As much as I would like the people around me to think that my life is happy, healthy, and joyfully productive, there are reminders everywhere (it seems) that my life is a mess. My house, my office, and my inbox provide no shortage of evidence that my life is somewhere on a continuum between imperfect and chaotic. And my identity is tied to this, right? Where my professional life lands on that continuum is where I land as a person, right? “You are a failure,” I sometimes hear the devil suggest.
The accuser who spews this vitriol persistently piles on: “You are a Christian and a pastor, and still you are failing! Look at your colleagues; see how much better they are doing than you. You don’t measure up!”
And then this sinister “solution”: “Just do better. Shed your shame by being a better husband, father, pastor, steward, or friend. Sinner, save yourself! Pastor, produce!”
The Spirit of God offers a much better solution: “The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.” Listen to this refrain and key parts of Psalm 103 here. Sing these words of God. Believe them. Rejoice in the LORD.
In the first half of the Psalm, King David says that the LORD forgives, redeems, crowns, satisfies, renews. How David needed this divine activity! On his path to kingship, David was hated, hunted, betrayed, and slandered. And after he became king, David made a royal mess of things. As a result, his reign would be filled with strife, sword, and shame.
With a pastoral heart David preached the Word to himself: “The LORD forgives all your sins. He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit. He crowns you with love and compassion. He satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
David’s identity (and our identity) is found in the LORD—in the Father who created us, in the Spirit who chooses to dwell in our bodies, in the LORD Jesus Christ, who is the real David (the David of which King David was just a type), the true singer and subject of Psalm 103.
As we read the Gospels, we are amazed at how Jesus deals with broken sinners. He goes to them. He spends time with them. He listens to them. With echoes of Psalm 103 Jesus soothes all their anxiety: “I have come from the Most High and will make you children of the Most High. I will turn you from enemies of God into children of God. I will show you that God’s love for you is as high as the heavens are above the earth by removing your transgressions from you as far as the east is from the west. Keep your eyes focused on me—keep coming to me—and I will show you how amazingly merciful your heavenly Father is.”
Like King David, we preach this message to ourselves and to all who gather with us in God’s house. Let our churches be places where shepherd and sheep comfort each other with the good news of God’s compassion and mercy! With humble joy, let us praise the LORD together!