by a good and wise shepherd, they can be some of the most beneficial animals for the land. They can clean up and repair a piece of wrecked turf in a short period of time.
It all depends on the kind of shepherd who is managing the sheep.
So too, those who follow the chief shepherd don’t have goodness and lovingkindness simply coming to them. Rather, goodness and lovingkindness follow them wherever they go, benefitting and blessing others.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever …
This is where the twenty-third psalm is lifted from being simply a meditation on sheep to a direct commentary on the daily love-life between a believer and their Lord. It is the shepherd’s presence that makes all of things previously listed (green pastures, refreshing waters, anointing oil, etc.) a possibility. That presence isn’t found everywhere. It’s located in one very specific location—His House. In the New Testament we discover that we, collectively as believers, are God’s house. By holding onto Christ, we are transformed from individuals into the solidified household of God. In this Psalm we read a similar reality—that by being in relationship with the chief shepherd, we are brought into connection with His House.
The psalm ends by promising that the presence of the great shepherd will always be with His sheep. The Lord’s sheep will remain in His house forever. Over the years, I’ve had many people express skepticism about the experience of Christian community that I have often described in my earlier books. (See Reimagining Church and From Eternity to Here for details.)
I have a friend who calls my view and practice of church “dormitory-style-Christianity.” This is pretty close to the mark. But keep in mind, if it’s uncomfortable to imagine being in close relationship to believers today, some of us may be disappointed in eternity—as we will dwell in His House, His body, forever. There is an eternal connectedness among those who follow the Lord that extends endlessly in every direction.
This is not only a promise of being part of God’s flock—the ekklesia, His house. But also a promise that His presence will never leave us, in this life or in the life after.
When hard times come our way, the Lord may sometimes appear to have quit His job. But although He may not seem present, our good shepherd is never absent. The guardian of our souls never sleeps. He never forgets to watch over us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. His ear is always attuned to our cries.
In John 10, Jesus made clear that because we are His sheep, we know His voice. Jesus is not our shepherd because we believe. We believe because He is our shepherd and we are His sheep.
Insofar as we follow the voice of the chief shepherd, we will remain safe, secure, and pleasing to His heart.