I was reading this morning and Psalm 103 and I was struck by a section of the passage. It began in verse 10.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgression from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. … 17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s generation, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.Psalm 103:10-14, 17-18 ESV
What I found interesting about this passage is the way in which the author relates God’s dealing with us is the reason for the way he deals with us. In verse 10 he says, “he does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” What I find interesting is that too often in the church we believe that God is punishing us because of our sin. And to some degree that’s correct, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There is something else at work that the psalmist is trying to teach us.
God is interested in doing more than merely punishing people. A good father disciplines his children. We see that in Scripture. But there is something else that God is after as it relates to our relationship with him. And what is that? God desires for us to have a relationship with him.
God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins or iniquities because, according to verse 14, “he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust.” God is not blind nor is he ignorant to who we are or what we are. This should not only give us comfort but it should remind us that there is something beyond our failures that God is interested in. What is that? It is our relationship with him. I want to repeat this point because I think it’s too often misunderstood or left unsaid.
One of the implications of this passage is that if we do not relate to God as he desires then there is a sense in which our sin and our iniquities and our frame and the fact that we are dust will have consequences on our lives. But if we relate to God as he desires, if we understand what is at stake and what it is that we’re supposed to be doing, then it becomes easier for us to not fear God in terror but to fear God in reverence.
Several times in the passage we see what it is that God is looking for, as a way of knowing that we understand what he is looking for.
In verse 11 we see him say that his steadfast love toward us is “toward those who fear him.”
In verse 13 it says that the Lord shows compassion “to those who fear him.”
In verse 17 the “steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.”
And then in verse 18, we see that this everlasting love is “to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.”
What can we learn from this? I think we can learn that we tend to put expectations upon ourselves about what God desires from us and for us that may not be consistent with who he is what he has said.
I think this is a healthy reminder as we begin the new year.