The Covenant Lord

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love 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 to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Good morning Grace. Before I start, I just wanted to take a minute to encourage you to attend our quarterly business meeting after service. Maybe the words business and meeting don’t naturally excite you, but it really is a neat insight to how we function as a church. If you are a member, this is part of what we do at Grace Church. You don’t have to be a member to attend, but it is a great way to see how we conduct church matters. We will vote on new members, discuss other church items regarding membership, the building and finances. There will be something for the kids while we meet, and hey, there’s food.

This is our third week looking at Psalm 103. Let me give a quick recap of where we’ve been so far and I think it will help us better understand this morning’s text too.

As we’ve seen and heard the last two weeks, the Psalms are a gift from God to help us rightly conform our emotions to God’s word. Without tethering our feelings to truth, we can be led off course. That’s the big idea of why we spend time in the Psalms, so that we ground our emotions in truths about Who God is and what he has done for us.

Two weeks ago, we looked at verses 1-5. We are commanded to do two things: first to bless the LORD with our entire being. And second, to “forget not all his benefits”. We also looked at the benefits themselves as the fuel we use to better remember and move our emotions to bless the LORD.

Last week Kyle showed us who this benefit bestowing God is. He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This is the God who forgives sin, who relates to us like a Father to children. Kyle emphasized that what we think about God matters. When we think wrongly about God, it affects how we live. A right view of God helps us to better obey and joyfully serve. A wrong view leads to idolatry, guilt and shame. At the very end of last week’s passage, it transitions from who God is, to who we are. Just as important as correctly seeing who God is, is correctly seeing who we are.

This is where we will pick up today. What are we truly like? And after comparing ourselves to what God is truly like, how does God relate to man? And finally we are again commanded to bless the LORD, along with everything else under God’s reign.

Would you join me in asking God to help us understand and apply his word to our hearts?

When you think of the word legacy, what comes to mind? We hear a saying like “life is short” but what do we actually think about this life? What will remain 10, 20, 100 years from now? After someone dies, what is passed on? Maybe we read books an author wrote that still impact us. We might think of celebrities or historical heroes and the impact they might have made on a culture or a nation. We might think of someone who was successful and is enshrined in a Hall of Fame.

What is the legacy we hope to leave? Maybe some of you think of setting your kids up financially or passing on a cabin or estate. Maybe it’s ensuring your kids get a fine education or are instilled with good character. Maybe for some of us, it’s wondering how the world will remember our lives. What does the Bible say matters most for our legacy?

As I mentioned, last week Kyle helped us to properly see who God is. God is the eternal, mighty LORD of all. Today we’ll look at what the Bible says is the proper view of humanity. Verse 14 tells us how God sees us, For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust. This is God’s view of man, because God made man. This is where we continue this idea into our text, look at verses 15 and 16. Notice it starts with ‘as’ to show us the comparison between God and man.

As for man, his days are like grass.

It’s fitting that we are in this passage and it’s fall. We can see the fading of Summer around us. That glorious garden that was once bursting with flowers or vegetables is now brown and withering. No matter how successful your garden was earlier this year, it will still look like mine right now.

This season should help remind us of our true state. We are all grass. We are all weak and dying. It’s tempting to look around and say, “at least I’m not as weak as someone else in the room. Or I am weaker than so and so.” But that’s the wrong comparison. Our standard to compare to is in verses 6-13. Compared to God we are all weak like grass. Look at the images the Bible uses for our fleeting lives: grass, flowers, a vapor, a mist, dew, a breath, clouds, cracked jars. What do these images from the Bible tell us? None of these are pictures of strength or permanence. They are fleeting. The word for man is a universal term for humanity. Not the wicked or foolish man, but all people.

Different flowers will have different blooms. Some will be more brilliant, others will last longer, but all flowers fade and die. We all will have different successes and failures in life, some more successes than others, but we will all fade like grass and die. Ps 90:10 says that the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty. Some of you will live to 70 or 80, or maybe even 100 if the LORD wills. But even 100 years in light of eternity is a quick flash in history. The wind passes over and it is gone.

This doesn’t mean our lives are meaningless. Our lives do matter. What we do with our fleeting time matters and we should make the most of it. But what this verse is saying is that in the cosmic scheme of things, we are much less grand than we think. 70 or 80 years is not that long compared to the rest of history. And it’s a drop in the bucket when compared to the LORD who has always existed.

Remind yourself of this truth. Each of us is weaker than we’d like to admit. Some of us are very aware of our weaknesses. Others of us are very good at hiding our weaknesses or refusing to acknowledge our weaknesses.

Think about all of the ways we see our weakness. Our minds forget. Which is why this Psalm commands us to forget not the LORD’s benefits.

Our bodies fail us. Everytime we stub our toe or bump our heads, we feel pain, remember that we are clumsy and limited. We are not as great as we think we are. We are more dependent on God than we care to admit. The next time you see a bouquet of flowers or you mow the lawn or see falling leaves in October, let it remind you of your weak and short life.

If we are willing to believe the Bible, we should be more willing to admit our frailties. As John the baptist said, “I am not the Christ. He must increase and I must decrease.” We all fall into the trap of thinking we are stronger than we are. When we compare ourselves in light of God’s character, we see how we fool ourselves.

We are not omnipresent like God is. You believe that you can be everywhere and say yes to everyone. Your calendar is full but you are exhausted. It’s because you are finite.

We are not all knowing like God is all knowing. You convince yourself that you know everything. You don’t need anyone else’s help to figure things out. Well maybe Google. But we lack knowledge and can’t truly know this world apart from God’s word.

We are not all powerful like God is all powerful. You fall into thinking that you can do everything yourself. But your body is weak. It’s why God commands us to rest.

Take one of the examples and think about it this week. Confess how you have tried to act like God. And ask God to help you in your weakness. And he will. Jesus tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Don’t try to pretend you are something you aren’t. Seek help from the LORD and others.

Again, I want to be clear. Our lives are full of meaning, but only because God has created us in his image to have meaning. But our lives are very fragile and we shouldn’t forget this and think we are more than the Bible says we are.

Compared to the LORD, we are grass. God is eternal, our lives fade away in a blink. So the question that this text asks is how can we relate and stand up to an eternal God? And the answer is that God relates to us through his steadfast love.

But the steadfast love of the LORD…

Sometimes the smallest words in a passage are the most powerful. But the steadfast love of the Lord… It doesn’t erase the truth of our weak and fleeting lives. It just shows us that God is able to deal with us in our weakness.

Throughout the Bible God relates to his people through covenants. I want to take a few minutes to quickly describe this idea. It’s not something we see a lot in our current society, but it’s integral in understanding how God deals with us.

The entire story of scripture is told through covenants that God made with individuals or his people. From Adam and Eve, to Noah and Abraham and his sons, God entered into agreements with people. And we see in Exodus that God made a covenant with his people.

The Israelites were weak. They were slaves in Egypt who cried out to the LORD. And the LORD heard their cries. God does not covenant with people because of their greatness. God initiated with Israel, rescued them from slavery and made them promises. He would give them land, he would be their God and dwell in their midst. And the people’s side of the covenant was that they would be a holy people set apart from the other nations. They had to obey God’s commandments. The conditions were, obey and be blessed. Disobey and be cursed. The majority of the old testament tells the story of Israel experiencing the curses of their disobedience. The other part of a covenant was that it would be sealed. We sign documents, ancient cultures sealed their agreements with blood. So Israel sacrificed to enact the covenant.

As we have worked our way through this Psalm, we’ve returned to the Exodus narrative. Exodus 32-34 gives us an account of how our text played out in Israel’s history. They forgot the LORD’s benefits and worshipped a golden calf. Moses interceded and sought forgiveness from God. Then God revealed his glory to Moses in Exodus 34:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

That day God renewed the covenant he had made with the people. These verses describe the way God relates to us. Who he is and what he does. He is merciful, shows steadfast love to thousands of generations, but is also just and will punish unrighteousness.

God remains faithful to love his people, despite our weakness and sin. The conditions for this covenant? They are summed up in Psalm 103 as simply Fear God and remember to do his commandments. This is a theme throughout scripture. Ecclesiastes is a book that digs into man’s frail and fleeting existence. And the writer closes the book in chapter 12 with these words. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecc 12:13

Fear of the LORD. this is a theme throughout scripture and this Psalm in particular. Look at verses 11, 13 and 17. The ones who know the LORD are the ones who rightly fear him. As Kyle mentioned last week, this kind of fear is a mix of reverence and holy terror. Imagine Moses seeing God’s glory. How breathtaking it must have been to see such holiness. And how terrifying. Here’s this weak human hiding in the cleft of rock in the presence of the Creator of the universe. As Isaiah cried out, “woe is me for I am undone.”

To Fear the LORD is to regard God as he truly is, especially compared to our weak, dustlike frames. Those who fear him will obey him. Does this sound conditional? God will love us as long as we keep up our end of the deal. It’s because it is. But that’s where the New Covenant makes such a difference.

In the Old covenant that God made with Israel, there was a provision for a future covenant. Deuteronomy 30 describes how after all of the curses were fulfilled, God would still return them to the land and restore their fortunes. God also gave the hope of a new covenant, a better covenant. He would circumcise their hearts so that they would love the LORD with all their hearts. In other words, they would be able to rightly fear God.

This idea is picked up in the prophets. Jeremiah 31 explains this new covenant.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

A time would come when the law would be written on the people’s hearts, the spirit would teach them and they would be able to obey. And sins would be remembered no more.

How does the New covenant work? In a word: Jesus. Listen to how Hebrews 8 explains the New Covenant.

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.”

The beauty of the New Covenant is that it is enacted on better promises. Instead of the mediator being a frail, fleeting priest, we have a glorious, eternal, Godman as our mediator. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the new covenant and ratified it through his blood.

If Jesus has obeyed and given us his righteousness, do we still have to obey? Aren’t we saved
by grace through faith and not by works?

Obeying God’s commands does not gain God’s approval. We already have that in Christ. But God’s commands are given to us because it is the best way to live. It brings glory to God when we obey.

In fearing the LORD and keeping his commandments, there are two promises here. First as we have discussed before, the steadfast love of God is ours. It is an everlasting love. Even after our earthly lives have faded and been swept away, all who fear the LORD will experience God’s everlasting love for eternity in the new world.

Second we are promised righteousness for generations (the second half of verse 17). Righteousness that is written on our hearts. It’s the righteousness we have been given through faith in Christ.

This is where we return to my questions about our legacy. God’s love and righteousness are for future generations. God promised Israel that he would show steadfast love to thousands of generations. We are called to tell our children and grandchildren about this covenant keeping God. That’s why Grace Church has a family ministry called Generation 2 Generation. We want to help parents make disciples of their children. That they would know and love the God of the Bible. That our grandkids and future generations would delight in Fearing the LORD and keeping his covenant. Make it a part of your weekly routine to join us on Sunday nights.

With all of these blessings we receive through the New Covenant, how can we be sure this God is able to keep his promises? Look at verse 19.

His love is everlasting because he himself is everlasting. He rules everything in this universe. God is sovereign so if he makes a covenant promising everlasting love for generations, nothing else can stop him from accomplishing what he says. He rules and reigns and nothing happens outside of his control. That goes for any other earthly king or ruler. One commentator says, “God’s government will never fail in any part of the world, in any event or life, or in any tumult of the nations. Our world is filled with tumult. Whatever happens in November in this country, this is still God’s domain. No candidate, judge, mayor, governor or senator gains office without God allowing it. Not even Satan’s can have dominion over God. God is not surprised and his kingdom is a permanent one.

Verse 19 serves as kind of a bridge between his power to enact and keep a covenant, and the call for all of his creation to respond in worship.

Remember back to verse 1, we saw the Psalmist commanding himself to bless the LORD. It was an individual call to worship. Sometimes we can get stuck here and forget that as covenant people, we worship this God in community. This is not an individual journey with Jesus.

Now after studying the benefits and character of God, and recognizing his covenant faithfulness, we are called to bless the LORD along with all creation. The call to worship has expanded.
God’s kingdom exists wherever his reign is acknowledged. It is an expanding kingdom and ultimately all will acknowledge God as king. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. After our fleeting lives have ended, will stand before Jesus. Either in awe-filled worship or in judgment.

When Jesus prays in Matthew 6, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, Jesus desires for all of creation to recognize God as King. For this world to match the heavenly world.
This includes the angels and other heavenly beings. 1 peter 1:12 says that angels longed to look at the gospel. Angels are not recipients of the gospel, because it’s only humans created in God’s image. But the angels never cease worshipping their creator.

Further, creation sings.

Ps 19 says The heavens declare his glory. The sun, moon and stars bless their creator.
Even the rocks cry out.

Have you ever realized that angels are singing with us? The heavenly realms are delighting in seeing the gospel? Think about that when we sing together. All who love God and do his word, whether in heaven or on earth, take joy in acknowledging and blessing the covenant LORD.

It’s possible for a person or group of people to move people to worship. They can fill stadiums and evoke deep emotion. People cheer, shout and sing for the greatness of a star athlete like Lionel Messi or Usain Bolt or a rock group like U2. A politician could lead a movement where people sacrifice to follow this leader. But have you ever seen any celebrity that can make angels rejoice and worship? Can Bono cause the sun, moon and stars to acknowledge his glory?
The LORD who has decreed how all things will go, who created galaxies with a word, who sustains all things and sent his son to redeem a people, is the only one worthy of this kind of glory.

I want to close with Philippians 2 with a well known passage that ties the themes of Psalm 103 together.

Jesus Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is everlasting and almighty God, but became weak to rescue a weak people. And now he is the triumphant King who everyone will ultimately recognize as Lord, either in salvation or wrath. And we who have been saved through his steadfast love will sing with angels from everlasting to everlasting. Bless the Lord O my soul!