Surely Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me – The Meaning of Psalm 23:6


Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of God’s loving care expressed through the shepherd image.

At the end, the Psalmist says the following:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

The Importance of Diving Deeper

Rule #4 – Word Up in our signature course is one of my favorite advanced Bible study techniques.

This rule teaches the value of doing a deeper word study on any term in the Bible. And in the case of Psalm 23, this technique yields a remarkable insight.

The word “follow” in the verse above is radaf in Hebrew. It means to pursue, chase and even persecute.

The curious thing about radaf is how many times it is used in the context of war.

For example:

  • Abraham “pursued” a group of men who had taken his nephew captive (Gen 14:15).
  • The Egyptian army “pursued” the Israelites to the Red Sea (Deut 11:4).
  • Joshua and the men of Ai, “chased after” their enemies to defeat them (Josh 7:2).

There are dozens more verses we could cite.

The deeper meaning of the term “follow” in Psalm 23:6

The point of this excursion is this…

When the Psalmist says that “goodness and mercy will follow” him, the translation is too weak. It’s too passive.

The Lord’s love and mercy don’t just follow you.

Rather, his goodness and mercy pursue you with an intense focus. They chase after you like an army would. But the Lord’s active and relentless love is not seeking to harm you, but to bless you.

Don’t forget that.

All of God’s blessings to you as you study his word.

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P.S. If you’d like to discover more nuggets of truth like this, be sure to check out Rule #4 – Word Up in our course 7 Rules of Bible Interpretation EVERY Christian Should Know. You can preview several lessons for free.

4 thoughts on “Surely Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me – The Meaning of Psalm 23:6”

  1. On the face of it this deeper meaning provided here doe not sit well with the doctrine of God’s providence – His love and care arrives waiting for us to come to place of need.
    There is no sense in which we get to a place of need and God’s goodness plays catch up; think of it.

    • What is the text telling you? How does the Bible portray God? Not, what doctrine have you learned about God, but rather, how scripture portrays him.

      And if you take that question seriously, you will see that he is often described with very humanlike terms. Perhaps this was the only way ancient people could relate to him.


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