Saturday, June 6, 2015
The Runway of God's Greatness - Thoughts from Psalm 103
Psalm 103:1 "Bless the Lord, O my soul,And all that is within me, bless His holy name."
Anytime I have ever flown in an aircraft, the take off is personally among the most interesting aspects of airtravel. Dozens of people are responsible for taxiing the aircraft out to the tarmac to get it ready to zoom down the runway and into the air. Great care is taken to ensure that the aircraft itself is ready for the voyage into the sky. Runway lights show the way to point the pilot and passengers into their journey into the air. When that aircraft is positioned, the engines roar to their full speed. The passengers being pushed back into their seats indicate the proper velocity needed to go from ground to air. Once the bumpiness of the runway is gone, I know we have succeeded in enjoying the view from above. All of this imagery (whether the reader likes flying or not) illustrates how I feel when reading Psalm 103. The Psamist is commanding himself: "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me, praise His holy name". Today I want us to strap ourselves into the seats of Psalm 103 and discover how God in this Psalm gets us down the runway to view His greatness. Notice these thoughts...
1. The redemption won by Jesus Christ - the vessel for beholding God's greatness. Psalm 103:1-5
Someone may wonder how we see Jesus and His finished work in these first five verses, being that this Psalm was written a millennium before Christ came to this world? We must ever remember that the people of God in the Old Testament were saved as much by the cross of Christ as we are, with the distinction being that of perspective. Old Testament saints, like David, looked forward to Christ through the types and shadows of the temple, sacrifices and promises, as spelled out in New Testament passages such as Luke 24:44 and Hebrews 1:1-2. We in the New Testament look back on Christ's finished work. In order for anyone to truly know God, they must begin at the cross. The forgiveness and redemption of God, promise and predicted in the Old Testatment, finds its finish and starting line at the cross. Outside of the cross, God cannot be known in a saving way. Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians says it well: "If you ask how God may be found, who justifies sinners, know that there is no other God besides this man Christ Jesus. Embrace Him, and forget about the nature of God. But these fanatics who exclude our Mediator in their dealings with God, do not believe me. Did not Christ Himself say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me"? Without Christ there is no access to the Father, but futile rambling; no truth, but hypocrisy; no life, but eternal death."
2. God's benefits, the windows through which we delight in God's greatness. Psalm 103:2-18
Thus when we are told in Psalm 103:2 to not forget any of God's benefits - those benefits include:
a. Forgiveness (103:3)
b. Healing (103:3)
c. Deliverance (103:4). Such saving benefits not only save us "from" something, but also "unto something" - namely the crowning of God's people with heavenly benefits (103:4).
d. God's mercies. This includes God's abiding peace in this world (103:5-18). Again, what Jesus would achieve and did achieve reaches backward to where David was and forward to where we are at and must be grasped by grace through faith. The redeeming work of God in Christ is the vessel which we must climb into by faith to behold and appreciate God's greatness.
e. God's Sovereignty. (103:19) If we try to behold God's greatness through any other way, we are no better than a man falling to the ground with no parachute. Anything outside of Jesus Christ leads to certain death. So the redemption won by Jesus Christ is the vessel for beholding God's greatness, but notice something else in this Psalm...
3. God's works and ways are the wheels upon which we roll down the runway of His greatness. Psalm 103:6-18
An airplane needs wheels upon which to roll down the runway. When we are strapped into Jesus Christ by faith, we are ready to live out and soar for Him. What is ever needed in the Christian life is a great love and appreciation for the greatness of God brought to us. David in this Psalm focuses upon four kinds of works of God in Psalm 103:7-18 - God's righteous acts (103:6-7) and three-fold cord of lovingkindness, tender mercies and compassions (103:8-18). At one point the Psalmist makes the distinction between God revealing His acts to the children of Israel (103:7) and His ways to Moses (103:7). It's one thing to see God's hand in our life (i.e His acts). However, whenever God shows us His face in Christ, it is then we pine after Him and are so satisfied with God in Christ that we are fulfilled in every point of faith. The thrust of thus Psalm takes us from contemplating to what God has done (His benefits, His acts, His ways) to the kind of God God is. It is in this pattern of focusing on God's works, ways to actual Person that causes the aircraft of the faith-life to get off of the runway and into the air. We know that in this world, getting into the air is not always easy. God has given us every conceivable grace possible to ensure we will endure to the end (Romans 10:13; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24-25). We have seen the vessel and the wheels needed to get down the runway of God's greatness. In Psalm 103, David mentions one final act of God's grace towards us that oftentimes we don't thin about...
4. God's angels are thr runway lights pointing to His greatness. Psalm 103:19-22
David writes the following striking words in Psalm 103:19 "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all." One of the plainest declarations we would ever want to read regarding God's Sovereignty and control is found in Psalm 103:19. But now, in this world where the sky overhead is often dark and distractions abound, how is it that the child of God is able to keep focused on this plain and simple truth? David's command to his soul to "bless the Lord" is stated in the language of prayer to God. Also too, the fact that we are reading these words in our Bibles indicates that the words of God - the scriptures - are Divinely appointed by God to ensure our endurance in God. God elsewhere in His word has prescribed secondary means that reinforce to us these truths, among which are His angelic hosts. Passages such as Psalm 91:11 and Hebrews 1:14 explain how angels are ministering spirits sent by God to aid His people in striving forth in their faith. Like runway lights in the middle of the night, angels function to aid the people of God in both taking off in their faith (Hebrews 1:14; 13:3) and ensuring that at the end of their journey, they land in God's intended destination for them - Himself (Luke 16:22). The ministry of God's angels mentioned by David reminds us of this truth in Psalm 126:5 "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting." Psalm 103:20-22 states - "Bless the Lord, you His angels,Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! 21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. 22 Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the Lord, O my soul!" Hence David ends this Psalm with the repeated reminder to himself and us: "Bless the Lord oh my soul.
The runway of God's greatness and the assurance we have of having enjoyment in God's greatness and being more heavenly minded is instructed to us in this Psalm. May we today go down the runway of God's greatness in the vessel of Jesus Christ's accomplished work, the wheels of God's acts, benefits and ways in Christ and being all the while encouraged by the runway lights of God's angelic hosts that point the way to God's greatness for us to live in, feast upon and enjoy!