This will be our concluding lesson in our series from Psalm 103 on developing & maintaining a perpetual attitude of gratitude. Thus far we have noted that:
1. GRATITUDE INVOLVES PERSONAL EXAMINATION.
2. GRATITUDE INVOLVES COUNTING OUR BLESSINGS.
3. GRATITUDE INVOLVES GOD'S GOODNESS.
Now, let's consider:
4. GRATITUDE INVOLVES GOD'S FORGIVING LOVE.
Psalm 103:11-18 states:
"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them."
I think the word love is a good summary term for the feelings and actions God manifests toward us. How great is God's mercy? As high as the heavens are above the earth! From everlasting to everlasting! What beautiful imagery; certainly this is something to be thankful for! Notice however that this mercy is not extended to everyone but to those who fear Him; to those who keep His covenant; to those who obey His commandments (cf. 103:11,17,18).
How far has God removed the sins of those who obey Him? As far as the east is from the west! Have you ever thought about that? Notice that he did not say as far as the north is from the south, and there may be a good reason for that. Theoretically speaking, a person can travel north only until they reach the North Pole, and then what happens? Well, wherever they go from there would be south! Thus, there is a limit to how far north and how far south a person can travel. But, there is no such limit in consideration of the directions east & west. A person could theoretically travel east and go all the way around the world and then he could continue going east indefinitely! One could travel forever heading east and one could travel forever heading west. Now, again think about the beauty of the Psalmist's words and be thankful. God has taken our sins farther away than we can imagine! As far as the east is from the west! When God forgives our sins, He washes them away completely!
How does the LORD pity humans? As a father pities his children! Fathers should naturally have a strong love for their children; thus, they easily feel pity and compassion for them. It's the same way with God toward us. I am so thankful that the Lord is compassionate; He knows that we are mortals and that our life here on Earth is so very short; He knows that we are not perfect like He is, and consequently He is patient with us. II Peter 3:9 affirms that God "is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
The Psalmist concludes his giving of thanks by inviting universal praise of Almighty God. Psalm 103:19-22 reads:
"The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!"
Our nation has chosen one day each year as a special holiday called Thanksgiving. Certainly this is a good practice, but let us remember that every day should be a day of thanksgiving. If we have a perpetual attitude of gratitude, we will choose to be grateful every day; we won't wait to do so until the end of November. We'll look for things to be thankful for, even when it seems that there is so much to complain about.
One example of a person being thankful when it would have been easy to grumble & complain is that of Matthew Henry. He is known today for his commentary on the Bible, but when he was alive in the early 1700's, he was known for his gratitude. On one occasion he was robbed while walking down a street. The thieves took everything he had on him of value. Later that night, Matthew Henry wrote the following in his diary: "I am thankful that during these years I have never been robbed until now. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life. And although they took all I had, it was not much. Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed." True gratitude can be found in many places we often overlook.
Let me give you another example: Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, "Certainly the preacher won't think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this." Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying: "We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this." In the midst of suffering & trials, one can at least pray that prayer!
If we are mindful of the blessings that God has showered down upon us all, we can & must have a perpetual attitude of gratitude.