David Holford

A Brief Reflection on Psalm 103

The morning Psalm yesterday was one of my favorites, if one should have favorites. Some months ago when Psalm 103 was my morning Psalm (and it has always been used as a morning Psalm in the Church) it inspired me to write the song “How Great, How Wide”. Like many other songwriters, I keyed in on the line “As far as the east is from the west”.

This is great imagery, but without quoting the whole Psalm, I think this line is best seen in the context of around it.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

The key theme here is our helplessness before God. Our time of mortality is brief and we are fragile. God’s mercy is overwhelming.

The last part reminds us that it is mercy based on relationship. Even though we are the infinitesimally weaker part, and constantly unable to be faithful, our goal is to keep His covenant and remember His commandments. Overwhelming grace is not cheap grace. We have to get up and brush off the dust (from which we are near indistinguishable), and “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Lest we think that are doing okay keeping His commandments – not breaking any of the letter of the Decalogue or even Jesus’ explanation of the spirit of the Decalogue in His Sermon on the Mount – let’s remember what Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

If we love one another as He loved us, is our mercy and grace toward our brothers and sisters measuring up to His mercy and grace toward us? If it is not, we must confess that transgression and become a covenant keeper once again.

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