Note: this is my first attempt to write a version of “Pilgrims’ Bread” for kids. If you have kids and would like to talk about this with them, let me know how it went, and how this might be improved!
If you could describe the look on God’s face, when He looks at you, what would it be?
Many people think, when they read the Old Testament, that God is mean and always losing His temper. But that’s because they really haven’t read their Bibles. Or they did read the Bible, but they read one thing, and then they stopped reading.
But this Psalm says that God is not at all mean, or always losing His temper. In fact, it says the exact opposite:
He forgives us when we do wrong (3)
Whenever a disease is healed, even by a doctor - guess what? - that came from Him
He saves us from eternity spent apart from Him (4a)
But, like the guy says in the commercial - wait! There’s more!
For everybody who is being hurt by somebody else, God is working to bring them safety and peace (6).
God tells us the right way to go; He doesn’t leave us guessing; He doesn’t set us up to fail. He made it real clear to His people (7).
He is merciful, meaning He doesn’t give us what we deserve when we do wrong (8a).
He is gracious, meaning He gives us many, many good gifts that we don’t deserve. He’s generous (8b).
He’s slow to anger. Slooooow. He doesn’t fly off the handle. He’s not looking for you to make a mistake (8c).
In fact, He’s looking for every reason, every “excuse”, to be merciful and gracious and kind and generous to you (8d). You can take all those words and sum them up in one word: “love.”
And His love is “steadfast.” That word means “not gonna move.” Every time you see a mountain, God put that mountain there to remind you that His love is even moreimmovable than that mountain. And the verse says that He “abounds” in steadfast love.
Let’s think with our imaginations about that word, “abounds.” You hear the “bound” in that word. That’s what a deer does, or a rabbit, or a child on Christmas morning. You bound to the presents. That’s what God does, except not to receive, but to GIVE. And what He has to give, He just overflows with. He has so much steadfast love, and He delights - like a child on Christmas morning - to give it to others.
That’s His everyday attitude.
So then, when He does need to give discipline to us, it’s not forever (9). Our sins deserve much more, but He looks for every opportunity, every “excuse”, to hold back, and be gentle with us (10). At the first sign that you are turning back from your sin toward Him, He turns to, from discipline, to mercy and grace . . .
. . . because His love is bigger than what we do wrong (11a). A second ago I asked you to think about mountains. Now go outside and look at the sky. Do you know why God made the sky so high? He didn’t have to. He could have designed the world a different way. But He designed the sky to be so high to remind you of how high and big is His love to you . . .
If you “fear” Him (11b).
We use this word “fear” differently today. But back in the Bible, the word meant “to respect”, to “trust in,” and to “not want to displease.” Think of it this way: if your parents see that, in general, you trust them and are trying to do the right things, and then you make a mistake, they are much more likely to be lenient with you. But if they see that your general attitude is, “I don’t care what you say,” then they are going to discipline you a lot, because they see your heart.
God is the same way. He’s a father, too - a perfect one (13). Thus to His children, His attitude is compassion - again to His children who “fear” him. Thus when we want to live for Him, and we mess up, He knows we’re human. He knows we’re imperfect. He knows we’re “dust” (14).
But He is perfect. So here’s what He does with our mess-ups. He sends Jesus. Jesus kept all of God’s covenant and commandments in our place, perfectly (18). And then he died for our mess-ups. Instead of making us pay for them, God had Jesus pay for them, for us, in our place.
So since all our sins are paid for by Jesus, here’s what God with them:
. . . As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (12)
“Transgressions” is another way of saying, “mess-ups” - those times when we don’t obey God. So then, one more time, think about a map. Do you have one? Get it out and look at it. Then ask yourself this question: how far is the east from the west? As far as you can be - the two never meet.
The same goes for our sin and guilt. Because of what Jesus did, God removes them from us, forever and ever.
So, what is the look on God’s face toward you? Well, do you fear God? You should. Because the promise is that for all who “fear” Him, He looks upon you with the compassionate love of a perfect Father, who looks for any reason, any excuse to do you good. And when you mess up, at the first sign of your turning back to Him, He comes to running back to you, with steadfast love.