By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.

“Surely goodness and mercy “shall follow me” all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

As we steadily study the Scriptures and know more and more about the languages in which they were written, we are able to derive perhaps more accurate word choices for several verses of Scripture. This is apparently the case for Psalm 23:6. The familiar reading of “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” is very probably not strong enough for the actual root word, which means “pursue, chase,” even “persecute.” This thought is recommended by “The Psalter Project.”

So we see the change of: “Surely goodness and mercy will chase me, will aggressively pursue me, all the days of my life.” Not just “follow” me, but actually relentlessly go after me! God’s goodness and mercy will not let me go, no matter what I do to dissuade it. This is the nature of God’s grace. It is never lax or lazy. God will see the purpose of His goodness and mercy achieve its goal. Your good! Your blessing! God will deliver what He wants you to have and knows you need. No holds barred.

That is why this change of words in Psalm 23:6 reminds me of Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven,” which recounts God’s relentless pursuit of us. “I fled Him down the nights and down the days; I fled Him down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinth ways of my own mind,” Thompson writes.

But then he poetically expresses, “From those strong feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat—and a Voice beat more instant than the Feet—“all things betray thee, who betrayest me.”

Thompson’s poem goes on to say that God chases us relentlessly until He brings us into His fold of grace. The poem is an excellent example of what Psalm 23 expresses of God’s persistent pursuit of us. His grace will never, ever let us go. But that involves Him chasing us with his marvelous goodness and mercy. We ourselves must recognize it, willingly surrendering to His arms, rather than fighting Him with willful rebellion. God’s goodness and mercy slays the rebellion.

This is the true substance of God’s grace. It is never static. It is most active. And that activity is pursuit. It is ever moving towards us, never retreating away from us. It will capture its object. It will gather the lost sheep into the fold; it will bring the lost son home.

Never doubt it. Once God has set His heart on you, His heart will never give up. It will accomplish the task it was on for from the very beginning. Remember the truth of Scripture: God chose you from before the foundation of the earth. That choice will never be frustrated. Praise the Everlasting One; this is true. Were it not, no one of us would be saved. He pursues us until he captures us in His own arms of love.


“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”
(1st verse of George Matheson’s hymn, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” 1882)

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