22–28 October 2017.
We all know that Jesus commands us to forgive others. Jesus tells us not to take revenge, not to pay back evil for evil, but to be ready to forgive people for the things they have done to us. While we all know this, sometimes we forget that this is also the way God deals with us. Too often we think that God is someone who does take revenge, someone who pays us back and punishes us for every tiny wrong thing we do. Too many of us live in fear of God, afraid of his anger, thinking that he commands us to forgive others but that he isn’t willing to follow his own command and forgive us. Of course that’s completely wrong!
God doesn’t want our relationship with him to be shaped by fear. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of him. God doesn’t want us to approach him with fear, as if he is an angry and unpredictable king. He wants us to come to him with love, knowing that he is our loving Father. That’s why today’s psalm reminds us not to be afraid of God, but instead to thank God: to thank God with everything that we are. Seven times the psalm commands us to “bless the Lord”. It doesn’t command us to cower before God, or to panic. Instead, as verse 1 says so beautifully: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Why?
Because God is not a God of hate, anger, or destruction. As today’s psalm tells us, God is full of mercy and compassion, and he does so much for us. He heals us, he rescues us, he surrounds us with good things, and he crowns us with steadfast love and mercy (v. 4). Best of all, he does this even though he knows that we are sinners. That’s because God doesn’t come to us with anger and hate, but with mercy. He forgets our sins and takes them as far away from us as as the east is from the west. As v. 8 promises us: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
God forgets our sins. But our great danger is that we ourselves forget that God does this! We forget the wonderful news of his love, we forget everything that he has done for us, and we forget that he blesses us with his grace. As a sinner, there is nothing worse than forgetting the everlasting mercy and grace that God gives us – because to forget that is to live in the blackness of hopelessness and despair. So remember today that God pours out his mercy and grace on you; he has forgiven you, and he calls you to come back to him today with thanksgiving and praise.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis