In Student Ministries on Sunday mornings we are going through our summer series through the Psalms. It has been a rich time of feasting on the Word of God together. A couple weeks ago we covered the well-know Psalm, Psalm 23. This Psalm is probably the most well-known and the most quoted of all the Psalms, even the majority of the youth were able to quote it from memory. And yet there is so much that is either misunderstood, misinterpreted, misapplied, or just flat out unseen in the passage that made it such a joy to dive into and see the Truth anew and afresh!
One of my favorite sections of Psalm 23 is the very end in verse 6 when the Psalmist says, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This verse stands out to me for two main reasons. First, this is the verse that first opened my eyes and grew in me affections and desire to learn Hebrew. Biblical languages are very difficult, and languages in general were not my strength to begin with! And as I struggled through my first semester of Hebrew in Bible College, absolutely hating my class and not understanding nor caring about anything that I was learning, we began studying Psalm 23 in the original Hebrew text. Some of the discoveries were interesting, some were easily seen, some were frankly boring. And then we got to verse 6. I had always read the verse of God’s goodness and lovingkindness following us, picturing a little dog that just kind of goes where I go. You know those little yappy dogs that look at you with those big eyes and wide open mouth as if they were grinning at you? And wherever you go, they go too! Where you stop, they sit. And where you walk, they follow. That is what I had pictured God’s goodness and lovingkindness as, just perpetually following me wherever I go. And that is cool. But that isn’t the truest picture of the word. The word is actually translated in other passages in Scripture as “pursue,” “chase,” and “overtake.” (Gen. 44:4; Eze. 35:6; Josh. 8:16; Deut. 32:30 to give a few examples) The word has the idea of not following, per se, but really chasing down, finding, catching, pursuing, overtaking. So, now it was not a little yappy dog following me wherever I went as if it really had nothing better to do. Instead, it was one of those Police K9’s, sniffing for me, hunting me down, searching everywhere for me with one goal: to find me and overtake me! This changed my heart towards studying the original languages practically overnight! What a treasure to know that God’s goodness and lovingkindess doesn’t just follow around behind me somewhere, but instead hunt me down! Even when I feel lost, He can find me! Even when I’m in the dark, His love and goodness will sniff me out! I will never NOT have Him searching for me and seeking me out with His covenant-keeping love! And the One from Whom I have the right to expect NOTHING AT ALL, gives me EVERYTHING and promises that no matter where I am, no matter what I face, no matter what may come, His GOODNESS and His LOVINGKINDNESS will hunt me down, overtake me, and wrap me up in robes of grace and goodness! It blew my mind to know that my Lord does that for me TODAY! And it forever changed my desire to dig into the original, seeing nuances that might not have been seen or known in my heart before, and forever changing my affections for my Savior!
Secondly, I love this verse because after seeing the Truth of God’s goodness and lovingkindess pursuing me and not giving up until it has succeeded in overtaking me, it gave me a new-found desire to live with biblical optimism. So many people today are so pessimistic when they look at life. I myself can struggle with this feeling of being a victim, being a “woe-is-me” kind of guy. But when I understand that God is working for my joy, desiring to give me what is best for me (maybe not what I WANT but what I NEED, and THAT is always the best!), I can change from a pessimistic view to biblical optimism! Notice that it isn’t just optimism! In fact, if we don’t couple our optimism with the Bible, we can sometimes become unbiblical. Some people think everything will always go well with them! Jesus seemed to think otherwise: “In this world you WILL have tribulation.” (John 16:33) So did Paul, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) So, we don’t want to have blind optimism. We want to have BIBLICAL optimism! The kind of optimism that says, “Let good and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s Truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!” The kind of optimism that says, “I am GOD’S!!! He has ransomed me, and set His love upon me! NOTHING can separate me from the love of God!!!” The kind of optimism that knows this life is the closest a believer will ever get to experiencing Hell, and Heaven is awaiting them the second they pass from this life into the arms of their Savior! The kind of optimism Fanny Crosby had. She was blinded as an infant by an incompetent doctor. And when most of us would play the victim card, she wrote these words, just one of her over 9,000 hymns:
Oh what a happy soul am I
Although I cannot see
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be
Many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot and I won’t
She wrote those words when she was a teenager. Oh that we would be biblically optimistic and see that our God’s goodness and lovingkindness is chasing us down! No matter where you are today, no matter what you are going through, no matter what it might feel like, God loves you, and He is working for your greatest joy! And He will not let go nor give up on you! He’s chasing you down. Even now.