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Psalms 103:1-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Good morning Grace church, it is good to be with you all. If you are a visitor or new within the last few weeks, welcome. We are glad you are worshipping with us this morning. If you would please do me a favor and hang around for a few minutes after service, we’d love the chance to meet you and talk with you, get to know you better. My name is Mike, I’m one of the pastors here. Pastor Dave is now in Serbia where he will be teaching and training seminary students on biblical leadership. As Josh explained in his sermon here last week, many countries do not have the resources and training we enjoy here. As we pray in a few minutes, please pray for Dave and the team there that they would communicate their material clearly. They teach through a translator and that obviously adds a layer to their teaching. But even more than that, pray that they would remember that they are doing this for God’s glory. Pray that logistics would not hinder them from proclaiming the gospel, or encouraging the pastors and students they will teach. Pray for these students that they would take all that they learn this week back to their towns and churches across Serbia and Macedonia so that people would grow in their knowledge and love of Christ. And pray for Gerri and the kids as they are without husband and dad this week. Please also join me in praying for this text. I can not faithfully preach this text apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray.
For the next three weeks, Kyle and I are going to work through Psalm 103. If you have been at Grace for the past few years, Kyle has worked through several Psalms during the times he has preached. The Psalms are so helpful because they help us tie our emotions to the truths of God and his work.
In our culture we tend to value authenticity. If our heart isn’t in something, or we don’t truly feel a certain way, we don’t want to be frauds. The Psalms call us, even command us at times, to worship the LORD beyond how we feel in the moment. It calls us to tether our emotions to the truths of scripture. If you are familiar with David, who wrote many of the Psalms, his life was filled with incredible highs and lows. From triumphant happiness to turmoil and despair. But whatever situation David was in, he sought to think on the unchanging truths of God. The Psalms recognize human emotion, but always point us to see truths about God and his work. And our emotions will follow.
Before we dig in, let me give a quick background.
The Psalms are a collection of 150 poems that were collected over many years by many writers. This Psalm was most likely written or at least collected during the exile. In other words, the time shortly after Hosea takes place. Israel and Judah were removed from their homes, taken captive by enemy nations and now have no temple, no promised land, no festivals, none of the ways of worship they were used to. You can imagine how desperate and hopeless the people might have felt. Yet, here are the Psalms encouraging people to not let their emotions lead them but rather tie them to God’s word.
God had made a covenant with them: obey and blessed, disobey and be cursed. While God’s people were rightly punished for their rebellion, he had promised to restore them, and return them to the land. As the people sat in exile, they could look at Psalm 103 and be reminded of the promises God had made. It’s the same for us today. When life is hard, when we find ourselves in desperate or painful situations, we can look to Psalm 103 to remember truths about our God.
We will look at the first five verses this morning. The main idea of this passage is “God grants us benefits so we would worship him.”
God gives us benefits so we can respond in worship.
The basic outline is this:
- V1 The inner call to bless the LORD
- V 2 Do Not Forget God’s benefits
- V3-5 The Benefits
I. Bless the Lord O my soul…
The first thing we see in our text is a call to worship. When the term bless is used for human blessing God it means acknowledging the worthiness of the LORD. It’s different than how God blesses us. He is actually bestowing blessings on us. When the Bible talks about blessing God, it is simply giving honor and glory to the God who deserves it.
And yet this call to worship is different than the one Matt offered earlier. David or the Psalmist or anyone reading this Psalm is talking to their own soul. We’ve seen this before in Psalm 42. The author is talking to himself. It’s the call to conform our emotions to the realities of God.
The call is for worship with everything we have-all that is within me. Take our words, our minds, our daily activities, our cash, and desires and use them all to bring God glory. That’s a high bar. The aim is to have our entire lives increasingly devoted to making God’s name famous. That our lives would match the character of God.
Bless the Lord is a command. The Psalmist commands it three times to bless the LORD.
Here’s where the first challenge comes in: we look at a call to bless, or worship the LORD with everything we have, and it seems too hard. It seems too forced. How can I praise God after the week I’ve had? How can I praise God after what I have done? I can barely praise God at all, let alone with my entire soul.
As we move through our text, we will see that this command to bless the LORD actually flows from the second command in verse 2.
II. Forget not his benefits:
This is the second command in these verses. If we never forgot, we wouldn’t have to be reminded. But because sin has cursed everything including our souls and memories, we do forget. Our minds straight up forget. Our hearts chase after other gods. Convinced that other pleasures or securities will satisfy us, we forget the true god in exchange for false gods like money, sex, comfort, work.
Why is remembering so vital?
From Adam, to Israel, to King David himself, the Bible is filled with people who received blessings and benefits and later, sometimes in a very short time, the people forgot. I could take you to a number of different stories in scripture of how people forgot God.
Let’s look at one example from Exodus. After God has rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, shown them signs and wonders and brought them to Mount Sinai where they see God’s glory in a cloud. Moses then goes into the cloud to meet with God. In less than 40 days the Israelites begin to forget all that they had witnessed. Instead they ask Moses’ brother Aaron to make them gods. So Aaron collects all their jewelry and forges a golden calf. And Aaron led them in a feast to this idol and they worshipped the golden calf.
Instead of submitting to the true and living God who demands and deserves our worship, they preferred a false god that required nothing of the people. We might find that hard to believe that anyone would truly put their trust in something as silly as a statue. Is it so different than the ways we seek comfort and satisfaction? Running home after church to gorge on football. Constantly checking our phones for likes and favorites. Maybe it’s allowing your schedule to fill up.
Now here’s why remembering is so vital. When Israel forgot God and worshipped a golden calf, God responded by punishing Israel. Israel experienced the curses of the covenant. This is the danger of forgetting and we are subject to it too.
What are the ways you forget the LORD and his benefits?
Distraction by everything screaming for your attention. Maybe it’s kids literally screaming or other things like work, schedule and media demanding your attention.
It could be pride that tells you things are going fine or that things have gone fine before.
Maybe there is significant physical or emotional pain in your life that drowns out your view of god’s benefits. Maybe you are simply tired in life. One or several of these reasons might resonate with you.
Whatever the reason that causes us to forget, can you see the danger of forgetting? Can you see the need to remember?
III. The benefits.
David exhorts us not to forget the benefits. What is the solution? Meditate on the benefits of God. Let’s look at the benefits listed in verses 3-5. This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of salvation, but it’s quite a list.
As we work through the benefits listed here in the Psalm, keep in mind one observation: We live in the tension of already but not yet. Some of the benefits, or even some aspect of the benefits are realized now, in the life of a believer. While others will not be realized until Jesus returns.
Forgives iniquities-This is the biggest problem humanity has: How do sinful, rebellious people avoid the wrath of a holy and just God? The answer is that we can’t apart from God’s intervention. The promise in this benefit is that the LORD himself is able to forgive iniquities. Not just some iniquities, or iniquities during a certain time or a maximum number of iniquities. All iniquities, past, present and future.
While this is clearly the biggest benefit from the LORD, it is not the only benefit. There is much more. We would be foolish to ignore or minimize this benefit, but we would be equally foolish to reduce salvation to merely the forgiveness of sins.
Think about other places where you get benefits, like a prospective new job. If you are like me, you probably scan the job offer to go straight to the pay. It’s the most significant benefit, but it’s not the only benefit a job likely offers. You might have healthcare, retirement options, maybe a company car or a big discount on employee purchases. You probably look for the bottom line, how much does it pay? But to ignore the other benefits in a job package would miss something.
Heals all your diseases
Along with forgiveness of sins, there is the benefit of healing. It is not just the declaration that we are not guilty that matters. We are sick from the curse of sin and require healing. There is spiritual healing that comes as a result of the gospel. And as the Holy Spirit takes greater root in our hearts, the grip of sin in our lives is loosened. We actually experience greater health in this life because we are not giving in to sin.
Because it is poetry, it seems that these two lines in verse 3 are both speaking about spiritual issues: sin and sickness. But this benefit does extend to physical sickness as well. Physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses are all a result of the curse of sin. And the entire Bible tells us that all sickness and disease will be healed. Sometimes we experience healing in this life. When it happens, it’s God’s work to heal for the sake of his name. If we don’t experience healing, we can be sure of the promises of scripture that we will eventually be healed in this life or the next. Some of you are either experiencing sickness or caring for a loved one who is sick. Know that God will heal all who put their faith in him.
Redeems your life
The LORD rescues us from the depths. Think about Joseph or Daniel. Each was sent into a pit, Joseph by his brothers, presumed dead. Daniel faced even more certain death when he opposed the King and was thrown into the lion’s pit. But there is more to this idea: To redeem someone requires a cost.
Remember the Exodus when God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery. Part of the redemption was that it cost a life: Either the life of a spotless lamb or the death of the firstborn. And of course as we get to the New Testament where we see Jesus laying down his innocent life to redeem sinners from the curse of sin and death.
Resurrection. In the immediate sense, we have been rescued from spiritual death when we believe in the gospel. In a future sense, we will physically die only to rise again when Christ returns. First Thessalonians 4:16 tells us what will happen. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Unless Jesus returns while we are still living, we will rise from the dead, in the same triumphant way that Jesus did 2000 years ago.
It would be possible for someone to forgive sins and redeem someone from a pit. A judge or ruler could pardon someone, release them from prison and do it for various reasons., But they could still lack love. Our king not only does all of these things, but he also loves his forgiven people on top of it all.
Crowns with steadfast love and mercy
Steadfast love. Unfailing. Grace. Steadfast love is a theme throughout Psalm 103. One of the benefits on top of forgiveness, healing and redemption is the love of God. God loves his people with a covenantal love that does not fail. We get what we don’t deserve: the love of God. And we also don’t get what we do deserve: God’s wrath.
While hopefully we have loving relationships in our lives, even the best spouse, child, parent or friend will fail you. But God loves you with a perfect, unfailing kind of love. That is the love that perfectly satisfies.
Satisfies you with good.
Imagine sitting at a fancy restaurant or even better at your own dining room table. You’ve just emptied your plate of ribs or steak or a rich smoked chicken dinner. All your favorites are there. You’re not stuffed, but you are satisfied. Ps 63 tells us that because of God’s steadfast love, “my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” You’ve had that kind of dinner, right? Where everything tastes delicious. You eat the appetizer and you’re ready to go home because it was so good.
This is what God has given to us. James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights. He doesn’t give us mere pleasures or stuff. He gives us himself to satisfy us. Even a great meal will not tide us over for more than a few days. But the God who created us and does not change, will satisfy us. He wants good for us. Anything apart from God will fail to satisfy.
Youth is renewed like the eagles
All of these benefits culminate with the hope that we will one day be renewed. We get tastes of that now. As we grow in our satisfaction of the LORD, we experience greater life. We can endure more as we grow in our trust of Christ. We can suffer well because we have the power to endure.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
By the world’s standards, a missionary going to a hostile foreign country is an exercise in futility. But to a missionary who is satisfied with Christ alone, it can be motivation to press on.
There’s no great surprise to how these benefits are secured, but just in case you don’t know, let me read Ephesians 1:3-11. It’s another passage talking about the blessings and benefits of God. How are the blessings received? Listen for how many times “in Christ or in him” is mentioned:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Of course all of these benefits are secured in Christ. The Father sent his son to secure and apply all of the benefits for us. Jesus is the one who died on the cross for our sins. He heals all of our diseases, either now or when he returns. He rose from the dead to lead the way to his kingdom. He gives us mercy and grace and loves us. He is the only one who can truly satisfy our desires and it is he who is worthy of our praise.
In closing, a few ways to apply these truths. How do we not forget? We are forgetful people. Here are a few ways to help us remember the glorious benefits Jesus has secured for us through his life, death, and resurrection:
- Do what David did: preach the gospel to yourself. Find the hooks where the gospel connects to your current situation. If you are stuck in your guilt, find passages that remind yourself that Christ’s death atones for guilt and shame. If you are anxious, read scriptures to yourself of God’s power and complete control. If you are lonely, preach to yourself the truth that God is present. If you are a perfectionist, remind yourself that you already have Christ’s perfection because Jesus has already fulfilled the requirements of the law.
- Immerse yourself at Grace church. It won’t gain the approval of God, or the elders. The more interactions you have with the people of Grace, the more opportunities you have to hear the gospel, hear the benefits Jesus has secured, the more you will remember.
- Actually remind one another of the LORD’s benefits. When someone is struggling, remind them of the promises God has made to heal diseases, forgive iniquity, a hope of future resurrection and to fully satisfy us. Avoid the temptation to keep conversation on superficial things.
Grace, forget not the LORD’s benefits. How will you take steps to better remember what Jesus has done? We were created to worship, and the very best thing to worship is the LORD. It’s not meant to be an overwhelming demand, but God means it for our good.
And we have all the help we need. We have the Holy Spirit, we have God’s word and we have the church. Look at all of the benefits God has blessed us with. Forgiveness of sins is critical, but it’s so much more than that. We get or will get healing, redemption, God’s love and mercy and ultimate satisfaction. Bless the Lord O my soul!