On the occasions – all too rare these days – when there is a serious conversation about God, the discussion focuses on what we might think of God. Dr. Benjamin Jowett was at one time Master of Balliol College, Oxford, England. He was renowned for his sharp mind and rapier-like wit.
On one occasion, at dinner at the high table, he was asked his opinion about God. He responded, “I think it would be a great impertinence were I to express my opinion about God. The only constant anxiety of my life is to know what is God’s opinion of me.”
With these thoughts in mind, it is helpful to turn to Psalm 103 which begins, Bless the Lord, O my soul…
It is a psalm of David, one he seems to have written for the great choir that he had set up in Jerusalem. From the beginning, he focuses on his thankfulness to God for his many blessings, something we so easily overlook in the busyness of life. We take so much for granted.
What is interesting in this psalm is that David did not go on to list all the specific things God had done for him. Rather he focused on features of God’s character, features that I can only lightly touch on here – God’s mercy, God’s goodness and His awesome power.
God’s mercy: God will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever (v.9). Martin Luther once commented, ‘Wrath is God’s strange work.’ Anger is alien to God: it is his response to our failure to honor him and give him the thanks that is his due. There was a time when there was no anger in God. Equally, there will again come a time when there will be nothing to rouse his anger.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him, David continues (verse 11). Children sometimes ask their parents, ‘How much do you love me?’ and they open their arms saying, ‘This much, or this much?’ When David said this to God, he realized that not even the expanse of the universe illustrates the vast dimensions of God’s love.
As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us, we read in verse 12. We can’t watch the sun rise and set at the same time; we have to turn our back on one to see the other.
Through the lens of the New Testament we see that with the incarnation and the cross of the Word of God, God created a way of detaching our sin from us, so that he could condemn the one without condemning the other. The metaphor makes the point that when we ask God for mercy, it becomes possible for him to look at us, while at the same time turning his back on our sin. In Christ, the Son of God – and this is God’s greatest glory – he can put us and our sin on two different horizons.
God’s goodness and awesome power: We have even more reason than David to bless the name of God and have every confidence in him, for we live on the other side of the cross that once stood on Calvary’s hill. That cross is a far greater measure of God’s love than the unfathomable depths of the universe about which David spoke. The arms of the cross show us the grief that tore God’s heart because of our sin. In Christ, God not only lifts us out of the pit, but also lifts us from the depths of hell and raises us to the glory of new life forever.
How important it is that we ask ourselves what all this tells us about God’s opinion of us when we turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It challenges us to ask ourselves whether there is any real praise of God in our hearts. It’s easy to go to church, to sing songs, say Amen to the prayers, but to have no real personal connection with him. It’s easy to hear sermons that move us, but we’re not really listening to God because we’re more impressed with the preacher than we are with thinking about God’s opinion of us.
True blessing. Let me ask: do you ever consider what God’s opinion of you might be? Do you have a sense of connectedness with him that comes through knowing Jesus Christ?
Reflect: The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep covenant and remember to do his commandments (Psalm 103:17-18).