More about hard issues

The Gospel According to the Psalms

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
     slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
     nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
     or repay us according to our iniquities.
—Psalm 103:8-10, NIV

It is a dangerous thing to pray for justice, because you might get it. It’s best to examine your life, and to become humble, and realize that in this kindergarten food-fight we call life, we have all been guilty of throwing mashed potatoes from time to time. Let us pray for God’s mercy instead; both for ourselves, and for others. For if you wish God to condemn the sinners who trouble you, how can you expect God to show mercy towards you, who are also a sinner?

As a father has compassion on his children,
     So the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
—Psalm 103:13, NIV

Well, maybe your father wasn’t particularly compassionate, but you get the idea. Would a perfect father show favoritism to one child and not the other? That’s what the Pharisees expected. They wanted Jesus to side with them and condemn the sinners; but Jesus treated everyone the same. God takes care of the wicked, by sending the rain on their crops just as he sends rain to water ours. God is patient and kind, extending his benefits to all, in order to reconcile them to Himself. There is a time of judgment, but it is not now. Do not try to rush God on this one; you may find yourself called to the bar with bad results. Jesus said that He will apply your own standards of justice against you, so be careful what you say, it will be used against you.

God deals with sinners as a father cares for delinquent children, extending to them every opportunity for obedience and reconciliation. Should we not comport ourselves the same way? Do not the children bear a resemblance to the father? Then if Jesus’ Father is merciful, and we are not merciful, then whose children are we?

As for man, his days are like grass;
     he flourishes like a flower of the field
—Psalm 103:15, NIV

We are tiny creatures in a huge and ancient universe. The span of our lives is but a short flicker of a very dim light. How can we possibly know what is good or evil in this life? Surely we can never make the right moral, ethical, or spiritual choices, because we are so easily confused and often mistaken. How can we possibly imagine that we could live righteous lives without outside help?

Any moral or ethical or spiritual system that does not depend upon an eternal being is doomed by the limitations of the creature who thought it up. I remember taking ethics in college. The professor openly despaired of finding a valid basis for ethics. There were too many possibilities, and they all had drawbacks.

Therefore rely upon the commandments of God in the conduct of your life. I admit it’s hard sometimes to figure out the sense of some of them. There are times when it seems very wimpy and unwise to love my enemies, for example. But I do not possess the eternal viewpoint of God. If I trust God, I will follow His ethics even if I can’t figure them out. God has no obligation to explain everything to me. Some day I will know all things, but now I only know in part. It would be foolish to withhold obedience. It’s foolish to live only by what we can see, when we can live by faith in one much wiser than we.

But from everlasting to everlasting
     the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
     and his righteousness with their children's children—
with those who keep his covenant
     and remember to obey his precepts.
—Psalm 103:17-18, NIV

Be not just hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word. Those who say “Lord, Lord” but do not obey His commandments will be cast out. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, especially since He does not impose them until after He has assured you of your salvation. Therefore in gratitude, certain of your eternal destiny, take up the yoke of His discipline and the burden of His commandments.

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Go into all the world, preach the gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, heal the sick…

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
     and his kingship rules over all.
—Psalm 103:19, NIV

Satanic powers do not control this world. That is an illusion Satan creates to deceive you. Satan is like a fraudulent home-improvement contractor. If you believe him, he can do much damage to your house and to your pocketbook, but that damage only comes because you give him your consent and you accept his dominion. As soon as you ask to see his business license and check him out with Consumer Affairs, he will flee.

Since God has always been in heaven, His throne has always been there as well. So whose throne is set in heaven? The throne of Jesus Christ (Acts 1).

…hearken to the voice of his word.
—Psalm 103:20, BCP translation

This is odd phrasing, since in normal usage words do not have voices, but are produced by voices. But Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. Hearken to the voice of God’s Word.