In the Old Testament I came across a Psalm (103) that describes the kind of rescue package that God provides to everyone who trusts in Him, and serves Him faithfully. In this day and age Psalm 103 would apply to us as Christians, so let's see what's included in God's rescue package.
Now Psalm 103 is a psalm of Thanksgiving written by David.
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Note that David begins with a kind of self-talk to focus his mind on the good things God has given him and for which he is thankful. He even encourages himself to stay focused on these things in order to remain positive in his attitude. In the next verses he describes the 4 main things that God provides him. You could say that these are the four main items in any believers' "rescue" package. This package includes:
3 Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
4 Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
God forgives all of our sins and saves us from the eternal consequences of those sins. This is a great benefit! David doesn't describe how God does this but we as Christians know. Jesus' blood is the price paid for our sins, His life is what redeems or buys back our life from condemnation. The disease we suffer from is death, resurrection is the cure and we receive this from Christ. Because of sin we were justly condemned to die and suffer eternally, because God sends Jesus the curse of death is replaced with a crown of mercy and love. God purifies us through the blood of Christ and because of this we are saved from death.
The second item in the package is:
5 Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Of course David could look back at the history of the Jews, especially the exodus from Egypt, and see how God provided for His people in a miraculous way for 40 years. In his own life he knew how God had provided for his safety and his work throughout his life. The idea here is not just that God provides but rather that when you recognize that it is God Himself who provides for you - that knowledge has a regenerating effect on your life and soul. So, a great benefit for a Christian is not only that God will provide but also that the continual knowledge and confidence of this fact gives one courage and hope on a continual basis. I have hope that it will all work out because it is God Himself who will provide for me.
6 The Lord performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
You are not alone as a child of God. You are never left unprotected or without justice (sooner or later you will receive justice). David refers to Moses and the Israelites whom God avenged when they were attacked and mistreated. The benefit is not that we have protection, the benefit is that we have God's protection so that perfect justice will be guaranteed to those who oppress us.
The forth element of God's rescue package:
We have purification, provision, protection and a set of promises or guarantees. In a regular job there are really no absolute guarantees. So long as the business goes well and you do your job properly, you get to keep your job. David mentions three promises that God makes which are not subject to change no matter what happens in this world.
A. Promise of Mercy
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
David describes the character of God. His bottom line is not money, profit, how much you produce for Him. His bottom line is compassion, mercy, patience, loving-kindness, graciousness, generosity. David says that God does not deal with us on a basis of law and justice (you're treatment based on your performance). David explains that God treats us with compassion and love and patience. It's a wonderful relief to know that this is the context in which God sees us and will treat us when we come before Him.
B. Promise of Understanding
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has
He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
14 For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.
In this passage David explains why God treats us the way He does - because He truly understands our weaknesses, our history. He knows why we do things. He knows all of the twists and turns that have brought us to where we are in our lives. For those who read David's psalm when it was written, it was a great relief to know almighty God was this kind of God.
It was an age where the concept of God was not much more than a human and more times than not an animal or a mindless and cruel force only to be appeased but never appealed to. David describes a God who promises His children that He will deal with them mercifully because He truly understands the sinful human condition.
C. Promise of Faithfulness
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
17 But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
18 To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.
Despite man's weakness and sure death God will not let him be erased and eliminated (like dead grass and flowers). God promises to keep alive those who trust and obey Him. David mentions this word "lovingkindness" several times and again in this passage as the motivating characteristic behind these promises.
The word "lovingkindness" in Hebrew referred to a special quality in God's loving character. It was the ability to remain faithful to an agreement between two people even when the other person failed to remain faithful. Lovingkindness describes God's willingness and ability to remain true to His promises even when we are undeserving of them. And so God promises us mercy, understanding and faithfulness. Again the value of these promises is not simply what is being promised but who is making these promises. What a tremendous benefit to know that God Himself is the guaranteer of the benefits we have been promised.
In the final verses David summarizes all that he has said by declaring the true reality for man.
19 The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
The true reality is that this is God's world and He rules above all. This is meant to reinforce the idea that the benefits we are offered are offered by the only one who can guarantee them.
20 Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You who serve Him, doing His will.
22 Bless the Lord, all you works of His,
In all places of His dominion;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
In these final verses David returns to the form of his opening statement by encouraging everything in existence (in the spiritual and physical world) to bless and praise God for these things. He finishes the psalm with the book-end verse which he used to begin the psalm, "Bless the Lord, O my soul."
The beauty and power of the psalms is that they speak to us with the same impact today as they did when they were written almost 3000 years ago. This is because God Himself speaks to us through David's writings and says the exact same thing to us today: That for those who believe and obey Him (which for us today means following Jesus Christ) God offers these guaranteed benefits in His Rescue Package:
- Purification through the blood of Jesus.
- Provision through prayer in His name.
- Protection for His church.
- The promise of mercy, understanding and fidelity for all who confess His blessed name.
If you don't have this Rescue Package in your life, won't you come and receive it from God today?