Psalm 103:3-13 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
A woman, searching for a job, inquired about the benefits. The Personnel Manager informed her they had group health and life insurance, but the costs were deducted from the employee’s pay. She said, “My last employer had full health coverage, as well as five years’ salary for life insurance and a month’s sick leave AND they paid the full premiums.” “I can’t help but asking madam why you would leave a job with such benefits,” the interviewer replied. The woman shrugged her shoulders and said, “The company went bankrupt.” J
I am glad this morning that God never goes bankrupt, that He is forever all-sufficient, and that He is never depleted of the resources He promises to give us and that His love is unending.
Psalm 103 tells us that God’s love is comprehensive. He forgives sins which means His love for us impacts us spiritually. He heals our diseases which means His love for us impacts us physically. He satisfies our desires with good things which means His love for us impacts us emotionally. There are people who will pick and choose what to love about you, and you can tell when they don’t love you fully. God’s love isn’t like that. He takes us with spiritual flaws, physical imperfections and emotional baggage! That is a comprehensive, extreme love!
As I look at this passage I see at least five benefits that flow out of God’s extreme love for us.
God’s Extreme Love Relieves Suffering. One of the state job descriptions of Jesus was to relieve suffering; to proclaim freedom to the captives (Is. 61:1). The Psalmist says it this way in Psalm 103:6: “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” One way God expresses His love to us is in relieving us in our suffering. I didn’t say He always removes our suffering. Sometimes He brings us relief in our suffering. But make no mistake. He does hear the cry of His people.
People who love us extremely want to know when we are hurting. They don’t mind listening to us share our pain. Our Heavenly Father is that way. Scripture reveals the action of God because of the compassion of God when it comes to hearing the cries of His people. Do you remember the “ze’akah” cry, the cry of the Hebrews when they were enslaved in Egypt? This wasn’t a cry from a people who simply wanted an easy life. They had NO life. They were being unjustly treated. They were being abused. They were enslaved. They couldn’t do anything about their circumstances to make them any better.
Some people are suffering because of choice they have made, and many of those same people can get out of their suffering by making different choices. While God is still concerned about those people, His concern takes a different tone when the suffering isn’t just the result of selfishness and stupid disobedience. He gets fired up when there is injustice going on. The Hebrews cried out, and it was the kind of groaning and wailing that moved the heart of God. God came down and raised Moses up to deliver His people.
When you are suffering, God WILL demonstrate His love for you and bring about help and deliverance for you. “Call upon ME in the day of trouble and I WILL answer and deliver you from all your troubles.” (Psalm 107:13) “I love the LORD, for He heard my voice. He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)
God often sent angels to comfort His people in the midst of their suffering. Angels ministered to Jesus when He began His earthly ministry after being tempted by Satan in the desert. Jesus had fasted for 40 days and nights. He was weak. He had battled Satan. He was weak in His body and spirit, and angels came and ministered to Him. Again, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew He was facing crucifixion shortly. He was wrestling in His spirit. It was difficult to work through the process of surrender to the plan of the cross. It was a time of torment for Jesus, but there was again an angel sent to give Him strength. God was comforting Jesus IN HIS SUFFERING to prepare Him to suffer even more.
The kind of relief God brings through His love is the relief that is needed in order to continue to persevere even when we face trials. We will experience suffering just because we are in this world. The kind of suffering, however, that God allows us to endure is suffering with a purpose, suffering with a plan, and suffering with the promise that God will always be with us and see us through. That is an extreme love; a love that will never leave us, no matter what!
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. In love, God will relieve our suffering in a way that will be for His glory, our good, and the good of those around us.
God’s Extreme Love is Revealed in Relationship with His People
“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7) The God of the Universe wants to know us, and He wants us to know Him. He wants to teach us and reveal His plans for our lives. He wants to be in a relationship with us. Though none of us is worthy to be in His presence, through His extreme work by sending Jesus to die for our sins on the cross, He was making a way for us to be involved with Him and Him with us in an intimate and unbroken way.
The fact that God wants to talk with us, be involved with us, and use us as He did Moses, is incredible. You only share hopes, dreams and plans with people you love. You only choose to be in friendships with people you are drawn to with love. That is how God feels about us.
He has special information for each one of us about His plans for us and He wants to reveal them to us through our ongoing relationship with Him. He isn’t going to tell us today what our lives are supposed to look like for the next 30 years because He wants to walk alongside us as we pursue each day. If God told you everything you needed to know about your life right now you would have no reason to be in a daily relationship with Him. It’s more than just getting information from God, but it’s about an ongoing experience with God. God loves you so much that He doesn’t just want to tell you what His hopes and dreams are, but He wants to be there every step of the way to watch you fulfill them and He wants to be there to guide you in the ways that you will fulfill them. It’s not just about finding a path, but it’s about finding a PERSON! “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek ME and find ME when you seek me with all your heart.
God has revealed Himself in Creation. We see intelligence, creativity and power in the creation of rivers, seas, land, the atmosphere, animals, plants, and people. In addition to all of those attributes revealed by God through creation, when I look out at this audience I see His amazing sense of humor. J Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
God reveals Himself through our conscience as the Holy Spirit guides us to understand that we all are broken. We all are sinners. We all are searching for answers and our conscience which convicts us of right and wrong is a way God reveals Himself to us.
Romans 2:14-15 tell us that God has given us the ability to know what is right and wrong apart from human laws that have been established.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. His love is on display, the right way to live is modeled, the way to salvation, it is all spelled out in a five letter word, J-E-S-U-S.
God also reveals Himself to us in the pages of Scripture. Everything we need to know about God and how to live life is in the pages of the Bible. Perhaps you have heard the acronym for B-I-B-L-E. Some have suggested it stands for Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. The Bible is our roadmap, and it will keep us from such much heartbreak if we will internalize the principles in God’s Word. God had people write it under His inspiration because He wanted us to know Him.
God’s Extreme Love Refrains from Anger
Psalm 103:8ff “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;”
Think about it with me for a minute. The only people God has to deal with are sinners. God has no equal. You and I may gravitate towards people who are like us with similar interests and backgrounds. The only relationships God has are with sinful, offensive people. He could choose to be angry 24/7 and with great intensity, yet He isn’t easily angered. He doesn’t come to us to beat us down in anger, but to lift us up in love. God wants to rescue us from sin and ourselves. We would never see any hope if God just shamed us and yelled at us for all the sins we have committed. No, in His love, grace and mercy, He comes to us to show us a better way. Angry people abuse people. Loving people lift people. God is loving. He refrains from anger so we have hope. He refrains from anger so we can see possibilities for a different life rather than a life of sin.
It takes a very patient person to refrain from anger. When you see someone do the same dumb thing over and over and over again it is hard not to become angry. Why people perpetuate brokenness when there is a better way is SO hard to understand. We easily get mad and write people off. God refrains from anger because anger between people creates distance. God wants to get as close to us as possible. Anger separates, but LOVE comes close.
Don’t misunderstand. God is a God of justice as well as being a God of love. He doesn’t tolerate sin forever. Once we have experienced the truth and know the truth God expects us to live by the truth, and He will bring about the loving correction necessary to make sure we stay on track, but there is a gentleness, a kindness, a slowness with which God works with us which reveals how patient His love is toward us.
God wants every one of you to be in relationship with Him this morning. Some of you aren’t. You may have a relationship with the church, but you don’t have a relationship with Him. You may have a relationship with people in the church, but you don’t have a relationship with Him. He is tenderly pulling at your heart and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him. He isn’t mad at you. He is in love with you and is just waiting for you to reciprocate the feeling through faith!
God’s Extreme Love Removes our Sin
Psalm 103:3 says God forgives all of our sins. The word “forgive” here is from the Greek charizomai and is built on the same root as the word “grace”. Grace means that though we deserve death for our sins, we get the opposite. God gives us life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor Tom Holladay tells the story meeting a young woman who had grown up in a home with a mentally ill father. He was heartless, hurtful, and abusive. If that wasn’t enough, in his mental state, her father killed her mother taking away the one caring parent she had. Later this young woman came to know Jesus Christ and began a personal relationship with Him. She talked gratefully of her loving Heavenly Father.
Tom asked her, “How did you ever come to the point where you could accept your Heavenly Father when you had such a terrible example of an earthly father?”
The young woman’s answer was profound, “My earthly father took away from me something no one deserved to have taken away. But my Heavenly Father gave me something that no one deserves to ever have given to them: His own Son, Jesus, who died on a cross so that I could be forgiven and live eternally.” [paraphrased] (http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/dancing-with-the-father-paul-newell-sermon-on-descriptions-of-god-59506.asp?page=0)
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And through the death of Christ, the extreme sacrifice of His blood, we can experience forgiveness for everything we have ever done, are doing and will ever do.
God not only forgives our sin, but He forgets about our sin. Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” That means He doesn’t count our sins against us. He only sees us as righteous because we wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
There is a story about a young boy who had grown up in a rural setting a hundred years ago. Most of the year this young boy had drifted carelessly along, not putting much effort in his school work. But in midwinter some kind words from his teacher roused him to take a new start, and he became a different student and begin making up for past faults in his work. At the final examination he passed with a high grade to the great joy and pride of his mother and father.
At year end the parents were present for the graduation ceremony to the next grade. But the copy-books – some of you may remember copy-books, those books which included all daily school work – those copy-books used through the year were all laid on a table for the visitors to look at; and the boy remembered that his copy-book, well done in its latter pages, had been a dreary mass of blots and bad work before. He watched his mother as she began looking over those books, and his heart was sick at the disappointment she was about to feel when she saw the poor work he had done in the past.
But she seemed, to the boy’s great surprise, quite pleased with what she saw and called his father to look with her. Afterward the young boy rushed over to the table where his copy-books laid and, upon opening them, found that his teacher had thoughtfully and thoroughly torn out all those bad, blotted pages and made his copy-books begin where he had started to do better. To all who would forsake sin, God offers the same – a new chance and promises to blot out all old sin and make the record begin with a new start – a clean slate (http://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=49561)
Does anyone here this morning need a fresh start? Fall into the love of God. It is a pool of forgiveness and cleansing for a new life.
God’s Extreme Love Remembers our Frailty
Psalm 103:13-14 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him14 for he knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.” God’s love and compassion are inseparable.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw (from beginning to 5:14)
“Stop it.” I am afraid that is the message the world hears from the church. “Stop it.” In our own power we are powerless to stop anything and to start doing anything that even remotely resembles righteousness. It’s impossible. So, God comes to us in love to empower us through His love because we are so weak.
So many people think God expects us to become presentable to Him before He can love us, that He expects that we be perfect in order for Him to love us and for us to be able to love Him back. That is a works righteousness that doesn’t work. There are things God wants us to stop doing because they damage us physically and emotionally. They keep us from embracing the life of Christ, and they hurt our relationships and our relationship with God. But He doesn’t just come to us and say, “Stop it.” He stoops down and says, “Let me show you a better way.” “Let me empower you with my Holy Spirit to make a change.” “Let me deliver you from addictions and bondages.” “Let me love you to wholeness and holiness.” “Follow me, and I will lead you out of the hole you are in.” “I know you are weak, but I am so strong.” “Abide in me, and I will abide in you and I will make everything possible for you if you trust Me and obey Me.”
Do you know the benefits of God’s love this morning? Do you need Him to relieve suffering in your life? Do you desire for Him to reveal His plans through your relationship with Him? Do you realize today for the first time that it is safe to get close to God? He isn’t mad at you more than He is in love with you? Do you need your sins removed? Are you feeling fragile and frail and powerless to make the changes you need to make now that you are walking with God? Let His Spirit come to you and fill you and empower you to walk in newness of life so that your outside life matches the newness on the inside. Come take advantage of all the benefits of God’s love.