This is Your God!

Psalm 103

Tom Pennington  •  October 17, 2004
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Well this evening, I want us, as we prepare our hearts to take of the Lord's Table, I want us to turn to what really is an unusual text probably for this – Psalm 103. But Psalm 103, as you will discover, is the background of the cross. It is really an expression of the character of God that prompted His sending of His Son, His forsaking of Him, and His providing for us eternal salvation.

If I were to ask you tonight, "What do you think is the most important thing about you?" I wonder what you'd respond. Perhaps you would think it has to do with the skills that you've accumulated, perhaps with the knowledge that you have. Perhaps you would say it's what you've been able to achieve in life. There might be a number of answers that you would have in terms of the most important thing about you.

But the Bible would say this: the most important thing about you is what comes to mind when you think about God. What exactly do you perceive God to be like? Because that can predict your spiritual future. If I could somehow get inside of your mind and discover what you really think about God, I could tell you where you'll be five years from now, ten years from now in your spiritual walk with Christ unless God intervenes. You see, most of our failures in practical Christian living can be traced to imperfect thoughts of God.

A.W. Tozer put it this way in his little book The Knowledge of the Holy: "The most important fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like." Why is that? Well, Tozer goes on to say, "We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God." So, however you perceive Him, whatever you think Him to be like, that's the direction in which you're headed.

Now I'm not talking about your verbal creed. I'm not necessarily talking about what you might say about God if we brought you up here this evening and had you talk. The truth is your real view of God may lie buried beneath your creeds. How can we discover what we really believe about God? I had a seminary professor who put it simply. He said this: "Behavior always betrays belief." The way you respond to God, the way you act toward God reflects what you really believe about God. We can take a long, hard, painful look at how we act toward God, and we will discover what we actually believe.

Tonight, I want you to begin by asking yourself this simple question. What do I really believe God to be like? What first comes to mind when I think about God? And then I want you to allow what God says about Himself here in Psalm 103 to change your misconceptions.

Let me just lay out the chapter for you. We're not going to look at every verse, but let me just lay it out for you. You have in verses 1 and 2 a call to personal praise. David is talking to his own soul in those two verses, and he's admonishing himself to praise God. In verses 19 - 22, you have a call to universal praise. David says not just me now, but let everything in the universe, verse 22: "all you works of His, bless the Lord."

In between those two calls to praise are the reasons for praise. David begins in verses 3 - 5 with his own personal reasons. The pronouns are all singular: he's referring to himself, he's talking to his own soul. And he says, "Self, here are some things that I have benefitted from God regarding."

Now there are things that you and I benefit from as well, but I want us to focus our attention on verses 6 - 18 because in verses 6 - 18, he gives general reasons for praise – that is, not just for himself, but for all of us as well. Notice the pronouns change in verses 6 - 18 to "we", "us," and "our". He's talking about all of those. Notice verse 11: "who fear Him", verse 13: "those who fear Him", verse 17: "those who fear Him" and verse 18, he caps it off: "those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them." He's talking to true believers here. He's saying, "Listen. If you're a true Christian, if you're, in New Testament terms. In Old Testament terms, if you're a true believer in Jehovah God, then these are reasons that you have for praise."

In the process, these verses give us two answers I should say to two questions that are essential to our thinking about God. Essentially, David will answer two questions for us. The first is: how should I think of God? And the second is: what should I therefore expect from God? How should I think of God, and what should I expect from God? Let's look at the answers to those two questions together.

First of all, how should I think of God? Notice verse 6: "The Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed." Verse 6 introduces for us the theme of God's character. The word "righteous" means that which conforms to a standard as we saw this morning. So, God's "righteous deeds" means God acts in accordance with His standard of what's right. And notice "His judgments". As we saw this morning, the Hebrew expression is "legal decisions", God's decisions about what's right. What is the psalmist saying here? What is David saying in verse 6? God's actions are consistent with His own character.

But that immediately asks the question or begs the question, so what exactly is God like? What is His character? Well, verse 7 is a key verse to understanding this whole passage. It unlocks the passage. Notice verse 7: "He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel." He revealed, literally, His well-worn paths in the Hebrew. It was a figure of speech used often in Hebrew to refer to one's predictable patterns of behavior. Habits is a word we would use. God revealed His habits, that is, His predictable patterns of behavior, to Moses.

This verse points back to a very specific event recorded in Exodus. Turn back to Exodus so you can get the context. Exodus 32. You remember in Exodus 32:1 - 6, Moses is up on the mountain, and he delayed to come down, verse 1 tells us. "… the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, 'Come, let us make a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we don't know what's become of him.'" Forty days and they'd forgotten who their leader is. They'd forgotten what God has accomplished. They'd forgotten the cloud on the mountain just above them.

… Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters, and bring them to me." [Aaron capitulates. He gives in. He compromises.] Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. … he took this from their hand, and [he] fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf [can you believe it?]; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." [They pointed to a gold calf that Aaron just made with his own hands that can't see, can't smell, can't hear, can't answer, can't do anything and they say, "This is the god that wreaked havoc on Egypt, that freed us from four hundred years of slavery."]

You say, were they worshipping one of the gods of Egypt? Sadly, no. It's not even that clear. Look at what they were really doing, verse 5: "Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to [and you see the word "LORD" in all caps? That's God's personal name. That's the name Yahweh. He said,] 'Tomorrow will be a feast to) Yahweh.'" In other words, this golden calf he was representing as the true God of Israel, the God that really did bring them out of Israel, out of Egypt.

"So the next day [verse 6] they arose early and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings…." They had just learned from the Law given them there at Mount Sinai that they were supposed to do this, and now they're offering peace offerings and burnt offerings as if that's somehow going to satisfy God when they'd broken the second commandment. "… people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play." The thing becomes a debauched mess. Their pagan surroundings had influenced their perception of God. They began to think about God as if He were some manageable creature that could be put in a box, that could be molded in gold.

Well, Moses comes down. You know the story. Moses has three thousand who are unrepentant of all of this sin put to death by their own friends and family members. And then he intercedes with God. It's in that context that Moses makes an unusual request. Notice Exodus 33:18: "… Moses said [to the Lord briefly after all of that had transpired], 'I pray You, show Me Your glory!'" [Let me see Your magnificence. Let me see Your glory.]

In verse 19, God responds: "… I … will make My goodness pass before you." This refers to some visible display of God's glory that isn't described for us in the text. We're simply told that He saw God's after parts as it were. We don't know what he saw.

But then God says in verse 19: "and I will proclaim My name." In other words, not only will I give you a visible display of My glory, but I'll give you a verbal display of My glory, a verbal display of My character. And that's exactly what He does. Chapter 34:5:

… the LORD descended in the cloud and He stood there with Moses as he called upon the name of the LORD. And the Lord passed by in front of him [there's that visible display] and proclaimed, [here's the verbal display of God's character] "[Yahweh, Yahweh Elohim] … compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation." … Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and to worship."

What an overwhelming experience. This is what God is and how He wants His people to think of Him. When Moses said, "Show me Your glory, God, show Me Your character," God says, "Here it is" and He lays it out.

Now turn back to Psalm 103:7: "[God] … made known His [predictable patterns of behavior] … to Moses, [and] His acts to the sons of Israel." Verse 8, he quotes that self-revelation of God from Exodus 34: "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." Verse 8 is David's quotation of God's self-revelation.

Verses 9 - 18 are David's commentary on God's self-revelation. So, in the context of praise, David is teaching us how to think rightly about God.

Now notice verse 8 again because here's how we're to think about God: "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." Notice the word "compassionate". This is a warm, emotional word in the Hebrew text. It refers to a deep love for someone who is absolutely helpless. And it's a love for someone that's normally rooted in a natural bond. For example, it's often used of parents, as a parent feels toward a little child. For those of you who have children, it's that feeling, that compassion that you feel for that tiny little child that you've just brought home from the hospital. And as he or she lies there in the crib and you look down at that little life so helpless, so unable to do anything for himself. What you feel for that child is compassion. And God, we're told, is compassion, compassionate. God reaches down to us who are weak and vulnerable, and He makes His great heart share our struggles and His powerful arm act on our behalf. Many Christians see God as some sort of cold, distant figure somewhere off in the distance, but God wants us to think of Him as compassionate in the same way that a parent is toward a tiny child.

Notice the second word that's used as God wants us to think of Him – not only "compassionate", but also "gracious". This Hebrew word occurs thirteen times, eleven times with "compassionate". They come together, and that's because gracious or grace is the ground on which God bestows compassion. What is God's grace? It's simply His goodness shown to those who deserve nothing but evil, His goodness shown to those who deserve only evil from His hand.

I think there's no better illustration of it than the story of David, who's writing this Psalm. You remember David. You remember his terrible sin, how he found himself on the roof of the palace at the time when kings go forth to battle. And he looked down, and he saw Bathsheba, and in a moment of lust, he desired to have her. And he takes her as his own. And then to cover his tracks, he has her husband, a loyal servant of his, killed in battle. Adultery, murder – how could he, a man after God's own heart? And then you remember, of course, that Nathan comes, and Nathan comes and confronts David and says, "You are the man." Then David repents. How does he ask for God's forgiveness for such amazingly horrific sins? Psalm 51:1. How does he begin? "Be gracious to me, O God." Be good to me who deserves only evil from Your hand. Show me grace. It's God's character to bestow grace upon grace to His own. He wants us to think of Him that way.

Compassionate, gracious: verse 8 says also slow to anger, slow to anger. In the Hebrew as I told you before, the expression is "God has a long nose". It takes God a long time to get hot. This is God's patience toward those who deserve punishment. I can think of no better illustration of God's being slow to anger than the people of Assyria, and the capital city of Assyria, Nineveh.

You remember the story. Nineveh was the capital of this great nation, but Assyria was known for its incredible cruelty. We see the beheadings on television or on the internet and we're just absolutely overwhelmed with the cruelty of it. Listen to how one Assyrian king described his conquests, the historical record of how he dealt with his enemies: "The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city. I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins. Some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes and others I bound to stakes around the pillar." What incredible cruelty. What amazing brutality.

And into that situation, God sends Jonah, the reluctant prophet, the reluctant evangelist. And he goes in, and finally he preaches to the people. And verse 2 of chapter 4 says they repent, and God forgives them. What amazing patience God showed. But soon afterwards, the people of Assyria returned to their extreme wickedness, to their brutality, to their pride. But God waits over a hundred years more before He does anything else. Then He sends Nahum the prophet to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh, which finally occurred in 612. God was patient with Nineveh for more than two hundred years before He destroyed them in spite of their incredible brutality. That's God's character. It takes God a long time to get hot. He's slow to anger.

Verse 8, David adds, in this quotation from Exodus 34, "abounding in lovingkindness", abounding in lovingkindness. Lovingkindness is a word that's tied to the Old Testament concept of covenants. God made covenants with Noah and with Moses, with Abraham, with David, etc. God also made a covenant with His people. A covenant was simply a legally binding promise made within the context of a relationship. If you're married today, you have made a covenant. On the day of your wedding, you stood before the preacher and before witnesses, and you made a legally binding promise before God to be faithful to your spouse, to care for them, to love them. You entered into a covenant. The word "lovingkindness" is one's faithfulness to that covenant. It contains two parts. It contains love and loyalty. The NIV, because of that, translates it "unfailing love". The ESV translates it "steadfast love". God's love cannot be shaken. It cannot change because when God makes a legally binding promise of His care for someone, He always keeps His word.

I think the most powerful illustration of this is Hosea. Turn to Hosea for a moment. You remember the story. God tells Hosea to marry a woman who will become a terrible harlot and prostitute by the name of Gomer. Let that be a lesson to you. Never marry a woman by the name of Gomer. But in Hosea 2:19, God says this about Israel. He said, "… I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness [there it is] and in compassion." I will show you faithfulness in spite of your unfaithfulness. I will keep the promise that I made to you in My covenant with you. God details in the book of Hosea the terrible sins of Israel just as Gomer sinned as a harlot under every tree, with every man she came across, Israel had against God.

So, what's God's response to that? Well, He ends up, notice in 11:8 – we'll look at verse 7. He says,

… My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them [though they call them] to the One on high, none at all exalts Him. Verse 8, How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; for I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. [God says, "Because of My lovingkindness, because of My unfailing love, I'll not destroy you."]

Now this self-revelation that's in verse 8 of Psalm 103 is repeated almost verbatim ten times in the Old Testament after Exodus 34. It became the way God's people thought about Him. How should you think about God? The answer is in verse 8 of Psalm 103. If you're in Christ, if you're a believer, if you're a true believer in the God of the Bible, if you've repented of your sins and embraced His only Son, then this is how you should think about God. This is how He admonished His Old Testament people to think about Him.

That's God's character. But that brings us to the second question David answered. What should I expect from God? What should I expect from God? We see this in verses 9 - 18. Verse 8 is the spring from which verses 9 - 18 flow. Verse 8 is God's self-revelation, verses 9 - 18 – David's commentary. Because God is what's recorded in verse 8, we can expect from Him what's recorded in verses 9 - 18.

Four things David tells us we can expect from God because of His character. First of all, and this is awkward to say, but it's the best I could come up with to capture this point - a reconcilable relationship, a reconcilable relationship, a relationship that can be reconciled when it's damaged. Notice verse 9: "He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever." You see the word "strive"? That's a law court term. It means to bring a complaint against someone. God will not always bring up a court complaint against us. He will not "keep His anger forever".

By the way, that's an interesting Hebrew expression. It's used in Leviticus 19:18 where it's translated "hold a grudge". God doesn't hold a grudge. It's amazing that even though we offend God, even though we do what we can to damage the relationship, it can always be reconciled because of who God is.

I love the story that I first read in a book by Max Lucado, but it's not original with him. It's about a young woman named Christina. He writes:

Christina spoke often of going to the city. She dreamed of trading her dusty neighborhood for exciting avenues and city life. Just the thought of this horrified her mother.

Maria was always quick to remind Christina of the harshness of the streets:

"People don't know you there. Jobs are scarce and the life is cruel. And besides, if you went there, what would you do for a living?"

Maria knew exactly what Christina would do or would have to do for a living. That's why her heart broke when she awoke one morning to find her daughter's bed empty. Maria knew immediately where her daughter had gone. She also knew immediately what she must to do to find her. She quickly threw on some clothes, gathered up all of her money and ran out of the house. On her way to the bus stop, she entered a drug store to get one last thing – pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black and white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janeiro. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable.

Knowing this, Maria began her search – bars, hotels, night clubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to the mall. And at each place, she left her picture – taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo, she wrote a note. It wasn't too long before both the money and the pictures ran out and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.

It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired, her brown eyes no longer danced with youth, but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over, she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet, yet the little village was in too many ways too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again and, there on the lobby mirror, was a small picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation: "Whatever you've done, whatever you've become, it doesn't matter. Please, come home."

That is a reflection of the heart of God. God doesn't wink at sin. He doesn't overlook sin. He deals with it in the person of His Son. But because of who He is, because He's compassionate, because He's gracious, because He's slow to anger, because He abounds in lovingkindness, you and I can expect from Him a relationship that can be reconciled regardless of what we've done to it.

You see, our sin usually keeps us away from God. Let's be honest. When we sin, our first reaction is to shrink away like Adam and Eve and to sort of slip away and try to hide from God. But God eagerly waits for the repentant sinner.

I love the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 because it reflects the heart of God. The prodigal son reflects the sinner; in this case, the lost and fallen sinner who takes God's good gifts and squanders them in ways that God never intended. And then when he's out, when he's at the bottom, when he's wasted everything, he finally decides that he needs to come home, he needs to return to his father. I wonder how you and I would be tempted to respond in that situation: "Well, fine. I take your offer. You can be a servant just as you've said." Not God. He runs to meet the son, and He says, "Let's have a party because My son who was lost has come home." Because God is what He is, we can expect a reconcilable relationship. We can also expect complete forgiveness. Notice verses 10 - 12:

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." [What incredible verses. Every time we read them, if you're like me, your heart skips and you rejoice.]

Notice our condition though he's described in three words. In verse 10, "sins" - those are deviations from the divine standard. Also, in verse 10, the word "iniquities". It means "morally perverted, twisted, a character that is perverted". Notice verse 12, the word "transgression". This refers, this Hebrew word refers to "acts of rebellion against a rightful authority". That's who we are.

But notice verse 10. God doesn't give us what we deserve. The word "reward" literally means to repay. God doesn't repay us what our deeds and actions have earned. God, whom we have infinitely wronged, tempers His justice with forgiveness, though at what cost only the New Testament would reveal: the death of His own Son to provide it. Instead, notice what He gives us.

Verse 12, God has removed our guilt as far from us as the east is from the west. You know what's remarkable about that? If you travel east, you can continue travelling east and you will never meet west. If you travel north and south, if you go over the top of the pole, you can start going south. But if you start east, you will never meet west. And if you start west, you will never meet east. You know what God is saying? Our sins are removed from us an infinite distance. He's talking about full and total "pardon". "Pardon," that's an amazing word, but that's the biblical concept. We who were guilty and on death row get a pardon.

But more than that, beyond forgiveness, we've been studying recently that we don't just get pardon, we don't just get forgiveness. We get "justification". God declares us not only to be innocent, but He declares us to be righteous, as righteous as His own Son. Why does He do this? Notice verse 11. It's because He's infinitely committed to His promise, His great "lovingkindness" (there's that word again), a promise made within the context of a relationship and kept. That's why 1 John 1:9 says "God is faithful to forgive our sins." He's faithful because He made a promise, and He'll keep His promise.

Notice, not only can we expect a reconcilable relationship from God and complete forgiveness, but thirdly, verses 13 and 14, we can expect a father's heart.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." [Verse 13 makes the simple statement "the Lord has compassion", the Lord is compassionate. He exercises it toward all men (we find in other places), but especially toward those (we're told here) who fear Him.]

What does God's compassion look like? What does that look like? Notice the description "as a father". It's really an amazing concept. John Calvin writes, "God is compared to earthly fathers not because He is in every way like them, but because there is no earthly image by which His unparalleled love toward us can be better expressed." You may have a terrible earthly father. God uses that image because it's the best earthly image to express His unparalleled love toward us.

What I've often encouraged people to do is: if you grew up in a home where your father was anything but an example of the love of God, then strip your mind of that and think instead of the best earthly father you know. Multiply God's love for you or multiply, I should say, that father's love a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times and you begin to get a reflection of the heart of God.

As the best earthly fathers recognize the needs of their weak and vulnerable children and seek to meet those needs, so God cares for His children. In fact, Christ insisted that we approach God as Father. You remember, He taught His disciples to pray: "Our Father who is in heaven." One writer writes this about that expression "Our Father". I love this. I came across this in seminary, and I've never forgotten it. He says,

Our Father – we think of it as a figure borrowed from earthly life and only in some faint and shallow meaning to be used of God. (You think of God as Father like that?) We're afraid to take God as our own tender and pitiful father. He's a schoolmaster, or almost farther off than that and knowing less about us, an inspector who knows nothing of us except through our lessons. His eyes are not on the scholar, but on the book, and all alike must come up to the standard. Here is the starting point of holiness (the writer says): in the love and patience and pity of our heavenly Father. God loves you not because you are clever, not because you are good, but because He is your Father.

Notice verse 14: "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." The motivation for God's fatherly concern for us is His intimate knowledge of us. He knows us. He knows what we're made of. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We can expect a father's heart from God.

Finally, we can also expect from God, notice verses 15 - 18, unfailing love, unfailing love. We've come back to this concept of lovingkindness. Notice verse 15: "As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer." Those verses refer to man's frailty. Even the Hebrew word used for "man" in this passage denotes weakness. You see, life is brief, and it's fragile.

And isn't it interesting the illustration David chooses? He chooses wild grass that grows up in the field and wildflowers that accompany it. I can really appreciate that, having lived for sixteen years in southern California. The climate of Israel and the climate of southern California are very similar. And in the spring in California, the rains would come, the spring rains. And the hillsides would absolutely burst with green.

If you ever go to southern California in the spring, you'll get a wrong perception of what it's like because the hillsides suddenly, that were brown for months, burst forth in green and wildflowers grow. But then, shortly thereafter what are called the Santa Ana winds come. They're the hot dry winds off the desert, and they kick up and blow to even hurricane force at times. And those winds sweep across those hillsides, and sometimes, within a few hours, the grass and those fragile flowers can wither. God says that's like our lives. That's exactly the way we live. It's like our brief earth, brief, earthly lives. But notice the next verse:

But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, To those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them."

God's commitment to His promise, that is His lovingkindness, stretches from eternity past into eternity future. We may have a brief earthly life, but God thought about us and chose us and set His love upon us and made promises to us in eternity past, and He'll still be caring for us in eternity future.

It's really the message of Romans 8. You remember the familiar expression at the end of Romans 8 where Paul asks, "What can separate us from the love of God?" He says, verse 38:

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Unfailing love – it's amazing, isn't it?]

How should you think about God? You should think of Him as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. And because God is like that, what should you expect from God as your Father? You should expect these expressions that we've looked at tonight back in Psalm 103. You should expect a reconcilable relationship, complete forgiveness, a father's heart, unfailing love. Is that how you think about God?

Let me encourage you to allow God, through His Word, through His own self-revelation, to change your thinking about Him.

The Lord's Table that we partake of together tonight is in reality, a reminder of the legally binding promises that God has made us in Christ. We are the recipients of what the Bible calls the new covenant. In fact, turn to Hebrews, and we'll finish our study tonight with this text. Hebrews 8, notice verse 10:

"FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL" [he's quoting here from the prophet Jeremiah] "AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS … I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS … I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE."

That's the covenant God made with anyone who has come to His Son. That night when Jesus initiated the Lord's Table, He offered the cup and what did He say to His disciples? He said, "I want you to drink this cup which is the new covenant in My blood."

As we partake of these elements tonight, we remember that God has made legally binding promises to us in Christ. And just as He declared Himself to be abounding in lovingkindness to the Old Testament believer, He says He will be to us who are in Christ. These elements remind us that God will always keep those promises to us.

Let's bow our heads together.