Advent: December 3
Psalm 103:1, 8-12
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
8 the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
The psalmist echoes in verse 8 God’s own words that form part of his name. There was a point in my life not so long ago that the Book of Psalms really hit home. It had been a struggle to read through new ones (I’d sung and learned many as a boy chorister). Yes, in the Psalms we find expression for the depths of our human emotions and the variety of our human condition. They can stand for us when we can’t quite get the words right ourselves. But what hit me was that running through the book is a golden thread, more like a lightning rod, that expresses unwavering truth about who God is. There, etched as on diamond tablets, we read of God’s constancy in our times of change, his care in our times of need, his justice for the poor in a greedy world, and his compassion and grace.
God’s compassion touches the very core of our being – he knows us inside out and he understands our struggles as well as our successes. He is gracious, giving us time to change even when we grieve his heart. Even when we are deliberately sinful (we do not “fall” into sin as if it were a hole in the ground -we jump in), God is merciful – he does not treat us as we deserve.
Verses 11 and 12 describe the vastness of his love, grace and mercy. The astronomical and geographical perspectives are more than the psalmist can comprehend. God is righteous and just, but the proud and the wicked are given time and space in which to repent.
Are there lines from the extract above that bring you the vastness of God’s love?
Are there lines that bring home to you hope?
Father God, you know me more than I know myself. When I have gone my way rather than yours, you have stayed your hand of righteousness and justice. When I have thought that I’d got away with it, you have watched and waited. I turn back to you, to your love, your compassion, your mercy, your forgiveness and your grace. Amen.