Psalm 86 may have been David’s prayer, but in many ways it’s mine, too. It’s a plea for God’s protection and forgiveness, for his help in times of trouble and for happiness. Who doesn’t want those things, right?
David speaks of God’s greatness, his love, compassion, and mercy. It’s a psalm that spoke to my heart today. And it reminded me of something my nephew said to me this week.
Ryan is a nice guy. He has a gentle spirit, he’s compassionate and kind. He loves the Lord and is burdened for anyone who needs the Savior. I’ve known him to befriend a homeless man in Jesus’ name. He’s encouraging, patient and tender. When I tell you his career choice it might surprise you.
He’s a sergeant in the US Army Reserves, did a tour in Iraq, and is a full time policeman in a tough inner-city. Recently he realized one of his long time dreams by becoming part of that city’s SWAT team.
Ryan was sharing about a problem he was having with a fellow officer in the police force. This younger, less experienced man was disrespectful and argumentative toward Ryan, making it very difficult to work with him. Ryan was patient. He made it a practice to compliment the young man when he did something well. But that didn’t seem to be making a difference in his attitude or behavior toward my nephew.
One day, when this officer refused to cooperate, Ryan lost it. The two ended up in a loud argument in the parking lot of the police station. Needless to say, they ended up in their sergeant’s office and were told they had to work it out. Each of the men aired their differences in front of their boss.
Ryan said his co-worker has the makings of being a good cop. In fact, Ryan said he has strengths Ryan wishes he had himself. But he is inexperienced and has a lot to learn. He told the officer his tone of voice was condescending and disrespectful and that he didn’t want to continue to argue every time an order came through. Ryan said he was done accepting this behavior. Then he said, “Don’t mistake kindness for weakness.”
I thought of those words when I read Psalm 86 this morning. Verse 15 says:
But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I praise God for the truth of those words. I’m so thankful for his compassion and mercy toward me. I depend on his unfailing love. But may I never mistake any of that for weakness.
This loving God is a fierce warrior. He hates – HATES – sin with a burning passion. And he will punish every sin ever committed. Not overlook it. Punish it.
His compassion doesn’t allow him to turn a blind eye to sin but it did send him to the cross to die for that sin. Once again, I am reminded God is first of all holy, holy, holy and he demands holiness of us. But because as sinners we can never be holy in and of ourselves, his compassion and mercy clothes us with his own. I am holy before him only because I accepted his holiness when I asked him to forgive me.
Yes God is love. Yes he is merciful and kind. But don’t ever mistake that for weakness.
God, I pray that your people will recognize you for who you are: holy, holy, holy. Forgive us if we would rather talk about your love for mankind and overlook that important fact. Your holiness cannot tolerate sin. Period. May we realize the significance of that fact and fall to our knees, repent of sin, and accept your forgiveness. You are kind and compassionate, slow to anger toward those of us who know you as our Savior.