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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am Service, 2005-03-06

Text: Psalm 103:1-22

Did you know that of all the many attributes of God, love is the most mentioned of God's Attributes? The Bible spares no expressions to speak about God's love. It tells us that Love is an essential part of God's character. In 2 Corinthians 13:11 Paul the apostle calls God 'the God of Love and Peace.' And in 1 John 4:8 we are told that 'God is love.' The love of God is also referred to by the use of many synonyms in the Bible, such as God's 'tender mercies', His 'lovingkindness', and His pity and compassion on the sons of men.

And yet despite the many times that God's love is mentioned in the Bible, you may be surprised to hear that there have been Bible scholars who deny the truth that God is a God of love! In the Middle Ages there was once a group of theologians known as the Schoolmen who claimed that there is no feeling in God. They argued like this: If God has feelings that would make Him susceptible to external impressions, (that He would in some sense be helplessly controlled by external stimuli) and that, they claim, would be contrary to His nature. Now love, of necessity, involves feeling, and if there is no feeling in God, there can be no love. Now, all this is not based at all on the Bible, but purely on cold philosophical speculations about God.

The Love of God comes out so clearly and strongly from the pages of the Scriptures that we can justifiably subtitle this Book 'The Greatest Love story ever told!' This morning we are going to learn how great this love is by looking at Psalm 103. This is a psalm of thanksgiving written by King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. It is interesting that the name 'David' means 'beloved.' And hence in this psalm we will find David's own personal reflections on the great Love that God had for him.

I. It is Constantly at Work in Your Life (vv.3-5)

In vv.3-5 we see a list of five things that God does: forgiving sins, healing diseases, redeeming life from destruction, crowning with livingkindness and tendermercies and satisfying one's mouth with good things. And all these things are ongoing, because they are expressed in the present tense and not the past tense. i.e. God keeps on forgiving us, healing us, redeeming or preserving us, crowning us and satisfying us. He never grows weary of doing these things!

You will also notice that all of these five acts of God are spoken of by David as his own personal experience. Although he used the pronoun 'thy' (second person singular pronoun) instead of 'my' (first person singular) in these verses, it is clear that he was thinking of the many blessings that he had personally received from God, because the one he addresses in v.2 is his own soul. He was saying in effect, 'I must bless the Lord and not forget all that He has done for me personally - forgiving all my sins, healing all my diseases' etc.

What David expressed here should also be gladly expressed by each of us as well. We should always bless the Lord for His active involvement in our life, as seen in His daily care and in the outworking of His divine providence for us. And these acts of God show the greatness of His love to us as individuals. In this psalm as well as in many other passages of Scripture, God's love is expressed in terms of tangible actions because actions speak so much louder than words. Love is more than just a feeling of affection or attraction. Without the appropriate action, all verbal or written expressions of love, no matter how well meant, would mean nothing. 

Dearly beloved, are you aware how much God's love to you can be found in each day's blessings that you receive? Do you pay attention to the many little ways in which God is telling you how much He loves you? E.g. students in our church who just received their O or A level results - I have heard that many of you did quite well, even beyond what you expected. Those of you who are working: do you realize that without God giving you the ability and energy to work each day, you will not be able to earn anything? Sometimes we do not realize this until something happens to limit our capacity to work or function normally. How terrible it is that we often take God's blessings for granted!

The description in v.4 of being crowned implies that God gives you royal treatment! Verse 5 mentions that it is God who satisfies your mouth with good things - Whenever you enjoy a nice meal do you realize that God loves you enough to enable you to enjoy it? At the end of this verse David mentions that his youth is renewed like that of the eagle's. The eagle is a symbol of vigour and freedom. Every year at moulting time, the eagle loses its old feathers and gains a new set of feathers - its youth is restored! When you are physically refreshed by a good night's rest or a good vacation, do you see in this, a token of God's love for you? 

But perhaps to some people, all this may not be enough to convince them of God's love. Instead of seeing these blessings as acts of God's love working in their lives, they interpret them as nothing more than just a fortuitous outworking of circumstances in their favour. And since many others seem to be enjoying these same benefits regardless of their beliefs or lifetsyle, this manifestation of God's love in their life is not good enough for them. And so we now want to ask: Has God ever demonstrated His love in a more spectacular way - one in which His personal involvement is clearly evident beyond all doubt? Yes, He has. And this has been permanently revealed and recorded in the History of Israel.

II. It Was Gloriously Demonstrated in Israel's History (vv.6-10)

We see this mentioned in v.7 of Psalm 103 'He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.' Now Moses, who is mentioned in this verse, was none other than the one whom God sent to deliver the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. And he, above all men, knew how much God loved the nation of Israel. He testified of this in Deuteronomy 10:15 'Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.'

A. In His Deliverance of Israel from Cruel Oppression

Since the verse just before v.7 of our psalm describes God's help for all that are oppressed, the 'ways' and 'acts' of God mentioned in this verse probably refer to God's mighty deliverance of the Israelites from the oppression that they suffered in Egypt.

Love was the main reason why God saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:8 - 'But because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.' The many miracles that God wrought throughout the whole exodus from Egypt - such as the Ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of sufficient water and food in the wilderness - all these stand as a spectacular testimony to mankind of what God would do for the people He loves. 

Beside the Exodus, there were many other recorded acts of God to deliver Israel from oppression: During the time of the Judges, God delivered them out of the hand of the Canaanites, the Ammonites, the Midianites and the Philistines. God raised up able leaders called judges, like Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Jephthah and Samuel to carry out these deliverances. One very memorable deliverance was when Gideon defeated the Midianites armies with only 300 men, and using the most unlikely weapons of all - horns, earthenware pitchers, and flaming torches. All this had the effect of ensuring that all the credit for the deliverance would not go to any man, but to God alone. 

Subsequently, the Israelites went into Babylonian captivity for 70 years but God's love for Israel caused them to be released to return to their own homeland and rebuild it. And so, the whole history of Israel with its many deliverances reveal to us that God is not an impersonal Creator who loves all His creatures from a distance in a general benevolent way. They reveal that God's love brings Him into deep personal commitment to the welfare of His people, and that He will go to great lengths of involvement just for their sake.

B. In His Patient Endurance of Israel's Sins.

And that is not all that Israel's history reveals of God's love. What is even more striking than God�s deliverance of the Israelites is His great patience with them. His love is wonderfully displayed in the mercy and grace He kept showing to them even though they oftentimes sinned and rebelled against Him time and again. This is highlighted in vv. 8-10 'The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.'

Here in v.8 David quoted the very words God spoke to Moses when He allowed Moses to have a glimpse of His magnificent glory on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6 'And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth') As David reflected on all that God had done for Israel in the 500 years of time between Moses and him, he could only stand amazed at how they consistently reveal the magnitude of God's patience with such a rebellious, 'stiff-necked' people. Although God is perfect in holiness and cannot tolerate even the slightest sin, He continued to love this sinful nation. And though He punished them at times, even those punishments that He meted out to them, were done in love. 

Deuteronomy 8:5 tells us 'that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.' This was the reason for their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. This was also the reason for allowing the Jews to be taken into Captivity as Jeremiah the prophet revealed in Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.'

It is obvious that God had not dealt with His people according to their sins or rewarded them according to their iniquities, for had He done so, Israel would have been abandoned by God, and would have ceased to exist a long time ago! Such is the love of God. What great love He has. It is truly an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.'). It is also an unconditional love; a love that acts to deliver His people, and that endures their sins and rebellion. And we have just seen how the history of the Nation of Israel stands today as a permanent and outstanding testimony of this great love. 

III. It is Beyond all Comparison (vv.11-18)

As David contemplated upon the greatness of God's love for him as well as for Israel, he sought to find words that can adequately describe the overwhelming extent of it. And the best that he could do was to use a series of interesting comparisons. You will see this in vv.11-13 where each verse begins in a similar way: 'For as'. 'As far as' and 'Like as' The first comparison can be called the height of God's love (v.11). It is as high as the heaven is above the earth. The second comparison can be called the width or breadth of God's love. It is as wide as the east is from the west (v.12). The third comparison can be called the depth of God's love, and it can be seen in vv.13,14. It is as deep as the pity that moves a good father to tenderly care for his frail and helpless little children. The fourth comparison is found in vv.15-17 and can be called the length or duration of God's love. In contrast to the brevity of man�s life (which makes his love short-lived), God's love extends 'from everlasting to everlasting.'

The sum of all this is that no matter how we attempt to measure the love of God, whether in its height, breadth, length or depth, the result is the same. It is infinite in its extent. There can be no greater love than His! And the supreme demonstration of the greatness of God's love is seen in what it has accomplished for us, as mentioned in v.12 'As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.' David wrote this about 1000 years before Christ. And what he wrote here about the complete removal of transgressions could only be accomplished by means of the infinite sacrifice that would be made by the Lamb of God. That and only that can take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Hence, David, was writing under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, about the full atonement for sins that Jesus Christ would make on the cross about 1000 years later. In that most important event of history, the only begotten Son of God laid down His own precious life, to pay the full penalty for our sins so that sinners may be saved from eternal death, unto eternal life. And that event proves for all time, and beyond all doubt, that God's love is the greatest love of all, surpassing all human love!

This world has never ever known any love that is greater than this. You may have heard many heart-warming love stories before: stories of the maternal love of a mother for her child, or stories of the filial love of a child for his parents, or stories of the patriotic love of a soldier for his country. And reading them may bring tears to your eyes. But the Word of God reveals to us a love that absolutely surpasses all that. Romans 5:8 puts it so well, 'But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' 1 John 4:10 tells us: 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' Dearly beloved, the Cross of Calvary on which Jesus died to pay the infinite price for our sins has provided the supreme demonstration of the infinite love that the Lord has for us. 

IV. It Demands a Response from You (vv. 1,2,20-22)

Such love obviously demands a response from us. It would be terribly unkind for us to remain unresponsive to God's great love. But what kind of response? Should you have nothing more than just some pleasant thoughts and warm feelings about how much God loves you? No. 

Firstly, if you have not yet accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you must accept Him now. To continue to delay your coming to Christ for salvation is to cast the worst insults at His great love for you. God's love surely does not deserve such a cold reception. It should melt your heart until you are able to say to Him, 'Yes, Lord, I see how Your great love has sought me to the extent of the cross of Calvary. How can I reject that sacrifice and not fully accept the Lord Jesus to be my Saviour now?' 

A. To Worship the Lord from Your Heart

Secondly, if you have already become a Christian, your response to the great love of God should follow what David has written in this psalm. In v.1 he says, 'Bless the Lord o my Soul.' Your heart should continually abound with thanksgiving and praise for God's love. God is worthy of your highest praises because of greatness of His love for you. The love of God should also motivate your worship. And this applies both to personal and corporate worship. 

Personal worship is mentioned at the beginning of the psalm where David says, '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.' The phrase 'all that is within me' implies worship that comes from the heart. Is this the kind of worship that you have been giving to God here this morning? Can you say that you are worshipping God with all that is within you: with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind? May the Lord help us to give Him the worship He deserves from us.

B. To Desire Everyone to Worship the Lord 

Besides a call to personal worship, this psalm also issues a call to corporate worship. This can be seen at the end of the psalm in verses 20-22 'Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.' Here we find David calling upon no less than 4 categories of God's creatures to join with him in praising the Lord - the angels of God, the hosts of God, the ministers of God, and the works of God. You will also notice that the word 'all' is mentioned three times 'all His hosts', 'all His works' and 'all places of His dominion.' And this shows David's desire to make the most comprehensive offering of praise to God that can be made. That should be the natural response of anyone who is deeply touched by the great love of God: A heart-felt desire for God to be praised by every creature without exception, for the great and glorious Love that He has shown to us. 

Such a desire should also motivate us to make God's love known as widely as we can right now. In line with the theme of our church for this year (Making Him Known), let us do all that we can now to tell all our friends and loved ones about the Love of God manifested through Christ, so that they may experience it in saving them from their sins, and join us in blessing the name of the Lord!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25