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”.