When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click here and may you be blessed by the song, "Psalm 23."

Goodness and Mercy                                                                                                                            The best is yet to be.
Psalm 23:1-6

This will be the last message from the 23rd Psalm and the title of my message is “Goodness and Mercy.” We’re dealing with the subject; “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

So looking at Psalm 23 we're going to read all six of them together.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 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: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

Let’s pray: Lord God, Your Word says, Your “sheep listen for Your voice and follow You.” That is our prayer! To know and listen to Your voice in a world that is loud and constantly clamoring for our attention and focus.

You are our Shepherd. And when we listen and follow, we have all we need. Help us know Your voice, help us trust Your provision … help us rest in your loving care. In You, we are satisfied. Father, thank you for Your gift of forgiveness. We will forever thank and praise You for washing us clean and for healing our brokenness. You restore and strengthen the very core of who we are.

And because we are Yours, forgiven, restored, and renewed, Your rod protects us and Your staff guides us. We have nothing to fear. You anoint us with holy oil preparing us for life in Your presence both today and eternally. You pour blessings and gifts into our life with such abundance that we are able to bless and serve others.

You are so extremely generous! And as I remember Your blessings too numerous to count … I enjoy a peace that only You can give. Father we are in Your care, with Your help, we will trust Your goodness and unfailing love every day of our life. And thank You for pursuing us when we are tempted to wander.

With Your Spirit’s help, we will live each day confidently knowing … we are safe in Your care. We are forgiven and loved.  We have everything we need. We are secure under the cover of Your promise. We believe…You will show us the way of life, granting us the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.  In Jesus’ Name Amen.

Verse 6 is the foundation for all of the 23rd Psalm; it sums up the favor, faithfulness, forgiveness, the fatherhood, and the foreverness of our Shepherd. It is the verse that anchors it all together. Look at these words; Surely, goodness, mercy, dwell, and forever.

Everything that The Shepherd does in the life of the sheep is determined by whether or not the sheep follow. Guide, provide, protect, correct, and connect are all determined by our willingness to follow. We established this.

The Psalmist goes one step further. Those things are the benefit of following but check this out, a sheep that follows is followed. Sheep that are being sheepish should be able to glance over their shoulder and say like the sheep that wrote the Psalm . . . Goodness and mercy they follow me.

We talked about how we know we are on the right path because it produces righteousness. We can also tell we are on the right path because of what follows us or comes as a result of our walk – goodness and mercy.

We can and others can evaluate just how sheepish we really are by what we leave behind us. What is revealed in our wake?

When we are sheepish we are followed! Look behind you, I bet if you look closely you will be able to see the times in your life when you were the most sheepish because that part of your path will have a residue of goodness and mercy all over it.

I also want us to notice how the Psalmist says it; Surely goodness and mercy will follow me. It is a statement of fact and confidence. I can be confident and convinced, even when what I don't want or like right now, that in the end I will be blessed.

David ends this examination of the Shepherd and the Path with a powerful decision. He says as a sheep I WILL dwell in the house of The Lord forever. He, David, makes the choice.

David recognized that sheep have to make a dwell decision. He is basically saying when I examine my options, benefits, path, and I take all that into account, I have made up my mind that I will make a decision to dwell in relationship with The Shepherd.

Some follow because they are just going with the flow. Some follow because others follow. Some follow because their parents did. Some follow because it is routine. Some for fellowship, some out of fear. Each and everyone one of us has to make a dwell decision.

Let me say that decision is not always easy because we live a world where sin abounds. Satan gives the best first and the worst last. The young folks who are living high, wide, and wild, have a certain degree of fun, what we might call happiness. But, Satan has no happy old people.

Here's a principle, Satan always gives the best first and the worst last. Satan is a counterfeiter. He is a deceiver, and he certainly is guilty of false advertising.

I see those men out there in the Old Milwaukee boat. They're hoisting the suds, and they've just caught some fish, and these good old boys are sitting down having a good time and one of them will hold up a wet one and he'll say, "It doesn't get any better than this."

He's absolutely right. It always gets worse. I mean, they don't show the drunkard in the gutter covered with flies. They don't show the carnage on the highway, the blasted lives and the ruined home. He always gives the best first and the worst last. Satan doesn't have any happy old people.

But Jesus gives the best always and a greater best last. Remember at the wedding feast when Jesus turned the water into wine and the master of ceremonies came out and he said, "I don't understand this. Most people give the very best first, but you've saved the best till the last" (John 2:1-11). That's the way Jesus always does it.

With Jesus, it keeps getting better and better. Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before, and there's more, so much more than that first sweet day.

What the Psalmist is saying is "It's good now." Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. But the best is yet to be.

Would to God that all of us could understand that in a very real way; goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. Every one of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ could write a book about God's goodness and God's mercy. God gives us provision for our failure and provision for our need. Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life; but praise God, the best is yet to be.

The Psalmist talks about the house of the Lord: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. There were three things about the house of the Lord that came to my heart as I contemplated and thought about this.

The very first thing I want to lay on our heart and help us get excited about is what I want to call the certainty of it. Look at that verse, Surely... I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Do you see it? "Surely... I will dwell in the house of the Lord. No if's and's, and but's about it. It's a sure thing.

Jesus Christ was truth incarnate. He said, "... If it were not so, I would have told you." Jesus would not let the hope of Heaven go beating within the human bosom if it were simply a lie, a superstition, or a delusion. He said, "... If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).

So the certainty of Heaven is a real place. It is not merely a state of mind. It is not a condition. It is a place more real than this here. It is a place so real that Jesus is there in a literal body. There is a body in this place called Heaven. His resurrected body. Heaven is a place on God's map.

Sometimes people say we're wrong because we talk about Heaven as being up. They say, it all depends on which side of the globe that you're on. But the Bible writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit and when they said that Jesus was taken up into Heaven, the Bible knows what it's talking about.

There is one place on the globe that is always up and that's north. It is not by accident that people speak of up north and down south. There is that Polar Star. That northern fixed direction that is always there and the compass always finds it.

It may surprise you that the Bible speaks of Heaven as being in the north. Isaiah 14, beginning in verse 13, tells about Lucifer who rebelled against God and tried to exalt his throne and place his rule where God's rule is. Listen to what Lucifer said, "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." That is very clear.

When God told Moses how to make a sacrifice way back there in the Levitical system, he said that when Aaron goes to kill an animal in Leviticus 1:11: "And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord". Northward, toward the Lord.

I'll give you another verse. Psalm 75:6-7. God is revealing to us a great truth about how God honors His people and when God honors His people. He says, "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another." What direction did he leave out? It comes from that direction—from the north. You see, there is a place in the north somewhere that I believe is Heaven.

Paul went there. He called it the third Heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:2 he said, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth such an one caught up to the third heaven."

Very interesting, Jesus is there in a body. Some people are there without a body, but they'll have a body later on. He said this person was caught up to the third Heaven. The Bible mentions three Heavens.

The first Heaven is the atmosphere. The Bible speaks of the fowls of the Heaven. They fly in the air, so that's the first Heaven—the atmosphere, the clouds, the air that envelops the earth (Genesis 7:23). And then there's the second Heaven. That's called the hosts of Heaven, which is the stellar vast reaches. We call that the starry Heavens. That's the second Heaven (Genesis 2:1). But somewhere beyond there is a place called Heaven. It is the third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Paul knew that Heaven was a real place. Jesus knew that Heaven was a real place. David knew that Heaven is a real place.

Folks, the days of our life are going to come to an end and immediately we're going to step into Heaven if we know the Lord. Listen to this: 2 Corinthians 5:6, Paul says, "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." Right now, I live in a body. I'm just at home here in my body, but I'm absent from the Lord. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." I've not seen God. But, he goes on to say, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

Paul basically said, "If I had my choice, I would cut out and go to be with God, but I'm confident that the moment I die, I'm going to be with Jesus." In Acts 7, there's the story of the death of one of the greatest men who ever lived. His name was Stephen. He was stoned for his faith. And, Acts 7:56, just before he died, he had a vision of Heaven. And he said, "... Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." And he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59).

Jesus told the dying thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

Have you got it, Heaven is a present place. Let me tell you something else about it, it is a perfect place.

Revelation 21:4: "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."

No more sin, no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more death, no more disease, no more dying, no more doubts, no more pain, no more groan, no more moan. These things are passed away.

Let me suggest that Heaven is going to be the presence of all that is good and the absence of all that is evil. All that the loving heart of God can conceive and the omnipotent hand of God can prepare. That is what Heaven is going to be. Oh, it's a present place. It is a perfect place.

Heaven is also a Purposeful place, don't get the idea that when you go to Heaven, you're going to get a robe, a halo, and you're going to sit around on a fluffy cloud and pluck a harp for all eternity.. You don't get that idea from the Word of God.

The Bible teaches in Revelation 22:3: "his servants shall serve him" Oh, how all of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ desire to serve him better than we do. Every time I preach I say, "Oh, God I wish I'd have done better." Every time we pray, we say, "Lord God, why isn't there more power in my prayer?" We have this old sin flesh that holds us down, but one of these days we're going to serve Him like we've never served Him before.

This house of the Lord is a present place, a perfect place, and a purposeful place. Think of the certainty of it. This is what he said, "I go and prepare a place for you" (John 14:3). Surely... I will dwell in the house of the Lord. The certainty of it.

Not only of the certainty, but think of the company of it. Notice ... I will dwell in the house of the Lord. He means the household of God. That's what Jesus meant when he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). He's saying that we, all of us together, all of the saints of all of the ages are going to be there together, all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, all of those in the household of faith, the company of Heaven. What a grand company it's going to be.

People ask, "Will we know our loved ones in Heaven?" Oh yes. On the mount of Transfiguration, Elijah and Moses appeared with the Lord Jesus, the disciples were there and they saw Moses and Elijah. They'd never seen them before but they knew them. They didn't have to be introduced. (Luke 9:28-36). Heaven is a place, and real people are going to be there. I believe we will know our loved ones when we get to Heaven.

Won't it be something to talk with Moses about the wilderness wanderings? And David will be there. And we'll say, "David, would you play Psalm 23 and sing it for us?" And David will say to me, "Terry, you never did squeeze all the juice out of that Psalm when you preached it. And for a few centuries, he can tell us about Psalm 23."

And, the Apostle Paul will be there. How would you like to sit at the Apostle Paul's feet and have him teach the book of Romans and talk about our great redemption and what our God has done for us?

And John, the aged apostle will be there. And he'll open all the mysteries of the book of Revelation. And we'll know as we are known and see the mysteries of God when that book is opened and when the Lamb sits upon the throne.

Simon Peter will be there. It will be glory unspeakable and full of joy.

I want us to notice a third thing about this place called Heaven. I want us to notice the constancy of it. Surely... I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Forever, the constancy of it.

You see, sheep are nomadic, which means they always wander. And if they're not wandering, they're being led by the shepherd. They don't settle down and stay in one place.

One of these days I'm going to settle down. All of us here are just pilgrims right now. Heaven's going to be a place of constancy, a place of constant joy, a place of constant service, and a place of constant praise.

God’s house is a home for the people of God to be in His presence and experience His awesome glory forever and ever.  Abraham looked for it. John saw it, and the Saints will walk and live in it.

I will choose today - I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever. I am in this for life. I will follow, Period. The Shepherd can make us do many things but He can't make us decide to dwell. That is a sheep choice, not a Shepherd choice.

So, I have to ask, are you in this as long as it is convenient and comfortable? Are you in this when everything is a cake walk? Or have you come to the place where you can say, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. Though none go with me still I will follow!" I am asking you to stop long enough to make the dwell decision! You can lock the Surely in for the rest of your life if you will determine to dwell!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!