Bless the Lord O My Soul, Psalm 103

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” What could we possibly do for God? How could we possibly bless or benefit or bring any extra bit of happiness to the maker and ruler and giver of all things? We can’t make His life easier by doing one of His chores for Him or running an errand for Him. We can’t buy Him anything that He doesn’t already have. We can’t sooth Him with music or a back massage. We can’t entertain Him with jokes or stories or a movie or a talent show. What could we do for God? Well, some of us are in a way in sort of a similar position as God. Some of us have these little people that we love more than ourselves who are totally dependent on us and unable to really help us or provide anything for us. And because we have been created in God’s image I think what we mainly want of those little people is also what God wants of each of us. We want mainly 2 things from those little dependants. We want, first of all, for them to trust and obey us, to not be stubborn and rebellious to our will. And secondly we want them express love and gratitude, to just sincerely say on occasion, “Thank you Dad (or Mom). I love you.” That’s all I want from my kids for Christmas. On Christmas morning I just want them to behave themselves as I’ve told them to behave, and I want them to just say “Thank you” and mean it. God seeks worshipers who worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23). God takes delight when His obedient children express love and gratitude and adoration toward Him.

And God’s worthiness of our doing that little bit we can do for Him is I think beyond our comprehension. As we sing, “God is so good, He’s so good to me!” Everyday should be “Thanksgiving Day.” Hebrews 13:15, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

I’d like you to turn with me if you have a Bible to Psalm 103. This is a Psalm of David. It appears from the content of the Psalm that David was having a moment of renewed realization of how good God is to him, how worthy He is of our sincere praise and adoration. He’d been doing as we sing, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” And he was just overwhelmed with appreciation for the Lord. And maybe he also did a little self-examination and realized that he’d been neglectful of giving God the praise and adoration He deserves. I’ve realized that often times about myself. It will dawn on me sometimes toward the end of a Sunday morning worship service or just afterward that I was mostly just going through the motions. My mind was distracted by earthly mundane concerns. When “thank you’s” and praises to God were said in the prayers and songs, I said “Amen” out of habit and I sang along, but I wasn’t really in the frame of mind that I am in the presence of God who sees and hears my heart and I wasn’t really saying the “thank you’s” and praises from my heart to Him. And David was perhaps also feeling that he’d been neglecting the praise God deserves. And so David sort of took himself aside and had a serious talk with himself. He said, “Listen my soul. Listen all that is within me. Look at what all the Lord does for you. Now, you do the little thing He likes you to do for Him. You bless the LORD! You bless His holy name! Praise Him! And don’t forget any of His benefits. Don’t ever forget all these things that He does for you.” And that little exhortation he gave himself is what we have recorded in v1-5.

Sometimes I need to take myself aside and have a little talk with self like that, because my self tends to be forgetful and take the things God does for me for granted and neglects the simple praise and thanks that He deserves. And I suspect sometimes you also need to have a talk with yourself like that. So let’s do that this morning. Let’s have a talk with our souls and remind them of what the Lord does for them. And I think we can remind our souls of the same benefits they receive from the Lord that David reminded his soul of, if like David we fear God and we’re honestly trying to do His will in our lives. The Lord’s benefits to David (v3-5) are benefits for every child of God.

The Lord’s benefits (v1-5)

#1, “Soul, remember…

He pardons all your iniquities.

Assuming David wrote this Psalm later in his life, I bet David couldn’t help but think of the adultery he committed with Bathsheba, the deceit he engaged in to cover his tracks when she became pregnant, and then the murder of her husband that he caused (II Sam 11). And maybe he recalled that occasion when he pridefully numbered the people of Israel though knew it was wrong and brought on a pestilence in Israel that killed 70,000 (I Chron 21), and he probably thought of many other sins in his life that we have no record of in the Bible. David knew he didn’t deserve to live. David knew that when he took a lamb up to the temple and slit its throat to be an offering for his sin that it should be him; many many many times over it should have been him. And yet God pardoned every single one of his iniquities. God said “You won’t have to pay for a single one. I will cover all the cost for you. You will stand before Me sinless, righteous, not guilty.”

Have you hurt people? Have you cheated and used people? Have made promises and broke them? Have you crossed sexual boundaries that God has set?  Have you neglected people who needed you? Have you grieved the heart of the one who gave you life and all things? And do you still sometimes do things like that? Shouldn’t you be on a cross? Shouldn’t you “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (II Thess 1:9)? And yet, I John 1:7 says if we’re walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, if we’re penitent, if we’re trying to follow the Lord Jesus, “the Light of the world,” then it says we have fellowship with God and the blood of Jesus His Son just keeps on cleansing us from all sin. Even though we still fall short, His blood just keeps on cleansing us. And so when we see God He won’t even bring up a single evil thing that we’ve ever done.

#2, “Soul, remember…

He heals all your diseases.

Think of all the diseases that you used to have. Every common cold that lasted only a week, instead of remaining for your entire life. Every case of the flu which has passed. Every infection that you don’t have anymore. Every pneumonia, every skin disease, every rash, every headache… Doctors and medication may have been instruments in the healing, but really the health of ever molecule in our bodies is in God’s hands. Health is a kindness that God gives us that He doesn’t have to give us, that we don’t deserve for Him to give us.

Now, some you still have diseases, that you’ve told me about that are slowly killing you. But if you’re a child of God, He will heal all your diseases. You may die first, but that you will not be sick for long, if you’re a child of God. He will heal all your diseases!

David also may have in mind here his soul’s diseases, his spirit’s diseases – greed, jealousy, lust, hatred, addictions and pride and so forth. And I would have to add that to my list of blessings that I’ve received from the Lord. I’ve have some bad soul diseases that God has worked to help me remove from my heart.

#3, “Soul, remember…

He redeems your life from the pit.

The “pit” was used metaphorically in that day of the “grave”. If you look up “pit” in a Bible concordance you’ll see a number of examples of that (Ps 28:1; 30:3; Job 33:22-24). David may be remembering occasions when he was in danger of death and God rescued him. He may be remembering many battles he was in where the odds appeared against him, like the time when he fought a lion and a bear and Goliath, or times when he was fleeing from his enemies who were seeking his life. Like how our health is in God’s hands, so is our safety. Jesus said not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’s notice. God is aware and in control of all things. So certainly we have God to thank for each day of safety we enjoy, each trip we’ve taken without a fatal accident, each adventure in the mountains that we came back from, each time we’ve been on a high roof and not slipped off, and so forth.

But David may have more in mind here than the times when God spared him from going to the grave. He may even be thinking of what God will do for us when we eventually do go to the grave. Even then God will redeem our life from the pit. I think David believed God has much more in mind for us than just this life, as did the Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses before him of whom Hebrews 11 says they lived the way they lived on this earth because they were seeking what God has for us beyond this life (Heb 11:10,14-16,26). I think David was that way too. The grave is not our eternal home. Remember that soul and bless the Lord for that.

#4, “Soul, remember…

He crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.

To be crowned is to be treated like a king. The idea here is that not only does God cancel our debt of sin, not only does He not give us what we deserve, not only does He give us what we need, health and safety and life, but He bestows on us so much more than what we need. Think of how much He’s crowned us with beyond the bare necessities. Family and friends, the beauty of this creation, the wildlife, the trees, a hundred different restaurants in town to choose from for lunch with who knows how many different varieties of food and drink, and all our money and stuff, and the music and color and smells and tastes and feelings.

And yet you know in this life we’re only getting the dripping from the faucet of His lovingkindness and compassion. He hasn’t really even turned the faucet on yet. Ephesians 2:7 says in the ages to come God will show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. In ages to come He will turn on the faucet of His lovingkindness and compassion upon us. “It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (I Jn 3:2). And paradise that was lost because of sin that we’ve never experienced will be restored (Acts 3:21), and there will be no more evil and no more curse (Rev 21:27; 22:3), everything will again be very good.

#5, “Soul, remember…

He satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

David was a keen observer of nature and often likened himself to birds. Psalm 102:6-7, “I resemble a pelican of the wilderness; I have become like an owl of the waste places. I lie awake, I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.” And here he compares himself with the eagle whose youth sort of is renewed. I think he’s probably talking about an eagle coming out of the molting process. You know, when an eagle loses its feathers and grows new ones. It’s doesn’t happen all at once of course. But in patches over the course of a few months. And if you’ve ever seen an eagle that is in the molting process he looks kind of scraggly and rough, like he’s been through a lot and kind of worn out and frazzled, puffs of feathers are coming off him. But once the molting process is complete he looks like a new bird, sleek and smooth looking.

We get to points in life where we feel like a molting eagle looks – worn, tired, frazzled, discouraged, depressed. Like how God heals our physical diseases, He is also a God who works to heal our emotional diseases. Remember Elijah throwing a pity party under the juniper tree, molting, depressed, “Lord, I don’t want to be a prophet any more. I’m so sick of this. Nobody cares about your will. I’m the only one left in Israel doing anything good. Lord, would just do me a favor and take my life. I’m so tired of this world.” But God fed him a meal and let him have a little retreat for a while to Mt. Horeb. And God was kind and reasoned with him and assured him that He’s taking care of things and that there are actually 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee Baal, the pagan god (I Kg 19). God brought him through that molting and renewed him, gave him a new zeal and motivation for life and serving the Lord. Bless the Lord O my soul because He doesn’t leave you in your discouragement and depression. He works to bring you through those times.

And like these other blessings you can see this in a temporary here on earth sense, and also in an eternal hereafter sense. We’re going get old and worn out and die someday. And yet still even then God will renew our youth.

Now, in the rest of this Psalm from v6 on David changes from talking to his own soul to talking more directly to us who are hearing the Psalm. He talks about the way that God is, His nature and character and how He works and His sovereignty. And I think he does so to show that those blessings that he receives from the Lord (v3-5) are those that the Lord gives to all who fear Him (v11,13,17) and try to walk in His ways (v18). Let’s look at it briefly; we won’t spend as much time on this portion of the Psalm.

Who is our God? (v6-22)

Well, first of all v6, He is God who performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. Notice that last bit, “All who are oppressed.” All who are burdened or afflicted. And we all are somewhat. Every one of us has been oppressed by the guilt of sin and we’re all subject to this horrible dark enemy, death. And some of us are oppressed also by sicknesses and aches and pains or loneliness or depression or an abusive relationship or other things. This does not mean that God delivers every oppressed person from all their oppressions. But I think it does mean that God works to make deliverance from every burden available to everyone. God desires all men to be saved to come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim 2:4). God does not wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (II Pt 3:9). I think of John 3:14-15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” He is drawing an illustration from Numbers 21 when the people of Israel were griping and complaining again against God about their food and accommodations out in the desert. And God had warned them about that. And so this time He sent poisonous snakes among them. And they were biting people all over the place and people were lying around dying of snake bites. They were oppressed by serpents.  And the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede for them, and then God said to Moses, “Alright Moses, here’s what I’ll do. You make a bronze serpent. (Kind of weird, I know. I don’t totally understand it. But He said…) You make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole, on a standard, and tell the people that if they are bit by a snake if they will fix their gaze on the bronze snake they will live and be healed of their snake bite.” God provided a remedy for their oppression. And like that God has provided a remedy for sin and death and all our oppressions. He’s lifted up the Son of Man on a cross for us. If any will turn to Jesus and trust in Jesus, meaning you’ll let Jesus lead your life, then you be delivered from all oppression.

In v7-8 David recalls an occasion recorded in Exodus 33 and 34 when Moses boldly asked God, “I pray You, show me your glory!” He wanted to actually see God as God really is with his own eyes. And God said, “Can’t do that, Moses. No man can see Me and live. But I’ll tell you what, I will proclaim to you My name, My character. I’ll give you some further insight into who I am.” And then He had Moses come up Mt. Sinai and He manifested His presence with a cloud and the first descriptions of Himself that He proclaimed to Moses were these, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth“. Our God is one who genuinely cares about humans beings. He is not ignoring us. And He is not up there tapping His foot, hoping that we will mess up so that He can punish us. He’s cheering us on like we’re in a race and He’s in the stands. When we stumble, when we fall on our face, He’s saying, “Oh come on, get up, you can do this!” And He’s sending us help, sending us His Spirit and angels and people and circumstances to pick us up and show us how to run the race. He’s hoping we’ll succeed. And when we get back up and we’re running good, Jesus says there joy in heaven (Lk 15;7,10,20-24). There is celebration in heaven over one sinner who comes to repentance.

v9 elaborates further on God’s character, “He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forerver.” Sin does anger Him. And He will discipline us, like a father does His children when they misbehave. But just as I don’t hold a grudge against my kids because they disobeyed me. I discipline them. I try to instill in them that they can’t do that, but the discipline is just temporary. That’s God to us when we’re penitent.

v10, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Clearly, or we wouldn’t be on this earth enjoying the good things He has made.

v11, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” With the hubble teloscope we can see things billions of light years away, and yet still we have not seen the end of the heavens. They appear to go one infinitely. That’s the height of the storehouse of His lovingkindess for us who fear Him, us who are afraid displeasing Him. And one day He’s going to turn the faucet on and pour it out on us.

How does God forgive us? Does He forgive like we sometimes forgive when we tell people “I forgive you,” but then maybe we don’t ever talk to that person again or maybe we’ll still bring up what they did again later. That’s not how God forgives. v12, “As far as the east is from the west [That is as far as the farthest east you can go is from the farthest west you can go. It’s like as high as the heavens are above the earth. It’s an infinite distance.], So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” No sin that we have ever committed, even the most horrible and evil things we’ve done, will be a factor in our how God treats us. He will treat us as though we have never ever sinned before.

v13, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” When you see a good loving father who gives himself for the good of his kids and wants the best for his kids more than anything else in the world, you are seeing a picture of God toward those who fear Him.

Now, watch this. v14-18, “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. 17 But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, 18 To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them. Now, do you see a seeming contradiction there? Does something seem inconsistent there? We don’t want to die. We dread the thought of being dead and separated from all of God’s lovingkindness that surrounds us and that we enjoy. Yet our life on this earth is like a little blade of grass that sprouts up green and vibrant after some rain, but pretty soon on a hot summer day with a hot wind that little blade wilts away and is gone, just like that. It’s depressing.  And yet David says God knows this. He knows our frame. He’s mindful that we are but dust. And not only does He know this, but His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him. If His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting on us then wouldn’t He not want us to be dead for everlasting, wouldn’t He not want us not be like a blade of grass that just springs up only to quickly wither away and be gone forever. I think David is suggesting that God is going to do something about the brevity of our lives. The thought that just this brief earthly life is all there is for us is inconsistent with the nature of God. God has too much lovingkindness to let just this be it for us.

19 “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” You know what that means? God is able. He is able to do all that He wants to do. He rules all creation. All that His incomprehensibly abundant love and grace for us wants to do, He is able to perform.

So David ends the Psalm calling all of God’s creation to do for Him the little bit we can do for Him, calling for all the praise that God deserves. “Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!” He deserves more than just obeying the voice of His word. He deserves praise and adoration and many “thank you’s”. So you angels who obey Him, also bless Him with praise. 21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. 22 Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the Lord, O my soul!

God is awesome. “God is so good, He is so good to me…” and to you. Let’s never forget any of His benefits and let’s bless the Lord from our souls as He deserves.

– James Williams

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