The Lord is Kind and Merciful

Scripture Reading

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.

He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12)

Scripture Study

103:1–2. The psalmist wants to praise God with his entire being—to bless him for all the good things he has received, without forgetting a single one.

103:3–5. The “steadfast love” and “mercy” of God (v. 4) that shine forth from the psalmist’s life like a crown are his underlying reason for composing this psalm.

103:6. This is the central statement. God’s steadfast love and mercy are revealed as salvation (“justice”) for the oppressed.

103:7–12. The survey of all that God has done for his people over the course of history (summarized in vv. 8–10) concludes by attesting to the immensity of his love (vv. 11–12).

Scripture Reflection

Psalm 103 is a profoundly evangelical hymn. It gives voice to the thankfulness of sinners that the LORD is a God of mercy and grace. It recites in a concentrated way what Israel learned about the ways of God; the LORD had not dealt with them according to their sins. The psalm names steadfast love (hesed) as the attribute of the LORD expressed in all the LORD’s dealings and ways Steadfast love (hesed) is, of course, the attribute and activity of the LORD celebrated in the psalms as the LORD’s essential goodness beyond all others.

Steadfast love is both character and act. One can attempt to define it as helpfulness toward those with whom one stands in relationship. To do hesed is to do the best in and make the best of a relationship. That is why, in a theology that thinks of God’s way with human beings in terms of creation, election, promise, and covenant, hesed is immensely important.

The LORD’s steadfast love, says the psalm, is so abounding that it fills all time and space. It is as great as the heavens are high above the earth; it is lasting as everlasting lasts. It is a love given freely to his children – unmerited and unconditional. The LORD is surely kind and merciful.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.