Wisdom’s Starting Point
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:11-13)
Psalm 103 is one of those pinnacles of encouragement found dotted throughout Scripture. It is a virtual treasure house of promised blessings. If God’s people had no other promises to hold onto in life, there would be enough here to keep them going for the rest of their lives.
Yet, as is true in nearly all biblical promises, they are attached to conditions. Interestingly, when presumptuous people read such passages, all they can see are the promises. Their eyes seem to be blinded to the stipulations which accompany them. They read the words, but they don’t sink in. They latch onto the positive statements to the disregard of everything else.
In the case of the three verses quoted above, David enumerated three great assurances to God’s people: abundant lovingkindness to be showered upon their lives, total forgiveness of sin and a father’s compassion on their struggles. What Bible-believing person wouldn’t be buoyed by such promises? And those who fulfill the attached condition should be encouraged by this pledge from God.
Perhaps David sensed the tendency of some people to overlook the fact that these promises are only extended to those who fear the Lord because he repeats this stipulation a few verses later.
I think David understood better than most that the fear of the Lord is a vital component in a believer’s life. Until it has become established within a person’s heart, he will never really grasp the need to obey God. He might fulfill some rules that are observable to those around him, but his obedience will always be shallow and meaningless.
A.W. Tozer once said, “The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures… Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility. The essence of sin is rebellion against divine authority.”
And, in light of the passage of Scripture we are examining, I would add that apart from the fear of the Lord there will be no true obedience. Perhaps that is why another psalmist would later exclaim, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Psalm 111:10)
And how about you? Can you see how living with a deep concern about pleasing God is a vital part of one’s relationship with Him? Would you say that your life reflects someone with a fear of the Lord? If so, appropriate these promises as your own for you are the very person they were extended to!