Compassionate Father (Psalm 103)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 3
- Hymns: LSB #915, 686, 618, 619, 924
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)
As we join the world in celebrating our fathers today, we must look toward our heavenly Father. The Father whom all other fathers are based on and judged against. Every father chastises his children. Solomon reminds us, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (Proverbs 13:24). God loves you. Therefore He chastises you (Deuteronomy 8:5; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6). He does not spare the rod. But He also shows compassion to you. Even in His chastisement, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (v8).
God does not spare the rod when He chastises His children. His rod of chastisement comes both in punishment as well as correction. We most think of chastisement as punishment because of our sins. This is most obvious with David and Bathsheba. The culmination of the adultery and murder and blasphemy come to a head as Nathan's words penetrate into and break David's heart. "The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die" (2 Samuel 12:13-14). The child conceived in the adultery, innocent of any of his parent's sin, dies as the punishment for their sin.
The same punishment came to Jesus. Jesus died as the punishment for your sin. He was innocent of all your sins. God "made Him to be sin who knew no sin." By Christ's death, you "become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Your sin has utterly scorned God, but God does not leave you without forgiveness.
Look at the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet at Simon the Pharisee's house. When she learned that Jesus was in town, she came and washed Jesus' feet with her tears. Wiping them dry with her hair (Luke 7:37-38). Not trying to earn forgiveness because she had scorned God with her sin. Begging for forgiveness because she knows she's cursed under the Law (Galatians 3:10).
Chastisement's correction comes by pointing out this curse. "All who rely on works of the Law are under a curse ... 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.' ... [N]o one is justified before God by the Law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Galatians 3:10-11). As Jesus tells the congregation in Laodicea, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19). The sinful woman zealously repented where Simon saw no reason to repent. Her faith saved her (Luke 7:50). Jeremiah the prophet cries, "Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing" (10:24).
Jeremiah's sighing is answered by David's faithful declaration: "He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever" (v9). Chastisement will end. Whether it's punishment or correction, chastisement will end. Chastisement was made known through Moses (v7), but mercy and grace through Christ (Galatians 3:14).
St. Clement of Rome, who died around 100 AD, wrote an epistle to the Corinthians close to the end of the first century. In the fifty-sixth chapter of that epistle, he quotes several Scriptures about God's chastisement of His people. He concludes all the passages with these words: "See, beloved, how much protection there is for those who are chastised by the Master; for the Father is good who chastises so that we might receive mercy through His holy chastisement" (1 Clement 56:16).
God's chastisement is designed to show His mercy. "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71). God's chastisement is designed to make us realize our sinful condition. As Jesus points out to Simon the Pharisee, He has cancelled your debt of sin. "But he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Luke 7:42, 47). He who has been chastised little is forgiven little. He receives little mercy. With little mercy, there is a lack of forgiveness. With a lack of forgiveness, there is unforgiven sin.
God does not like to forgive in part. He "forgives ALL your iniquity, who heals ALL your diseases" (v3). The only unforgiven sin is unrepented sin. Sin you won't let go of. Sin you don't want His compassion to forgive. This is showing that you don't fear God. "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him" (v13). Your compassionate, heavenly Father does not deal with you according to your sins. He does not repay you according to your iniquities (v9). He deals with you through His Son Jesus Christ. Compassion shown on the cross as your sin died with Jesus. And in Baptism you die to sin and live for God (Romans 6:11).
By dying for the sin of the world, Jesus fulfills the great promise: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (vv11-12). As earth never reaches up to Heaven, God's steadfast love and compassion cannot be understood. As east and west never meet, so you and the sin that Jesus has forgiven will never meet again. They are gone. Never to be remembered. Your compassionate Father has forgiven you of all your sins.
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (v8). How wonderful it is to be able to approach Him and call Him "Our Father." All we can do in response to His compassion is repeat the beginning of the Psalm: "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name" (v1). Amen.
Father of light, we praise You because You forgive iniquity and do not reward us according to our sins. What You promised to the fathers You have fulfilled in Your Son. As the east and the west can never come together, so remove our sins from us, that they can be accounted to us no more, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.