Recalling the Character of God…Again (Psalm 103:8-10)
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. ⁹He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. ¹⁰He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. —Psalm 103:8-10
As any parent will readily acknowledge, it is often necessary to repeat the same thing to children many times over for the message to sink in. By repeating the same message multiple times, the goal is to communicate how important it is to listen to what is being said.
We see this in the New Testament as Paul risks redundancy in his short letter by commanding the Philippians to rejoice, over and over again. However, he says that “it is no trouble” for him to do so because he loves to rejoice in the Lord and see others doing the same (Philippians 3:1). Not only that, but in light of the myriad worldly pleasures that could sidetrack their affections, “it is safe” for the Philippians to hear Paul repeat this same command many times so that they can be reminded of the importance rejoicing in the Lord. The most important things in our lives are the things we should say the most often.
As we continue memorizing Psalm 103, verse 8 is very familiar. This psalm is intentionally pointing back to Exodus 34:6, and God’s revelation of Himself to Moses. These same descriptions of God are referenced over and over again in the Old Testament in other passages as well.
Significant Verse Eight
But why are the words of verse 8 so important to the message of this psalm, and to the Bible as a whole?
First, God himself is revealing the essence of his character to man. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” In the context of Moses’ day, this revelation is both amazing and shocking. After receiving the Ten Commandments, Israel immediately turned away into from the true God into idolatry and made a golden calf to worship. They deserved immediate judgment. Being just, God did punish the community in part. But instead of completely destroying the whole of them, as they deserved, he showed mercy and love by sparing them.
Second, the remembrance of God’s character here not only recalls His mercy to the people of Israel in the desert, but also points ahead to a future time when verse 9 will be true—when God “will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.” Thankfully, Christians are well acquainted with this epoch. When Jesus Christ came, God’s anger against sin fell upon Christ. This is why, as verse 10 affirms, “he does not deal with us according to our sins,” because He has placed them on Christ instead. What an amazing display of God’s mercy and graciousness toward us in Christ! May we continually declare the greatness of our God and His steadfast love.
1. Are you speaking about the most important things most often? 2. What does it mean that God “chides” (v. 9)? In light of Christ, how has this changed? 3. How should God’s mercy flavor the way we treat others who sin against us?