Are you enjoying pleasant fall weather where you live? It’s been so hot for so long here in South Texas that the first two mornings in the mid-50s felt incredibly cold. As I walked GG in the brisk air, I remind myself that I begged the Lord for cooler weather all summer. GG is much better than me as he runs circles around me on his 16′ leash, clearly enjoying the fresh air and celebrating it as I should. Sometimes we ask the Lord to change our circumstances or to change us. But we don’t appreciate his loving response to our prayers when he does. It’s even worse if we don’t even recognize his special grace and benefits for us as Christians that go far beyond a change in the weather. As I worked through the Beatitudes over the last two months, I encountered Psalm 103 several times. I believe we will benefit from the psalmist’s appeal to worship the Lord and praise him for the specific blessings he bestows on believers in Christ, as they are expressed through his grace to his people in the Old Testament. We are renewed, so we worship God and bless him for his character, faithfulness, and existence. It’s good to thank God frequently for his specific works that renew our confidence in him.
Why We Should Praise God
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2-5) “This is a hymn of praise, celebrating the abundant goodness and love of the Lord for his people…The crowning benefit is God’s enduring love to the descendants of the faithful, which leads the worshipers to exhort all the angelic hosts and all the material creation to join in blessing the Lord. “(1) The Lord renews the souls of his people with forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, and goodness. But, do we remember and praise God for the blessings of Christ’s specific forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, and righteousness? “‘Here [the psalmist] instructs us that God is not deficient on his part in furnishing us with abundant matter for praising him. It is our own ingratitude which hinders us from engaging in this exercise…How is it that we are so listless and drowsy in the performance of this the chief exercise of true religion, if it is not because our shameful and wicked forgetfulness buries in our hearts the innumerable benefits of God, which are openly manifest to heaven and earth? Did we only retain the remembrance of them, the prophet assures us that we would be sufficiently inclined to perform our duty, since the sole prohibition which he lays upon us is not to forget them.” (2)
The Blessing of God’s Steadfast Love
“We have here the authentic utterance of a redeemed child of God , who piles up words to express his gratitude to the God of grace…The first five verses of the psalm are very personal, as the author confronts himself with his duty and exhorts his own sluggish soul to worship. He desires not only to praise God’s holy name, acknowledging the holiness or unique ‘otherness’ of His being, but to remember all his benefits. Indeed, he is determined that his worship of God shall be as total as are God’s blessings to him: all my inmost being in response to all his benefits. These benefits have been given to both body and soul, for God both forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. Further, He redeems my life from the pit, that is the grave or Sheol. Not content with saving the psalmist from sin, disease and death, God lavishes positive blessings upon him as well. He crowns him, that is, He makes His child a king.” (3) “[David expresses] all the spiritual blessings with which the saints are blessed in Christ, the grace given them in him, and the mercy kept with him for evermore; all things pertaining to life and godliness given in regeneration; the fruits of great love and abundant mercy, with all the other supplies of grace between that and eternal glory: ‘crowning’ with these denotes an application and enjoyment of them, the great plenty and abundance of them, of being surrounded and loaded with them.” (4)
The Greatest Benefit and Blessing
“The first thing David is thankful for is the forgiveness of his sins. Rightly so! For this is the greatest of all gifts that we can receive from God, and the first we need…and we can receive it only because God gave his Son over to death on the cross to procure it for us. Some of the statements that occur in the first part of the psalm appear later too, including this matter of the forgiveness of sins…in verse 12 the psalmist elaborates on that by bringing in the scope of the deliverance. To what extent does God forgive sins? He answers, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ Since east and west are directions and not points on the compass there is an infinite, unmeasurable distance between them. This may be what David is thinking. Or it may be, as Roy Clements suggests, that the psalmist is trying to point out that, ‘however many miles you think lie between west and east, you cannot look two ways at once.’ You have to turn your back on one in order to look in the direction of the other. When God forgives us, he puts our sin and us on two different horizons. So when he looks at our sin, he is no longer looking at us, and when he looks at us, he is no longer looking at our sin. To use the vocabulary of Paul, he has justified us.” (5) In Christ’s righteous covering, we have God’s awesome blessings of forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, and mercy.
Renewed Like an Eagle
“The psalmist next adds, that God was constantly infusing into him new vigour, so that his strength continued unimpaired… [‘who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s’], even as the prophet Isaiah…says that a man of a hundred years old shall be like a child (Isaiah 65:20). By this mode of expression, he intimates that God, along with a very abundant supply of all good things, communicates to him also inward vigour, that he may enjoy them; and thus his strength was as it were continually renewed.” (6) “One of the highest-flying and biggest birds in the world, the eagle, is a symbol of power, victory, bravery, and royalty…Eagles become excited during storms and rain; they spread their giant wings and allow the storm to lift them above the cloud. When other birds hide in branches of trees, the eagle flies above the clouds. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it…There are significantly fewer birds that can fly at such heights…[And], when eagles reach the age of 40 years, they turn weak, and survival becomes difficult. To regain strength, they have to go through a painful process of rebirth. For that, they retire to a lonely place where they pluck out every feather on their body until they are completely bare and knock their beak against a rock so that the new one develops. This rebirth extends their life for 30 more years.” (7) The Lord renews the souls of his people with forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, and goodness—much more than for the eagle! We do well to will remember and praise God for the blessings of Christ’s forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, and righteousness.
“The final stanza is a happy one in which the concerns of the psalmist broaden to include all the righteous. He encourages them to ‘take refuge’ in God and ‘be glad,’ to ‘sing for joy.’ He also asks God to ‘spread [his] protection over them’—which he is certain God will do…When Martin Luther was making his way to Augsburg to appear before Cardinal Cajetan, who had summoned him to answer for his heretical opinions, one of the Cardinal’s servants taunted him, asking, ‘Where will you find shelter if your patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert you?’ ‘Under the shelter of heaven,’ Luther answered. That was the psalmist’s shelter. It should be yours also.” (8) “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:11-12)
Related Scripture: DEUTERONOMY 6:10-3; 8:11-20; Exodus 34:6-9; Psalms 86:15; 103: 8, 11, 17; 104; 107:9; 147:3; Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:47-50.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Ps. 103 Introduction, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 103, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Stott, Favourite Psalms, Psalm 103 (pages 95-97), Angus Hudson Ltd, London, 1988.
- Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Psalm 103:4-5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalm-103.html
- Boice, Ibid.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Expords, 9 Amazing Life Lessons From the Eagle, https://www.expords.com/amazing-life-lessons-from-the-eagle/
- Boice Ibid, Psalm 5:11-12.
September 29, 2022