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Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017, Yujin wrote,

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).

Everyone should memorize Psalm 103. The whole psalm is precious, with verse 12 being the crown jewel. What is this expression "as far as the east is from the west" but profoundly a picture of the infinite, for who can measure east to west along the circle of the globe, for east becomes west and west becomes east in a neverending interchange, where no one can say where one begins and the other ends. This is how far God has removed our transgressions from us, never to be recovered, never to be held to our account. This is what the sacrifice of Jesus has accomplished for every believer! Hallelujah! Let us declare with the psalmist: "Bless the LORD, O my soul!" (Psalm 103:22)

Friends, whatever you are going through today, whatever news feels too hard to stomach, whatever situation wrenches your heart and mind, I remind you of this glorious truth. Jesus saves! We are forgiven! Heaven is just around the corner! Don't let a little puddle of suffering overshadow the vast ocean of God's promises to us in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Friday, July 12, 2013, Yujin wrote,

Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle (Psalm 103:3-5).

Does God heal every disease? No. Then why does David make this claim? It is because God is the source of all healing. In the same way, He is the source of all pardoning of iniquities. He is the only one that can redeem a life from the pit. What does this suggest? God may not heal in every instance, but where there is healing, you can be sure that He had a hand in it. God may not redeem everyone, but you can be sure that where there is redemption, it was from the LORD.

How does this radically change our perspective on life? While we cannot box God into affirming some "Name it claim it" theology, we can be sure of this, that every good thing comes from Him (James 1:17). That means there can be no recourse to turn to another. Are you frustrated with God? There is no better alternative. Do you refuse to believe God's way of salvation? There is no other way to be saved. 

Our unbelief or our disatisfaction with God's ways have no relevance with respect to the character and ways of God. But it may mean that we will incur judgment rather than salvation. A refusal to embrace God's sovereignty does not take anything away from His sovereignty, but it may reveal the extent of our foolishness in attempting to challenge supreme authority. 

Friends, what are you facing today? is it really hard? Is it confusing? Does it make you angry because it seems so unfair to you? So, what are you going to do about it?

Will you complain to God, as the Israelites did in the wilderness of Sinai? Look what happened to them. Their dead bodies are strewn along that eleven-day path to the Promised Land. 

Will you test God, saying something like, "I will believe in you if you do this, but I will reject you if you don't?" You will find that you're the only one to suffer harm, for God does not need your faith. As Paul wrote, "Let God be true, and every human being a liar" (Romans 3:4). 

What is wisdom? It is not to test God. It is not to complain to God. It is to acknowledge that God is sovereign, and then do our utmost to discern His will. As Paul wrote,

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

How do you do this? I tell you that you will not discern God's will in some mystical moment at a place like IHOP or at some revival meeting or at the final night of an emotionally and physically exhausting retreat. There is only one sure-fire place, where you will clearly and unequivocally discern God's will. And that is in the Word of God, the Bible:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

We find the longest chapter in the Bible at the very center of the Bible, Psalm 119, which is all about the most important concentration of every believer: the Word of God. There we read,

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word (Psalm 119:9-16).

Friends, there is no need to fret about anything in this life. Not money, not job, not family, not betrayal, not natural disaster, not gain, not loss, not anything. There is only one thing that we need to do. Live in keeping with God's Word. That's it! This is all that God requires. Let us take this to heart, and in so doing, I believe we will realize God's peace and joy in this life as we look forward in hope to our eternal dwellings with Christ.

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Thursday, July 12, 2012, Yujin wrote,

And the Lord multiplied the people of Israel
    until they became too mighty for their enemies.
Then he turned the Egyptians against the Israelites,
    and they plotted against the Lord’s servants (Psalm 105:24-25).

Friends, I don't want you to miss this. Our eyes are so wrongfully conditioned these days that we are blind to certain truths that the Bible repeatedly shouts back at us. If you read the above verses carefully, you will observe two sovereign acts of God: (1) God multiplied His people and (2) God turned Egypt against Israel. There is never any dispute that God multiplied His people in keeping with His covenant promises to Abraham. However, there are many who question the second premise, that God turned the hearts of the Egyptians, particularly Pharaoh, against Israel. Why? It is mainly because of passages like James 1:13,

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

And Psalm 145:17,

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does. 

Therefore, the argument goes, since Pharaoh's disobeying God is a sin, God did not do this, for God "does not tempt anyone (to sin)." Since God is righteous, He would not cause the Egyptians to enslave and torment His people. But, just for argument's sake, is it really disobedience to God or sin if God desires that it be so? God wanted Pharaoh to harden his heart so that God might display His wonderous power through him (Romans 9:17). And the same would go for the Egyptian people. God desired that Israel experience the hardship of slavery so that they might know the joy of God's deliverance and provision in the Promised Land. 

Our text says explicitly that God caused the Egyptians to turn against Israel. The Bible just as clearly says that He hardened Pharoah's heart, so that he did not let Israel go time and time again. Now, whether you say that God hardened Pharoah's heart before or after Pharoah himself hardened his own heart is but a red herring to draw attention from the fact that at some point God hardened Pharoah's heart. In other words, God caused Pharoah to do either what he might not have done himself or more than what he might have done himself. Either way you look at it, God was a cause, whether a first cause or a later cause. 

But how does this reconcile with James, who writes that God does not tempt anyone? But I would in turn ask, how do you reconcile James with the Lord, who taught the disciples to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13). Why would Jesus teach the disciples this prayer if there was no possibility that God would lead them into temptation? 

I would contend that while it is true that God does not tempt anyone to sin, we must understand the nature of sin, which is a violation of God's will. What James means is that God does not promote rebellion. This is similar to what Jesus argued when the Pharisees said that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus answered, "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." Why would Satan destroy his own work? Or course, he would not do so. No, Jesus cast out demons by the power of God, not Satan. By the same reasoning, God does not entice anyone to sin against Him. He would not destroy His own work.

But we must not generalize from this that God cannot cause a person to disobey Him, for He might do so in order that God might accomplish a greater purpose. He allowed, or perhaps even caused, Pharoah to harden his heart against God so that God might show His power through Him in delivering Israel. God allowed, or perhaps even caused, Judas to betray Jesus so that Jesus might pay for sins on the cross and so that God might show His power through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is also the reason why God caused righteous Joseph to suffer - so that He might bring about a great deliverance of Israel from famine and also bring them into Egypt, where He would multiply their numbers in keeping with His covenant promise to them. This may also be why God allowed righteous Job to suffer - so that He might demonstrate His sovereign right to do just as He pleases. 

Does God tempt anyone to sin? Yes and No. In the sense that James argues, with respect to rebellion against God's purposes, absolutely not. However, there are plenty of examples of God leading this or that person into temptation, even Jesus to be tempted by the devil for forty days in the wilderness. Yet, we do not say that this is God going against His own purposes. No, in all these instances, even His sending a lying spirit to Ahab, it was in keeping with His sovereign plan. Let us not be so rigid and knotted in our thinking, as were the friends of Job, that we universally apply certain verses of Scripture, forcing them beyond the limited context in which they were given. 

Friends, the words for "test" and "tempt" are the same in the original languages. This distinction is important because while we would argue, for instance, that God would never tempt anyone, He does test everyone. Traditionally, the argument goes that God does not "try" (a good neutral word) a person so that they sin, but He does it so that they might not sin. So we would say Ford might test its own products to demonstrate durability but test its competitor's products to show their flaws. God does the former and not the latter.

This is appropriate; however, there is a flaw in the argument, and it is the belief that God never tests to destroy. He certainly does. When God tested Israel in the wilderness, allowing them to hunger and thirst and feeding them with manna, He certainly did so with the view to destroying most of them, just as He decreed when they refused to trust Him at Kadesh-Barnea. 

A better way to distinguish test and tempt is not to look at the outcome but the origin, not the object but the source. Remember, James also writes, "God cannot be tempted." In fact, it does not matter whether you interpret the word as "tempt' or "test," because God cannot be tempted or tested. Why? It is because God is sovereign. Testing or tempting presumes flaws or inadequecies, of which God has none of. Furthermore, God would see the test or temptation even before it is even conceived, and then what test or temptation would there be? 

Therefore, let us understand that God, who cannot be tempted, does not Himself tempt because He does not need to do so. But testing is something unique to God alone. Only He can truly test something. And the testing is not to discover something He does not know. When He tested Abraham with Isaac, God was not ignorant of the outcome. When God tested Israel in the wilderness, He was fully aware of the result. No, God tests to produce the outcome He desires. If we were to extend the Ford analogy. Ford would test its vehicles and its competitors' vehicles with the exact same test when Ford is convinced that the outcome would result in its favor. This is also the purpose of the "Pepsi Challenge" of some years past. These are flawed examples, as the companies themselves are flawed, but God, who is perfect, who sees the end from the beginning, tests people because He knows that they will respond, whether to pass or fail the test, in keeping with His sovereign purposes. 

Friends, I know that this might have been a bit "heady" for some of you, but I hope you can understand my reasoning here. What is most difficult is that you will likely not read what I'm sharing here in many commentaries or hear it even in most pulpits. Yet, I feel the perspective that I bring here is most faithful to the biblical testimony. I would encourage you to always keep your minds and hearts open to the Word of God; otherwise, you will always be led by this or that human authority, this or that eloquent preacher, this or that entertaining book. 

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Tuesday, July 12, 2011, Sherry wrote,

The reading is just so beautiful, comforting, and really explains all God does for us.  Psalm 103 focuses on God's glorious acts.  This is not my time of year and I woke up miserable, depressed, in pain and not feeling too much like praising God. David's list gave me plenty of reasons for praise- His forgiveness, healing, redemption, loving-kindness, tender mercies,  providence, righteousness, justice, patience, and grace!  We receive all of these without deserving any.  Sure changed my attitude!  No matter how bad my day is I can always count my blessings!  I marked this Psalm 103 so I can reread when I feel like I am having a miserable day.

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Tuesday, July 12, 2011, Yujin wrote,

Friends, what a beautiful chorus of chapters that extol the sovereignty of God. Psalm 103 praises God's sovereignty in salvation, chapter 104 His sovereignty over creation, and chapter 105 His sovereignty over history. Let us briefly consider Psalm 105:19 and 25. We find something Job-like in these verses.

He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the LORD tested him (Psalm 105:17-19).

We read in Psalm 105:19 that God's Word tested Joseph, so that he "was sold as a slave" and his feet were hurt "with fetters" and "he was laid in irons" (Psalm 105:18). The NIV seems to be taking too many liberties to translate verse 19 as "till the word of the LORD proved him true" rather than the more literal "the word of the LORD tested him," which is supported by every other major translation. Let's recall that every translation is an interpretation. Could it be that the NIV translator did not want to make it seem like God afflicted righteous Joseph? Yet, that is exactly how we should read it. A few verses later, in the same vein we read God "turned their (i.e. the Egyptians) heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants" (Psalm 105:25).

Israel also came into Egypt,
And Jacob dwelt in the land of Ham.
He increased His people greatly,
And made them stronger than their enemies.
He turned their heart to hate His people,
To deal craftily with His servants
(Psalm 105:23-25).

It was not only Pharaoh's heart that was hardened (Exodus 4:21; cf. Romans 9:16-18) but also the Egyptians. Now, in both instances, while God brought the suffering, He also brought the deliverance. Joseph became the 2nd most powerful figure in Egypt and was used to save Israel from famine, which consequently, God also brought to pass. After Israel suffered hundreds of years under Egyptian slavery, God delivered them with great signs and wonnders. So God brings both calamity and deliverance. He is sovereign over every event of history. God is the one who allowed hundreds of thousands to be killed in the tsunami. And the same God allowed a little child to be alive in the rubble even after five days.

But how are we to understand all of this? Then, are we not just pawns in the hands of God? In a sense, yes. Paul writes that we are clay in the hands of the Potter (Romans 9:19-21). But what about our freedom? Our freedom is limited by God's sovereign purposes and plan. There are many things in the universe that limit our freedom. There are natural laws, like the law of gravitation, such that if you jump off of a building, you will fall, and if it is high enough, you will likely die. There are things that affect our psychological wellbeing, such that constant exposure to course speech, violence, and immorality growing up can desensitize you to such things and make you more prone to repeat them when you are older. A culture steeped in Hinduism can mold a person's thinking toward polytheism. The information and stimuli that you have and don't have will impact what you choose or choose not to believe. All of these things limit our freedom. No one, except God, is totally free. But we believe our God is real, our God is good, and our God has chosen some of us to enjoy the paradise of heaven with Him forever. This is the biblical testimony. It may sound somewhat fatalistic, but it is true.

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Monday, July 12, 2010, Matt wrote,

As I read through Psalm I tend to start zoning out because there is a lot of repetition.  Like praise songs today this can be true too but at least there's a catchy beat or tune that can provide some uniqueness.  Not that this is something to brag about but I really wasn't getting a lot out of them until Psa. 103.  Verse 8 really struck a chord.

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.

This verse really encapsulates who God is.  Not just a loving, compassionate & gracious God but a God who does get angry too.  Thankfully slowly.

If I had to describe God to someone who doesn't know him I would use this verse.  The only other thing I am truly blessed to be able to add is a personal note that he is a friend.  Blessings.

Passage: Psalms 103-105

On Monday, July 12, 2010 (Last Updated on 7/12/2012), Yujin wrote,

Psalm 103 is an amazingly refreshing song for a sin-weary soul. Consider these descriptions of God's ways:

    10He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
         Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
         So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

    12As far as the east is from the west,
         So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

    13Just as a father has compassion on his children,
         So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

We ought to be judged, even condemned forever, because of our sins against a holy and eternal God, but He chooses not to do it (verse 10). In order to keep His promises ("lovingkindness" = "faithfulness to keep God's covenant promises," hesed) to us, He had to accomplish something of astronomical proportions, for an eternal weight of punishment required a sacrifice that would be of eternal proportions - only Christ, the God-man, could accomplish this when He died in our place for our sins (verse 11). And in Him God has completely forgiven us for our sins. Even as east never meets west, so once we have been forgiven, we will never have to give account of our sins again (verse 12). His compassion toward us is like a father to His children, because through His provision of Christ, we become adopted as children of God (verse 13). Both the OT saint and the NT saint embrace this same promise, but while they look forward to Christ, we look back to Him.

As faith is the operative term in the NT for entrance into these blessings, fear is the operative term in the OT. God's lovingkindness is toward those who "fear Him" (v. 11). The LORD has compassion on those who "fear Him" (v. 13). His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting to those who "fear Him" (v. 17). The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7), wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 111:10-11). When Israel enters a land that has no relationship with God, the people of that land is described as having no "fear of God" (cf. Genesis 20:11). Two passages in Deuteronomy help us to understand this "fear of God," Deut 10:12-13 and 20-21:

 12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

"Faith" in the NT has depth of meaning, so that we say it implies more than just believing things about Christ but also seeing Him as our personal Lord and Savior and so living our lives for His glory. In the same way, in the OT "fear" carries that connotation. it carries conviction, obedience, affection, adoration, and undivided loyalty. As for faith, so for fear, we might think that we are wholly unable to achieve faith or fear because we fall short in so many points. And this is true, both for the NT and OT saint. But passages like Psalm 103 help us to appreciate the subtle yet unmistakeable silver lining to fear, as well as to faith. While they are impossible for humans, they are possible for God, and He accomplishes them for us through His unconditional covenant relationship with us. Once God calls us into this relationship, we are secure. So faith that we could not accomplish is given to us. And God made a way so that where no Israelite could adequately fear the LORD, then they would all fear Him. In the NT, we call this "grace". The OT is much more poetic and descriptive:

    10He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
         Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
         So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

    12As far as the east is from the west,
         So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

How do you know that you have been called by God into this relationship, which is our only hope for salvation? As you read His Word, do you yearn for His appearing? Is your hope "Your kingdom come, Your will be done"? If so, you are likely His child and understand that this world and this life are just a brief hiatus before we enter our true home in His presence.

But are we still making decisions as if this place is our home and this time is all there is? If so, we need to meditate on the message of the Psalms once again so that we can gain real perspective. Otherwise, we are in danger of "spinning our wheels," wasting our lives on matters that do not concern eternity. Let us be busy to "lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20).