Psalm 103 is in today's reading, for those who are following the M'Cheyne calendar - and it was among those referenced in several places in yesterday's sermon from Pastor Craig Davis at Grace United Reformed Church, where we worshipped, and where likely we will put down church-roots during our sabbatical year here in the Tri Cities. Here are a few thoughts that came to mind this morning as I read this Psalm at daybreak.
What words of comfort are given by the Lord through David's pen in this Psalm - words of Gospel. David, a man of trials and temptations, struggles with fear and frequently-encroaching enemies, opens the Psalm with the words in this post title - "Bless the Lord, O My Soul". Words of self-encouragement to recall to mind the works of God and his promises, amidst the challenges of life... to himself David writes the exhortation - "Bless the Lord" (Ps. 103:1). We, the church, sing these words of life too - and in our day even though Saul isn't at our gates in his person, trying to rid the world of his challenger, we need the reminder sometimes to set aside the concerns and worries, and recall to mind the Lord's works, and sing his praise.
"Forget not all his benefits" (Ps. 103:2) - why is this said? At least part of the reason seems quite evident to me...as we walk our daily walk, it's not difficult to forget the Lord's blessings. It's not hard to lose sight of the glories of the Lord when the day-to-day challenges of life encroach upon us and threaten our well-being.
"The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed." (Ps. 103:6) Easy to forget this in the face of derision and charges of bigotry by those who abhor the Christian faith... and with what little of that that I experience daily, it is nothing to compare to our brothers and sisters in Asia and Africa who die for their faith. Yet even with that.... we are reminded that the Lord in fact DOES do righteousness and vindicate his name and that of his people.
"For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Ps. 103:11-12) These words are familiar.... but their familiarity can sometimes breed a forgetfulness as to their glorious reality. The sins we commit and the sin we have at the core of our being - and we must have both of these in view to understand the magnitude and extent of God's mercy toward his people - these are separated... cast away.... and fully dealt with at the Cross, such that they are out of God's sight and justly punished in the person of his Son.
"He knoweth our frame" (Ps. 103:14) - His mercy toward us is completely consistent with who we are - frail and unable to come to him upon our own merits or by our own abilities. God's means of marrying mercy and judgment together is perfect. We are perfect in Christ, sinless in righteousness that is imputed - it is the only way that both respects judgment against sin and mercy toward us, for, as the Psalmist here says next, "we are dust." (Ps. 103:14)
"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant and to those who remember his commandments to do them." (Ps. 103:17-18) Again, reminders of God's mercy to those whom he has called, and whose hearts he has transformed so as to seek him and call upon his name in holy fear. Lest we hear these words (and they can certainly be said in an inappropriate way) as disqualifying us all because of our lack of perfect obedience.... we cannot rip these verses out of context and separate them from verse 10 - wherein David reminds us that "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." (Ps. 103:10)
After these words of praise, the Psalm comes to a close, with the same refrain... and a universal call to bless the Lord in all places: "Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul." (Ps. 103:22) The Lord is king - He is sovereign over all and is rightly worshiped by his whole creation... and our worship of the Lord is magnified in scope, as we not only offer him worship that is his rightful due as sovereign ruler over the universe, but we offer him worship as the one who both forgives our sins, and provided the perfect remedy for our sins such that his righteousness and justice are fully satisfied. Praise God for who he is and for what he has done... and our praises will never end.