Psalm 103: All God's Benefits
Psalm 103 was written by David who is the writer of most of the psalms even though some people erroneously give him credit for penning all of them. According to the superscriptions, David wrote only 73 of the 150 psalms.
Psalm 103 is unique in several ways. The psalm is not addressed to God. The entire psalm is about God and all His benefits. Throughout the hymn, David lists the benefits and encourages us not to forget them.
David's soul is the direct address. He is talking to his inward part. That's because his physical lips are incapable of praising the Lord from deep within. There is no way his mouth could say what the psalmist wants to express. Therefore, he calls on his soul to do so.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me; bless his holy name." (Psalm 103:1)
In the above verse, David's soul is the direct address. He calls on his soul to do what his mouth falls short of doing. The psalmist gives his soul permission to express praises to God that are within him.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul" is the same as saying, "O my soul, bless the Lord."
In Verse 2, David repeats what he said in Verse 1. He also adds to it.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (Psalm 103:2)
In just two verses, the direct address has been mentioned twice. Stay tuned because this is not the last time it will be mentioned. Also, the directive to bless the Lord has been said twice along with an imperative not to forget all of God's benefits.
Benefits Not To Forget
A benefit is something good to have. It is what most people welcome. The psalmist reminds himself of God's benefits.
In the remainder of the psalm that includes 22 verses, God's benefits are itemized.
- Forgiveness is at the top of the list. God forgives all iniquities why people repent.
- Healing is available for all diseases.
- Redemption is part of God's benefits.
- Lovingkindness is one of God's gifts.
- God dispenses tender mercies.
- Because of God, His people are satisfied with good things.
- Even old people will have renewed youth like the eagle.
Anybody would be grateful for the previous list of benefits clearly seen in verses 3-5 based on who God is; however, there are more. The psalmist continues listing who God is and what He does in Verses 6 and 8.
- The Lord shows righteousness and judgment to all who are oppressed.
- The Lord is merciful and gracious.
- He is slow to anger.
- God has plenty of mercy to offer.
The listing changes a little by observing what God will not do in verses 9 and 10.
- He will not always chide.
- God will not keep his anger forever.
- He has not dealt with us because of our sins.
- He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities.
Reasons For God's Benefits
In Verses 11-19, David explains why God gives so many benefits to those who fear him. In this case, fear is not being afraid. It means showing love, honesty and respect for God.
- If God's mercy could be measured, it would be as high as the heaven is high above the earth. It would be as great as His mercy toward them that fear Him.
- God has removed our transgression from us as far as the east is from the west.
- God pitieth His children who fear Him as a father pitieth his own children.
- God knows all of us.
- He remembers we are dust.
The psalmist compares the brevity of man to the longevity of God's mercy in Verses 15-18.
- Man's life is short like grass and flowers of the field.
- There will come a time when a man's life is over like wind that has passed.
- God's mercy doesn't have the same lifespan as man's. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. His mercy lasts upon them that fear Him, and God's righteousness is so long that it is shown through many generations to the man's children's children.
Assurance is given to two groups of people in Verse 18.
- To those who keep God's covenant
- To those who remember His commandments and obey them
What is the assurance given to the groups above, according to Verse 19?
- The Lord has prepared His throne in the heavens.
- The Lord allows His kingdom to rule over all.
Other Direct Addresses
In Verses 20-21, David gives other direct addresses to those who should bless the Lord.
- Angels are instructed to bless the Lord.
- God's hosts and His ministers please God when they bless Him.
In the final verse of Psalm 103, the psalmist ends with some of the same words he used at the beginning of the psalm. That means this psalm is an inclusio.
Inclusio is a Greek term. It is a literary device that writers use by stating the same thing at the beginning and at the end of a written work. Its purpose is to introduce and conclude the main point within the document. Everything in-between substantiates the beginning and ending. An inclusio could be thought of being like bookends, quotation marks, brackets or parenthesis.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul." (Psalm 103:22)
The psalm has a direct address to the psalmist's soul at the end just as it had at the beginning. The soul is requested to bless the Lord because the mouth is powerless to do it effectively.
When you discover your mouth cannot heighten your praises to God, direct your soul to do so just as David did.
Did you learn something from the study of Psalm 103?
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