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What God Remembers that We Forget (Psalm 103:6-18)
Bless the Lord, O My Soul!
What God Remembers That We Forget
Psalm 103:6-18
Have you wondered what God really thinks about you?  I think our greatest barrier to knowing God better may be how much we know about how much God knows about us. We are convinced that if God really knew the truth about us, He wouldn't like us.  Or maybe we feel so bad about ourselves because we know who we really are!  And if we know what we know, then imagine what God must know!
I really believe that is the reason we sometimes don’t want to come to church or pray or read the Bible or think about God because when we look in the mirror, we feel like saying, “You’re a big disappointment” or “You ought to be a lot better by now” or "You're such a fake!"
But think about this:  That attitude is based on knowing our own hearts all too well, but knowing so very little about God's.  If we really knew God's heart and what He thinks about us, I think we'd be very surprised, and in a good way.
None of us need to be convinced that we are sinners and we mess up.  But what we desperately need to know is what God thinks about us. And that’s where Psalm 103 can help us tremendously. Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible so clearly reveals God’s compassion for his people. If you’re wondering what God thinks about you, let’s take a journey through Psalm 103. 
And I'm going to have to keep moving because I want to show you seven truths about God’s heart.  First
1. He Loves to Help the Needy
verses 6-7
So who are the “oppressed”?  There are those who can’t help themselves. In the Old Testament the word especially referred to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor.
David uses Moses as an example.
Exodus 43:4-7
Early in His dealings with the children of Israel, God was already declaring His intentions to hold people responsible for their actions.  He will execute righteousness and justice. 
When we are tempted to take advantage of others because we are strong and they are weak, God says, “You need to carefully weigh the consequences of doing that because I'm on the side of the weak and defenseless."
Our God keeps his eyes on the helpless, and when others hurt them, he moves to balance the scales of justice. Obviously, there are days and times and circumstances when it is hard to believe.  If God is watching, He sure doesn't seem to be doing much!
But we need to be reminded, it's not all over with yet.  We haven’t read the final chapter yet.
We’re somewhere near the end, but we’re not sure how far away we are. But we know this much. Eventually God will bring everything to light, and he will judge with impartiality. And in that day there will be no hiding, no excuse-making, no bribes, and no way of escape.
All those who labor for a better world and a more just society and those who stretch out a helping hand–you have to believe this or you can’t go on.
The words of James Russell Lowell come to mind:
    Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
Are you needy? The answer is yes whether you know it or not. You are needy and God is on your side. That’s a great place to start.
2. He Shows Mercy to Those Who Don’t Deserve It.
verse 8
See the four great attributes of God in this verse:
1)      The Lord is merciful in that He pardons us.
2)      The Lord is gracious in that He gives us what we don’t deserve.
3)      The Lord is slow to anger in that He is patient with us when we fall.
4)      The Lord is abounds in mercy in that He loves us more than we can imagine.
Some translations use the word love in that last phrase of verse 8.  I like the Old King James which says “plenteous in mercy.” Spurgeon (in The Treasury of David) takes that phrase and offers this application (italics added):
All the world tastes of his sparing mercy,
those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy,
the saints live by his saving mercy,
are preserved by his upholding mercy,
are cheered by his consoling mercy, and
will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy.
I like that! Six kinds of mercy in just one sentence. That’s plenteous mercy for anyone who needs it.
3. He Tempers His Wrath.
verses 9- 10
Have you ever known anyone who loved to argue? We all know people who love to keep a quarrel going because they are so angry. God is not like that. He is willing to end the quarrel and welcome us back home. Sometimes the real problem is that we want to keep fighting him.
He’s more ready to forgive than we are to be forgiven!  When we forget to pray, He remembers to feed us. When we forget to give thanks, He sends us restful sleep.
When we idle in sin, He sends his Holy Spirit to convict us.  When we refuse to give, He keeps on giving still. When we fall, He lifts us up. When we disappoint ourselves and others, He still calls us his children. God even blesses those who don’t believe in Him.
He even blesses those who don’t believe in him. An unbeliever like Christopher Hitchens writes a book called “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” and sells a boatload of copies, along the way merrily debating every religious-type person he can find.
He is clever, witty, a gifted wordsmith, widely read, quick with a comeback, and completely committed to debunking religion of every type and even more committed to the concept that God is simply not necessary. But see the mercy of God. Instead of crushing him like an empty eggshell, the Lord feed him and nourishes him and gives him health and love and life.
It is the longsuffering of God that allows Christopher Hitchens to deny him. And why would God show such kindness to someone utterly dedicated to eradicating his influence in the world? Because He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor punished us according to our iniquities. 
And aren't you glad?  You better not wish that on them unless you want to be treated the same way!  Remember, God is no respecter of persons. The fact that any of us are still alive is evidence of his mercy.
4. He Forgives All Our Sins.
verses 11-12
In these verses, David decides astronomy is the best way to illustrate the teaching.  Consider the greatness of God’s love. Astronomers tell us that the farthest known light source from the earth is ten billion light years away.
That means that light starting from that source  would take ten billion years traveling at the speed to light to arrive at the earth.  By the way, the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second.  Even with our own sun, it takes light about 8 minutes to travel the 93,000,000 miles to get to earth
Obviously, any way you figure it, we live in a tiny little obscure corner of the universe.  The universe in which we dwell is vast beyond our wildest comprehension.
But David says, "God’s love is greater, vaster, larger, deeper, longer, broader, and bigger in all dimensions that the universe itself."  And he said that long before we had the capability measuring distances and exploring deep space.
Get in a rocket equipped with any sort of sci-fi system you can imagine. Fly at warp speed if you like. Go as far as you can go, to the end of the known universe and beyond. And when you have gone as far as you can go, look up and smile because God’s love is still going. You will never reach the end of it.
Consider the magnitude of God’s love by thinking about what verse 12 is telling us. 
verse 12
Let’s suppose you want to go east until you finally reach the west. So you take off from Ardmore igoing east, make our way over to Portugal and on through Europe until we reach Asia, stop in and see how Kim Yung Idiot is doing, over Japan, back around to America and return home.  Did you notice the directin of the arrow never changed?  Do you know why?  It is because you never come to a place where you stop traveling East and start traveling West. 
No matter how far east you go, you will never find the west.  In fact, the farther east you go, the farther you are from the west.
That’s the magnitude of God’s love. Here is great good news for all the sinners of the world. When God forgives, he removes our sins, he lifts them up, he takes them away, and he puts them so far away from us that we could never find them if we searched for them for a thousand years. They are removed from us by an immeasurable distance and forever gone. 
My sins can never come back to haunt me again.
Even Satan can’t bring them back.  That is a reminder that, as a fellow named Jim Nicodem says that God has . . .
A long fuse - “slow to anger” (v. 8),
A short memory-"does not harbor his anger forever” (v. 9),
A thick skin-"does not treat us as our sins deserve” (v. 10), and
A great heart-"so great is his love, so far has he removed our sins” (vv. 11-12).
I’m glad we have a God like that because that exactly the kind of God we need.
5. He Understands Our Weakness
verse 13
Now God intends that fathers learn how to be fathers by observing Him.  But he also intends that we would learn about God by observing our fathers. 
And I would guess most of us have a little bit of trouble with this concept of a father pitying his children.  This word "pity" is a very intimate word.  It carries the idea of compassion and concern.  So if the psalmist had said, "As a father beats his children or disciplines his children or even teaches or instructs his children, I would have a better understanding of what this verse means. 
But fathers and mothers express their pity for their children in different ways.  Mothers are the ones who comfort with hugs and kisses and affection.  Dads are the ones who get you in a headlock and pull your teeth or dig the splinters our of your finger with a pocket knife. 
Both show concern and address the needs.  They are just done in different ways.  And notice, God pities His children like a father.  That doesn't mean He is rough and uncaring.  That just means he deals with the issues in a straightforward  way. 
And He does it understanding that we are limited in our abilities.  We did a lot of manual labor around the place when we were growing up.  We hauled hay and worked on farm implements.  We did our own carpentry and electrical and plumbing work.  We worked in the oil field and had cattle. 
And I learned a lot about manual labor working with dad in those arenas.  But I also learned there were some things that I could be trusted with and some I couldn't.  Dad never asked me to do something that was too big for me to do. 
In fact, especially in the oil field, there were times when he would just step in and do what needed to be done.  And the old adage is true:  Never send a boy to do a man's job.  Well we ought never send a man to do a God-sized job. 
Why did he do that?  He pitied me.  He understood I was in over my head.  And God does the same thing for us.  The very next thing we will read is that God remembers that we are nothing but dust.  We serve a Father God who knows our weakness and loves us anyway.  Let's look at that next one:
6. He Remembers That We Are Dust
verses 14-16
Here is a truth we all understand, especially in the season that is quickly approaching.  Yesterday’s green leaves soon turn brown. It is an unchanging law of nature that the green leaves of spring end up in a pile on your lawn.
And as beautiful as the autumn leaves are, that kaleidoscope of color is simply a reminder that those leaves are dying and their greatest beauty comes from their death.
Who remembers each leaf? Not the tree. One by one the leaves fall to the ground where they disintegrate and return to the soil from which they came. No one names them or numbers them or even thinks about them. It is the way of nature, the way God arranged the changing of the seasons.
Lisa was standing behind me the other day when she commented on the gray hair on the back of my head.  She could have just as easily been standing in front of me or above me and seen the same thing.  When God puts gray in your hair, it’s like the leaves turning brown in the fall. And when your hair falls out, it's like when they fall to the ground!  Both are God’s way of saying, “You won’t be here forever.”
Every now and then I’ll run across a bit of cemetery humor that makes me chuckle. I love to collect tombstone epitaphs.  I came across this sign posted near a cemetery recently.  The sign was near a major thoroughfare in Chicago next to one of those cemeteries that seems to go on forever. Because it is a long stretch of road with no stop lights, people tend to break the speed limit routinely. The billboard sponsored by the cemetery said, “Slow Down. We’ll save a place for you.”
If that’s all there is, if we are here today and gone tomorrow, if that’s the end of the story, then there isn’t much hope.
But let me share something with you. If you don’t have anything else to be thankful for, here’s something you can hang your hat on. Our hope is not in man or in anything man can do.
Our hope is in the everlasting God!  And that brings us to the final truth
7. He Links Us With Eternity By Joining Us to Himself.
verses 17-18
There is nothing we can do about our frailty. We are like the dust devils that blow across the desert. We make a big scene and then suddenly we disappear. Try as we might, we can’t cancel our humanity. Nothing can change what we are. Vitamins and exercise and clean living may slow down the process. Positive thinking may improve our mood. But for all of us, the end is the same:
Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust.
Psalm 103 offers us one strong basis for comfort that lifts us up above the transitory nature of this life. It is the “but” of verse 17, the blessed “but” that changes everything. That one word offers an eternal contrast between
The fading flower and the everlasting God,
Our mortality and God’s eternity.
That one word-that little “but"-stands at the demarcation between this life and the next. Here is our real hope of life that never ends.
We are privileged to have God’s tender mercy, His unfailing love and His abounding grace.
Someone has said that life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope. And this endless hope is not only to us but to our children’s children.
So what will we leave our children? A vast estate? A large inheritance? A huge life insurance policy? Whatever we may say about earthly possessions, they pale next to the privilege of passing down a godly heritage, a legacy of truth, and a pattern of believing that our children and grandchildren can claim as their own.
In a passing world where everything fades away, we have the promise that we are linked to the future even after we are gone by the faithfulness of God to our children to our children’s children. This, too, is the mercy of God.
What is Psalm 103 telling us? We are richer than we think, we are more blessed than we know, and we have more than we realize. We frail, mortal sinners are rich in the mercy of God.  And we have found that mercy–or rather, that mercy has found us-in and through the cross of Jesus Christ.
During one of his sermons Billy Graham told the story of a patrolman on night duty in a town in northern England.  As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a doorstep and tears were running down his cheek.
The child said, “I’m lost. Please take me home.” And the policeman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived. He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue.
Then he remembered that at the center of the town there was a church with a large white cross that towered above the rest of the city. The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?” The little boy’s face immediately brightened up. He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”
All that we believe, all that we have, all that we hope for is found in the cross of Christ. Go to the cross and you will find your way home to God.
Are you weak? So am I.
Are you needy? So am I.
Are you guilty? So am I.
Are you frail? So am I.
Are you like dust? So am I.
And God says to us, his weak, needy, guilty, frail, dusty children, “I know you through and through, and I love you anyway. Come to me. Rest in me. Make me your Rock.” God’s mercy in Christ is more than enough for all of us.
Let's pray.
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