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God’s Word for You

Psalm 103:13-16 The Lord has compassion

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, December 26, 2019

13 As a father has compassion for his children,
  so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.
14 He knows how we were formed;
  he remembers that we are dust.

David was thinking of the words of Moses in these two verses. At the end of the forty years’ sojourn in the wilderness, Moses said: “The LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31). And there is also Deuteronomy 32:6: “Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” The statement that “we are dust” likewise comes from the pen of Moses, quoting the curse in the Garden of Eden: “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19), which is quoted again in Psalm 104:29.

Any man might scold naughty children, but every man is compassionate with his own children. “In compassion a man spares his son who serves him” (Malachi 3:17). A man who shows his own children no love is a man without the love of God inside. A father remembers the sight of his children as they emerged from the womb, as they lay sleeping on their mother’s breast, as they lay defenseless and trusting in their crib or bassinette. His sinfulness is passed along to them as their sinfulness, although their sins are their own just as his are his own. God remembers where we came from, and God knows what we truly are. We are his creation; his creatures (“Your hands made me and formed me,” Psalm 119:73). But through faith we are also his children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). When we serve and obey him, he is delighted. When we try and fail, he credits us with the obedience of Christ and sets our failure aside. He says: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgression, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). What greater reminder do we need that we are forgiven because God has compassion on us, and not because of any seemingly good thing he sees in us? It is not for our merits or even our repentance, but for his own sake that he sets aside our sins. He knows how fragile and weak we are.

15 The days of man are like grass.
  He blossoms like a flower of the field.
16 The wind passes over it, and it is gone,
  and its place remembers it no more.

With two comparisons, David takes the most commonplace of living things—grasses out in the field—and sets each of us in their place. We stand there, waving in the wind. The sun shines down, the moon passes overhead, the wind crosses our faces, and some of us might even bloom like flowers. But then we are gone. “When their spirit departs, they return to the ground” (Psalm 146:4).  “We wither away like grass” (Psalm 102:11).

Once again, David is thinking of Moses. This time, he is remembering the Psalm of Moses. Moses said: “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:5-6). The “wind” of verse 16 might be the hot, withering wind of the desert to the south and east of Israel (Job 15:2, 27:21; Psalm 48:7, 78:26; Luke 12:55). If so, then the wind itself is what makes the grass wither and die. “What you brought home, I blew away” (Haggai 1:9). But this wind might be the breezes that make the water flow (Psalm 147:18), the north wind that brings rain and life to parched fields (Proverbs 25:23). In that case, David is talking about the blessings of life that come and go and seem all too brief. Whichever is on his mind, “it is gone.” The moment of our life ends quickly, whether we live forty years or eighty or less than eighteen. “They eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more” (Job 7:8).

The time of our life is our time of grace. This is the moment we have to come to faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, to learn about him and his forgiveness, to put our trust in him, and to carry along that message to whomever else we can with the moment of life we have left. We are not like the tsetse fly, living only for our passions for a single day, although many men and women behave as if they should. No, we are here just long enough to carry out the plan God has assigned to each one of us. Perhaps he has designed you to be just the right mother to a very special child, or to be an uncle and a friend to many people who need you to be stable, confident, and to be there when others can’t be. Perhaps he’s designed you to teach or to preach, or to carry along a legacy and pass it on. Whatever it is, use the moment God has given you, and accomplish your task to his glory.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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