"To Such As"God's mercy, God's righteousness, God's covenant, God's commandment; every reason for our most earnest affections. By Layman RandyP
Psalms 103:17-18 kjv
Introduction: "Bless the LORD, oh my soul"
In kjv@Psalms:103:1 the psalmist David calls upon saints everywhere to proclaim their highest affections to the LORD. Again in 103:20 he calls upon the angels to do the same, verse 21 the hosts and all His ministers, verse 22 from our very core soul. Not bad advise for us today 3,000 years later. How then shall we proclaim this highest affection towards God the best? High sounding words? Religious ritual and ceremonial traditions? No, rather by recalling the many benefits that our God has graced us with.
The entirety of 103 is an amazing list of some of these many benefits, there is barely a list elsewhere in the scriptures perhaps as so complete. You see nothing can stir our often timid affections up and bring new fire to the older embers than a thorough refresher on just who our God is and why we can stand before Him today, not in the enmity of our hearts like in former days but, in the awe/joy and affection that we have been brought into by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I invite each you at your own time to read through and study everyone of these benefit verses to your own edification.
There are however, a select few benefits that I would like to focus on today, verses 17-18, and I would like to examine them from two immediately accessible vantage points:
- The particular vantage point of HIM/HIS, God's; notice it is said
- HIS mercy
- HIS righteousness
- HIS covenant
- HIS commandment
- keep His covenant
- them that remember His commands to do them
It is through the lens of these two vantage points and the resulting image that I have entitled today's message "To Such As". Clearly all of these benefits should be viewed as emanating from HIM and no one other but, as I'll explain the recipients of these God emanating benefits are not immediately obvious. I will explain further in the order I feel most beneficial to me as I understand them.
There are different ways of thinking covenant; old/new, law/promise, before/after Jesus etc.. We could even think of the covenant going all the way back to Abraham or even further back to Adam and Eve. For the sake of framing all of those various ideas of covenant, I would like to take you back to what chronologically is the first and therefore most important covenant, one made among the Triune members of the Godhead before the foundations of the earth.
The easiest summary of this covenant or decree to be found comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul:
Romans 8:29-30 kjv
With most other scripture references one has to dig a little deeper to first see it but, it is certainly present throughout the Bible. This one covenant properly understood brings all the other forms of covenant into one tidy basket of understanding.
- The overarching covenant covering all other subsequent forms of this covenant are that
- We were "predestined" to be "conformed to the image of HIS Son".
- He (the Son) was to be the "first born" of many brethren.
- (Notice it is by HIS direct action that all of this was to occur - "whom he...")
- All other ideas about this covenant fall into place once we understand these three initial things whether we think of
- the covenant first made with Adam (works - any tree but the tree of knowledge of good evil)
- the covenant later made with Adam/Eve (unconditional - he shall crush the serpents head)
- the covenant made with Noah (promise - to never flood the earth again)
- the covenant with Abraham (faith - God will provide/God only going through the cutting)
- the covenant with Moses (obedience/conditional - if thou shall obey, I shall)
- the covenant of the new testament Spirit (In that day I will, replace heart of stone, MY Spirit etc..)
- no matter which covenant vantage point one chooses to examine this from, they are all understood best by what was once and for all decreed by God (to be conformed to image of/first born of many) before ever creation was spoken forth.
Essentially what we have from Genesis:1 onward is a very deliberate process that God has put man through to get certain men and women to the point of "being conformed" to that image, for them to fully abide in that image to produce a certain kind of spiritual fruit, having them perform certain preordained good works to HIS glory and honor. Herein we have a better understanding of HIS covenant.
Understand that God's righteousness always follows right along with HIS covenant. Before the foundations of creation God makes a very specific decree. Everything that HE does from that initial decree forward is set out to make that same exact decree happen and therefore everything done from there onward toward that goal is righteous on HIS part. In other words, HE doesn't from that point allow anything to chance or accident, HE doesn't experiment with man to learn how man might react then steer the man into conformity, HE has known from before the start how to bring about this conformity from man.
Notice how Paul completed his explanation of the overarching covenant of Romans:29
Romans 8:30 kjv
Not only is God's process as a whole righteous, every step God takes along the way is righteous as well; in large part because it was decreed long before it was ever undertaken. Therefore Peter could later address us in writing his second epistle:
2Peter 1:1 kjv
Both Testaments are in agreement. Not only is the process and every step in righteous, this righteousness will never be abolished:
Isaiah 51:6 kjv
It is in this sense, at the very least, that we can understand how it is in our text that it can be said "and his righteousness unto childrens children".
The Hebrew word used here kheh'-sed (dict:strongs H2617 ) could also be thought of as kindness; HIS kindness (the "kindness" of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting"). Kindness in this sense is something otherwise unexpected or beyond what rightly can be expected, one reasonably could not expect such a kindness nor has it been earned or deserved. The only way to truly understand why we would be granted this unexpected kindness is to relate it back to God's original decree again before the foundations "to be conformed to the image of the Son/the Son first born of many brethren and to frame what has proceeded from that decree every step as righteous. God's mercy is very closely related to these irreducible elements.
God can only be merciful because HE at the same time has been righteous. God can only be righteous because HIS ultimate goals beforehand have been decreed. God's decree makes it possible (righteous) for HIM to be merciful under the very same conditions where by doing anything lesser would have been unrighteous. Some prefer to think of God's mercy as being unconditional even if being unconditional would contradict either HIS righteousness or HIS decree. The clearer thought is that God would be none of the above if any particular element of these be eliminated or reduced.
One only need to examine this Psalms:103 list of adoration worthy benefits God's covenant decree and righteousness and mercy to see how these elements interact and compound the total effect of each item. Regardless of whether it is HIS forgiveness or healing or redemption or crowning or satisfaction or renewal or anything other listed herein, these core irreducible elements of God's character are working in one glorious synchronicity much to our unexpected/undeserved benefit.
The word idea being expressed in the Hebrew amounts to the mandates of God (plural). The word piqqûd dict:strongs H6490 itself is only used in four psalms, nowhere else in scripture that I am aware of: kjv@Psalms:19:8 kjv@Psalms:103:18 kjv@Psalms:111:7 but, in the fourth kjv@Psalms:119 it is used twenty times being also translated as statutes or precepts of God. Notice that the authorship and ownership of these mandates belongs to God; they are not man's and they are not man's general concepts about general morality or civil code. Notice also that they are to be thought of as one entire collection.
Emanating from this central "before creation" idea of covenant (to be conformed to the image of the Son/Son first born of many brethren), we not only see God's righteousness and mercy streaming forth, we see God's mandate flowing to us as well. The reasoning for this outflow of mandate appears to be two fold:
- Minus our own present conformity to the Son, similar to the idea of a schoolmaster, it is to instruct us in the present desperate condition.
- At the incarnate appearance of the Son these same mandates are to set the high mark (impossible to all but Him) of obedience qualifying Him to be our atoning substitutionary sacrifice.
Remember, at no time did the nation of Israel fulfill all of God's mandates. There was a yearly atoning sacrifice to be made by the high priest to cover all that they had fallen short on. Remember, that at no time did any individual (not even the prophets) approximate sinless perfection; rather when in HIS presence they knew themselves defiled and of unclean heart/lips. Remember, that other than a few times of great revival more times than not the people of Israel were known to be in direct rebellion to the mandates of God. For all the fanatical ritual and colorful ceremony and oral tradition of even the most zealous Pharisees it all amounted to not much more than paying God mere lip service. That, friends, describes all of our present condition.
Enter now Christ Jesus. What makes this man from Nazareth any better than any one of us? Isn't He caught up in the same post adamic condition? Well there is one certain proof shown that He was not: the Father's glorification of HIS only begotten Son by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and accession to the eternal throne.
So, mandate first leads man to the recognition that all is not right within him and that a conformity to the image of Christ is now required to set things back upright, mandate then shows to us what that Christ image truly is and how much more right it is over any other image that we could contrive or conceive.
To Such As:
Now we need to resolve one very important but uncomfortable final point in today's text: "To such as". The implication is that not everybody is chosen for this decree/process nor to receive these proclaimed benefits. Many are invited, few are chosen.
In order to explain this idea of determined exclusivity I first want to back up and get a running start at it again knowing what we now know.
Psalms 103:17-18 kjv
- Here we can see the beginnings of list of qualifications used to measure potential recipients
- those who fear God,
- those that keep His covenant,
- those that remember His commandments to do them.
The requisite fear of God perhaps goes without saying; anyone with any effort studying the Holy Scriptures knows this "fear" to be the beginning or basis of all transformative gifts and abilities. There is no doubt in my mind that there have been many many people (even of different religions) whose lives have been wonderfully blessed by their recognition and reverence to the most supreme and omnipotent being. That fear is not typically where the world religions wander off track though. No, as recorded here in series, the problem is more closely related to the form of covenant being "kept". Is it the overarching covenant? or is it a just subset?
Let's look closely at the word translated as "keep". The Hebrew word suggests "to hedge about", in other words to guard/be a watchman over/protect. We have the required action "put a perimeter around/guard/protect" and we have the direct object "God's covenant". "Keep my covenant" is not exactly parallel to "obey my commandment" at the outset. Perhaps the Jewish scholar would reply that "I am keeping the covenant by obeying the commandments". I would respond that "you are not obeying the full intent of the commandments because you are not keeping the true covenant". This is a good example of holding oneself to but a subset of a larger overarching covenant. There are many forms of this type of self deluded exercise that both Jew and Christian can fall into. One might also say that "I am keeping to the original covenant made with Abraham; that alone will I keep". That is well and fine as long as one keeps in mind that the Abrahamic Covenant can not not divorce itself from the original Decree of God happening before any and all creation was formed. Detach those two things from each other and the one thing that you'll keep is no longer God's thing but your own thing.
"To such as keep His covenant..." are these many Psalms 103 benefits are made certain.
Next up is His commandments. The requisite action is "remember"; not just to remember/mark out but, remember for end goal of doing them. We have already seen how Israel despite it's every honest intention was unable to fully perform with any consistency "His" commandments". The good Bible student surely is aware of the tremendous human efoort the various psalmists and scribes exerted to mark these many mandates out and put them into the peoples constant remembrance. Does that mean that despite all this tremendous effort that it just can not be done? Does that mean that Israel never was to fully receive these Psalm 103 benefits? No, it means that we must rely entirely upon the "image" of the Son/Christ.
Once that this essential Christ image is relied upon in it's entirety, then do we have the ultimate atoning sacrifice purchasing us out from the penalty of our sins, then do we have God's ample satisfaction having been met, then we have been made right/bathed/cleansed/dressed in the robes of His righteousness, then it is as if we've been born again or born for the first time of Spirit. Having become all of this is in other words us having been brought by God closer into the conformity to His Son's glorious image, then and only then, then does the practical exercise of putting to memory so as to do His commandments have any sustainable fruitful effect; we then are literally at that point much like the "many brethren" the initial decree of God sought to establish.
So the sequence of required actions on God's part goes right along with what the Apostle Paul had outlined for us:
Romans 8:29-30 kjv
These are the "To such as". Like with the Promised Land of old, the "To such as" would have never come to this point had God not brought them there nor would they have overcome their lesser natures or many foreign hostile enemies. It would not be right to have called it mercy unless HIS kindness had been unexpected and undeserved. It would not be right to call it righteous unless it had been decided and decreed long before ever there was a creation; before ever a chance for all of us federally to rebel against it. Neither could it be called righteous if it was left to each of us to work it all out all on our own; without the actual image of what God HIMSELF needed us to be.
Now certainly in today's selfish mindset, we tend to see things in terms only of the individual. God tends though to view things in terms of collective bodies, tribes/nations, wheat/tares, righteous/unrighteous, sheepfold/heavenly kingdom, family/brethren and that in the ultimate terms of our union/fellowship one to another and to Him. The individual certainly is held accountable but, so too is the body. If we are to honestly consider ourselves as one of the "to such as" recipients of God's many tender mercies and plentiful benefits we must first widen our perspective out beyond our own limited "to such as" out to the broader body of "to such as"; the collective whole of those being brought into conformity to the image of His Son.
In agreement with the Psalm 103 text I affectionately rejoice and thus declare every single one of these benefits listed by the psalmist to be of substantial transformative benefit to my soul. More than all that, I more affectionately rejoice and thus declare that the benefits listed here have substantially transformed and benefited the collective body of brethren that I have been adopted into; the body of God's making, the collective body of Christ. (We have benefited more as a whole than anyone of us could have individually)!
In agreement with the psalmist I fully concur that the mercy of our LORD began back long before there was a beginning and extends out beyond any horizon of possibility of there being an end, "everlasting to everlasting" to them that fear HIM. And as for His righteousness, like the promise to made to Abraham that in this life time he never saw but yet so unreservedly believed/by which faith he was then and there eternally justified, that righteous promise given to Abraham continues to be played out generation to generation; to "children's children" to such as of course.
Psalms 103:19 kjv
"All" you see here is a body. His kingdom ruleth over all the body, the body of those being conformed to the Christ "image" of the first born Son, as decreed before the foundations. It could just as well be said that His "Image" rules over those being conformed to it; His throne being prepared in the heavens.
Conclussion: "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me...."
In conclusion and in consideration of all this tremendous benefit that God has mercifully and righteously provided to us individually/collectively, plus the mandates we have been given to perform by them, I would like to end on the same high note as does King David. He writes:
Psalms 103:20-22 kjv
Perhaps there is a messenger/prophet/priest or angel who perhaps has heard the word but, has yet to hear the voice of His word, that hasn't yet been involved in the doing of the commandments to angels, who would say "why should God bother to do this work? The man's heart will have nothing to do with this even when it is in his best interest and to his ultimate benefit. The man rebels at nearly every opportunity being so at enmity with it". Well hearken unto the voice of His word ye His angels, do ye as commanded, for the man chosen/called/justified/glorified will in fact emerge from this state along with his many brethren!
Perhaps there is minister out there in all God's host that is running opposite like Jonah to avoid doing God's pleasure for a godless land, who is of the mind that these dogs don't ever do anything for God to deserve this. Well Sir, you may be exactly right about us worldly sinful citizens but, sir you are just as wrong about your own responsibilities as a minister to God. Fear not, do His pleasure, for even you can be brought by God one way or another to the place that He best needs you to be!
Perhaps there is one more soul out there, one lost soul who has yet to fully consider these many tremendous works of God and their many tremendous effects upon both the individual and body, the promises, the resulting processes and time frames and establishment, the continuing of these things generation to generation in all the places of His dominion. Is it that this lone soul worries that perhaps it has not been chosen, not called, not justified to this end back before creation when the Book of Life was written? I would be worried for you friend if you had not ever heard this Gospel message, if you had not at least desired to find out more about it, for that would mean your heart rests comfortably hardened against God your Maker and is much at ease with sin's impending result. I rather am encouraged that you like me are gravely concerned and have given this matter much interest; such is a strong evidence that hope exists in all of us yet. Who is to tell God who should and should not be on His chosen list? Bless the LORD then lost soul, oh receive ye God's good and gracious work, allow ye His work to conform you to His Son's proven by resurrection image, the image of the first born, receive what is given to His many brethren!
And in all things:
Psalms 103:1-2 kjv