Your Mercy Reaches Unto the Heavens

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(Psalms 51, 136 & 103)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 7

Your Mercy Reaches Unto the Heavens

(Psalms 51, 136 & 103)

Copr. 2024, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Have you ever wished that the police were around to give some speeder a ticket? How about a ticket for someone who failed to stop at a stop sign? On the other hand, when the police stop you are you hoping for mercy? Isn’t that the way it is in life generally? We see others sin and we want justice. This is especially true when the rich and powerful sin, and it is a major sin! But when it is our sin we want mercy. Our study in Psalms this week is about mercy. Not simply mercy for ordinary sins, but mercy for a rich and powerful man committing some of the most serious sins. Let’s plunge into Psalms and learn more about the full picture of God’s love and mercy!

  1. Steadfast Love - and Danger
    1. Read Psalm 136:1-6. How is the power of God described in these verses? (He is the Lord of all, the God over other gods, and the Creator of the heavens and earth. He is the supreme power in the universe!)
      1. Notice that every statement starts out “give thanks” and ends with “His steadfast love endures forever.” Do you think of powerful people as having “steadfast love?” (We generally think of the rich and powerful as being selfish, and not being loving.)
        1. Is that why the psalmist starts out “give thanks?” We should be grateful that the usual attitude that we see with humans does not exist with our God.)
        2. Or do you think he has a different reason?
    2. Read Psalm 136:10-15. Wait a minute! Is it “steadfast love” to kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt? How about drowning Pharaoh and his army? By “army” we are talking about sons, fathers, and husbands.
      1. I have encountered Bible teachers who claim that this destruction of the Egyptians is inconsistent with the love of God. They say that an earthquake, or some natural movement of the earth, caused the Red Sea to move as it did to save the Hebrews and kill the Egyptians. Is that consistent with this psalm? (The argument about natural disasters is silly. The first verses of Psalm 136 say that God is the absolute power of the universe. The targets are so precise this cannot be chance. And even if it were, nature is controlled by God.)
      2. What is the lesson about God’s mercy and His steadfast love? (He shows mercy and steadfast love to those who choose Him. Pharaoh was in rebellion against God.)
        1. Is this a model for our mercy? Or does our demand for the arrest of speeders – except for us – show that we are untrustworthy judges?
  2. Steadfast Love - and Sin
    1. Read Psalm 51:1. Notice the timing of this Psalms. What has just happened? (Nathan has just confronted David with his sin of adultery and premeditated murder.)
    2. Read 2 Samuel 12:1-5 and 2 Samuel 12:7-9. What does King David say is justice when he hears a story about someone else who did what he did? (David exclaimed that person deserved to die! It made David angry.)
      1. Is David blind to his own sin? Are we blind to our own sins?
    3. Read Psalm 51:2-4. David now says that “he knows” his sins. Will God confront us with our sins so that we “know them?” (God used Nathan the prophet to confront David. I think the Holy Spirit confronts us with our sins.)
      1. Notice that David also says that his sin is “ever before me.” At the same time the Bible Knowledge Commentary says that Nathan confronted David about a year after the sin. Had David rationalized his sin before Nathan approached him?
    4. Look again at Psalm 51:4. Is it true that David sinned only against God? Note that David stresses that his sin is “only” against God. (David’s sin killed Uriah, damaged David’s family, and set a bad example for the country. But sin is only against God and we should confess our sins to God. We should try to make things right with those we have injured, but the sin is against God alone.)
    5. Read Psalm 51:5-7. David says that he was “conceived in sin” and “brought forth in iniquity.” Are we born with an inclination to sin? Are we sinful when we are born? (If David is making a theological point, we are born sinful.)
      1. What is another conclusion we could reach from what David said? That David is not at fault because he was born sinful?
      2. If David is not at fault, who is at fault? (Some might say, “God,” but look at verse 6 which says that David knows God delights in truth and “teaches wisdom in the secret heart.” I think David is simply saying that he is rotten to the core and God wants to change him.)
    6. Look again at Psalm 51:7. What is David’s view of righteousness by faith? (God is the one who makes us righteous.)
    7. Read Psalm 51:9-12. Is David only looking to be declared righteous? Does he seek mercy only for the forgiveness of his sins? (No. He wants a deep clean. He wants the Holy Spirit to renew a “right spirit” within him. He wants joy and a “willing spirit.”)
      1. Compare this with how some view the doctrine of righteousness by faith. I once heard someone say about sin, “That is okay, God will forgive.” The goal is not to simply get a pass, the goal is a changed heart so you will not want to sin. The goal is not to continue to “enjoy” sin secure in the knowledge of coming forgiveness.)
    8. Read Psalm 51:13. What is David’s goal for the future? Do you have that same goal? (He wants to bring glory to God by helping others turn to God.)
  3. Steadfast Love – and a Better Life
    1. Read Psalm 130:3. Who is in need of God’s mercy? (Everyone. No one can stand.)
    2. Read Psalm 103:2-4. What will God do to our iniquity? (He will forgive our sins and redeem our “life from the pit.”
    3. Read Psalm 103:5. Is God limited to forgiving us from sin? (No. It says that our youth is “renewed.”)
      1. Does that make sense? What is the connection between being forgiven and youth? (When we understand that our sins are forgiven, it makes us feel great again.)
      2. Look back at Psalm 103:3. Do you think that forgiveness of sins also heals our diseases? (I believe, and have read, that there is a connection between mental attitudes and disease. What is sure is that God will make us completely new, mind and body, when we are with Him in heaven.)
    4. Read Psalm 103:6. Are you feeling oppressed? If so, what will God do for you when you turn to Him? (He brings righteousness and justice for the oppressed.)
    5. Read Psalm 103:7. Why refer to Moses when we are discussing what God does to make our lives better? (Contemplate all the miracles God worked in enabling Moses to bring the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt.)
      1. What is the dire lesson in that story? (Despite seeing all the miracles, the people still did not trust God. See Deuteronomy 1.)
    6. Read Psalm 103:13-14. If you love your children, if your parents love you, how should you view God’s attitude toward you? (He is like a loving parent. This includes the understanding a parent has of how children need to be protected because they are not yet mature enough to face the world.)
    7. Friend, danger is all around. We all carry the danger of our predisposition to sin. God, in His mercy, rescues us from danger, and from our sinful nature. In mercy, if we trust Him, he will bless our lives. Will you turn to God right now? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God in every situation?
  4. Next week: Wisdom for Righteous Living.