A Note of Praise
Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise. It stirs up the soul to praise God. There are no complaints and no requests in this psalm.
The Psalmist David stirs himself up to praise God. It teaches us that there are times in life when we should deliberately praise God. In those times of praise, the psalmist urges us to use all our faculties to praise God. It calls for a total response of praise leaving nothing out. The object of praise is God’s holy name. That stands for God’s character. He is worthy of praise.
Perhaps praise is a weak link in our spiritual life. We need to examine our prayers to find out how much we praise God. Often lack of praise in our prayers reduces it to a long list of wishes and complaints. How sad! This happens because we wait for good circumstances to praise God. There is no need to wait for good times. Any time is good to praise God. Make praise a conscious habit.
If the first response of praise is directed towards God’s holy name, it is immediately followed by a remembrance of all God’s benefits towards us. Forgetfulness is sometimes a blessing; but never so in our relationship to God. We should learn to count our blessings and name them one by one as the popular chorus says. A thankful heart is rare to find. Did not even Jesus express surprise saying, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18)?
One of the simple joys of life can be found in remembering to thank God for the little blessings of life. Ability to get up from bed in the morning, having food and drink, good weather, the happiness of seeing a small flower bloom, the joy of seeing a butterfly are all benefits we receive from God. You can even thank God if someone smiled at you today. The bottom line of all this is that you need not search deep and wide to find God’s blessings; they are all around you! Praise God for all of them.
The benefits that the psalmist received from God are listed here one after another. The first to be listed is forgiveness. This is the most universal need of man. Everywhere in the world people go on pilgrimage and do penance and give alms and perform good works to earn favour with God.
All this is good; but they cannot earn you God’s forgiveness. That is something God gifts to you through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. David certainly knew the blessedness of being forgiven (Psalm 32:1, 2). Do you have the assurance of being forgiven? If not, find peace with God today.
Kindly note the all inclusiveness of forgiveness. He forgives ALL your sins. So you need not worry whether God will forgive that shameful secret sin that you did. He will forgive if your truly repent; i.e., confess to God that you sinned against Him and then turn away from that sin.
The next benefit listed is healing from all the psalmist’s diseases. Healing has many aspects to it. Primarily, healing is a benefit that we get because of the wounds of Jesus. It is written, “and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5b).
Secondly, being forgiven is a necessary condition for bodily healing. For example, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5), before He proceeds to heal the man. Therefore enjoying God’s forgiveness is the gateway to healing of mind and body.
“Often in the Bible, sin is compared to sickness, and salvation is compared to health. God brings saving health to our souls” — Prayer, Praise & Promises by Warren W. Wiersbe
The list of benefits are continued here. God the Redeemer is mentioned here. The ability to save us from all evil is something our God alone can do and does. That is mentioned here. The pit refers not just to death and destruction alone; but to all elements of evil that threaten to destroy us. God saves us out of it all.
Just barely making us escape is not what God has in mind. He owns us as His own and crowns us with love and compassion. Crowns are usually worn by kings and queens. Therefore it speaks of how we are valued in God’s eyes. He does us good.
We might also find strength from these verses in Lamentations, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22, 23).
The Lord satisfies. In the 1970’s a cigarette company had a popular ad which said, “For men of action, satisfaction.” So many things in today’s world will promise you satisfaction like how this cigarette company offered. But do you know of anyone who has found satisfaction in either the cigarette or any other thing this world offers?
On the other hand, God satisfies your desires with good things (see also Psalm 37:4; 20:4; 21:2). Those good things will bring you no harm. You can take all your desires to God and He will give you the very best.
How He does that is described using the image of the eagle. The eagle is a very sturdy bird. It lives long. Occasionally the old feathers of the eagle drops of. In its place new ones grow. This process is known as moulting. Strengthened by the new feathers the eagle once again flies strong. This is the meaning of the verse, “so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Dear friend, has life’s pressures taken its toll on your mind and body? Don’t be discouraged. Our God is a God of renewals and revivals. He will renew your tired body, mind and spirit. And will give new life to it.
Like the famous promise in Isaiah, you too will soar on wings like eagles: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
So far the psalmist was speaking about his personal blessings. Now he gives it a broader backdrop of national blessings the nation enjoyed from God. Specifically he mentions the blessings enjoyed by the oppressed. The historical context he has in mind is the deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt.
[Advanced Lesson: “The nation was once in bondage . . . and the Lord manifested both his righteousness, that is, the vigour with which he maintains His covenant obligations, and His justice, the fairness with which He upholds the rights of those who have been wronged”
— H. C. Leupold]
In Exodus 33:13, Moses had prayed to God thus: “teach me your ways.” God is always willing to reveal Himself to those who would seek Him earnestly. He is ever willing to teach them His ways. The psalmist also recalls how God showed His great deeds to the people of Israel.
Perhaps one quality that we need to learn from Moses is his humility and willingness to learn from God. Do we approach God with a willingness to learn? Or are we proud that we know all the oftquoted Bible verses, can pray, sing or preach well? Moses wanted to know God more and more. Is that our attitude? Do we thirst after God?
In this verse is shown who God is in a quick brush stroke. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. In fact, this is God’s description of Himself (Exodus 34:6) as He revealed Himself to Moses in response to his prayer mentioned above. Jonah too quotes this description (see Jonah 4:2).
Dear friend, how often is God painted to you in negative colours? Look at Him today in a different light. He is not trying to frighten you; instead He is welcoming you. Just focus on how slow to anger God is.
God does not always accuse. He also does not remain angry forever. Both these aspects are important. Often the accusations you have in your mind come from the devil. He is called the “accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
So when you are accused in your mind, try to understand the source of the accusation. If the accusation has to do with your past sins and failures, look to the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Then you’ll find peace.
About God’s anger also we need to note what is written: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime” (Psalm 30:5). Also look at Isaiah 12 where it is written: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me” (verse 1).
So, God delights not in being angry with you. If there is some unconfessed sin or wrong in your life, confess it before God today and enjoy His favour immediately. Do not let fear dominate your relationship with God.
If God kept a record of sins, none would stand in His presence (see Psalm 130:3). If God started trampling us down like how we trample ants when they bite us, none of us would live to see another day. So let us look to God in holy fear and respect. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. In other words we are shown great mercy.
He also does not repay us according to our iniquities. How different this attitude is from our response to others when they hurt us, saying, “I’ll show you!”
The psalmist is trying to paint some pictures for us to help us understand the greatness of God’s love towards us. He uses the height of the heavens from the earth to show us the greatness of God’s love towards us. That distance is huge and cannot be calculated. Such is the bigness of God’s love “for those who fear him.” There lies the key. This big love of God is for those who fear him. Are you one such?
If the first picture was related to the heights, the next one is related to width. The separation between east and west is great. Likewise God has distanced our sins away from us. Elsewhere God’s attitude towards us is described like this: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).
The forgiveness that you enjoy from God is real. When you trust in Jesus,ALL your sins are removed far from you. That means, they will never again be brought against you.
The compassion of God features repeatedly in this Psalm. Those who fear Him, enjoy God’s compassion. It is compared to a Father having compassion on his children. The best portrayal of such a compassion was painted for us by Jesus in his parable of the younger son. There we find the father having compassion on the returning son (Luke 15:20). Likewise God has compassion on you. He comes searching for you. He will never give up on you.
This verse tells us the reason for God’s compassion. God, being our Creator, knows how we are formed. In spite of all great claims of man, he returns to the dust he came from. Even though we often forget this fact, God remembers. He knows how frail and weak we are. Therefore He shows us compassion.
Comment: “When we think of dust, we think of something common and ordinary. You can walk out the back door and find dust. Perhaps you don’t even have to go that far. You might just want to look on top of the radio or dining room table.
Dust speaks of weakness and frailty. But it also speaks of tremendous potential. God made us from dust that we might be weak in ourselves but strong in Him. God took the dust and made clay, and then He took the clay and made a man. Where there is dust, there is potential. He is the Potter; we are the clay. You have to say, … ‘Mold me and make me after Your will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.’ ”
— Prayer, Praise & Promises by Warren W. Wiersbe.
A powerful contrast is drawn for us here. On the one hand the mortality of man is shown. He is compared to grass and also the flower of the field. Though they look green and beautiful; they are gone soon. No one remembers them after they are gone. Such is the life of man. It does not have any permanent existence here. [Compare Isaiah 40:6—8)]
On the other hand is shown the immortality of God. He lives for ever and ever. And like the unending days of God, so is His steadfast love towards those who fear Him. It continues to succeeding generations too. Therefore the best gift a parent can give his children is a godly life because its blessings will be enjoyed by his children for sure. Obedience to God is the key. So remember to obey God by keeping His commandments.
Comment: “But the basic thought [of this section in the Psalm] was to show how beautifully the lovingkindness of God is made to stand out by virtue of the fact that it is bestowed upon the weak creature that seems to have so little claim upon such kindly treatment” — H. C. Leupold.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven. Let us never forget that our God is KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. There is no place in this universe which is not under God’s dominion. Everywhere in the Bible, God is always shown as seated on His throne. Even in the Book of Revelation where mighty changes are shown to happen on the earth, seas and sky; God is unmoved and seated on His throne.
Earthly thrones may fall empty when kings die; but even then God is seated on His throne; high and exalted (see Isaiah 6:1). Daniel was shown the dominion of God’s kingdom to be accomplished in Jesus Christ in coming years (Daniel 2:44, 45). And a day is coming when the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 11:15). In life’s disturbing circumstances, when your little boat is tossed by storms and the waves, lift up your eyes to the throne of the LORD. He reigns!
The psalmist now issues a call to all to praise God. So far, he was personally praising God. Then he had focused on the national blessings they had enjoyed from God. Now he is calling to the angels to praise God. Though angels are always found to be praising God, the psalmist is picturing a grand scene in which all praise God. We’re more familiar with this truth as shown to us in the Book of Revelation. Angels are described here as mighty ones who obey the will and word of God.
Advanced: The consciousness of the unity of the church above and the church below is the background of his approach. . . . The consciousness of being part of the same great church makes him feel that they are of one mind with him in this matter. —H . C. Leupold. (Also, according to this commentator, heavenly hosts can stand for celestial bodies as described in Deuteronomy 4:19, since angels have already been addressed. They also do His will.)
“Nothing less than the praise of angelic hosts and of all the creatures of the realm can adequately reflect His greatness. Will not the little voice of the individual believer (compare verses 1—5) be lost in this universal chorale? By no means. ‘Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, / Who like thee His praise should sing?’ (H. F. Lyte)” International Bible Commentary. [The lines quoted in the Commentary are from the hymn, ‘Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven’ ]
A final call is made to all by the psalmist to praise God. He leaves none out from this glorious and joyous privilege. Finally, he closes by reminding himself once again to praise God.
Praise is the language of heaven. It does not happen by chance or compulsion. Instead it happens by choice. Will you choose to praise God today? Will you make it a habit? If so, you will find heaven near.