The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness (Psalm 103:8).
One important thing to remember when we read the Bible is that the Bible is God’s Word to us, even though it was written by people. When we first read this verse from Psalm 103, we read it as King David’s description of God, but since we know that the Bible is God speaking to us, let’s restate this verse a little.
I, the Lord, am compassionate and gracious, I am slow to anger and I abound in lovingkindness.
This is what God is saying to us through David’s writing. God uses David to tell us something very important about who He is and what His character is like.
This verse may not sound like a promise the way we might expect. Generally, we expect promises to follow a specific pattern of, “I promise to…” Many of God’s promises, however, have a lot to do with His character. If you read Promises of God, Part 1, then you know the first promise of God I talked about is God’s unchanging nature.
God doesn’t actually say “I promise not to change;” instead Malachi simply states what God has said or shown him: “I do not change.” A similar thing happens in the Psalms promise–David is stating the promise of God’s character that he has observed.
Now let’s look at what this verse actually promises about God!
- He’s compassionate – In the Bible, this Hebrew word that we translate as compassion is used only to describe God. The word, from the Hebrew word racham, means “to love deeply and have tender affection for.” I know some people think it’s inappropriate to compare the love of God to that of a lover, but that’s exactly what God is. The problem is that when we think of lovers, we immediately think of a sexual or physical relationship instead of an emotional, spiritual and mentally intimate relationship. God is the lover of our soul. Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride, which is a very intimate relationship. That’s the kind of “tender affection” that the word compassionate talks about.
- He’s gracious – This is a really cool Hebrew word. Chanan means “to show favor or bestow favor upon.” When we say that something is “our favorite thing,” we are actually saying that we bestow our favor upon that thing. This word tells us that God is a God who bestows His favor upon us. The short version – we are God’s favorite! How cool is that?! Try to say that slowly to yourself without smiling–say, “I am God’s favorite.”
- He’s slow to anger – There are two Hebrew words here. The word for “slow”, ‘arak, means to grow long or continue. The word for anger, ‘aph, actually describes an angry look on one’s face, but it comes from another Hebrew word that is used only to describe the anger or displeasure of God. This means that it takes a long time for God to become angry, and a long time for God is a longer time than you or I are able to imagine.
- He’s abounding in lovingkindness – The word “abounding” actually comes from a Hebrew word, rab, that means “more abundant than or greater than.” Since we know that there’s nothing greater than God, we can read this as more abundant or greater than anything we know or can imagine. The Hebrew word for lovingkindness, checed, means “goodness, kindness or faithfulness.” God’s goodness and kindness are more abundant than anything we can imagine.
Remember, these are not suggestions or guesses about God. These are factual statements based on observation and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is who God is–the promises that are part of His character. If these things don’t move us to worship the Lord, I’m not sure what will.
Does this verse affect how you think about God? Did you try to say, “I am God’s favorite” without smiling? Were you successful?
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12).