Goodness and mercy are of the essence of God. They are foundational to his character as revealed to us thru the witness of scripture, and the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ: "the exact imprint of his [God's] nature" (Heb. 1:3). The Psalmist artfully personifies, and makes personal, God's goodness and mercy in the closing of Psalm 23.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Here David expresses a confident belief (surely!) that he's hemmed in by goodness and mercy. Douglas MacMillan illustrates this with a story he once heard told by a Scottish Highland preacher. I love this!
I remember listening to an old Highland shepherd, an elder, preaching on this verse. He was only an old shepherd, not a fancy theologian, but he was wonderful. He said, 'What do I think of when I think of goodness and mercy? I think of the fellows taking the sheep home, walking down the road there with their sticks. The sheep are coming behind them, and behind the sheep are the two dogs, and one is called Goodness and the other is called Mercy.' He said, 'You watch them; sheep being what they are, when the shepherd's back is turned, they'll try and sneak off the road. You see a sheep on one side, and off it goes trying to get back to the pasture and the mountains. Without even the shepherd whistling, what happens? Goodness runs out and circles the sheep and turns it back into the flock and into the path of God. Then, a little further along the road,' he said, 'another one will do the same, or two or three will do it, and there you will see Mercy running out and turning the sheep back too. Ah!', he said, 'they are two lovely dogs, Goodness and Mercy.' I think if I was still shepherding, and I still had two dogs, I would call one Goodness and I would call the other Mercy, because it's a very true picture. . . . We deserve nothing but His wrath, and yet daily His goodness and His mercy are following us. David says that they follow us 'all the days of our lives'.
Where would we be if not for divine goodness and mercy?
Quote from The Lord Our Shepherd (pp. 82-3)