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Surely Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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September 12, 2023 9:00 am

Surely Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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September 12, 2023 9:00 am

In the next teaching from our series called “Goodness In the Middle,” Pastor J.D. draws a parallel between this psalm of David and the life of Joseph – one of the most engaging characters in the entire Bible. Joseph lived a life of high’s and low’s, but through it all, he trusted that God was ultimately in control.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. How would your attitude in life change if you believed that in all things God was with you? Joseph is in prison, and yet his spirit still soars because he believes that God is with him. And wherever he is, even in the presence of his enemies, he feasts at the table of God's presence. Hey, thanks for joining us today for Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, before we start, let me ask you, are you having a hard time seeing God in the midst of life's difficult circumstances? Does it seem like he's just not there for you? Today, Pastor J.D. draws a parallel between Psalm 23 and the life of Joseph, one of the most engaging characters in the entire Bible. Joseph lived a life of highs and lows, but through it all, he trusted that God was ultimately in control. Just how did he keep his faith despite the trials and injustices that he faced?

Well, let's jump into today's teaching and find out. So grab your Bible and let's return to Psalm 23. Here's Pastor J.D. We began a mini-series in Psalm 23 called Goodness in the Middle. The idea was that many of us believe in the concept of God's goodness, and we believe in the future, one day in heaven, we'll experience that goodness, but it's right here, right now, in the, let's call it the middle passage, that we struggle to believe in that goodness. It's sometimes hard to reconcile what we believe in our heads about God's goodness with what we are experiencing now in the warp and woof of life. That's what Psalm 23 is about.

Psalm 23 is the personal testimony of a man who learned to experience God's goodness in a time of trial. King David, who wrote this Psalm, he was on the run. His wife had left him. Many of his friends had betrayed him. His boss had stabbed him in the back. He was brokenhearted, disappointed. He was in the presence of his enemies, and he was walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Life was not good. I know a lot of people, I know a lot of us love this Psalm, but let me just be honest. There's a lot of people who don't like Psalm 23.

I know of one lady, in fact, sometimes I think they're the more honest among us. I know of one lady who grew up in church, but refused to have this Psalm read at her father's funeral because it just felt so discordant with what she and her father had experienced in his final days. And all this lofty, beautiful language, where was that God when her dad was dying? This Psalm is not intended to be a poetic salve or a bedtime story.

It is a gritty wrestling with where God is in a time of pain and waiting. I told you on the first week that Psalm 23 has three main themes that we're going to be exploring. Number one was that the presence of the shepherd, the presence of the shepherd is our life, our joy, our safety, and our fulfillment. In other words, if you have the shepherd, you're good.

That's what we saw in week one. Number two that we're going to get into today is that God is always good, but the arc of God's goodness is longer than we typically think or expect or hope. And then number three is going to be that God uses the times of waiting to work good in us.

So again, today, here's our focus. God's always good. He's always good, but the arc of his goodness is longer than we typically think. In the last verses of Psalm 23, David declares this. He says, surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, which means that our shepherd is always behind us, weaving goodness and mercy into our misery and our mess. You know, we're accustomed to talking about the importance of us following Jesus, and that's true, but y'all, equally important is that he follows us.

The question that many of us would ask practically is, well, how far back there is he? Because sometimes you can see how God took a bad thing and he used it for good. Like that great theologian Garth Brooks once said, when you get older, you can look back and learn to thank God for unanswered prayers. That relationship ended, but it freed you up for another one. You didn't get the job, but that freed you up for a better one.

Or maybe it's more serious. Your struggle with cancer gave you a new perspective on life. The infertility taught you humility and set you up for the blessing of adoption.

But y'all, let's be honest. There are some chapters in life that you look back on years later and you still cannot see how any possible good came from that. And yet, and yet, David in this Psalm remains absolutely confident that even in the most painful, confusing chapters of his life, goodness and mercy are following him infallibly. So what I want to show you today is that the arc of God's goodness, that is the time it takes for you to see the manifestation of that goodness, for it to work itself out is often longer than you wished.

But it's always there, always at work in all things. Nothing is outside of your shepherd's control and not one second of your waiting or your pain or your suffering is wasted. We are going to remind ourselves of a few truths from Psalm 23, and then we're going to see how a man in the book of Genesis named Joseph experienced these truths. You might be familiar with the story of Joseph, but here's the question. Have you ever read the story of Joseph through the lens of Psalm 23? Okay, first let's just take a quick bird's eye view of Psalm 23 again.

Verse one, David says, the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. I have no needs. All of us ought to be able to say, if I have the shepherd, I'm good.

I got no needs. Verse two, he makes me lie down in green pastures. I showed you that normally in a green pasture, a sheep would do what? He's going to eat. So if a sheep is lying down in a green pasture, that means he is full. If you lie down and take a nap in front of the buffet line at the golden corral, I'm going to assume that you're full. This corresponds to verse five, where David says he prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

A table for David represented food and fellowship and security. Y'all, it's hard to enjoy a meal when you're afraid, right? It's hard to enjoy a meal when you're nervous.

I know a lot of my friends that just cannot eat anything right before they get up to speak because it's just too much anxiety. You can't enjoy it. But David says, even with my enemies just a few yards away, not that you all are my enemies, but you get the concept, but even my enemies just a few yards away, I commune in peace with my shepherd because I know that even my enemies are under his control. Not one hair falls from my head without his knowledge and consent. And so David says, my cup overflows. For somebody walking closely with Jesus, it's not just that their soul is full. Their cup overflows with comfort and joy and love so much that even in times of pain and emptiness, they can somehow minister to others. Maybe you've known a Christian like this in a time of trial and suffering with a lot of tears.

They're still somehow ministering to others out of the overflow of joy and peace in their heart. You're going to see all of this play out in the life of Joseph. Genesis 37, if you want to follow along with me in your Bible, but to be honest, it might be just as easy for you to stay in Psalm 23 because we're going to cover a lot of ground really fast in the book of Genesis. And so just hang there in Psalm 23 if you want, and I'll come back to you in a minute. I'm going to tell you this whole story. It is a long story, but it is a beautiful one. And sometimes we mess it up by telling chunks of it. And I think you just got to think of the whole thing at once.

So just sit back and let me tell it to you, okay? Joseph was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. So basically Abraham's great grandson. Joseph was born 11th of Jacob's 12 sons. And of all 12 of those sons, Joseph was his daddy, Jacob's favorite. Whenever Jacob talked about Joseph, his face lit up, his eyes sparkled. Joseph always got the extra piece of chicken at dinner.

He always got the extra brownie at dessert. His brothers, of course, saw this because kids always see this and they resented it. But it came to a head when Jacob gave Joseph the famous, what, coat of many colors. Now, technically in Hebrew, it's called a coat of long sleeves. And it was a long ornate robe with long sleeves that communicated status. It was worn to show that you didn't do manual labor.

When I lived over in Southeast Asia, a status symbol for men there, it totally threw me off for a while. I couldn't figure out what was going on, but it was a long pinky nail. Your pinky nail was like an inch long.

It looked gross, like they were trying out for a Metallica kind of band. But I was like, why do all you guys have a long pinky nail? And they said, but that shows that we have office jobs.

We don't do manual labor because if you do manual labor, you can't ever keep your pinky nail that long. Well, something similar is going on here with this coat. Typically this coat of long sleeves was worn by the oldest brother, showing his seniority, but Jacob gave it to Joseph, who was 11 out of 12.

Now talk about galling. The rest of the kids got their clothes off the clearance rack at Dollar General, because when you have multiple kids, that's what you do. But Joseph's sporting a Peter Millar trench coat, a Gucci trench coat. And then Joseph, who's still just a teenager, makes matters worse by starting to have these dreams about his future greatness. And one of them, he and all of his brothers are out in the field sheaving wheat, when Joseph's sheaf of wheat suddenly grows a lot bigger than everybody else's sheaf, and everybody else's sheaves begins to bow down to his sheaf. So Joseph thinks it's a good idea to share this dream with his family one night over dinner.

And he says, hey guys, I think the interpretation here is pretty obvious. One day, all you are going to bow down to me. I'll do the commanding, you'll do the submitting. This of course goes over like a barbecue at a bar mitzvah with his brothers. I will say, I will say to you in almost every aspect of Joseph's life, he is a role model, but I would not advise you to imitate him here.

Y'all listen, if you get a dream where all your friends bow down to you, you keep that junk to yourself, okay? That's a me and my diary kind of story. Well, one day, all of Joseph's brothers are out in the mountains feeding the goats, and of course, Joseph doesn't have to go out there and feed the goats.

He got to stay home and play with his new Pharaoh PlayStation or whatever it was they used back then. And his dad says to him, hey, Joey, why don't you hop on that new four-wheeler, I got you, and I want you to go check on your brothers. So Joseph does, and when he finds his brothers out in the mountains, they're all grimy and stinky from chasing the goats around. And here comes Justin Bieber with his wavy hair and his coat of many colors. And he calls out to them, hey, brothers, hey, older brothers, how is everybody? You guys out here talking about my dream?

Guess what? I had another one, and this one, I'm the big gerbil, and you guys are the little runt gerbils. Well, one of his brothers says, I've had about enough of you. And he grabs him and throws him into a pit, and they start planning out how they can kill him. Well, to make a long story really short, instead of killing Joseph, they decide to sell him to some Ishmaelite slave traders. These Ishmaelites, they buy Joseph, and the brothers, Joseph's brothers, take his coat of long sleeves, they tear it, and they dip it in goat's blood, and they take it back to their dad, and they're like, Dad, we found this coat on the side of the road. We don't know where Joseph is. Our conclusion is Joseph must be dead. Meanwhile, back in Egypt, an Egyptian named Potiphar buys Joseph and puts him into service. Potiphar happens to be the captain of all of Egypt's armies, and at this point in the story, we encounter a very, very important phrase in the life of Joseph. Genesis 39, verse two. And the Lord was with Joseph. Now, to be honest with you, when I'm reading this story, I'm tempted to say, really?

God, how was that? Sounds like if anything, God was not with Joseph, could not God have intervened and kept Joseph out of slavery? I mean, Joseph might've been annoying, but he didn't deserve that. But see, Joseph knew somehow, Joseph knew, no, the Lord is still my shepherd.

Even here, I got no needs. And so he serves Potiphar faithfully, even there in slavery to Potiphar, doing his work as unto the Lord and not unto men. And Potiphar saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

And so he made him overseer in his house and put him in charge of all that he had. This was a crucial turning point in the life of Joseph. You see, what if Joseph had said what I would be tempted to say in a moment like that? Well, God has forsaken me. And y'all, if God ain't gonna take care of me, then I'm gonna have to take care of myself. And then Joseph had taken matters into his own hands.

We all, that story would have turned out very differently. But Joseph believed that even in slavery and in Potiphar's house, that his shepherd was close by and he continued to serve God and feast upon his presence, even in Potiphar's house. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer, and we'll get right back to today's teaching in a moment. But I wanted to give a special shout out to our gospel partners, the team that gives so generously to this ministry each and every month. It's not an exaggeration to say that they are the financial fuel behind everything we do, including broadcasting Summit Life every weekday. We call them gospel partners because that's exactly what they do. They partner with us to help make the gospel known around the globe. And this month we are sending each of our faithful givers a copy of Goodness in the Middle, a study through Psalm 23 that Pastor J.D. wrote specifically for you, our Summit Life support team. This ministry wouldn't exist without our gospel partners and it's always a privilege to say thank you with our specially curated featured resource each month. To give a one-time gift or to join with us as a gospel partner, as well as get your copy of Goodness in the Middle, call us right away.

The number is 866-335-5220, or you can visit us online at So like the story says, Potiphar saw that God was with him and so he elevated Joseph to be in charge of everything else in the house. You see, in a man's ways, you see when a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

And when God's favor is on you, even the pagans around you recognize it. Enter Potiphar's wife. Potiphar's wife decides that Joseph is a handsome man, a lean, mean, tall hunk of Hebrew kebab, I guess you might say.

The writer of Genesis, by the way, says that Joseph was handsome, this is interesting, in both form and appearance, form and appearance, which is a Hebrew way of saying he had a cute face and a jack body. So one day when Mr. Potiphar was out doing military stuff, Mrs. Potiphar comes in doing her walk like an Egyptian routine, and she propositions Joseph. The only thing the story records her ever saying is, lie with me, which has to be the most blunt pickup line ever. Literally in Hebrew, it's just sex now, two words, sex now, which she proceeds to repeat over and over and over again.

It's the only word she ever says in this whole story. Well, Joseph won't do it because A, it would be a sin against God, and B, it would be a betrayal of his master Potiphar. And when he resists, Mrs. Potiphar grabs his coat and says, sex now, still the same line. And Joseph tries to pull away from her, but as he does, his coat rips off in her hand. She of course feels scorned and humiliated. So later when Potiphar gets home, she says, Joseph tried to rape me.

And as I was forcing him off of me, trying to get him away from me, his coat ripped off in my hands. Tragically for Joseph, Potiphar believes his sex predator wife and throws Joseph into prison. And there we see that phrase again, Genesis 39, verse 21.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love. You say, really? Like with? I mean, God, could you be with me a little less? How about that? No, he says it was steadfast love, not up and down love.

I was checked out a bit yesterday, but now I'm back here today helping you again, kind of love. Steadfast, never changing love. You're like, Joseph, you're the victim of sexual assault.

And in the end, you get blamed instead of the predator. How could you have that happen and still say God is with me? But friend, we know now God was with him and all of God's guidance and Joseph's life was according to the dictates of steadfast love. And Joseph knew that and Joseph feasted on God's presence, even in the midst of his enemies. This was the secret of Joseph's success. It was what he held onto when everything else in his life fell apart. The Lord is my shepherd.

I got no needs. If I got the shepherd, I'm good. I pointed out last week that in Psalm 23, in the middle verse of this Psalm, David shifts his language from he to you. He goes from the third person, the Lord is my shepherd.

He restores my soul. He suddenly shifts in verse four to, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. From that point on the Psalm, it's all you, you, you, you.

He goes from talking about God to us to talking to God in front of us. Interestingly, if you were reading that in Hebrew, and I know a lot of you were, you would have noticed that there were 27 words before the you in verse four and 27 words after. The word you, you are with me, is literally the middle word of the entire Psalm.

That is a Hebrew poetry device showing that the focal point of this Psalm is God's saving presence with David. This is also the focal point of Joseph's life. The Lord is my shepherd. I have no needs.

As long as I have the shepherd, I'm good. Genesis 39, 22. And so God gave him favor with the keeper of the prison, and the keeper put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners. The keeper of the prison didn't even pay any attention to what was in Joseph's charge because the Lord was with him, and he could see that. Whatever Joseph did, the Lord made it succeed. Y'all, this is my big question for you this morning.

How would your attitude in life change right now, today, this weekend? How would your attitude in life change if you believed that in all things, God was with you? Joseph is in prison, and yet his spirit still soars because he believes that God is with him. And wherever he is, even in the presence of his enemies, he feasts at the table of God's presence. Well, after several years in prison, a couple of Pharaoh's court servants get thrown in there with him, specifically, Pharaoh's butler and his baker. They both have dreams, and they tell their dreams to Joseph. Joseph says to the butler, he's like, well, your dream means that within three days, you're gonna be out of here, and you're gonna be fully restored to your place of honor. So the baker, hearing the dream of the butler, is pretty excited, he's like, ooh, that sounds promising. What's my dream mean, Joseph? And Joseph says, well, your dream means that within three days, Pharaoh's gonna hang you, and the birds will pick away at your flesh, and they'll eat your eyes out of their sockets as you hang in the sun. So that was kind of a downer for the baker.

Sure enough, all of it takes place. Baker's executed, the butler is released and restored, and just as the butler is leaving, Joseph says to him, hey, just do me a favor, remember me when you get out of here, I'm here unjustly, and the butler says, you know, hashtag, never forget, but probably forgets about Joseph the moment that he's released. And so Joseph languishes there in prison for two more years. Y'all, how long must those two years have felt to Joseph?

I mean, can you imagine Joseph, what must have felt like a crushing despair at this point? But then, two years later, Pharaoh has his own dream. It's a weird one. Seven fat gals come out of the Nile River, followed by seven skinny cows, and the seven skinny cows eat the seven fat cows, and then they turn to Pharaoh and they say, eat more chicken.

No, no, I'm just kidding, I made that part out. The dream ends with the seven skinny cows eating the seven fat cows, and nobody can tell you what seven fat cows, and nobody can figure out what in the world that dream means. And then the butler, listening to all this, is like, oh yeah, I knew this guy in prison who could interpret dreams.

I wonder if he's still alive. So they send for Joseph, they know right where he is, and sure enough, he's still alive, and Pharaoh says to him, hey, can you interpret this dream? And Joseph says, no, no, I can't.

No man can interpret dreams, but I know a God in heaven who can. And God gives to Joseph the interpretation, and Joseph says, well, what this dream means is that God is about to send seven years of abundance, that's your seven fat cows, followed by seven years of famine, those are the lean cows. And Joseph says, hey, not in a place to give advice, but if you were wise, I think you'd use the seven years of abundance to get ready for the seven years of famine. Well, Pharaoh is really moved by this, and so he authorizes Joseph to get the land ready for famine. Eventually, Joseph gets promoted to be the prime minister of Egypt. Joseph literally goes from being in prison to being over everybody in the kingdom, except Pharaoh himself, which would have included, by the way, Potiphar and his wife, which had to be a somewhat awkward reunion. Now, fast forward about 10 years, the predicted famine has come and things have gotten really, really bad.

The only place in the entire Middle East that has food is Egypt. So Jacob, Jacob, the dad, sends all of Joseph's 11 brothers down from Canaan to Egypt to buy food. Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers, but they don't recognize him, I guess, because of the whole makeup, cobra, headdress deal that he's wearing. When Joseph sees them, he's so overcome with emotion that he can barely control himself, but he keeps his cover, and he puts his brothers through all these tests to see if they've changed. After a while, he just can't stand it anymore, and he strips off his headdress, and he says to his brothers, it's me, it's Joseph. Now, class, what kind of moment do you think this was for the brothers? Do you think they were more glad or sad in this moment?

They were terrified. The rump brother that they'd sold into slavery and lied about is not the second most powerful man in the world. But Joseph said, look at this, chapter 45, verse five. Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, because I'm not. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here. It was you who sent me here, it was God.

Y'all, that statement is staggering. You didn't do this, God did it, and he used you. Verse 20, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, because he was trying to bring about that many people should be kept alive as they are today. Friend, I ask again, how would your outlook on life change if you believe that in everything God was with you, that even when somebody wronged you, God had a purpose. At every point in Joseph's life, his cup has overflowed, has it not, with integrity and joy and confidence and here, forgiveness, why? Because even in the midst of being overlooked and wrong, he still could say, all my life you have been faithful. All my life, you have been so, so good. As long as I got the shepherd, I'm good. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. If you missed any part of today's teaching, you can always find it as well as our entire sermon library, free of charge at J.D., in this short series, we're working verse by verse through Psalm 23, one of the most famous and well-known chapters in the whole Bible.

Tell us a little about your teaching and what to expect. Yeah, Molly, you know, most of us know how to think about God's goodness in the past at the cross. We see how good God was when he died for our sins, and we believe in God's goodness in the future. When Jesus returns and he takes the dark and makes it light and he takes the wrongs and makes them right.

But what about right now? How do I experience the goodness of God right now in the midst of my disappointment and my pain? The question Psalm 23 presents is, what would it look like if we trusted God, not just based on what he did in the past and not just for what he'll do in the future, but we trusted in his goodness right here in the middle?

We have a great little companion resource to go along with it that is titled Goodness in the Middle. Reach out to us today through to order your copy so that you can get started working verse by verse through this short but very significant piece of the Bible and the most famous worship song ever written. We'd love to send you a copy of Goodness in the Middle, the study through Psalm 23 that goes hand in hand with our current teaching series. You can receive it right now with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. To give, just call us at 866-335-5220, or you can always give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to join us again Wednesday as we continue this teaching from Psalm 23 here on Summit Light. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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