Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Psalm 103:8-13 God as Compassionate Father

KEY TEXT: Psalms 103:8-13 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

KEY THOT: The God of the OT is also the God of the NT: He has not changed. What has changed is the way He chooses to deal with us sinners. As in the NT, the God in the OT is revealed as a merciful and gracious God who is slow to anger, overflowing with unconditional love for Israel. Like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), He has treated Israel with compassion. God has not changed as we move from the OT to the NT dispensation. In the OT He dealt with Israel according to the Law. The Law was given to bring blessings to the nation of Israel: 

  • Deuteronomy 6:1-3 Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

But Israel failed to keep the Law because of the weakness of their flesh. So the Law became a curse instead of a blessing, bringing severe judgment upon Israel. But God in His mercy and compassion promised Israel another chance to return to Him--and this time through a new and better covenant--the covenant of grace through Christ: "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-4). So instead of the Law, God has now given us His Spirit to empower us to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law--but without the Law's power to condemn us.

Through the new covenant, God offers Israel a second chance for them to return back to Him by removing the Law and the resulting sins that condemn them: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (vv.11-12). So, the new covenant is enacted because the Lord wants Israel back in His arms. God's attitude towards Israel did not change under the new covenant--only his method of dealing with them has. He made it easier for Israel to stay in fellowship with Him by replacing the Law with Christ. The Law has brought condemnation and curse instead of freedom and blessing because of the weakness of the flesh. By putting an end to the Law in Christ, Israel is no longer condemned by it: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

But Israel as a nation rejected Christ and His grace, for they were so accustomed to seeking righteousness through the works of the Law they failed to grasp God's grace. Nevertheless, some did and they laid the foundation for the Church as apostles and prophets: "So then you (Gentiles) are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the (Jewish) foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20). So, we Gentile believers stand on the foundation established by the Jewish church in Jerusalem. 

The goal of both the old covenant and the new covenant is the same--that God may have a people who is holy and who love Him with all their hearts, minds, souls and bodies.

Abba-Father, thank You that You never changed: You have always been merciful and gracious Father who deals with us with compassion. You have made it easier for us to be restored to You through the Blood of Your Son. May we remain ever grateful for Your grace shown us through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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