Read: Psalm 23

 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).

I am not a fan of zombie movies. I don’t even like chase scenes. Life is too full of anxiety as it is. I don’t need to top it off with manufactured pursuits that will only work their way into my dreams.

There is one special exception to this aversion, however, and I’m guessing you might appreciate it as well.

Tucked onto the end of Psalm 23 is a familiar line that most of us take for granted. We’re being followed, the psalmist says, by the “goodness and mercy” of God. (“Mercy,” by the way, is the word esed—which we’ll unpack in a subsequent blog. For now, remember that it means “steadfast love”—love that will not let us go.)

Given that the prevailing metaphor in this, the “shepherd’s psalm” is of God as the Good Shepherd, it’s hard for me not to imagine “goodness and mercy” as a pair of enthusiastic sheep dogs, circling around the back of the flock to make sure the stragglers make it into the fold. In fact, if I ever own a pair of dogs, I’m going to name them Goodness and Mercy. Half the fun will be watching to see whether people get the “joke” when I introduce them to my furry companions.

The fact that God’s goodness and mercy are following us is no joke, however. It’s some of the best news we’ll ever receive. And it’s even better than most English translations suggest. Here’s why.

In almost every other instance in Scripture, the verb radaph is translated as “pursue.” People are always radaphing their enemies in the book of Joshua, for instance. In Exodus 14, Pharaoh radaphs the fleeing Israelites with his horses and chariots. In these instances, it’s clear that there is nothing casual about the action. This verb means business.

Whenever someone asks me about what “happens” in a baptism, I think of this verse from Psalm 23. The liturgy says that in baptism, we are “marked as Christ’s own forever.” Surely, this is another way of saying that we are being pursued by the goodness and mercy of the Good Shepherd our whole life long. And even if we’re lagging behind or going astray or just not paying attention, those two will make sure we make it, finally, into God’s fold.

So, smile if you want. But better yet, sing and whoop and celebrate the fact that we’re not just being followed—we’re being pursued by the goodness and mercy of God.

Ponder: Someone once suggested that whether we believe in God is not nearly as important as whether God believes in us.

Pray: Thank you for pursuing me, O God, even when I don’t know whether I believe in you.