In the beginning of this Psalm we are challenged to “bless the LORD” as a response to our remembering the “benefits” of God. As we read through the remainder of the Psalm, the mercy of God comes to the forefront. Let us consider together the mercy of the God we worship.
The “precious truths” that are contained here should lift our souls in worship to the Lord. Our hearts should overflow with worship as we “bless the LORD.”
First we see how His mercy is manifested to us. David speaks of the reality and out pouring of God’s mercy as he states,
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8)
The mercy of God is rooted in His great love wherewith He loves us, but it is also displayed in His forgiveness. David most likely had Psalm 32 on his mind as he wrote these words.
“ He will not always chide [or contend / rebuke]: neither will He keep His anger [or hold a grudge] forever.” (Psalm 103:9)
God will not always contend with His people, or manifest His displeasure. The implication is that He does rebuke His people when they have sinned, but there does come an end to His rebuke. He mercifully forgives those who repent and He ceases from continuing to hold one’s sin against them.
God does not seek to bring us to ruin when we sin. He desires to restore us to the fellowship with Him that our sin had hindered. The wrath of God comes to an end at the necessary time. In speaking of God’s mercy toward the Israelites the Psalmist says,
“But He [God], being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” (Psalm 78:38-39)
As the Israelites were in the wilderness they kept sinning, experiencing the judgment of God, then repenting and God continued to forgive. Over the course of history they turned away from God, He judges them, they repented and He forgave them. In this we also see how patient the Lord is.
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10)
Notice that the mercy of God is undeserved. If God gave us what we deserved then we all would die but He mercifully gives us what we NEED.
In verses 11-18 we can see how God’s mercy is measured. The dimensions of God’s mercy are infinite.
“For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.” (Psalm 103:11)
David speaks of the infinite height of God’s mercy or its vertical dimension.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
Then David speaks of the infinite width of God’s mercy or its horizontal dimension.
Consider the words of commentator John Phillips as he states, “So we take a point on earth and draw a line vertically into infinity. We also draw a line horizontally into infinity—“so far hath He removed our sins from us.” There is a point on this planet where those two infinite lines intersect—the point is Calvary! We draw all our lines from the cross. The upright of the cross, driven like a stake into the ground, is where we begin our vertical line. We extend it up into infinity. The crossbar of the tree, flung wide as though to embrace the world, is where we begin our horizontal line into infinity. That is how the Lord measures His mercy—in terms of the cross.” (Exploring Psalms Volume Two, pg. 128)
The dimensions of the mercy of God are such that it can meet the greatest need of mankind—our need for salvation.
“Like as a father pitieth [is compassionate toward] his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)
The dimension of God’s mercy is also seen in its depth. David illustrates it for us with a father’s natural love for his own children. Our heavenly Father has shown the depth of His mercy in sending His Son to pay sins penalty. Here we see the tenderness of a loving Father as He provides for the needs of His children. Such amazing love!
“For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
God knows us (Psalm 139:1-6)! He knows what we NEED and He responds by providing for them (Philippians 4:19).
The duration of the mercy of God is infinite as well.
“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.” (Psalm 103:15-16)
Consider man’s mercy. David compares us to a dandelion which may seem full at one moment and then the next be completely empty. The wind comes and removes its short-lived beauty and soon thereafter even the plant itself is no more. Often this is the extent of our mercy just like the brevity of our own lives.
“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:17-18)
Thankfully God’s mercy is infinitely different—His mercy does not end. In comparison to God, man doesn’t even live for hardly a moment. The only reason that it may seem like a long time is because of perspective. To us, who can’t fathom eternity, it is a lifetime and therefore that is all we know. But God exists outside of time and His eternal greatness so far exceeds us that our moment of life hardly seems to exists. Often this is the length of our mercy as well.
Charles Spurgeon wrote these words, “How vast the contrast between the fading flower and the everlasting God! How wonderful that His mercy should link our frailty with His eternity, and make us everlasting too!” (The Treasury of David)
As you meditate upon these precious truths of God’s mercy can you help but break out in praise to the Lord?
“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:” (Psalm 103:1-2)