Summary: Six ways God cares for people, presented to the person investigating the Christian faith.
(Note: This sermon was introduced with a dramatic monologue based on the life of John Newton and then a reading of Psalm 103:1-18).
John Newton could’ve written those words. Every word of Psalm 103 cries out that the God of the Bible is the God who cares.
Have you experienced God as the God who cares? Today we’re going to look at God’s attribute of caring for people. Specifically, from the 103rd Psalm we’re going to find six very distinct ways God shows us he cares.
1. God’s Grace
Psalm 103 starts with a very personal tone. Notice who the psalm is addressed to. The psalmist is talking to himself when he says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul." It’s as if he’s trying to stir himself into worship by saying, "Come on soul, it’s time to praise God." The singular personal pronoun dominates vv. 1-9 as the singer sings to himself trying to stir his own soul into worship.
But then starting in v. 10 the scope broadens to include more people than just the psalmist. So while the first 9 verses talk about "me" and "my soul," verses 10 to 18 shift to the plural "our sins," "our iniquities," and "our transgressions." So what starts as a personal song of praise shifts into a congregational song of praise.
Now the word for "praise" in v. 1 is the same word translated "bless" throughout the Old Testament. It might seem odd to you and I that we can bless God, but according to the Bible we can. We bless God by speaking well of him, by calling attention to all the things God has done to enrich our lives (Davidson 335).
In v. 3 we see that the opposite of praising God is forgetting God’s benefits, overlooking all the great things God has done to enrich our lives. Instead of neglecting God’s blessings, the psalmist stirs himself to remember, to praise God, to bless God.
In verses 3 to 5 we encounter GOD’S GRACE, and that’s the first way God shows us he cares. WITH HIS GRACE, GOD SHOWS US HE CARES BY GIVING US GIFTS WE DON’T DESERVE.
We’ll talk more about forgiveness later in the psalm, but notice that in v. 3 we learn that the singer has experienced God’s healing of disease. Now this is not a promise that God will always heal every disease, but it is a statement of praise coming from the psalmist that he’d experienced physical healing. He’d been restored to wholeness, not because of anything he’d done to earn healing, but purely as a gift of grace.
I think about God healing John Newton of the stroke he had when he was 30 years old, and that was a gift of pure grace.
The psalmist had also been rescued from death’s door, redeemed from the pit. That too is an act of sheer grace, a free gift that can’t be earned or bought. Out of gracious love, God had delivered the psalmist from some life-threatening circumstance. Just as John Newton made it home from that terrible storm at sea, God had delivered this psalmist from death’s door.
God had also crowned the psalmist with love and compassion. God had filled the heart of the psalmist with good things. The word "satisfied" in v. 5 is the same word used to describe what it feels like to be full after eating a gourmet meal. We feel content, at ease, satisfied.
God had renewed the psalmist’s strength, so he felt like he could soar like an eagle. All of these "benefits" (v. 2) are examples of God’s grace, examples of good gifts God showers on people who don’t deserve it.
This concept of grace broadens even further in the New Testament, where God’s gift of a personal relationship with him through Jesus Christ is offered as a gift of grace. Listen to the words of the New Testament:
"In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that God lavished on us..." (Eph 1:7-8).
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2:8-9).
God’s grace is what makes the Christian message unique. Once during a British conference on comparative religions several years ago experts from all over the world came together to debate what belief was unique to the Christian faith. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room, and his colleagues asked his opinion. Lewis said, "Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace." All the conference attenders had to agree.
Philip Yancey says, "The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, with no strings attached seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma... the Muslim code of law--each of these offers us a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional" (11).