Read: Psalm 103:1-22
Everyone who reads the Bible has at least one favorite psalm. One of my favorites is Psalm 103. It is a celebration of the goodness and blessings of God. It contains no supplication, no request, no petition or plea. It is pure unadulterated praise to God. David was awestruck with God’s blessings!
When we read Psalm 103, we need to hear the Holy Spirit speaking personally to us. He is telling us to get with the Kingdom program of praise to God!
Our Daily Focus
Cultivate An Attitude of Praise and Thankfulness to God (103:1-2a)
In the opening two verses of this psalm, David repeats twice the self-focused exhortation to “bless the LORD.” The term “bless,” when used in reference to God, is to recognize and declare that God is the source of all that is good.
It includes delight of heart and gratitude for all He is and all He does. The word “LORD” is God’s personal name and, since the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai, serves to remind us that God enters into covenant relationship with His people.
In other words, He is a God who cares about every aspect of our lives and desires to encourage, comfort, and provide for all our needs. This self-exhortation to bless the LORD is not unique to this psalm, for example, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psa. 34:1).
Blessing God includes delight of heart and gratitude for all He is and all He does.
The verbal phrase, “I will bless the LORD,” is not a simple future tense (“I will bless the LORD sometime”) or even a statement of fact (“I will bless the LORD”). It is a polite way of commanding oneself to take action!
In other words, don’t just think about it, or mentally agree with the need to bless the LORD, but take a firm grip upon yourself and immediately initiate the required action.
How important is praise and thanksgiving in the life of a believer? The Psalmist tells us, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!” (Psalm 113:3). In agrarian societies, without the blessing of electricity, people usually began their day with the rising of the sun and ended it and began preparing for bed shortly after it set.
This means that we are to cultivate an attitude of praise and thankfulness to God all day long! Again, the psalmist wrote, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (115:1). Then he resolves, “We will bless the LORD from this time forth and forever more. Praise the LORD!” (115:18).
The last three verses of Psalm 103 contain exhortations for everyone and everything to praise God. “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!” (vs. 20-23)
Notice that the psalmist realizes that the cultivation of an attitude of praise and thankfulness to God must begin within his own heart.
May I pause at this point and ask you, dear reader, are you responding to God’s call to cultivate a daily focus of praise and thanksgiving? Let’s begin right now!
Count Your Blessings and Don’t Forget Them (103:2)
In addition to cultivating an attitude of praise and thankfulness to God, we should also count our blessings and make sure we don’t forget them. The psalmist said, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits!” (103:2).
Human beings are forgetful creatures. It is amazing to see how many times the Scriptures warn us about “forgetting” (see Deut. 4:9,23; 6:12; 8:11,14, 19; 9:7; 25:19; 2 Kings 17:38; Psa. 9:17; 50:22; 78:7; Pro. 3:1; 4:5; Hos 4:6). For most of us, it would be beneficial to keep a record of all the answers to prayer and the blessings God brings into our lives. It would help us to remember. The psalmist asked, “What shall I render unto GOD for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12).
For most of us, it would be beneficial to keep a record of all the answers to prayer and the blessings God brings into our lives.
Wonderful Benefits That God Provides for All His Children (Psalm 103:3-5)
What benefits did the psalmist list to serve as fuel to motivate our attitude and practice of praise and thankfulness? He lists six benefits in verses 3-5.
Our God is Willing to Forgive All Our Iniquity—”Who Forgives All Your Iniquity” (103:3a)
Isaiah 59:2 tells us that iniquity separates us from God and sin causes Him to hide his face from us. But the psalmist reminds us, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psa. 103:10).
God is plenteous in mercy! He offers forgiveness to those who confess their sins, turn from them, and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” are words that have brought hope and salvation to many (1 John 1:9). The psalmist assures us, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (103:12).
Our God is Willing to Heal All Our Diseases—“Who Heals All Your Diseases” (103:3b)
Many people have struggled to make sense of the phrase, “who heals all your diseases.” There is no doubt in their minds that God is able to heal all disease.
But they also know that God does not promise unconditionally to heal anyone’s diseases. They remember that God has said, “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27), and most people die from some kind of disease.
What are we to make of this phrase? The most helpful suggestion I have found is to remember that the psalmist is addressing his “soul.” Instead of limiting “healing” to diseases of the body, let’s think about the diseases of the soul that not only cripple many Christians, but can actually destroy them.
Does the soul have diseases? Indeed it does! Fear, doubt, depression, anger, lust, hate, jealousy, pride, greed…the list goes on and on. The diseases of the soul will spiritually handicap a person unless he allows God to do a work of inward healing.
God is not only able, but also willing to heal His children of both inward brokenness and diseases of the soul.
Our God Keeps Our Life From Going to Waste—”Who Redeems Your Life From the Pit” (103:4a)
The term “pit” can refer to the “grave” in some contexts. Since an “early” or “untimely” death can be viewed as a “wasted” life, we can apply this phrase to life in general.
God redeems in the sense of saving or keeping our life from going to waste. A life not lived in Christ and for Christ is a life that is only a shell of what God intended it to be. And for Christians, our lives count; they are not lived in vain. They have eternal significance.
Our God Crowns Us With Steadfast Love and Mercy—”Who Crowns You With Steadfast Love and Mercy” (103:4b)
This psalm abounds in examples of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Think about these statements:
- “The LORD is merciful [compassionate] and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (103:8).
- “He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever” (103:9).
- “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him” (103:11).
- “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him” (103:13).
- “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (103:17-18).
Our God Gives Us Satisfaction in Our Old Age—“Who Satisfies You With Good” (103:5a)
Remember that the psalmist is speaking to his soul. He is saying that one of the benefits of being God’s child is that when we are old we will not have to look back upon our lives with regret. Regardless of your age, or of how many years you have walked upon the earth, God will fill your heart with a sense of deep satisfaction.
One of the benefits of being God’s child is that when we are old we will not have to look back upon our lives with regret.
Our God Enables Youthful Attitudes All Life Through—“So That Your Youth is Renewed Like the Eagle’s” (103:5b)
The last benefit the psalmist mentions is somewhat analogous to Paul’s declaration in a letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).
The psalmist is urging us not to become “grumpy old men and women” as we ease beyond our prime, even though aging is filled with difficulties. Rather, with great joy, we ought to realize that “the best is yet to be.”
Start now and let praise become the focus of your life. Count your blessings and don’t forget them. God has provided wonderful benefits for all His children. He not only forgives, but He heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, and renews. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits!”
Originally published in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.