Christ our Patron

Adapted from sermon preached at PCC Evening Worship Service on 5 Jan 2003

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Ps 23:6).

We have been studying the Sheep’s Psalm. This is a psalm about Christ the Great Shepherd through the eyes of His sheep.

We are come to the last verse and the final instalment in this series. We saw in our previous study that although David has not left the metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep, he is now speaking about heavenly things that concern the soul of the sheep of Christ after they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. In other words, though he is still using the pictures borrowed from pastoral life, David is no more talking about how Christ is leading His sheep; rather, he is talking about how the sheep is fully enjoying Christ.

We saw also that in so far as the metaphor is concerned, David might have in mind the sheep being now in the special care of the Shepherd, being hand-fed and hand-watered—unlike before when they are led from pasture to pasture and stream to stream.

Now, in verse 6, there is yet another movement. The Sheep is now not only in the sheepfold, but it is brought into the house of the Shepherd! "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Ps 23:6).

There are two parts in this statement. The first is a summary of how the Lord our Shepherd is leading His sheep in this life; and the second describes the final happiness of the sheep.

Let us consider these two parts.

1. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

This statement as I mentioned, is a summary of how the Lord leads His sheep until they enter into His presence where they will enjoy the fullness of all the blessing He has reserved for them.

The Shepherd leads the sheep, David says, "(with) goodness and mercy." One commentator suggests that David seems to be painting a picture of two sheep dogs, one named goodness and the other named mercy. I doubt this was what David had in mind, for it does not seem that shepherds in the times of David made use of sheepdogs.

But it is indeed a delightful thought to picture ourselves as sheep and our Shepherd guiding us with His two faithful assistants: mercy and goodness.

Goodness is she who is constantly on the lookout for good and blessings to bestow upon us. And she is constantly making sure that all things in our lives—including the painful experiences work out together for our good.

Then there is Mercy. Mercy is she who is constantly pleading on our behalf according to God’s covenant loving-kindness in Christ our Shepherd. Because of our guilt in Adam and the corruption of our nature, we deserve God’s curse and wrath. And because every thing we do is tainted with sin, we do not deserve God’s praise. Mercy pleads in the name of our Shepherd on our behalf. The hand of chastisement is stayed, and our labours are sprinkled with our Shepherd’s blood, and find God’s approval.

As long as Christ our Shepherd is leading us, we can be sure that these twin sisters, Mercy and Goodness, will follow us to help us. And Christ our Shepherd never ever abandons us to walk by ourselves,—even when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Therefore, we can have the full confidence that Mercy and Goodness will always follow us. And so we sing with the psalmist: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

And Goodness and Mercy are indeed keeping very busy as our Shepherd leads and guides us. We can in fact trace their activities through this psalm:

v. 1a—"The LORD is my shepherd": Mercy reconciles me to God by placating God’s enmity against me through the shedding of my Shepherd’s blood. Goodness provides me with the privilege of being a sheep of Christ.

v. 1b—"I shall not want": Mercy removes what I deserve, namely God’s wrath and curse; whereas Goodness provides me with all that I need for my spiritual journey.

v. 2a—"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures": Mercy shields me from the things that cause me fear and restlessness. Goodness feeds me till I want no more then I may lie down to rest.

v. 2b—"he leadeth me beside the still waters": Mercy preserves me from being consumed by God’s holiness that I may approach His throne of grace to water my soul with prayer. Goodness assures me of the love of God through the shedding abroad of the Holy Spirit.

v. 3a—"He restoreth my soul": Mercy keeps me from being devoured by the enemies of my soul when I stray. Goodness leads me back to my Shepherd that I may again enjoy His sweetness and smile.

v. 3b—"he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake": Mercy prevents me from wandering out of the narrow way. Goodness ensures that my life will be to the praise and glory of my Shepherd.

v. 4a—"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me": Mercy makes death, my last enemy a mere shadow. Goodness has my Shepherd holding my hand in the time of my greatest fear.

v. 4b—"thy rod and thy staff they comfort me": Mercy defeats my enemies. Goodness chastises me for my good.

Mercy and Goodness walk with me: one on my left, the other on my right all the days of my life. They do not cease their work, until they have led me into paradise— where I would be engulfed by the love of my Shepherd the Lamb of God, forever and ever:

v.5—Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…" (Ps 23)

This thought of the sheep having arrived and resting in Christ, is so glorious that David has to conclude this psalm with another change of scene…

2. And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever

You may not realise it, but shepherds do sometimes bring their sheep into their house. Remember the parable which Nathan told David? He spoke about this poor man who had a little ewe lamb,

"…which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter" (2 Sam 12:3).

Very, very few sheep in real life ever experience this very special privilege. People may keep dogs and cats because they tend to be grateful companions, who know how to keep themselves clean. Even pigs are sometimes kept as pets, because they can be very intelligent. But how many will keep sheep as pets in the house? You cannot toilet train a sheep, and you can hardly teach a sheep to show affection and gratitude.

But this is the case: All of Christ’s sheep will enjoy this privilege! Despite their nature of ingratitude and corruption, they will be given this privilege of dwelling in the heavenly mansion of their Shepherd. But first, they must be changed. Their natures would be perfected; they would be given a robe of righteousness.

We shall all dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

What a lofty thought: Unworthy sinners being allowed to see their Creator in the beatific vision, and then enjoying the rapturous joy of heaven unhindered by any pain, sorrow or tears.

Yes, today we labour under much sorrow and discouragement due to weaknesses, failures and sin. But all that will be removed.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev 21:4).

Instead of weeping, there will be laughter of wondrous joy beyond description.

Instead of death, there will be life abundant, free and eternal.

Instead of pain, there will be everlasting pleasures.

Instead of sorrow, there will be the fullness of rejoicing and praise as we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ our Shepherd for ever and ever.

Hope and faith will give way to sight, and we shall be ravished with the love of Christ our Shepherd forever and ever.

And the love of Christ shall overflow from our hearts so that every sheep will enjoy the company of other sheep perfectly. They will love one another perfectly.

There will be no more quarrels, no more misunderstandings, no more criticisms, no more accusations, no more fears, no more disappointments, no more suspicion, no more hypocrisy, no more slander, no more gossips, no more disrespect, no more jealousy, or any such things.

There will only be love. Heaven is a place of love. The relationship between Christ and His sheep is love. The relationship between sheep and sheep is love. There is no relationship within heaven that cannot be described as love.


Dearly beloved sheep of Christ, are you looking forward to that glorious day? I do not know about you. But I am eagerly looking forward to that day. And I know the Lord will not keep me in this sin-drenched world one day longer than necessary.

But thank God that in the meantime Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Christ my Shepherd has promised to be with me always.

He has promised never, never to leave me.

He has promised to keep His grip on me so that no one can snatch me out of His hand.

He has promised not to allow anything to separate me from His love.

And Christ my Shepherd is the sovereign covenant keeping God who laid His life down as my covenant head. How then shall not goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life? I know it will be so for you too, dearly beloved, if you hear His voice and follow Him.

But as you look forward to that day, may I exhort you to prepare for it. This is the day of preparation for our eternal blessedness. Jonathan Edwards, whose heavenly meditations often, as it were, lift us out of this world, puts it very well when he says:

"The future world is designed to be our settled and everlasting abode."

"Heaven is that place alone where our highest end, and highest good is to be obtained."

"Our present state, and all that belongs to it, is designed by Him that made all things, to be wholly in order to another world. This world was made for a place of preparation for another."

For this reason, now is the day of preparation for heaven.

You must prepare in the first place by making sure you know the Shepherd. If you know not the Shepherd, this life is the only opportunity for you to know Him. When this life is ended there will only be everlasting weeping and gnashing and torment for those who reject Christ in this life. So today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart, flee to Him while there is yet time.

George Swinnock has well said: "Heaven must be in thee before thou canst be in heaven." Heaven must begin in this life, or no heaven will await you. If Christ is not your Shepherd in this life, you will not get to the heavenly destination.

You must prepare, in the second place, by making sure that you cease all quarrels with other sheep. No, make no mistake. I am not saying that if you do not love any sheep or fail to reconcile with any sheep, that it will be very awkward for you in heaven when you meet the other sheep. No, no, there will be no awkwardness in heaven. What I am saying is that: If you fail to love any sheep or fail to reconcile with any sheep, then, chances are that you will not make it to paradise, because the Lord says through the apostle John:

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20).

Thirdly, you must prepare by enlarging your heart or your capacity for glory. Heaven is like an ocean of glory, and of love and joy. Every believer is like a vessel of glory. Some have greater capacity, others have lesser capacity. When the vessels are finally brought to heaven, they will be plunged into the ocean of love and glory and joy; and they will be filled to the full.

None will have any more room to be filled because they will be filled to the brim, but some will have more, some will have less glory. One star will differ from another in glory. It will be so for all eternity. No, there will be no pride, or jealousy or covetousness in heaven. But it is a fact that our enjoyment in heaven will depend on how we live today.

Today, dearly beloved is the day to enlarge your hearts—by laying up treasures in heaven by good works, by the use of the means of grace and by exercising the gifts God has given you.

Fourthly, you must prepare by persevering on in the narrow way of the Lord, or the way of righteousness. Heaven is large, but the way to heaven is narrow. Unless you keep in that narrow way despite persecution, and trials, you shall not get to heaven. But if you keep in the narrow way with the help of the Spirit of Christ, what a glorious entrance awaits you in the house of the Lord.

Let this hope of glory and joy prevent you from sinking into despondency when things in this world seem less encouraging than you had hoped.

1 The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want.

2 He makes me down to lie

In pastures green: he leadeth me

the quiet waters by.

3 My soul he doth restore again;

and me to walk doth make

Within the paths of righteousness,

ev'n for his own name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,

yet will I fear none ill:

For thou art with me; and thy rod

and staff me comfort still.

5 My table thou hast furnished

in presence of my foes;

My head thou dost with oil anoint,

and my cup overflows.

6 Goodness and mercy all my life

shall surely follow me:

And in God's house for evermore

my dwelling-place shall be.

May the Lord grant that your heart will be filled with gratitude and love as we sing this song to our Shepherd. Amen.

—JJ Lim