This will be a long post about my “stream of consciousness” attempt at sermonizing Psalm 103. Stated succinctly, Psalm 103 adds to the good understanding that we have been building about God from Exodus.
I began Sunday’s sermon with a joke. A man’s daughter returned to elementary school after the both of them went to the doctor’s. Looking up from the doctor’s excuse slip, the teacher asks the little girl if everything was OK and if she felt alright. The girl bluntly said, “I wasn’t feeling very good – and then the doctor gave me a shot! But, ya know what? The doctor gave my daddy two shots and that made me feel MUCH better!
That went OK to introduce the Theme of Psalm 103 … God’s everlasting mercy upon those that fear Him, but that’s when my stream of consciousness began to explain the story line of Disney’s Monsters Inc. The fatal flaw was in trying to remember the name of the little girl who invaded the Monsters world and bonded with Sully… the “father-figure” in the movie. I wonder, can my younger audience EVER forgive me!? I later discovered that the girl’s name was simply “Boo!” (not Pooh Bear or something like that!)
Anyway, it’s not Father’s Day but I received a belated card today, so my thoughts on Father’s Day… written today… are still OK. A friend and trusted adviser, WWII vet, and an all-around good man passed away on Father’s Day. His funeral is today. Ferris Woleben, 95, formerly from Portland, is now in Heaven with his Savior and his Sweetie, Nina. Any picture of a loving father will include the freeze-frame of Sully from Monsters Inc evaluating his performance in “roar face” mode AND of patient Ferris (foster father for 70 plus children). Father’s day would not be complete without thanking my own, excellent father AND considering the message of Psalm 103:13.
We are all prone to feel disquieted and depressed in spirit, when our fervor for things of the faith needs “refreshing.” This psalm is one of David’s personal pep-talks. (Like pulling the choke to start the saw.) David recognized his own spiritual ebb & flow, that his praise had been quieted, his exuberance quashed, his religious feeling repressed and his enthusiasm for the things of God, relinquished for distraction. He needed revival in his soul to sound forth praise upwards. The choruses we sang on Sunday are contemporary versions of David’s approach (Ten Thousand Reasons & How Great is our God). No prayers, no requests, no petitions – just personal reflections and promptings worthy of the ONE you’re praising. (The Doxology fits this form as well.) Pure fuel for getting the motor running.
Mercy is central (vss. 8, 13 & 17), all-important. But, interestingly, God’s mercy is directed. By this I am saying that it is NOT indiscriminate. A family member who’s been warned about the consequences of their irresponsibility and blows caution to the wind may, in fact, find themselves looking up from the hole they dug for themselves with NO ONE to pull them out. Guess what?! That’s not necessarily mommy or daddy’s problem. Mercy may dry up and it in NO WAY reflects negatively on parents or on God! It is a twisted world we live in to think that irresponsible teens and young adults can make their parents feel bad, or look bad, for not bailing them out time after time. Mercy runs free, however, to those who fear God. Mercy emanates from the concern of God who KNOWS “our frame.” God, who formed us, as one Psalm says, knows our constitution because he created us and we are made in His own Image. He knows what we’re missing and what we’re made of. He knows human boundaries and meets that with boundless mercy. He is like as a father pitying his children.
What’s most interesting about this Psalm is how David couches the complete picture of a man’s redemption into the package of benefits (presumably for one who is rightly related to the Father).
1. Forgiveness from God: Though we all would prefer to be the envy of our peers (we would much rather be envied than pitied), we ALL need God’s mercy in this way.
2. Healing: the process whereby the ugly stain of sin is removed and gives way to restoration.
3. Redeemed: from the pit (destruction)… this is the picture of Exodus deliverance. He took me up from the miry pit and set my feet on a rock of salvation.
4. Crowned: Spurgeon illustrated this point by contrasting the rigid, cold metal crown with the silken lining of lovingkindness and tender mercies.
5. Satisfied: God satisfies the mouth with good things so that your youth is restored like the eagle’s. This verse is most truly illustrated, not in taste tests of gourmet desserts, but, rather, in the experience of those who are going through some of life’s most difficult circumstances. One patient (who needs to eat more to gain strength) said this: “I’d like to eat more, … if I could stand how bad the stuff tastes in my mouth.” This poor man wasn’t complaining about the cafeteria food or the poor quality of meals, but relenting the taste left when you’re taking all kinds of medication and NOTHING sounds good cause nothing tastes good. David says, God mercy fixes that kind of thing!
Any person, facing real life (for themselves or with concern for another) knows how powerful a reflection on the complete process of saving grace and forgiving mercy is found in this Psalm. May we be found among those that fear Him.