Forgiven and Forgiving 

Psalm 103:9 – “He will not always chide, or keep His anger forever.”

Anger is an emotion that we are very familar with, if you have lived you know what it means to be angry.  Babies from a very early age, get angry, and for a while it can be cute to watch, but it can quickly turn into a problem.  

Most of the time for us adults, anger is a problem.  It starts as a problem and escalates from there.  It leads us to say things we don’t mean, to act in ways that we shouldn’t, to unforgiveness and resentment.  Anger can be a problem or worse.  God’s anger however is 100% different.

We lash out in anger usually when someone hurts us.  God’s anger is against sin, which hurts us and more importantly minimizes His glory.  In our anger we may resent the person that made us angry.  We may struggle or in fact refuse to be forgiving.  Unforgiveness may plague us.  God however is a God of forgiveness.  He will not be angry forever.  And that is good news, in fact it is great news.  If God was not a God of forgiveness, who could stand?

Thankfully God does forgive us.  He loves us and forgives us, if we are His children.  He may discipline us, but He will not chide us forever.  He may be angry, juts as a parent is angry when their child does something that hurts the child, but thankfully that anger does not last forever.  He is a God of love and forgiveness.  We certainly see that on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus went there and took our sins upon Himself so that we could be forgiven.  That is the goodness of God.

And in reality it is a goodness that should also characterize our lives. We too should be people of love and forgiveness.  We may get angry, but our anger doesn’t have to turn into a problem.  It doesn’t have to turn to sin.  In fact the Bible tells us, “in your anger do not sin.”  We can be angry and not sin.  We can be people of love and forgiveness.  We can put resentment behind us.  Make not mistake about it, it won’t be easy but it is possible.

How? Not through our own strength or power but through the love and grace and goodness of God.  We can’t do it ourselves.  It is impossible for us, but there is nothing that is impossible for God.  That same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working within us, and that power can enable us to be people of love and forgiveness.  We, who are forgiven by the grace of God and the glory of God, can forgive by the grace of God and for the glory of God.

Unchanging

Psalm 103:8 – “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Promises mean a lot don’t they? When you get married the marriage vows are promises. Promises that we make and promises that are made to us. And they are and should be life changing promises.

When you buy a house or a car, the bank promises to give you the money and you make a promise to pay it back over a certain amount of time, at a certain interest rate.  When you go to work you make a promise to do a job and in return your employer promises to give you a certain amount of money and perhaps other benefits. 

Promises are important and the psalmist here gives us a great and precious promise, a promise from God that says God Himself is slow to anger.  Why is this a precious promise? It is precious because it gives us a glimpse of the cross.  God does not enjoy being angry with His people.  Make no mistake about it, He is a God of wrath and He will punish sin but He is slow to anger. If He wasn’t who could stand because we are all sinners and we all sin. If He wasn’t slow to anger His wrath  would destroy us all.  

This points us toward the cross because it is on that cross that we see both the wrath of God and the steadfast love of God.  God pours His wrath out against sin on His son Jesus. Sin is punished but because of the grace of God He doesn’t punish us for our sins. Jesus pays our price, that is love. In fact the Bible tells us “greater love has no man than this that He lay down His life for His friends.”  That is precisely what Jesus had done for us, on the cross He took God’s wrath for us because that is how much He loves us. He loves us with a steadfast love.  It is a covenant love, God has made a covenant with us and nothing changes that covenant. His love is steadfast because He is a faithful, covenant keeping God.  Paul reinforces this is Romans 8, when he tells us that “nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No wonder the Gospel is called “good news”.  Think about it, there is nothing that will happen today or tomorrow or even into eternity that can change God’s love for you.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  That is life changing.  Timothy Keller rightly points out that “our greatest desire is to be fully known and to be completely loved.”. That happens to us through Jesus.  He knows us fully, even more than we know ourselves and He loves us completely angry with a love that is constant, consistent and unchanging.

It is an amazing love and a live that shapes life.  Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “all of the world tastes of His sparing mercy (love), those who hear the Gospel partake of His inviting mercy (love), the saints live by His saving mercy (love), are preserved by His upholding mercy (love), are cheered by His consoling mercy (love), and will enter heaven through His infinite and everlasting love and mercy”. Because of that Spurgeon says our lives should “glorify the plenteous fountain (Jesus) from which that love so spontaneously flows”. To that we should say “yes and amen”. 

  

BEHOLD

Psalm 103:7 – “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.”

In the world of the ancient Middle East, if you were going to know anything about a King or a person of authority the only way for that to happen would be for that person to reveal themselves to you.  You might know a little bit about them, kind of a general knowledge, but if you were really going to know them they had to choose to reveal themselves to you.  

God chose to reveal Himself to Moses in the Old Testament.  He chose through His grace to make Himself known to the person of Moses.  Why? So that Moses might bear witness about Him.  Moses was given a revelation about God and he shared that revelation with the people, because of that the people of Israel saw the mighty acts of God and was able to know that it was God Himself who had performed those mighty acts.  David is specifically talking here about God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt, he is talking about the plagues and how God had delivered His people through those mighty acts.  

One of the mightiest acts was the Passover, when God in His grace protected His people even as His wrath fell on the Egyptians.  How did this happen? How were God’s people protected? They were protected when the blood of a lamb was sprinkled on the doorpost of their homes, for then the angel of death “passed over” and did not ouch them, while His vengeance fell on the people of Israel.  Through this mighty act, and through many others, God revealed Himself to His people.  They saw Him as a God of holiness, and love.  A God of grace and wrath.  A God of majesty and power.  God was of course all of this and more, and He continues to be all of this and more.  After all God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.”  God is an unchanging God and the only way that Moses or the people could know anything about Him was that He chose to reveal Himself to them.

Thankfully today God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His word, His written word, and the Living word, who is Jesus (see John 1).  God has chosen to reveal Himself to us, and now we can see and understand His mighty acts.  The mightiest of which is the cross and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.  In the Old Testament, that Passover event pointed forward to this event.  It pointed forward to the “Lamb of God” who is Jesus giving us deliverance and setting us free.  It pointed forward to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  It pointed forward to our need to be covered with the blood of the Lamb.  But not just any Lamb? The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes our sins away.  To God be the glory!

JUSTICE AND FREEDOM

Psalm 103:6 – “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.”

Soren Kierkegaard once remarked, “life has to be lived forward, but it has to be understood backwards.”  David, the warrior king might just agree with him.  For here in Psalm 103:6 David is living his life forwards, but in doing so he is looking backwards at one of the great events in the history of Israel, the Exodus and the deliverance of the people of God from slavery.  God in His goodness had done for His people exactly what David says here, “He had worked righteousness and justice for those that were oppressed.”  Those oppressed people were His children, enslaved in Egypt but now God had worked and set them free.

David as King had a lot of responsibilities but as he fulfilled these responsibilities he kept in his mind that he too needed to work righteousness and justice.  David was a king who sought to do the right thing.  Why? Because he was a king that followed God, and God had worked justice and righteousness for His people, who were oppressed.

Of course as David is looking backwards and living forwards, He is also pointing us forward to the person of Jesus.  He is pointing forward to the one who was going to come, the one who was going to live 100% righteously, and the one who was going to set His people free.  Free, not from the oppression of Pharoah but free from sin, free from death and free from hell.  Jesus is the one who works justice and righteousness for we who are oppressed.  

The oppression of Pharoah was horrific for the Israelites but our oppression today is even worse.  We live enslaved by sin, terrified of death, and bound to end up in a place called hell.  But then Jesus, the righteousness one comes, and He goes to the cross in our place. In doing so He takes our sins upon Himself freeing us from sin.  He endures the hell of the cross and yet triumphs over it, setting us free from hell.  He is the one that faces death but that rises from the grave.  Triumphant over sin, over hell, and over death, setting us free from those things, and giving us the gift of eternal life.  To God be the glory!

Satisfaction and Joy

Psalm 103:5 -“who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Charles Spurgeon said of this verse of Scripture that “No man is ever filled to satisfaction but a believer, and only God himself can satisfy even him. Many a worldling is satiated, but not one is satisfied. God satisfies the very soul of man, his noblest part, his ornament and glory; and of consequence he satisfies his mouth, however hungry and craving it might otherwise be. Soul-satisfaction loudly calls for soul-praise, and when the mouth is filled with good it is bound to speak good of him who filled it.”  His language may be somewhat outdated but his point is well taken, God is what satisfies us and because of that only those who are believers in Jesus ever experience true satisfaction.  People who are enamored with the world (worldliness to use Spurgeon’s term) may find temporary fulfillment but not true satisfaction and sadly enough their lives will be marked by emptiness.

A follower of Jesus Christ however is different.  They are to find their satisfaction in God and the things of God.  He is the one who gives us true satisfaction.  People may think they find satisfaction in the things of the world but in reality what they find is more emptiness and pain.  Yet there is something within us that seeks to find satisfaction in something other than God.  That is what happened to the Israelites at the end of the book of Joshua, they were somewhat trusting God but they were unwilling to let go of their idols.  Why? Because they found some satisfaction in them.  We don’t hold on to idols of wood or even of gold today, but we make all sorts of things idols thinking that we can find satisfaction in them.  Things like money or possessions or status or our careers or our children or even some of the good works that we do. We make an idol out of the, and we thing that they are going to give us real and true satisfaction, but then they don’t because only God can truly satisfy us.

Once we find our satisfaction in Him it changes us.  Our youth is renewed like the eagles.  What does the psalmist mean by that?  I think he means that life takes a toll on us and steals our joy away.  Worry and loss and pain and grief and busyness and stress and so many other things hit us as adults and they can quickly rob us of our job. A youth though is joyful and energetic.  For the most part they enjoy life.  Many adults are sadly enough a different story.  The psalmist though says here that God renews our youth like the eagle.  In other words when we find our satisfaction in Him it transforms us and changes us.  In fact it renews us, it renews our joy, our strength, our zest for life.  Finding our satisfaction in God allows us to soar like an eagle and to find that joy that maybe life has stolen away.

He is our satisfaction.  Why? Because if what He has done for us on the cross.  For on that old cross He took our sins, and set us free.  On that cross He forgave us of our sins and gave us the gift of eternal life.  That cross leads to our satisfaction Because that cross shows us the love of God and it truly is the love of God that satisfies us and renews our joy.  

Redeemed and Avenged by Lavish Grace

Psalm 103:4 – “Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.”

The amazing blessings of God come into more focus in this verse. God forgives all of our sins and heals all our diseases. He is a God who is 100% in sovereign control. An amazing God who is capable of doing miraculous things, in fact more things than we could ever ask or imagine and He does all of those things well.

But He is not only Sovereign and in control. He is also personal and the picture that the psalmist paints here in verse 4 is a picture of a Father. His child somehow falls into slavery, and the Father diligently searches to find that child and then does what is necessary to set him free. Jesus pointed to this when He said, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost.” He is searching for His lost children and once He finds them He does what is necessary to redeem them.

The word “redeem” is a word that we don’t use a lot but it is a word that means to set free. God sets us free and here it is a word that means to set free with an implication of paying a price. God has freed us from slavery and the way that He did that was by paying a price for us. What was that price? It was the price of His Son upon the cross. He died to pay a price for us. He died to set us free. He paid the price so that we might live. No wonder the Bible says, “greater love has no man than this, than He lay down His life for His friends.” Jesus laid down His life to redeem us, to set us free from slavery, and the way that He does that is by paying the price on the cross for us. God loves us that much.

That love comes further into focus when we look at the depth of the word “redeem.” It not only means to set free by paying a price, but it also means to avenge. The picture that David the author of Psalm 103 is painting is a picture of a father who avenges the hurt of his child. So not only does God set us free but He also avenges us. He avenges us by destroying those things that plague us. Again one day the Bible makes it clear that He will destroy death and sin and Satan forever. We will be avenged. The wrath of God will fall not on us (even though we are certainly deserving because of our sins), but on Satan and on sin and on death. God’s word says that “the lake of fire is reserved for the devil and his angels.” Certainly we are redeemed now and one day we will be avenged, and God’s wrath will fall.

This passage goes even further than that however as it tells us that God our Father, after He rescues us and pulls us out of the pit of sin will crown us with steadfast love and mercy. The word crown means to surround. God will surround us with His love, a love that will never change. A love that is constant, and He will also give us His mercy. The Bible says “He lavishes His love on us.” God is the loving Father, who does that for us as His children, and He did it through His work on the cross on our behalf. To God be the glory.

The Power of ALL

Psalm 103:3 – “Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.”

The psalmist tells us not to “forget the benefits of God,” and then he makes it abundantly clear that those benefits are amazing. They are rich and they are unattainable unless they come from God Himself. Here God begins to reveal to us what some of those benefits are.

He forgives all our sins, and our iniquities. All of the words of this verse are extremely important but there is one that stands out and it is the word all. God doesn’t do anything half heartedly or half way, whatever He does, He does fully. In fact it was said of Jesus, “He has done all things well.” This is no exception. He forgives “all of our sin”. He has done it well and He has left no stone unturned. John Owen said that we are only aware of about 10% of our sins, but in reality God is aware of all of them. He has looked in every corner and every crevice of our lives. He has turned over every stone, He knows us far better than we even know ourselves. He knows all of our sins and even beyond that when we turn to Him in repentance and faith we are told that He forgives all of our sins. Which means our slates are wiped cleaned and when God looks upon us, He sees us as 100% forgiven. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of this fact. We are forgiven of all of our sins, past, present and future by the grace of God. If we were not forgiven then we would be condemned. But Jesus came in to the world, “not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” And that is exactly what happens when we turn to Him in repentance and faith. The benefits of God’s grace are amazing, they are mind blowing. Without His forgiveness we stand in condemnation on the road to hell, but with His grace we are saved, forgiven and being prepared to inherit the Kingdom of God.

His grace truly is amazing, through it we are forgiven of all of our sins, and through it we are healed of all of our diseases. This is a huge statement isn’t it? And in reality it could be a confusing statement, because when we look around we see people who are sick and who are struggling. Some of these people (maybe even us) are Christians, they are followers of Jesus, so when the psalmist says, “He heals all your diseases”, shouldn’t that include those people? The truth is it does. And yet all of us have seen disease (cancer, pneumonia, heart disease, or whatever else) come in and take away someone that we love and care about. So what about them, if God heals “all our diseases” why weren’t they healed? The truth of the matter is that they are. Right now they are healed, right now they are in a place where they are fully healed. Isaiah 25:8 tells us that one day “God will destroy death forever.” In other words death and disease and all of that will be destroyed, healing really will occur. Because of the grace of God death does not have the last word.

He really does “forgive us or ALL of our sins.” And He really does “heal us of ALL of our diseases.” Even the disease of death will one day be wiped. Jesus is victorious and we are “more than conquerors through Him we loved us.” To God be the glory!