• Neil Schindler

Recalling the Character of God… Again (Psalm 103:8-10)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He 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 in order for the message to sink in. By repeating the same message over multiple times, the goal is to communicate how important it is to listen to what is being said.

Good Repetition

We see this in the New Testament as Paul risks redundancy in commanding the Philippians to rejoice over and over again in his short letter. But, 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 of worldly pleasures that could sidetrack their affections, “it is safe” for the Philippians to hear Paul repeat this same command to rejoice many times so that they can be reminded of the importance of this command. The most important things in our lives are the things we should say the most often.

In continuing on with our memorization work of Psalm 103 in verses 8-10, the first verse should stand out to us as very familiar. Certainly this language is very familiar! As was pointed out in verses 5-7 last week, 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.

An Important Passage

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 context of the Moses’ day, this revelation is both amazing and shocking! After receiving the Ten Commandments, Israel immediately turns away into from the true God into idolatry and makes a golden calf to worship. They deserve immediate judgment. And being just, God does punish the community in part. But instead of completely destroying the whole them, as they deserved, he shows mercy and love by sparing them!

Secondly, the remembrance of God’s character here not only recalls his mercy to the people of Israel in the desert, but 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, we Christians are well acquainted with this epoch. When Jesus Christ came, God’s anger against sin fell upon Christ. Therefore, 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!

For Reflection

1. Are you speaking about the most important things the most often? 2. What does it mean that God “chides” (v. 9)? How has this changed? 3. How should God’s mercy flavor the way we treat others who sin against us?

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