How Does God Think of Us?
Reflections and a Prayer on Psalm 25:6,7.
How do we want God to think of us?
How would we want other people to think of us? Wouldn't we want them to think the best?
But, what does God think of us? That can be a disturbing line of thought. Many people I know were raised in a hellfire and brimstone religion, where the angry judgement of God was a prominent theme. Human sinfulness & depravity was held up as the basic fact of human nature. We are sinners. And, God is holy. God is offended and angry over our sin. God must condemn us. It is only right.
And, this message, resonates with something deep inside us. We know we are not the people we should be. We are often ashamed of ourselves. And, God must know of flaws and errors that we don't. We are quick to condemn ourselves. Why wouldn't God condemn us?
In fact, it is hard for us to imagine that God would think more highly of us than we think of ourselves. Isn't it?
That is why the message of God's love is always so hard to believe. If we are sometimes tempted to worry about what other people think of us — how much more worrisome the thought of what God might think of us.
And, there are times when we feel abandoned. We have prayed. No answer as come. We are waiting still. As, I said before, Psalm 25 is a Psalm for the waiting times.
It is easy to think that we are forgotten. Even forgotten by God.
We may even think: God has such pressing matters to be concerned with. God has no time for us.
זְכֹר־רַחֲמֶיךָ יְהוָה וַחֲסָדֶיךָ כִּי מֵעוֹלָם הֵמָּה
חַטֹּאות נְעוּרַי° וּפְשָׁעַי° אַל־תִּזְכֹּר כְּחַסְדְּךָ זְכָר־לִי־אַתָּה לְמַעַן טוּבְךָ יְהוָה
"Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord." (Psalm 25:6.7 NIV)
But, this is true even if there is nothing on our conscience. Even if we (as far as we know) have been good. The apostle Paul writes in one place: "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:4 NRSV)
I quote from the NIV this time because it brings out the repetition of the key word here: זָכַר (zakar) "remember... remember... remember."
Remember... your great mercy and love
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways
according to your love remember me....
In this passage, this word has the meaning of "bear in mind" or "bring to mind."
"Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old."
We come before God in openness and honesty. Honesty demands that we come into God's presence as sinners needing forgiveness. There can be no cover up. God knows all.
Yet, the God that we meet when we come in this kind of honesty is a God of mercy and grace. Here is the paradox: as long as we cover up our sin and seek self-justification we are condemned. When we confess we are forgiven. Our God is a God of great mercy and love.
Mercy רַחֲמִים (raḥamiym): "Compassion, mercy, pity."
Love חֶסֶד (ḥeseḏ): "unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship."
Source: (Hebrew/Aramaic to English Dictionary and Index to the NIV Old Testament from Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Edward W. Goodrick, John R. Kohlenberger III, and James A. Swanson (editors). Copyright ©1999, 1990 by the Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530. All rights reserved. Electronic text prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.)
This is both "compassion," the ability to identify with the feelings and situation of another but also "steadfast love": a committed love that will not let go.
Yes, what we might naturally expect to meet is a God of condemnation and judgement and exclusion. By faith, with open and honest hearts, we meet a God of compassion and steadfast love.
These qualities are “from of old.” This is why the Bible’s record is so important to us. We come to God in the knowledge of what generations after generations have experienced before us.
Then the Psalmist says both: "remember me, God" and "this is the way I want You to remember me."
Bring to mind your mercy, O Lord.
- "the sins of my youth" (חַטֹּאות נְעוּרַי)
- "my rebellious ways" (וּפְשָׁעַי°)
There is no attempt here to cover over sin or excuse it. There is no need to make excuses or make things look better than they are.
Christians need to remember that our justification is by faith in Jesus Christ. That means we are free from having to justify ourselves. And, we don't have to. There is no excuse. And, it doesn't matter.
We plead the sacrifice of Christ. "For our sake [God] made [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV).
Thus, the God we meet depends on how we come. When we come in honesty and faith, pleading only the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we meet the God of great mercy and compassion.
In the season leading up to Christmas we remember anew the song of Mary, the mother of Jesus:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55 NRSV)
Lord our God,
we seek Your face and long to find You.
We come before you in honesty of heart.
We confess to You sins so long covered over.
We make no excuses.
And, we admit that we often do not even know our own heart.
You alone are the judge.
We long to come before a God of mercy and grace.
May we find you as your people found you in times past
when you drew near with many signs and miracles.
May our hearts come before you in awe and trust
and draw their strength from you.
May many in our time seek you and receive your comfort and help,
for you provide strength and courage
for the poor and destitute,
for the suffering and the dying
for those who are awaiting your answer.
Do not let the people of our day pass by vain, O great and almighty God.
A new time must surely come,
a new day must be born in this present age.
May Your will be done on earth. Amen.
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