Psalm 103 Part 2: Abounding
The psalm began by telling us to “Bless the LORD”, in the literal, to “kneel before the LORD”, to submit to His hand and to trust His heart. A big part of that submission is found in the very next command of verse 2, “forget not all his benefits”. Not forgetting is more than remembering, it is also giving thanks, it is not just having a recollection of a past action, it is holding on to a current truth. David wrote not to forget, but then his reminders were of ongoing actions not past events. He reminded us that God “forgives all your iniquity”, “heals all your diseases”, “redeems your life from the pit”, “crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” and “satisfies you with good”. He was not just reminding us of what God had done but pointing us toward what God is always doing.
He wrote, “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” Every past action of God has a present counterpart. If Jesus is truly the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), if the Father is always working (John 5:17), then what God has done is not only what He will do, but also what He is now doing. Remembering is not only looking back on what God has done, but also watching to see what God is doing. Wherever there is oppression and injustice, God is working righteousness and equity. What look like delays to us are often just God doing His hidden or unseen work. We are not waiting for God to act but waiting to see God’s action, the question is never if God is working but are we willing, are we able to see Him at work?
This call to “forget not”, to give thanks, what is it that we are to remember? Is it as simple as, “He did it before He will do it again?” That statement always makes me a bit nervous because we are not those who believe for, but we believe in, our hope is not in an action or an outcome but in a person, far more important than “God will” is “God is”. There are so many things in Scripture that God only did once. There was one burning bush, one fire that fell from heaven to consume a drenched sacrifice, one time the sun stood still, one time He walked on water. God does not always do the same things, but He is the same in all the things He does. His character is settled and secure. He is not moved by our circumstances, He is governed by His character and bound by His Word. We do not have to convince Him to move, faith is being convinced that He is moving.
We all have lapses in character, moments, sometimes seasons where we are overwhelmed by emotion or yielded to sin and act differently than we generally would. Our hearts can be crippled by the accusations that accompany those moments and seasons and yet these are common to all of us. Abraham gave his wife away in two overwhelming moments of fear. David’s pride led him to lust, adultery and even murder before returning to humility through repentance. Paul seemed to be impatient and rigid in his dealing with Mark and split from Barnabas. Peter let the pressure of the culture he belonged to overpower the truth that God had called him to walk in. It seems that even Mary, when the religious leaders first strongly opposed Jesus, wrestled with doubt, unbelief, or discomfort. And yet they all recovered, they all returned, they all grew in maturity and in faith, not by their effort, but because of God’s character.
The beauty of God, the power of God, is that by being unchanging in Himself, He changes us. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” God has no lapses in His character, no moments to regret or seasons of absence, He is always as He has always been. He does not just give mercy, He is merciful. He does not just show grace, He is gracious. He does get angry, but His anger never consumes Him, and this may be my favorite part, He is abounding in steadfast love. The picture of abounding is overflow; think of a glass that is under an open faucet. The water fills the glass, but as the faucet continues to run the water overflows; though the glass cannot hold all that is being poured out the faucet does not stop running. God does not have steadfast love - He IS the faucet of steadfast love. He does not moderate, He does not measure because He cannot run out, and so He simply pours Himself out to us, He is abounding in steadfast love.
In a prayer time recently my friend Joanne reminded me that in the Hebrew, the word “abounding” describes having too much. This is not too much as in excess, having so much of something that it will spoil, but having an infinite supply to be able to give freely without fear or concern of ever running out. David was shouting to others what He had experienced himself, the LORD is abounding in love. Can you not picture David, weeping as he remembered that he had hardened his heart, abused his power, violated his relationship with God, taken advantage of his friend’s wife and then to hide his sin, had his friend murdered, but then, God, abounding in steadfast love, called David to justice and gave him mercy? Who knew that God had too much steadfast love better than David?
Maybe Moses? After Israel had made a golden calf as their new god, worshipped it, and given it credit for delivering them from Egypt, God was prepared to destroy the nation and start over with Moses. Moses interceded for the people based on God’s character. God, even in His anger stayed true to His Word and rather than dealing with Israel according to their sin, dealt with them according to His steadfast love. He relented, He renewed His promise, not only to send Israel, but to go with them, to lead them to the Promised Land. Moses then pleaded with God, that he would see His glory. In Exodus 34 God fulfilled Moses’ request, He passed by, allowing Moses to see His back, but as He passed by, God spoke of Himself, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” God told Moses, “I have too much steadfast love”, more than you will ever need, more than you could ever use, more than you could imagine, far more than you think you deserve.
Moses heard it, David saw it, we have been invited to live in it, the God of too much, who abounds in steadfast love, who never ceases to be true to His character even when we abandon ours. He is the Father that prepares for His rebellious son to come home; the shepherd who leaves the 99 in safety to go find the one who wandered; the merchant who sold all that he had (gave His only begotten Son) to obtain “the pearl of great price”. He is the God who pursues us, who desires us, who is longsuffering toward us, who wills that none would perish but that all would come to repentance. No matter how deep our sin, no matter how dark our pit, no matter how wavering our character or how hard our hearts, God is abounding in steadfast love—He will always have more than we need, and He is always pouring Himself out to us. Paul wrote that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” because he had once been an empty glass, but he encountered the faucet of God’s steadfast love and had lived in, lived from, and lived for the overflow ever since. God does not just have enough for you, He has too much for all of us, let us drink deeply and gather others to have their glasses filled.