Back to a couple Psalms of David, 101 and 103, which are very different. The one in between is “A Prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord.” You could almost see 101 leading to the lament in 102 because what David wants is simply impossible from our perspective, and 103 the victory of God.
In 100 David could almost be called judgmental. He said early on that he will be careful to lead a blameless life, but he led anything but a blameless life. He says he will walk in his house “with a blameless heart.” Really? He will set before his eyes “no vile thing.” He talks about allowing the faithful and blameless to minister to him. The false and the deceivers will not be able to stand in his presence. He ends with this:
8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.
Maybe he had just gotten sick and tired of human sin and wanted to put an end to it. Good luck with that. Maybe it’s just a Psalm of aspiration, like I wish I could get rid of all evil, but we know that will never happen on this earth. Maybe it speaks eschatologically, that one day the city of the Lord will be free from all those who do evil.
Psalm 103 by contrast is full of praise for God, which is rooted in God’s mercy and grace. David understands that the essence of life is lived in light of our creator, who happens to be a perfectly holy all powerful being. As such, our sin is ever an issue. It can’t be wiped away, swept under the rug, treated as if it is not the serious and deadly business it is. I’ve quoted Paul from Romans 6:23 over and over again as I’ve made my way through the OT: “The wages of sin is death.” The second part of that verse giving us the remedy is prefigured by David here.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
These verses can only be fulfilled in Christ. As Paul says in Romans 5:8:
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God’s love for us in Him, and his forgiveness of our sins in Him, is literally unable to be measured. Wow! There is no time when west becomes east, nor east west; our sin before him is nonexistent! Literally. Talk about Jesus in the Old Testament. When well meaning Christians say God loves everyone, that simply isn’t true. He may love them as creatures made in his image, but there is a huge, indeed infinite quantitative and qualitative difference between the love God has for his people in Christ, and the love for the rest of mankind. In fact, in verse 13 David uses the image of a father’s compassion for his children to compare God’s compassion for us, pointing to the Lord’s prayer. God goes from judge to Abba, Father in Christ for his people. He also contrasts our finitude with those who are loved by the Lord:
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
He has compassion on man because he is dust, but those he loves he is with forever. Notice how David says those who keep his covenant, and obey him. The Pelagian or Arminian would see this as conditional; if we obey, he will love us. That is upside down from the truth. It is God’s love for us (we love him because he first loved us, as John says) in Christ that transforms us from his enemy to his child. Therefore we want to keep his covenant and obey him, even though we don’t do it very well. But it is a complete transformation in orientation. God’s love accomplishes; it is efficacious. God’s love doesn’t try.
And finally David tells us God has the authority and power to pull all this off:
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
All pretty much says it . . . all. And David ends the psalm surveying this great work of God exhorting everything in heaven and on earth and in our souls to praise him. Praise the Lord!