At times suffering clouds our view of the limitless mercy of our God. Whether suffering results from our own poor choices, the unkindness of others or a source totally out of our control, we often feel abandoned by God, or worse, punished by God. Precipitated by my memorization of Psalm 103, I recently spent considerable time meditating on God’s mercy. Understanding the concept of God’s mercy is one thing, truly experiencing it, quite another thing altogether.
Psalm 103 is an exhortation to bless the Lord for His mercy and all twenty-two verses contain indisputable reasons aiding us in our pursuit. Psalm 103 stands as one of my treasured psalms read over and over; yet until I labored at memorizing it, the fullness of the psalm’s claims on God’s mercy never occurred to me. Lingering over each verse, God invited me to view my suffering past, present and future through each verse of this psalm, where I encountered the limitless mercy of our God.
a redemptive mercy
Familiar themes protrude from the first five verses of the psalm, and initially I contemplated memorizing only the “more well-known” verses of the psalm. From the beginning, however God impressed me include every verse. The blessing of obeying His directive brought depth to the psalm I previously squandered. God’s Word is alive, powerful and sharp enough to divide my soul and spirit and reveal the very thoughts and intents of my heart. (Hebrews 4:12) In memorizing this psalm I make a beginning only in plumbing the depth of the riches it offers! But allow me a moment to share the abundance I found so far.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from detruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The limitless mercy of our God speaks redemption in the first seven verses of the psalm in powerful language. From the forgiveness of all iniquities, healing of all diseases to the satisfying of our mouths with good things; providing every nutritious item needed that our youth and strength may be renewed. But God’s lavish provision ceases not with the abundance of those treasures. He redeems our lives from destruction; the Hebrew word used for destruction is shuach, meaning grave or pit. Literally redeeming us from death. Ultimately crowning or encircling us with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
The Lord’s mercy moves Him to intercede for all that are oppressed; we are not left to suffer unjustly. David blesses the Lord for His redemptive mercy as revealed to Moses and the stiff-necked, adulterous nation of Israel. Though they sinned against Him, the limitless mercy of our God preserved them, forgave them, healed them, redeemed them and nurtured them. In my suffering, whether self-inflicted through sin, or hastened by sources beyond my control, God’s mercy extends in the same way towards me.
a forgiving mercy
The overwhelming redemptive mercy of God in the first seven verses of Psalm 103, filled me with awe while inviting me into a deeper understanding of His love. Moving into the next seven verses, beginning with verse 8, reveals God is merciful; His mercy is intrinsic to His identity. He undoubtedly does acts of mercy, but here He reminds us He is mercy.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
The limitless mercy of our God overflows towards us in lavish forgiveness in verses 8-14. Though He has every right to judge us severely for our sin and rebelliousness, He opts instead to show mercy. The imagery David chooses as illustrations of the Lord’s immeasurable forgiveness entwined within His mercy in verses 11-12, both captivate and astonish our understanding.
David further deepens our illumination of the limitless mercy of our God, by equating the covenant God, Yahweh with a loving, compassionate father’s care of his children. A father who fully understands the weaknesses and limitations of his beloved children. God’s mercy is not only limitless, it flows from His heart of complete love and compassion for us.
an everlasting mercy
Traversing the third and final part of Psalm 103, took me beyond the limitless mercy of our God revealed in His gifts of redemption and forgiveness to the enduring nature of His everlasting mercy. Though I chose to express God’s mercy toward us found in Psalm 103 as if it was three separate “mercies”; I have but expressed three facets of His merciful kindness towards us, found in this Psalm.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto to children’s children;
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
Bless the LORD , ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.
Continuing his exhortation to bless the LORD for His mercy, David moves us toward the enduring nature of God’s mercy by comparing the fleeting nature of man’s life to the everlasting character of the limitless mercy of our God in verses 15-17. Convincing us God’s mercy is no fickle expression of a petulant God; happy and generous today, harsh and parsimonious another.
Further cementing the notion for us, David points out God’s throne and kingdom are established in the heavens, ruling over both heaven and earth. Evidenced by the exhortation for angels, heavenly hosts and all creation to bless the covenant God, Yahweh for the unsearchable riches of His everlasting mercy toward all.
the limitless mercy of our god
For as much as the limitless mercy of our God greeted me throughout Psalm 103, another theme pursued me. God’s covenant Name Yahweh is used throughout the psalm, making this an intimate encounter with the God of the universe, who spoke everything into being. Both the exhortation to bless the LORD for His mercy and the revelation of the depth of that mercy rests in the covenant relationship God has with His people.
God’s limitless mercy is offered to all who fear Him, walking in relationship with Him in obdience to His Word: those whom God knows intimately as His children, purchased by the blood of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The limitless mercy of our God beckons us into an intimate, redemptive relationship characterized by lavish forgiveness, covered in compassion and crowned with mercy from everlasting to everlasting.
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