SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY
John W. Peterson, 1921–
Alfred B. Smith, 1916–
Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of Your love; in Your great mercy turn to me. (Psalm 69:16)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, known as the “Prince of Preachers” of the 19th century, labored for more than 20 years on his unrivaled commentary of the Psalms, a seven-volume work entitled The Treasury of David. “Only those who have meditated profoundly upon the Psalms,” wrote Spurgeon, “can have any adequate conception of the wealth they contain.” Meditate on this comment that Mr. Spurgeon made about the 23rd Psalm, the basis of this hymn:
The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, “my.” He does not say, “The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock.” If He is a shepherd to no one else, He is a shepherd to me. He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer’s position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.
Two well-known names in the field of gospel music, John W. Peterson and Alfred B. Smith, collaborated in 1958 to write this popular paraphrase of Psalm 23. Mr. Smith recalls the humorous touch that provided the initial inspiration for this song:
It was written after receiving a letter from one of the descendants of P. P. Bliss, telling of Bliss’s first country school teacher, Miss Murphy, whom he dearly loved. It told of her teaching the class (before they could read or write) to memorize the 23rd Psalm. When the part “surely goodness and mercy” was reached, little Philip thought it said, “surely good Miss Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life.” This little incident focused our thoughts on the phrase which became the heart and title of the song.
A pilgrim was I, and a wand’ring, in the cold night of sin I did roam, when Jesus the kind Shepherd found me, and now I am on my way home.
He restoreth my soul when I’m weary, He giveth me strength day by day; He leads me beside the still waters; He guards me each step of the way.
When I walk thru the dark lonesome valley, my Savior will walk with me there; and safely His great hand will lead me to the mansions He’s gone to prepare.
Chorus: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and I shall feast at the table spread for me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days, all the days of my life.
For Today: Exodus 15:13; Psalm 16:11; 23; Revelation 19:9
Carry the truth of this musical message with you as you live in the joy and confidence of your heavenly Father’s love and care for you—
Osbeck, K. W.
- Thou wilt by thy mercy carry this people, which thou deliveredst, thou wilt bring them in thy strength unto thine holy habitation. Exodus 15:13
- Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is the fullness of joy: and at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore. … The Lord is my shepherd, I will not want. He maketh me to rest in green pasture, and leadeth me by the still waters. He restoreth my soul, and leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. Yea, though I should 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 dost prepare a table before me in the sight of mine adversaries: thou dost annoint mne head with oil, and my cup runneth over. Doubtless kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall remain a long season in the house of the Lord. Psalm 16:11; 23
- Then he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the Lamb’s supper. And he said unto me, These words of God are true. Revelation 19:9