Saturday, May 05, 2012


“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love 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 has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:11-13 HCSB)

Most church folks are familiar with the story of the “Prodigal Son” which Jesus told.  They have heard preachers focus on the lavish excess of the younger son, who took his inheritance and squandered it in abundant sin.  That message is not incorrect, just incomplete—for there was another “prodigal” who stayed at home—another brother in the story who was “excessive” also (for such is the meaning of the word “prodigal”).  The elder brother was excessively self-righteous, judgmental, bitter and prideful.  Yet, Tim Keller, in his book, “The Prodigal God” brings us to the fullest meaning of the parable in Luke 15, that the most excessively lavish character is the father—who abounds with love—welcoming, forgiving, throwing a party that a lost son would return!

David doesn’t use the word “prodigal”, and it would be centuries before Jesus would tell the story, but the concepts are all presented in Psalm 103.  David had been the sinful son, who had been so blessed by God, yet had bought into lust and deceit—going from the throne into the pigpen of iniquity.  He had been like the self-righteous son, when Nathan told him the story of the rich man who had taken the pet lamb from the poor man, angrily reacting to the rich man—failing to see himself in the mirror of God’s Word.  But, most importantly, he returned to the Father in repentance, and found Him to be the Prodigal God!  Excessive faithfulness to an unfaithful son, lavish forgiveness to a wayward child, boundless compassion to an undeserving rebel—how could David help but enjoy the party!

He praises God FOR HIS BENEFITS (v.1-5).  He exclaims, “My soul, praise the Lord, and do not forget all His benefits.” (v.2)  Then David begins to describe some of them:

FORGIVING OUR INIQUITIES, “He forgives all your sin…” (v.3a). David’s sin was undeniably extreme, but the enormity of the Father’s forgiveness was even more extravagant!  The indictment of his crimes against heaven called for condemnation, but the Judge gave pardon!

HEALING OUR DISEASES, “He heals all your diseases.” (v.3b)  The Great Physician has never diagnosed a disease that is incurable.  Of course, the reason we all face death, is that we are all sinners, and that condition is not only physically terminal, it will be spiritually eternal, bringing us to the “second death,” the lake of fire” (Rev.20:14).  David knew he deserved it—we all do.  But, there is One who heals, if we but seek the cure!
REDEEMING OUR LIVES, “He redeems your life from the Pit…” (v.4a).  Redemption carries the idea of being purchased.  What did it cost the Prodigal Father to have a party for the younger prodigal son?  It would have been such an incredible expense.  Our redemption has been purchased—not by the slaughter of a “fattened calf” but the blood of the Lamb of God!

CROWNING OUR HEADS, “He crowns you with faithful love and compassion.” (v.4b)  Of all the crowns that King David wore, this was the most valuable—of incalculable worth.  It reminds us of the parable in Luke 15, when the dirty, defiled, once defiant young son is treated like royalty, as the father commands, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.”  What a wardrobe!

SATISFYING OUR NEEDS, “He satisfies you with goodness…” (v.5a).  When David was on the mountaintop of communion with God in former years, he would dogmatically state, “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Ps.23:6a).  But, would this indeed be true in his later years when he walked through the valley of shadow?  He found the promises of God to be more than adequate to satisfy his every need, even if that need was for great mercy!

RENEWING OUR STRENGTH, “your youth is renewed like the eagle.” (v.5b)  As the eagle will molt, its old feathers shedding and supplanted by new feathers, enabling the bird to be renewed and continue to soar, so we can experience that renewal.  David had been grounded because of his sin.  Created for the sky, he sat brooding in his nest, recalling what once was.  Would his experience with God ever be restored?  Yes!  No respecter of persons, what God did for David, he will do for us!

David not only praises God for His benefits, but FOR HIS BOUNTY (v.6-10).  The psalmist sings of one “rich in faithful love.” (v.8b)  He is no miser concerning His mercy!

There is ABUNDANT LIBERTY, “The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (v.6) 

David had seen the oppressed.  He knew what it was like to see people treated unjustly.  It was his job to help establish a righteous kingdom where oppression was overthrown.  David recalls how the Lord had freed Israel from the slavery of Egypt.  But, there is a slavery which is more diabolical than any institution of sinful man, with stronger shackles than iron.  It is the oppressive state of sin.  Though meant to reign, David had become enslaved to lust.  Guilt thrust its heavy yoke around his neck.  When the wayward son walked back to his father’s house, he carried that burden, “I'll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.' “  But the father would have none of it!  This wasn’t a slave, but his son!  That is abundant liberty from the Prodigal God!

There is ABUNDANT LIFE, “He revealed His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.” (v.7)  

Not only had God brought David’s ancestors out of the bondage of Egypt, but did so for the purpose of bringing them into the bounty of Canaan!  They were to experience abundant life in a land, “flowing with milk and honey.”  God certainly revealed that to them through Moses.  But, even though they had seen the awesome power of God displayed in bringing them out, that generation did not trust His power to bring them in.  If the devil cannot have your soul, he will do all he can to steal your joy—to rob you of your effectiveness—and even though you have life in heaven that awaits, you may stop short of the abundant life Jesus promises on earth (see John 10:10).  The son was yet a son while living in virtual starvation in a pig sty!  He was a son wearing rags.  As incredible as it seems, when he returns home, a prodigal father awaits to not only sustain his life as it was, but to give him abundant life as he was meant to have!  Stop wallowing in your guilt, saying, “What if?” and come to the Prodigal God and discover, “What will be!”

There is ABUNDANT LOVE, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love. He will not always accuse [us] or be angry forever.  He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.” (v.8-10) 

Let those words sink in.  David was rightfully accused, “You are the man” and God was righteously angry.  There would be a price David would pay—but, not as he deserved.  God gave compassion, rather than condemnation, and God’s forgiveness replaced His fury.  2 Samuel 11-12 are there so that none of us would presume upon the grace of God and take sin lightly, but Psalms 32, 51 and 103 are there so that none of us would despair of the grace of God and miss His mercy!

David praises God for His benefits, bounty and FOR HIS BENEVOLENCE (v.11-22) The boundless benevolence of God is underscored in the words, “So great” in verse 11 and “So far” in verse 12.
The Prodigal God overflows with EXTENSIVE MERCY.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love 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 has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.” (v.11-14).

The vastness of our universe is staggering.  How high is heaven above the earth—heaven that is beyond the boundaries of the innumerable stars?  God’s great love is greater still!  Our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west—what a comfort!  If the Bible said they are as far as the north from the south, such would be precious, considering the distance between the North and South Poles.  But, the fact remains, if you start travelling north, you will eventually reach the point where you cross over and start heading south again.  Yet, if you begin to journey east, and continue that direction, you will always be going east, or if you choose to set your course to the west, unless you turn around, you will always be headed west!  That means God puts our sins beyond all boundaries—to an infinite distance!

The Prodigal God overflows with ENDURING MERCY.

As for man, his days are like grass—he blooms like a flower of the field; when the wind passes over it, it vanishes, and its place is no longer known. But from eternity to eternity
the Lord's faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His precepts.” (v.15-18)

We are like a fading flower, blooming for a short while and soon gone.  God’s faithful love lasts from eternity to eternity—and that’s a long time!  Before there was a world, and time was marked off in days by the revolution of the earth, the love of God was present and His heart was directed toward you, before there was a you, before there was anything other than God!  When this creation is no more and time surrenders to timelessness, and God is all in all, the love of God will still endure, and you will be the object of that love!

The Prodigal God overflows with EXHAUSTIVE MERCY.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.  Praise the Lord, [all] His angels of great strength, who do His word, obedient to His command. Praise the Lord, all His armies, His servants who do His will. Praise the Lord, all His works in all the places where He rules. My soul, praise Yahweh!”  (v.19-22)

Five times (once by implication) the word “all” is exclaimed underscoring the exhaustive quality of God’s mercy.  Such a little word, but such a large concept!  How much is all?  Well, it’s all!  That is an exhaustive, comprehensive term—and because God’s grace is so great, so our gratitude should be—and will be!  All created beings, in all places, for all time are to praise the Almighty!

We dare not minimize David’s sin.  It was terrible and there were grievous temporal consequences.  Rather, we maximize God’s grace!  “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound!”  (Rom.5:20)

I think of the words found scrawled on the wall of an insane asylum, that express sheer genius, and are now engraved on my heart in the song, “The Love of God.”

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.”

We will sing of His love forever—the Prodigal God!

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