A Call to Worship
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 103:1-4)
This Psalm is primarily a call to worship, the entire theme is one of praise. To "bless the LORD" means basically the same thing as praising him; signifying adoration or deep gratitude. We bless him by honouring his name (i.e. his nature, his attributes, all that he is) by speaking out his praises. It is a deliberate expression of God's greatness. David rejoices in the LORD by thankfully remembering all that the LORD has done for him personally. All through the Psalm David is speaking, addressing and reciting to himself – "Bless the LORD O my soul", and only towards the end does he call the angels and encourage all the rest of creation to worship God along with him.
Christian, if you are ever troubled by guilt, doubt, worry, or weakness, or even an overwhelming sense of depression, then one remedy is to remind yourself of what God has done for you. Learn to preach the gospel to yourself! Recite to yourself what Jesus Christ has done for you, and hold fast all your hope and trust in his life, death, and resurrection. Remind yourself of the price paid to secure your salvation. Tell out to your own soul God's grace, compassion and mercy towards you - a sinner. What did it cost Jesus to raise you up? Remember all God's goodness and love to you, and these things will raise you above your current troubles. Encourage yourself, and tell yourself how foolish it is to trust in any other hope than Christ. Look to him!
This is precisely what David is doing in this Psalm, he is reminding himself of what God has done for him, to stir his own heart to praise and worship. Jesus said the greatest commandment was this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) David was encouraging himself to do just that, so also must we, his people. The whole person must be involved in worship – "all that is within me, bless his Holy name." (Psalm 103:1)
Before David focuses our attention on the goodness of God's benefits, to those who fear and love him, he fixes our eyes on God's holiness "Bless his Holy name." (Psalm 103:1) We cannot fully understand, comprehend and appreciate God's goodness without first fully realising his holiness; by which we mean he is just, upright and righteous. He despises evil and has no part in it - "Who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong." (Habakkuk 1:13) He personifies moral perfection. His excellence is all-surpassing. It is against the backdrop of his holiness which makes his goodness to us so wonderful, so amazing! He simply cannot pretend that our sin does not exist! He cannot ignore or overlook it. Sin must be punished and dealt with! "who by no means will clear the guilty" (Exodus 34:7), he must act justly.
Someone had to pay the price of sin, and that is why Jesus Christ entered this world as a man and willingly sacrificed himself on the cross. All of our sins were placed on his shoulders, he bore the wrath of God we deserve. As our substitute, he died to save us, as an atonement for sin. To prove his sacrifice was acceptable, God raised him from the dead. His awesome self-sacrifice makes all of God's blessings to his people possible. This was a great puzzle in the Old Testament, how could a holy God forgive sin!? "Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other" (Psalm 86:10) How can I know peace with a righteous, just and holy God? It can only be found at the cross, this is where God's righteousness and his pardon meet each other, and his honour stays intact.
God's holiness was once a frightening thing to think about, but now the cross turns it into our praise. We have the privilege of living after the cross, but this answer to the puzzle hadn't been revealed to David! We understand what makes God's forgiveness possible. Yet without this knowledge, David praised God for his forgiveness, he says "Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity." He understood somehow, that the puzzle could be resolved. He knew God's forgiveness despite the gross sin in his own life, e.g. adultery, murder.
The rest of the Psalm is taken up with expanding on the redemptive benefits God has given us, and first of all, top of the list is forgiveness or pardon. Notice God forgives ALL your sin, not in part, but the whole. Past, present and future sins. It's full and absolute forgiveness. All of grace! There is no sin so great that it falls outside of his forgiveness! Pardon is our present possession, here and now. This is important because unless our sins are first dealt with, we can't enjoy any further benefits from God's hand. Pardon must come first. David takes this further in verse 10: "He does not deal with us according to our sins", we only deserve his wrath, not grace and mercy!
Verse 12: "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." How amazing is this! He has fatherly compassion upon us, he knows our frame. Our sins and the guilt are totally removed, far far away to never return to haunt or accuse us ever again! If one travels eastward around the world, east never ends; even if you circle the earth several times you still travel eastwards! The same applies if you go west. Notice this is not true if you go north or south! But that's how far our sins have been removed – it's an expression that speaks of "to infinity and beyond!" Our sins are to be remembered no more. The promise of his mercy and steadfast love is to all those who fear him (verse 17), and is from everlasting to everlasting, beyond even death itself, all because Christ died in our place.
Now we have understood something of the thrust of the psalm. What do we make of the remainder of our text "Who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit?" This must be understood in context. The bible often likens sin to a deadly disease. However, sometimes God does at times graciously answer prayer regarding healing. It's true today, many Christians die early due to various ailments, despite much prayer. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. Also, God has provided us with medicine, doctors etc. Furthermore, he does at times rescue his loved ones from many perils, and yet we know he allows various trials and tribulations to strengthen our faith and dependence upon him.
Again we know Jesus has redeemed our lives, he has conquered that last enemy, death itself. We to one day will be raised from the pit of death when Christ comes again. We shall have glorious resurrected bodies - disease shall no more affect us. The Apostle Paul said, "For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) His tender love and mercy towards us is steadfast, it never fails or diminishes, so we can be fully assured of all his blessings now, and in the future. More could be said on this whole subject, but it detracts from the main theme of forgiveness, without which these other blessings would not be possible. Forgiveness and a pardon must come first, the other blessings follow. His tender love and mercy towards us is steadfast, it never fails or diminishes.
Have you stopped for a moment and blessed the Lord for his forgiveness and mercy towards you, a sinner? Marvel at this! May he cause your own soul to delight and wonder in his love that sent his Son to the cross for you, to shed his precious blood in order that your sins may be forgiven - covered over.
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity." (Psalm 32:1-2)
The wonder and truth of God's forgiveness is at the very heart of the gospel message, that is why it is such good news. In closing, the Apostle Paul puts it this way – "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?" (Romans 8:31-34)
Feed your soul daily on...
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
What is true salvation? What does it look like to be in a right relationship with God, our Creator so that I can call him God my Redeemer?
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
Do you think you are too bad for God? Do you think you’ve gone too far for God to ever want you back? Well, maybe we should let God decide that.
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt.11:28-30)
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
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Amyand Park Chapel, Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3HY
Sunday Services at 11am and 6:30pm