God relates to us in many ways, but no title represents His love and faithfulness for us as well as “Father.” While everyone may not have the blessing of a loving, earthly father; our God, Yahweh, longs to be the Father of all who will receive Him. God is presented as Father in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus addressed God as his Father (Matt.11:25) and instructs his followers to address God as Father as well (Matt. 6:5-15). In Psalm 103, David presents Yahweh as Father by praising Him for all his benefits and His mercy.
God’s care for us is inexhaustible. David mentions at least five different benefits from our Father in verses 3 – 5. In verse 3, we find forgiveness and healing. Forgiveness is the first and primary provision for us. All earthly blessings we enjoy are of little value without the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Our healing, physical and spiritual, is a wonderful example of God’s complete care for us and we are to praise Him for all healing we experience. In verse 4, we see redemption and exaltation. David says God has “redeemed us from the pit.” Redeem means to “buy back,” or “deliver” while the pit refers to the grave. David is saying that Yahweh has rescued us from death and the grave. He goes on to say that we are “crowned with faithful love and compassion.” The word “crown” implies that we are given an important position such as royalty (Rev. 1:6). God’s love doesn’t only rescue us from the death we deserve, but His love exalts us to a position we do not deserve. In verse 5, we see our restoration. In Psalm 23:3, David said that God “restores my soul.” Through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, our heavenly Father can restore and renew us because “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Because we are His children, we experience the spiritual blessing of God’s unconditional love. David assures us that this is not because of our goodness but because of God’s compassion and grace and because He is “slow to anger” and “rich in faithful love” (vs. 8). His love for us is as “high as the heavens are above the earth” (vs. 11). While we will receive chastisement and correction for sin (Heb. 12:6), God does not give us the punishment we truly deserve (vs. 10). Verse 12 tells us that our sins are forever and infinitely removed from us. God has separated the sin and the sinner in order to show love to us and punish our sins separately without condemning us to Hell. We know that the reason for this mercy is that Jesus bore our sins and was punished in our place at the cross (Isa. 53:5).
God gives us wonderful benefits and extends unconditional love to us, but this would be of little comfort if God were not true and unchanging. What if God changed His mind? We can be assured that He never will because of His eternal, unchanging promises. Verse 17 tells us that God’s love is faithful to us from eternity to eternity. This is amazing when considered in light of verses 15 and 16 which tells us how small and fleeting our human lives are. The eternal, unchanging God is faithful through all ages to small, insignificant people like us! I can be sure of God’s benefits tomorrow because of His truthfulness today.
It is easy to take the blessings of God for granted and even overlook them, but David charges us to “forget not” the many material and spiritual blessings that God has given us. We should remember the blessings of the past, enjoy the blessings of today, and be assured of the blessings of tomorrow.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, December 4, 2012.
Have you ever been discouraged? Has it ever seemed that God hasn’t kept a promise? Have you ever suffered for following God’s plan? You aren’t the first to feel this way. In Exodus 6:2-8, we find God confronting a discouraged Moses. Moses has just appeared before Pharaoh and not only did he not succeed in gaining Israel’s freedom, he actually made their working conditions worse! They now have to gather their own straw for bricks and continue the same level of productivity. Moses has upset both Pharaoh and the Israelite foremen. Moses is understandably discouraged, but God encourages Moses with divine promises of deliverance.
God first reminds Moses who He is: “I am Yahweh.” God is revealing Himself to Moses with His personal, covenant name. This is the name that represents God’s personal dealings in the affairs of the Israelites. The divine name, Yahweh, is closely related to the Hebrew word “hawyah”, meaning “to be.” He is “I AM,” the only self-existent God whose promises are bound up in His true and eternal nature. God then recalls the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them a great nation of descendants and the land of Canaan as a possession. God tells Moses to remind the Israelites that He is Yahweh, then He gives Abraham seven “I will” promises to give to the Israelites: I will deliver you, I will free you, I will redeem you, I will take you as my people, I will be your God, I will bring you to the land, and I will give it to you (vs. 6-8). God gives His people two, short statements for comfort “I AM” and “I will.” He is saying “I am God, and I will keep my promises!”
We now fast-forward to chapter 15. God has just given Israel victory over the Egyptians who had enslaved them for 400 years. The Israelites are now standing on the shore of the Red Sea after walking through on dry ground. Pharaoh and the Egyptian army are drowned in the sea. Israel is free for the first time in 400 years. This generation had never known anything but slavery and oppression and God has just delivered them. God has kept His promises! It is time to celebrate and that is exactly what the Israelites are doing. Chapter 15 records their victory song.
In verse 15:1, Moses and the Israelites give the reason for their praise (vs. 1); they are singing because of the victory that God has given them. Israel also recognizes that God is their salvation (vs. 2). They were not delivered by an army or their own strength, but by a miraculous act of God. Israel also does something very significant in this passage; they acknowledge Yahweh not only as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but also as their personal Lord and God. Israel is making a public, personal, and national commitment to God! In 15:11, Israel publicly acknowledges that Yahweh is unique and exclusive: there is none other like Him. The false gods of the Egyptians are seen as weak and powerless against the backdrop of Yahweh’s majesty and holiness.
Perhaps you have been discouraged like Moses when it seemed that your best efforts had failed. Or perhaps you’ve been angry like the Israelite foremen when following God’s plan seemed to land you in more trouble than you were in to start with. These are not times to give up, but rather they are times we should recall God’s promises and remember those two phrases “I AM” and “I will.” God never changes and God never breaks a promise.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, November 27, 2012.