The Benefit Package, continued

by Scott Brooks

Psalm 103

III. LOYAL LOVE / COMPASSION

A. V6-8: The psalmist has begun to show us how to praise by telling us the benefits we receive from God. He does not stop there, but moves onto the character of God. Let’s read V6-8. V7-8 actually go together. In V7, David was referring to the time Moses went up to the mountain the second time after he had broken the 10 commandments in anger because the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf they had made while he was gone up on the mountain. God was also mad and killed 3,000 people. This second trip was prompted because Moses had asked that God would teach Moses His ways. This is what God taught Moses. Let’s read V4-7. David quotes this verse out of Exodus 34:6 verbatim. His purpose is to remind us of how God described himself.

God also defined Himself as compassionate and gracious, literally, “One who restrains anger and acts kindly”. James Mays writes “[Compassion]appears in contexts that involve human sin and divine anger and the resolution of God’s forgiveness…the dominant inclination to forgiveness in the face of sin.” (James Mays pg 328). This is God describing Himself. Moses had come to God requesting to be taught by God himself. And God taught Him this, “I am Lord, and I am compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” That is who I am.

God also said he was abounding in love or Hesed. This word is all over the Old Testament. Hesed, if you remember, is a loyal love and kindness. One writer explains, “To do hesed is to do the best in and make the best of a relationship. Essential goodness beyond all others.” (James Mays pg 328).

ILL: RICH MULLINS pg 61

B. V9-12: In V9-12 David starts to describe what God’s mercy, grace, slow to anger, and abounding in stedfast love look like. This steadfast love really is what drives the rest of the Psalm in V4, in V11, V13, twice, and V17. What does it look like?

He will not always chide Nor will He keep His anger forever: Some people have a view of God as this angry God. Hell-fire. Brimstone. Like God is the cosmic rage ready to destroy any who step out of line. The whole point David is making is God is this steadfast love kind of God. But it should be said that God does get angry at sin. There is such a thing as God’s discipline.

Chapter 12 in the book of Hebrews talks about discipline. Chiding is the old fashion word for discipline. Discipline for sin and rebellion is difficult. It’s not fun. I never did enjoy it when my parents disciplined me. But Hebrews says God’s chiding, disciplining, His anger at our sin is not random. It has purpose. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Heb 12:10-11 And when He’s done He moves on. He doesn’t stay there.

Sin: In fact, in light of the choices that we make to sin, David says, “He will not always accuse, He does not treat us as our sins deserve, does not repay according to our iniquities, as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Our God has a loyal love and compassion. Remember the definition: Compassion is “the inclination towards forgiveness in the face of sin.”

ILL: There was a famous photograph taken in 1972 during the Vietnam war of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc (pronounced fuke), naked and horribly burned, running from a napalm attack. John Plummer, a minister of Bethany United Methodist church in Purcellville, was responsible for setting up the air strike on the village of Trang Bang–a strike approved after he was twice assured there were no civilians in the area. In June of 1996, he learned that Kim Phuc was not only alive but living in Toronto. Plummer found out she was speaking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and went to hear her. As Kim Phuc addressed the crowd, she said that if she ever met the pilot of the plane she would tell him she forgives him and that they cannot change the past but she hoped they could work together in the future. Plummer was able to get word to Kim Phuc that the man she wanted to meet was there. “She saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow,” Plummer wrote in an article in the Virginia Advocate. “She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was, ‘I’m sorry; I’m so sorry,’ over and over again. At the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right; it’s all right; I forgive; I forgive.’ ” Plummer learned that Kim Phuc became a Christian in 1982.

Every person who hears that story knows that on any given day we’re John Plummer in desperate need of forgiveness. What kind of God do we really serve? G.K. Chesterton called this kind of forgiveness, “the furious love of God.” We deserve to be accused but God has compassion and will give us grace. We deserve the anger of God but God has loyal love and He won’t be angry at us for very long. We sin against God but God has grace and won’t treat us as our sins deserve. I can give great definitions of hesed and compassion and they look great on paper but God’s love is not a thing of paper and video, it is real and reckless.

His love forgives me and forgives you. And it’s higher than the heavens are above the earth. O praise the Lord O my soul! With all I have I praise the Lord.

IV. Fear, Temporary, Obedience

V13-18 In v13, David shifts to another expression of God’s stedfast love. He gives it to those who fear him. This is the second of three occurrences of the word fear. There are two ways to look at fear, ONE is born out of apprehension of punishment for sins committed against God and the other is out of a desire not to offend Him because of how much a person loves Him. His compassion is directed towards those who are his children and who fear Him. What does that compassion look like? David goes on to illustrate in the next few verses. Let’s read V14-16.

Temporary: This is a pretty grim picture. The flower grows relatively quickly; a strong wind comes out of nowhere and blows it over and that’s it. Nobody remembers the flower that was there. That is our life. No one can escape it. People try to. We are up against a clock that is ticking. Everyone of us is facing death at some time or another. There was a great illustration of it the night the Cavs won the championship. The NBA just named the MVP trophy after Bill Russel. So Bill Russel is up on the stage standing next to Lebron James. People are starting to say that Lebron could very well be the greatest player to ever play. Keep in mind that Bill Russel won 11 championships in 13 seasons as a Celtic. But right now not just Lebron, but every player in the NBA would destroy the elder Russel. And two generations never saw Bill ever play. The young model will one day grow old and no longer attract attention. The strong leader will one day be replaced and the company or church will never look back.

There’s a story told of Winston Churchill when he was attending a dinner party. He turned to a young woman, the daughter of a former prime minister, and asked her, “How old are you?” “Nineteen,” she said. “And I,” said Churchill despairingly, “am 32 already. (He was the Prime Minister at 32. I could barely lead a church of 130 people at 32. This guy was running a country.) Older than anyone else who counts, though.” He then launched into an impromptu commentary on this Psalm 103: “Curse our mortality! Curse ruthless time. How cruelly short in the allotted span for all we must cram into it. We are worms, all worms.” And then with a confidence in his own transcendent unique Churchill way said, “But I do believe I am a glowworm.” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping pg 108)

Everything that is within us wants to fight against aging. Bodies breaking down. Seeing time fly by. Watching people die and be forgotten or replaced or leave a hole in our heart. Not able to think like we used to, engage like we used to, be physically active like we used. It can be depressing, discouraging, despairing, defeating…

But God, on the other hand, is well aware of how temporary we are and how frightening it is. He knows how scary it can be. He’s with us in those quiet and lonely moments when it all hits us how fragile life is. He knows the sorrow watching our loved ones die too young or die at all. He knows the crushing weight that we can feel when we age so quickly and see the end coming. You see Winston Churchill may have been a glowworm but he still died. But look what David says next in V17-19.

Permanence and Something to Live For: God, in his wonderful compassion, sends us himself and roots us in Himself. The Spirit whispers to our spirit everlasting, everlasting permanence, eternity. Don’t you love that. It’s in the middle of those very moments of feeling temporary that He so lovingly reminds us how permanent He is and that there is something to live for that will never age or fade with time. How His kingdom is far above it all. Higher and greater and nothing, not even the momentary life we live can assault that kingdom.

Many of you may not know Gladys Wilson. She was the oldest member of our church. She is 99 years old and near death. I sat in her room thinking of this passage. 99 years flew by. Gone in a flash. And I kept wondering what it would be like to be that close to Heaven where your next breath would be in Heaven. God was right there saying, “My love is here. She is going to see my throne. She is going to see the eternal kingdom waiting for her.”

CONCLUSION

V19-22: In verse 20, David begins to draw the Psalm to a close by writing with conviction. We praise Him for His love and compassion but even if we never tasted His love and compassion as king He is still worthy of our praise. He is the one we obey and depend on. He is king over all. And in the next three verses, David invoked the entire creation to praise the Lord; the angels, the heavenly hosts, us as servants, all of his works. The invocation suggests that even though all of us may join together in praise it still won’t be enough praise. Our God is that wonderful. This psalm is not about a systematic formula for praising God. It is about an author who sat down with his pen and poured out his heart and calls anyone who reads it come on and Praise the Lord. Praise Him with everything you’ve got. Remember what He’s done for you.