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January 22, 2021

The Biden Presidency, Executive Orders and Social Issues | How Truth Suffers in Our Social Media Age

Psalm 103

“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

“Bless” (KJV, NRSV, NJB) or “praise” (NIV) is bārak, meaning “bless, praise, salute,” here, “to declare God the origin of power for success, prosperity, fertility,” that is, to “praise God.”When Aaron the high priest blessed the people, he lifted his hands toward them as an act of conferring a blessing (Leviticus 9:22). When Jesus blessed his disciples at his ascension, he lifted his hands toward them (Luke 24:50). When we bless God, we often extend our hands to him in prayer and worship, following the pattern of both the Old Testament saints and the early church.

But this blessing was no mere gesture. The psalmist prays with his whole heart; he pours out his heart before God in worship. “Within me” (KJV, NRSV), “inmost being” (NIV), “depths of my being” (NJB) is qereb, “midst, among, inner part,” denoting the internal. It is often used as a parallel to “heart” and “soul.” He blesses Yahweh’s “holy name,” that is his holy person, his sacred being.

The psalmist calls upon his soul, himself (nephesh), to bless God. Sometimes our body seems tired, our spirit dull, our attitude “bummed out,” depressed. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves to praise. We don’t praise because we feel like it, but because God is worthy

 

Forget Not All His Benefits (103:2-5)

“Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits….” (103:2)

Now David begins to enumerate all the benefits the Lord brings to us:

“3… who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life5 from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (103:3-5)

A look at the verbs in this list tells the story, suggesting themes that are developed throughout the Bible:

  • Forgiveness and pardon from sin — spiritual
  • Healing and restoration from sickness — physical
  • Deliverance or redemption from the grave — eternal
  • God’s love and compassion as a garland on the head — emotional
  • Sustenance for our bodies — physical

The result renewal – literally to be made new again: “… so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (103:5b)

The God of Righteousness and Justice (103:6)

He goes on to talk about Yahweh’s moral standard of rightness and truth that stand out like a beacon of light against the backdrop of man’s sleazy compromises and equivocations.

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (103:6)

So many ways to turn this verse when we consider the myriad power dynamics of our day. Suffice it to say, wherever and whenever we have power we must exercise that power in submission and service to God who, with literally all the power in the universe, works righteousness and justice for those who have none. 

God stands up for and defends the cause of the poor, the fatherless, the prisoner, the foreigner in our midst (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Psalm 72:4, 12; 109:31; 146:7; Proverbs 22:22-23; Isaiah 58:6-7; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:7). Our God is righteous and just and demands the same of his people.

 

The God Who Reveals Himself that we might know Him (103:7)

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.” (103:7)

What we know about God is not merely deduced from nature (though we can learn something about God from his creation, Romans 1:19-20; Psalm 19:1-4). The Judeo-Christian faith is a revealed faith, God speaking to and through men his truth as well as demonstrating his faithfulness in his actions.

 

God is characterized by grace and mercy (103:8-9)

The next verses encourage us when we struggle with sin and are based on God’s revelation to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness.:

“8The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

9He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever….” (103:8-9)

The “God of the Old Testament” is sometimes caricatured by unbelievers as an angry, spiteful, unforgiving God, but the definitive revelation of God’s nature is found at the second giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai in Exodus, when Yahweh reveals himself to Moses with the words:

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

This passage is referred to as a summary of God’s character often in both the Psalms (86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; and 145:8) and the rest of the Old Testament (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:7; 2 Chronicles 30:9).

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is known as the merciful and compassionate God. “Compassionate” is raḥûm, from reḥem/raḥam, “womb” as the seat of one’s emotions. “Gracious” is ḥannûn, “gracious,” from ḥānan, which depicts “a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to someone who has a need.” Aren’t you glad that love lies at the basic character and value system of our God?

 

The God Who Forgives Us – Completely (103:10-13)

Now come some of the most refreshing words to the repentant sinner that one can imagine:

“10He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.23

11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (103:10-12)

 David employs two similes to illustrate the completeness of God’s forgiveness:

  • Height — “for as high as the heavens are above the earth….”
  • Distance — “as far as the east is from the west….”

It’s interesting how the graphic nature of these comparisons can help us grasp the abstract and take hold of it!

 

The Lord Has Compassion on Us as Children (103:13-14)

The psalmist’s next simile is one of a father and his children:

“13As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (103:13-14)

“Has compassion” (NIV), “pitieth” (KJV) is rāḥam, “love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate,” formed from rehem, “womb,” thought of as the seat of the emotions, the verb form of the adjective we saw in verse 4b above.

God has deep, heartfelt compassion because he is our Father as well as our Creator, who formed us from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). We don’t have value based on the mineral and biological content of our bodies. We have value because the Lord breathed his own breath into us, gave us life, and values us as his children, created in his own image.

 

The Transitory and the Eternal (103:15-18)

Now David contrasts man’s tenuous, transitory existence to eternity:

“15As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

17But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children —

18with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” (103:15-18)

Our time-bounded life may define us — unless we can see beyond this life to the never-ending nature of God’s love for us. His love lasts beyond the grave and so do we. Yes, love is the chief of his “benefits” for which we praise him. 

 

The Lord Is King over All (103:19)

Again and again in the Psalms we see an affirmation that Yahweh reigns! He is a “great King” above all gods (Psalm 95:3) and over all the earth (Psalm 47:2; 48:2).

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven,and his kingdom rules over all.” (103:19)

Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God is “at hand” in his own person (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Luke 21:31; 17:21) follows this same theme.

 

Let Angels, Creation, and My Own Soul Bless the Lord (103:20-22)

The King is served by angels, heavenly hosts (armies), and servants of all kinds. They and all his works are to offer him praise.

“20Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

21Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

22Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.” (103:20-22)

All creation praises Yahweh the revealed God, the compassionate God, the Creator, and the King. The psalmist ends where he began — with his own need to praise. And so he calls his own soul — whether he feels like praising or not — to join with the chorus of heaven and earth in fulsome praise:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul.” (103:22)

 

Click to Drop Down More From Psalm 103

Whatever else we do today, let us praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Today’s Guests

Matthew Hawkins – Former ERLC Policy Director

Lots of headlines from around the U.S. today. Matthew discusses them with Carmen to help bring the mind of Christ to bear particularly on the headlines surround President Biden’s policies surrounding unborn life.

Chris Martin – Terms of Service Newsletter

Chris Martin is a content marketing editor at Moody Publishers and author of the Terms of Service newsletter, a newsletter about social media and its effects on the world. In today’s episode, Chris and Carmen discuss how easily a “a lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots” –Mark Twain. They also push against that the internet is purely virtual, but rather is real.

 

Today’s Episode

 


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