As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
Psalm 103 focuses a great deal of attention on the reasons why the palmist is consumed both with blessing the Lord (103:1) and with exhorting others to do the same (103:20-21). The multiple manifestations of God’s mercy, grace, and power can be summarized in the reference to “the steadfast love of the Lord” (103:17). The psalmist confesses and proclaims the praise and exaltation of the Lord because of all that characterizes Him and how His character is then shown in relationship with those who fear Him.
I believe that His glory is further magnified in this psalm through a reference to the use of His memory, namely, “he remembers that we are dust” (103:14b). He God desires to bless us, but he also remembers the downward pull of sin perpetually at work in us and through us.remembers that we are weak and fragile and continually showers His own with mercy and grace. Because human weakness and fragility is also manifested through sin and rebellion, we are constantly in need of reminder of two things: God alone is God and we are accountable before Him.
God’s memory and our sinful works stemming from our being “dust” thus impact our understanding of image-flourishing. God desires to bless us, but he also remembers the downward pull of sin perpetually at work in us and through us. In the Old Testament these factors contribute to the need for Jubilee, forgiveness of debt and the return of lands to original owners. It seems that the Lord knew that problems would result among the people because of their “form” and He wanted to compensate. Walter Kaiser, in an article in Markets and Morality and republished at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics, identifies clearly what was at stake if the Jubilee year had not been instituted:
If redemption functioned by itself, without the stabilizing effect of the Jubilee, it could have meant that the land could have fallen into the hands of few wealthy families and the rest of the families in the clan were bound by debt-servitude. The year of Jubilee erased all of that and purposely returned everything back to where it had been before the poorer families got into debt.
The grace of God was evident in the laws that he gave to His people. This grace was manifested in the laws and in the postponement of judgment. He made a way for His people to prosper and yet, should the flesh appear in its rebellion, God still created a system that could be a check on greed and the accumulation of wealth. Grace provides such a balance in a way that undermines human confidence in identifying its own solutions to problems that God may permit in judgment and in lessons learned.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways.” Romans 11:33
I will flesh out the reality of God’s wisdom in subsequent reflections on the Jubilee.