Advice on Finding a Woman to Marry

(This post is written in response to a conscientious and intelligent young man who asked my advice on how to find a woman to marry.  Other readers, what would you add?)

You are asking me a good question, one that I wanted to take the time to put together a thoughtful, written response to address.  Please keep in mind that I am neither seminary educated nor am I a licensed professional counselor.  You might well have paid either of those people for their advice, and my advice is free.  My advice might be worth what you paid for it, but I will do my best.

This is a very important decision.  Many would call it the single most important decision you will make outside of the decision to follow Christ.  I would like for you to be careful because of this decision’s importance, but not too careful.  Your spiritual life is simply not ultimately dependent on this decision; the small decisions you make every day concerning whether to believe the gospel and be obedient to God’s Law are simply more important. 

I don’t want you to mess this one up, but many Christians with strong faith have, and they will join us all in heaven.  Romans 8:28 applies here.  Concentrate on loving the Lord.  He has called you according to His purpose if you have placed your faith in Christ, and this verse applies to you.  All things are going to work together for your good to conform you to Christ’s image, not just some things.  I know you to be an ardent perfectionist, and I want to guard you against being entirely too particular.  I don’t want you to be impulsive, either; but many, many young people have passed up perfectly good marriage partners because of a desire to find the person exactly suited for them.  Some have lived to regret their decision as life unfolds.

Please don’t put out golden fleeces, expect to hear the literal voice of God in prayer, or expect strange or intense feelings to be a reliable guide to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Many have been led astray by mild indigestion they have experienced because of the pizza they had recently eaten.  To hear God’s voice, read the entire Bible.  Then apply your intellect.  Use your head!  And for heaven’s sakes do not become physically involved with anyone outside marriage.  That will result in strange and intense feelings that are extremely difficult to resist.

Where exactly would I go in the Bible?  First, don’t marry an unbeliever; or, by implication, a scoundrel (2 Corinthians 6:14).  Be discerning and get the advice of others close to you who may not be infatuated.  That, of course, means spending time with each other’s family and friends.  That is always a good thing, and it also helps you to see whether they interact with others in a godly way.  You don’t want someone prone to unedifying speech (speech that tears down others) or gossip.  You will be listening to her speech for a long time.

Where else would I turn?  The entire book of Proverbs.  Yes, that’s right, read the whole thing.  It has thirty-one chapters, so one chapter a day is a good pace.  Hopefully, it is not your first time to read the book, but if it is, you don’t have to tell anyone.  Remember, these are ‘rules of thumb,’ and not necessarily moral absolutes.  Consult a conservative study Bible such as the ESV Study Bible and read the introduction to get at my meaning here.

Now that we have dispensed with the Experiencing God approach to discerning God’s will, I will move on to some more pointed advice.  Find someone who will help you follow the Ten Commandments.  Remember that “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q and A  41).  You want someone to help you live according to God’s Law.  It’s that simple.

Also, they need to help you better understand and reflect on The Gospel (For a definition of the Gospel, see links here and here).  Make sure she can clearly articulate what God has done for us in The Person of Jesus Christ.  She may not use erudite theological language, and that’s OK.  But you can’t teach what you don’t understand, and you want someone who can teach you the gospel.  We all need to be reminded of God’s grace in Christ when we screw up.  Not if we screw up, but when!  She needs to have acted on the gospel beyond just understanding it and repented of her sins and placed her faith in Christ, but we covered that one above when we said she needs to be a Christian.  And make double sure that she has the same understanding of the gospel you do (All of God’s grace, not any of our works at all whatsoever.). 

I’d like to remind you again that this doesn’t have to be a perfect decision.  In fact, it won’t be!  There are no perfect people, Christ excepted, and to expect otherwise would be extremely foolish.  Even if you make a bad decision, God’s providence will ensure that it works for your good and will conform you to Christ’s image (See Westminster Shorter Catechism Q and A 9-11.).  For the believer, God’s gracious providence is the ultimate ‘safety net.’  I say this as a person who has had his heart broken and who has broken others’ hearts (I have both an ex-finance and an ex-wife out there, remember.). 

I wish you well in your endeavor.  You have already demonstrated your sincerity and determination by getting an excellent education and becoming the kind of person who women would desire to marry.  That is terribly important. 

Lastly, do not allow yourself to be snared by the devil or entangled by the world, even if you never find a partner.  Many spiritual giants have remained single their entire lives, and you should be willing to do so if that is what God requires of you. 

God bless you, and I pray He provides His good and gracious providence on your journey. 


Ink and Debt Free

A post over at The Transformed Wife entitled “Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos” has inspired quite the reaction on the internet.  It has inspired discussion at Doctrine and Devotion, and thoughtful posts at The White Horse Inn and Christ Hold Fast.  I want to add some thoughts.

The original post traces to a particular source: “Most of this debt comes from college.”  I think that is true in our society much of the time.  Just google “useless college degrees,” and you will find articles outlining some of the more ridiculously outlandish degrees on can get.  There is also a line of thought that one would be better off going to trade school that getting one of those degrees.  The Medium argues this, and I find the argument difficult to contradict.  We simply need more tradesmen and women than we do college graduates with degrees.   So maybe choosing to be debt free because you did not pursue a college degree that will not benefit you financially would be a wise thing.  We also need mothers.

As NPR outlines, recent studies indicate that birth rates in the USA are not outpacing the death rates.  There are more people dying than being born.  This is true among Western Cultures in general.  Population is a requirement for economic growth.  We also need young people to care for the old.  In addition, most importantly, the Bible calls children a good thing:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5)
So, maybe avoiding college, getting married, and having children is a noble calling for many women even though it is not socially acceptable in our culture.

Sex before marriage, and any sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman are widely condemned by The Bible.  I don’t see how a Christian could possibly side with the world and say it is beneficial or makes one more attractive to not be a virgin on their wedding night.  At least one study has even pointed to the possibility that sex before marriage leads to less sexual fulfillment within marriage, presumably leading to less sex and therefore fewer pregnancies.  Sexually transmitted disease has also been targeted as a biological factor in infertility.  Postponing marriage until older age also reduces fertility rates.  Following the Bible’s commands is always wise, and it may be that we are giving the original post to much grief.  (I will leave you to google those studies for yourself.  I recommend Google Scholar.)

There is a dangerous undercurrent, however.  The idea that submission to a husband means only listening to his teaching on The Bible is presented, and most husbands, myself included, can use all the help they can get instructing their families.  Books, CDs, blogs, podcasts, sermons at church, Sunday Schools, etc. are a great help to anyone seeking to grow spiritually, and these methods should never be downplayed, even just by implication.

There is also an implicit undervaluing of the high calling of singleness within the church.  It would have been good to mention in this post that Paul did say “…it is good for them to remain single, as I am.”  And he pointed out that “…those who marry will have worldly troubles.”  He had some other pointed words about the superiority of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 in addition to these.

As to tattoos, I do not ‘have a dog in that fight.’  I think it is a matter between a person and God that should follow the guidelines of Romans 14.  Yet, on that topic, the original article is right to quote 1 Peter 3:4, “…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”

I do want to point out that all of our ideals are subject to the authority of Scripture, and all of our ideals fall short at one point or another.  I also want to point out that, as Christians, we never live up to our ideals.  That is why Christ died for us (Romans 3).  Those of us who have sinned confessed that sin, repented of that sin, and trusted Christ have no reason for shame (Romans 8:1).

May the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be pure in the sight of Christ our Savior.  Amen.


Steadfast Love - A Sermon Delivered by J. K. Jones on June 17, 2018 at The First Presbyterian Church of Dyersburg

Sermon Text:

Bless the Lord, O My Soul
Of David.

Psalm 103 
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.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.For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.But 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 his covenant and remember to do his commandments.The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion.Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Introduction: A Psalm of David, A Psalm of Praise
Psalm 103 is a Psalm that is near and dear to my heart.  In this psalm, King David expresses praise to God having reasoned himself into a worshipful heart from a heart that was conflicted.  It’s as if he is arguing with his own soul over whether God should be praised.  It is the first of four Psalms of Praise that close Book Four of the Psalms. 

David has been described as the first ‘renaissance man.’ He was a brave and diligent shepherd, killing a lion and a bear to protect his flock. He was brash and fearless in combat, running with five hand-picked stones and a sling to bring down the giant Goliath.

David was a talented musician, able to soothe King Saul, and drive out the evil spirit that tormented him. He was a bold and courageous warrior, able to hold his own against countless enemies. And when King Saul pursued him with the intent to kill, David was a wise and crafty survivalist, able to sustain himself and hundreds of others under duress and with meager provisions.

As King, David arranges the death of Uriah the Hittite to cover his adultery with Bathsheba. David repented, so he knew what forgiveness feels like.  God denies David the opportunity to build the temple and his son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him. David flees Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, but after Absalom's death he returns to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, he chooses his son Solomon as his successor.

David is well known as the premier psalmist, expressing the gamut of human emotions and prophetic references to the coming Messiah. He amassed and offered his own personal wealth for the building of the temple, received the revelation of its divine design, and passed on the blueprints for the temple, to his son, Solomon.

David wrote 75 of the 150 Psalms, thought by many to be the best Psalms and songs in the Bible.  His life experiences and musical talent set him up to be a great songwriter, and Psalm 103 is one of his finest.  It is classified as a ‘psalm of praise.’

Many times in the Psalms, exhortations to praise can be discouraging because we can’t seem to ‘stir ourselves up’ to praise God, but Psalm 103 is special because it provides particularly good reasons to praise God.  Psalm 103 invites us to better see what God is like, helping us to live a life of praise to God in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the remainder of our sermon this morning, we will look at some of the major themes we find in this Psalm.  This is the Amazing Grace of the Old Testament, and we will find much to encourage and to admonish.

Main Theme:      God’s Love and Mercy

The Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and it is always appropriate to examine themes, or major points of emphasis, in a poem.  One characteristic of Hebrew poetry is that the main theme of the poem is in the middle, not at the end as is customary in a poem written in English.

What do we find in the middle of Psalm 103?  The sentence: “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.”  This Psalm is primarily about God’s love and mercy.  Sadly, God’s love often does not get the emphasis it deserves in Reformed churches today. 

Too often we focus on God as judge and lawgiver, ignoring his compassion and concern for us.  This often leads to burnout, to giving up.  Trying to keep God’s laws without a focus on God’s grace leads us into a “do more try harder” mentality of legalism.  Legalism, trying to earn God’s favor through our good works, is the enemy of Christians who try to follow God’s rules.  We can’t follow God’s law, so eventually, we give up.  We turn our backs on Christianity and on the church.  We don’t lose our salvation, but we prove we never had it in the first place.  O, what great need we have for God’s love and forgiveness.

The phrase “steadfast love” appears four times in Psalm 103.  This is the Hebrew word we discussed before in my sermon on Psalm 23.  It is the Hebrew word Chesed (חסד, also Romanized ẖesed).  It is commonly translated as "loving-kindness," "kindness" or "steadfast love." Hesed is a common term in the Bible for describing God's special relationship with the Children of Israel.

Hesed is difficult to translate because it stands for a cluster of ideas—love, mercy, grace, and kindness. It wraps up in itself all the positive attributes of God.  Hesed is one of the Lord's most treasured characteristics.  Hesed is a quality that moves someone to act for the benefit of someone else without considering "what's in it for me?"  It may be translated as "loyal love." Sometimes the emphasis is on "loyal" and other times the emphasis is on "love."

As R. C. Sproul says:
There may be no more significant Old Testament description of how God relates to His people than this Hebrew word hesed. I argue that the best translation of this term would be “loyal love.” God loves His people genuinely, immutably, loyally. Both the love and the loyalty are, of course, tightly bound together. That is, just as one cannot love capriciously so one cannot be loyal without love. God is for His people, and will never cease to be for them.
God’s love is truly a mystery.  How can a holy God loyally love sinners?

“God is Love", says I John 4:8, but how do we define it? The American Heritage Dictionary defines love as "an intense affection for another person based on familial or personal ties.”  We love other people, or we say we love other people, when we are attracted to them and when they make us feel good. Notice that a key phrase in the dictionary definition of love is the phrase "based on." This phrase implies that we love someone because they fulfill a condition that we require to make us happy before we can love them. How many times have you heard or said, "I love you because you are cute;" or "I love you because you take good care of me;" or "I love you because you are fun to be with?”

Our love is fickle, it changes often. We love based on feelings and emotions that can change from one moment to the next. The divorce rate is extremely high in today's society because husbands and wives supposedly stop loving one another.  They "fall out of love.” They may go through a rough patch in their marriage, and they no longer "feel" good feelings of “love” for their spouse, so they call it quits.  How tragic.

God's love transcends the human definition of love, and it is hard to comprehend.  The Bible tells us that "God is Love" (1 John 4:8). But how can we even begin to understand that truth? There are many passages in the Bible that give us God's definition of love. The most well-known verse is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Another verse is 1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (NIV).  So one way God defines love is in the act of giving. However, what God gave (or should we say, "who" God gave) was not a mere gift-wrapped present.  God has compassion on those in misery and takes appropriate action in the Person of his son, Jesus Christ.

This Psalm says “as high as the sky above and as far as two ends of a line,” this love knows no bounds.  It’s so big, it’s impossible to measure.  

God sacrificed His only Son so that those of us who put our faith in His Son will not spend eternity separated from Him. This is an amazing love, because we are the ones who choose to reject God and to be his enemies, yet it's God who mends the separation through His intense personal sacrifice, and all we have to do is accept His forgiveness.

Another great verse about God's love is found in Romans 5:8, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." In this verse and in John 3:16, we find the great mystery of God’s love: how can a God who is holy, who cannot even look at sin, love sinners?  God doesn't say, "as soon as you clean up your act, I'll love you;" nor does He say, "I'll sacrifice my Son if you promise to love me." In fact, in Romans 5:8, we find just the opposite. God wants us to know His love, so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us while we were still unlovable sinners.

We didn't have to ‘clean up our act,’ before we could experience His love. His love for his people has always existed, and because of that, He did all the giving and sacrificing long before we were even aware that we needed His love.

God is Love, and His love is very different from human love. He doesn't love us because we're lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love. He created us to bring glory to him, and He sacrificed His own Son, Jesus Christ, to make that possible.  (Remember, Jesus volunteered.)  Acts 13:38 says, “Let it be known to you, therefore, brothers, that through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” 
In the Bible, a covenant is an agreement between God and people.  God lays out the conditions we are to follow.  The Westminster Confession of Faith divides history into two covenants: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.  The covenant of works was made with Adam and he was required to follow God’s command to earn eternal life.  That covenant ended in tragedy when Adam did something God had told him not to do: he ate the forbidden fruit.  Adam did not represent us well.

But God, out of his love and mercy, did not leave humanity there.  He began the covenant of grace, which lasts from Adam’s sin until now and for all eternity.  In this covenant, our sins are forgiven through Jesus and what he did for us.  As Hebrews 9:15 says, “[Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” 

God redeems us; Christ gave his life “as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45). To redeem is to buy back someone’s life, as if to buy freedom for a slave.  That’s what Christ has done for us.

One possible summary sentence describing the two covenants is this: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Why does God forgive our sins?  Isaiah 43:25 says, “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  It’s not that we are somehow lovable or somehow able to earn God’s favor.  God’s love for us comes from his character, not our character.

Verses 8 and 9: “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.” remind me of Isaiah 57:16, “For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.” 

We should also notice the capital letters in our Bibles for the word “LORD.”  This is the name of God by which he revealed himself to Moses; it literally means “I am.”  Not I will become.  Not I once was.  But I am; I was always like this, and I always will be.  God’s love for his people, based on his unchanging character, does not change and will never change.  It is not fickle or arbitrary.

Other Themes:

God’s Provision for Faith and Obedience

Next, verses 15-19 of our text read:
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But 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 his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
Notice that God’s love and forgiveness rest on those who “fear” him, those who respect him and trust him.  To be forgiven by God, we have to trust what Jesus did for us to earn a place for us in heaven, that is, we have to have faith.  Mercy and grace come to those who have faith in Christ.

To be a recipient of God’s forgiveness we must also repent of our sin.  Repentance is like what we do when we are going down the road in the wrong direction.  We do a ‘U-turn’ and get back on the right path.  In repentance, we change our minds to hate our sin and that change of mind leads to a change in behavior. 

Faith and repentance are both gifts from God.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” says Ephesians 2:8-10.  Faith is a gift; repentance is prepared by God for us. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith, the statement of faith that expresses what this church believes about God and proper behavior, calls faith “the work of the Spirit of Christ in [believer’s hearts].”  It calls repentance “an evangelical grace.”

God gives us a new heart both to trust him and to trust the way he says to live our lives.  We are given a new heart, and that new heart trusts and obeys in turn.  God gives us spiritual forgiveness and love, and we give him concrete, ‘boots on the ground’ obedience. 

God saves us, and we are overwhelmed with both gratitude and love for him.  We want to do the right things.  As J. D. Grear quoted in a recent interview, “The fire to do in the Christian life comes from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done.”  We will never be perfect or obey God’s laws perfectly in this life, there will always be a need for forgiveness, but there will be an honest effort if we truly trust Christ. 

God’s Justice

Next, God is just, that is, he is always fair in his dealings with others.  God’s justice is hinted at in the first of Psalm 103 and also pointed to in verses 17 and 18.  “But 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 his covenant and remember to do his commandments.”

Exodus 34:6-7 says, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”  We know that Almighty God does not have problems, but, humanly speaking, God has a problem with respect to us.  On the one hand, he loves us and wants to forgive us.  On the other hand, he is just and must punish sinners.  God solved this problem for us in the Person of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is ‘God in the flesh.’  One way to think of that is that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ; he earned heaven for us by living a perfect life, keeping all of God’s commandments.  He then died a death he didn’t deserve to pay the penalty for the sins we commit.  The same God who required a penalty for sin paid that penalty.  So God maintains his justice and his love and his mercy.

God’s Sovereignty

Next, God’s sovereignty is stated in verse 19, “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”  God is in control of all things.  God has dominion over all things.  Good things he causes, evil things he permits.  It is beyond the scope of our sermon this morning to dive deeply into the providence of God, but one question that I will try to quickly address is “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  or “How could a good God allow pain and suffering?” 

Two things to think about.  First, to some, evil and suffering are philosophical problems that are explored in a detached, intellectual way.  (If you have a problem with evil because of your experience of it, if you are not detached, just ignore this part.)  As R. C. Sproul said it, “Why do bad things happen to good people?  That only happened once, and He volunteered.”  We as sinners suffer justly.  We get what we deserve.  Jesus, when he volunteered to come to earth, was the only truly good person, and he was the only person who has ever suffered who didn’t deserve it.

Secondly, to those who ask questions because they personally experience evil and suffering, Christianity does not stop with philosophical answers. It also offers hope for deliverance from evil. In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we find ultimate deliverance from “the last enemy,” death (1 Corinthians 15:25-28). In Christ, we find deliverance from the power of evil and all of the demonic and worldly forces that bring it about (Colossians 2:8-15).

In my own life, many things have not worked out the way I had hoped. I have been bitterly disappointed at times. I have experienced childhood illness, watched my grandmother die of colon cancer when I was about 13, seen my church split into two churches, been through a divorce, endured a devastating car wreck that has left me permanently injured, watched my mother die a long and painful death, and wrestled with personal illness in adulthood. Above all, I have faced my own sins and failures with the pain that comes from regret and remorse.

Should my response to personal pain be hatred towards God? How could I possibly hate the only Being that anyone has ever conceptualized who could give meaning to all of this (Ephesians 1:3-10)? How could I hate the One who has a reason for all of the pain, even if He does not reveal that reason to us (Romans 8:28)?  And if God has a reason, that pain has purpose and meaning.  As Joni Erikson Tada says, “God permits what he hates to bring about that which he loves.”

I have found the Christian faith to be a great comfort to me. The following quote from Steve Brown illustrates why.
In response to the problem of evil and pain, the Christian must always start with Jesus and the incarnation. Everything else is a dead end road. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). No other religious or philosophical system deals with the problem of pain in the unique way with which the Christian faith deals with it.

God enters time and space and suffers with his people.

The infinite God says to us in our finiteness: If you could understand it, I would explain, but you can’t understand it. Instead, I will come to suffer and die, not to keep you from suffering but to suffer as you suffer … not to keep you from your loneliness but to be lonely as you are lonely … not to keep you from asking your questions, but to have mine, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus Christ has been there … and sometimes that is enough. He knows how much it hurts.  [“How Could He?” by Steve Brown, an article in “Key Life,” published by Key Life Network, Inc. Easter / Spring 2009, Volume 24, #1, p. 2-3, 8.]

God comes to earth as a man in the Person of Jesus Christ. He suffers with us and for us.

His pain brings forgiveness of sins to His people, a people bought with a price. A people purchased as His reward.

This reward for His suffering gives us hope that there will be a reward for ours. He suffered for a purpose, and we can know there is a reason and purpose for our suffering, even when we can’t see it.

He rose from the grave as a victor over all of the sin and death and misery that infect the world. He won a battle with all of the dark forces that would torment us. He gave us hope for a glorious future, free from our sins and struggles.

Taking the message at face value, I can fear and respect the God of the Christian faith.  He lays aside His privileged position to walk as one despised and rejected. He left behind His riches to become poor.  He enters the fray against the mightiest foes; he fights and wins. He brings hope and inspires strength.  He rescues us from the fate that we all so richly deserve, and gives us gratitude as a gift to help us persevere.  “To whom then will you compare me that I should be like him? Says the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25). To whom indeed.

God’s people have the immeasurable privilege of bowing before the one whose realm is the totality of all things.  The one who has pledged that all things will work together for their good and his glory, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Conclusion:       Praise God for His Character

Lastly, we started by saying that this Psalm seems to be David talking to his own soul, trying to convince himself to praise the Lord.  David does this by exploring God’s character.  I find David’s reasons to praise God to be compelling, and I hope you do too. 

Psalm 103 is public dialogue meant to inspire by example.  It is biblical meditation at its finest.  Not some chanting of “Ohm” or some attempt to clear the mind of conscious thought, but thinking about certain known facts about God in order to provoke a heartfelt, emotional response. 

O, “Forget not all his benefits!”  Do not refuse to consider all of the wonderful things God has done for you.  His love for his people is immeasurable; his forgiveness is total.  Today, if we know Christ, we can rest in God’s everlasting love, whatever our circumstances.

I will close by reading at length from two other Psalms.  You can turn to them in your Bible to follow along.  The first is part of Psalm 136:

1  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

7 to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 to him who struck down great kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

The second is Psalm 149:1-5:

1 Praise the Lord!
   Sing to the Lord a new song,
   his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their beds.

May God bless the reading and the hearing of his word!

Let us pray, Father, forgive us for the times when we have failed to trust in your forgiveness and your wisdom.  Thank you for your mercy and grace toward us.  Help us to praise you above all things.  In Christ’s name, Amen!

Search This Blog