Psalm 103:1-5[103:1] Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  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 (ESV).
It’s been said that: “All movies are mirrors, even when we don’t like what we see in it, and even when the movie isn’t particularly thoughtful about how and what it reflects. The recent release of the movie Joker reflects us, and our cultural moment, in ways we’d do well to consider. The Joker, like Satan himself, knows that humans are inherently perverse creatures, lured in by spectacle, addicted to novelty, prone to amusing ourselves to death. In this way Joker is the perfect bogeyman for our age, embodying the toxic, corrosive power of an entertainment-obsessed, hyper-mediated society of spectacle. Like most movies, it becomes a testament of human corruption with the root of sin. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/is-the-joker-on-us/)
Psalm 103 is designed to promote the blessing and exaltation of God, (while acknowledging the problem of pain, suffering, sin and death). This psalm represents a soliloquy in which David surveys God’s goodness and encourages the angels and the works of God’s creation to join him in divine praise (MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Ps 103:1). Nashville: Word Pub.). Beginning with individual thanksgiving … it was probably to be sung in a liturgical setting it was meant to inspire others —which it has done and continues to do. Eaton proposed that it was a hymn for the fall festival. (Ross, A. P. (2016). A Commentary on the Psalms (90–150): Commentary (Vol. 3, p. 228). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic.)
The only answer to the problem of pain, suffering, sin and death, is the life and work of Christ. Instead of a prideful self-satisfaction, faith in God realizes God as the source of all blessing and thankfulness is an expression of faith that appropriately responds to this realization. In our individual lives and corporate praise, it is fitting to give thanks for: 1) God Himself (Psalm 103:1), 2) God’s Benefits (Psalm 103:2), 3) God’s Forgiveness and Healing (Psalm 103:3), 4) God’s Redemption, love & Mercy (Psalm 103:4), and finally: 5) God’s Satisfaction & Renewal (Psalm 103:5)
First, we can give thanks for:
1) God Himself (Psalm 103:1)
Psalm 103:1[103:1] Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
- “WE WILL SPEND HALF OUR TIME IN THE FIRST TWO POINTS”.
What does it mean to bless God? Bless” (barak, Heb.) is used here with the meaning “esteem greatly” or “praise” (cf. Eph. 1:3). (Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ps 103:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.) The Hebrew verb (in the piel) “always means to express solemn words that show the appreciation, gratitude, respect, joint relationship, or good will of the speaker, thus promoting respect for the one being blessed…. When God is the object, brk … (it is) rendered “praise” (Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Vol. 14: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14 : Psalms 73-150. The Preacher’s Commentary series (225–226). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
- When the Lord ‘blesses’ us, He reviews our needs and responds to them; when we ‘bless’ the Lord, we review His excellencies and respond to them (Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Ps 103:1–5). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press)
Praise requires preparation. Our hearts, ever inclined to deadness and coldness, must be stirred to properly take up praise. If he was anything, David was a student of his heart. We all should be! So before he offers one word of praise, he stokes his heart. He preaches to himself (Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (132). Leominster: Day One Publications.)
Please turn to Jeremiah 33
In verse one of Psalm 103, we find a singer who gives voice to the sentiments of the many gathered at the temple for a service of thanksgiving and thank offering in response to Yahweh’s benefits to them as individuals. It is a solo contribution to communal worship rather than an individual testimony. According to Jer 33:11 the theological backbone of the thanksgiving service was provided by the communal hymn:
Jeremiah 33:11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: “‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!‘ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD. (ESV)
- The singer’s self-exhortation is a message to each worshiper to lift up his or her own heart in earnest praise. God is worthy of a total response of grateful worship for the totality of divine blessing. On the congregation’s behalf the soloist enthusiastically counts the personal blessings of all those present. For some the crippling handicap of sin had earlier manifested itself in illness. Now, thank God, it had been removed by healing, which was the outward sign of gracious forgiveness. …Yahweh had proved their champion, rescuing them from Sheol’s clutches, … God had lavished upon the worshipers gifts fit for a king, blessings grounded in loyal, pardoning love. Their lives had been enriched and revitalized (Allen, L. C. (2002). Vol. 21: Word Biblical Commentary : Psalms 101-150 (Revised). Word Biblical Commentary (30). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).
David’s praise is given to “the Lord,” that is to Yahweh (God as personal) and to “His holy name” (God as transcendent presence and authority). We ‘bless’ the Lord himself before we recount His blessings. All God does stems from who He is (name) and what He is (holy): He never acts outside what he has revealed and what He is (Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Ps 103:1–5). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.).
As the Psalmist blesses God, he throws himself fully into his worship; he gives “All that is within me.” His worship is a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) Not content to have mere words, or even what might be considered some religious duty, the Psalmist calls us to worship God entirely with our entire mind, body, soul and spirit. The reference to our soul is not not just the non-material part of our nature but a representation of the entire person (cf. Deut. 6:5) (Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Vol. 14: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14 : Psalms 73-150. The Preacher’s Commentary series (226). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
Quote: Jonathan Edwards believed that there is no true worship that does not touch the “affections.” We often are strangely unaffected, honoring God “with our lips” while our hearts are “far from him” (cf. Matt. 15:8; Isa. 29:13) (Jonathan Edwards, as quoted in Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms (Pbk. ed.) (833). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.)..
Spirit, soul, and body are cued in to bless the holy name of God. His holy name—(Ps 5:11), represents His complete moral perfections. (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Ps 103:1). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
- In essence this is praise of someone to whom he know. It is not blind, emotional exuberance, but accurate, joyful praise to address someone to whom we know and gladly relate.
Poem: (6581 Thank God For God)
Thanksgiving is a time to: “Thank God for God”: “The roar of the world is in my ears. Thank God for the roar of the world; Thank God for the mighty tide of fears Against me always hurled. “Thank God for the bitter and ceaseless strife, And the sting of his chastening rod. Thank God for the stress and pain of life, And O, thank God for God!” (Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.)
Secondly, we can give thanks for:
2) God’s Benefits (Psalm 103:2)
Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, (ESV)
To “bless the Lord” is to acknowledge that all that makes life richly meaningful comes to us as a gift that we should never take for granted. Praise remembers the goodness of the Lord, but forgetting the Lord’s goodness dilutes praise. Forgetting is the first long step toward spiritual disaster (cf. Deut 4:9, 23), because when people forget who the Lord is and what he has done, they fail to be grateful to him. Failure to praise the Lord, then, is symptomatic of a deeper heart problem. (Estes, D. J. (2019). Psalms 73–150. (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.) (Vol. 13, p. 263). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.)
This is the implication of the words “forget not …”. It is a call to worship which rings out a second time, with the significant added reminder that we should forget not all His benefits. It is a needed reminder because all too often we do forget. When we have it, we forget to thank Him for soundness of body, soundness of mind, sight, hearing, speech, appetite, and a host of other mercies. We take them too much for granted.( Davidson, R. (1998). The vitality of worship: a commentary on the book of Psalms (p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI; Edinburgh: W.B. Eerdmans; Handsel Press.)
Please turn to Deuteronomy 8
To forget such things may have a deeper and subtler cause than absent-mindedness. To remember has the connotation of realizing; realizing the source of blessing and responding appropriately. Pride is the manifestation of forgetfulness, thinking that our own efforts brought about outward success. (Kidner, D. (1975). Vol. 16: Psalms 73-150: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (397). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Moses corrects this misunderstanding though instruction to the people of God in Deuteronomy 8:
Deuteronomy 8:1-20 [8:1]”The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.  Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.  So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.  And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. ”Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. (ESV)
Quote: C. S. Lewis in his “Reflections on the Psalms” said it like this: “It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with” (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Walker & Co., 1985], p. 95).
- It is only when we express true thanks that we honor the one to whom all thanks is due for His marvelous blessings.
Third, we can give thanks for:
3) God’s Forgiveness and Healing (Psalm 103:3)
Psalm 103:3  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
Iniquity is a failure to conform in through, word or deed, to the standards of a holy God, simply called sin. Sin is a spiritual disease that ultimately results in death, and eternal separation from God. There is indeed a healing of this disease through repentance: which is first recognizing the seriousness of the disease. Henry T. Mahan writes: “The diseases of this body are the results of (a fallen world) and God will heal them when it is according to his will and when it serves his purpose, but the diseases referred to here are spiritual diseases, which, like our sins, are all healed in Christ. He bore all our spiritual sicknesses and diseases in his body on the tree and by his sufferings we are healed for ever.…’(Henry T. Mahan, With New Testament Eyes, Evangelical Press, vol. ii, p.52.)
Please turn to 2 Samuel 12
Above all else, those who repent of their sins, should be thankful to God for forgiving all our iniquities. But, there is a difference between God’s handling of iniquity and of diseases, which was made plain in David’s own case when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba. Forgiveness was immediate; but healing was denied, in spite of seven days of prayer and fasting. He explained this in 2 Samuel 12:
2 Samuel 12:13-23  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”  Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.  David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.  And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.  On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”  But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.”  Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.  Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”  He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’  But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (ESV)
- 2 Samuel 12 speaks so clearly to the relationship between forgiveness, healing, sin and sickness, I want to quote a comment on this text directly: D. A. Carson said: “In 2 Samuel 12:13–23, forgiveness was instantaneous, healing was withheld; sin and sickness were alike laid on Jesus (Mt. 8:16, 17) but just as, in this present life, though forgiven we still suffer the plague of sin, so sickness is still our lot according to his sovereign appointment until, in heaven, every disability, like every moral infirmity, will be gone” (Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Ps 103:1–5). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.).
The greatest healing is forgiveness of sin. A true sign that of forgiveness, is a trust in God, especially when healing does not come. There are times in this life when God indeed will heal disease. But the promise that He forgives all your iniquity, is promise of the redemption of our bodies’ (Rom. 8:23). He indeed heals all your diseases, but for most people, this fulfillment is to come. The prophetic call here and now is always to repent, and the gospel promises that confession of sin brings cleansing (1 John 1:9) (Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Vol. 14: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14 : Psalms 73-150. The Preacher’s Commentary series (226). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
Quote: (6579 Thankfulness For A Thorn)
George Matheson, the well-known blind preacher of Scotland, now with the Lord, says: “My God, I have never thanked Thee for my “thorn!” I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my “thorn;” I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross as itself a present glory. Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my “thorn.” Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.” (Moody Monthly as Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc).
Fourth, we can give thanks for:
4) God’s Redemption, love & Mercy (Psalm 103:4)
Psalm 103:4  who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
In verse 4a the verb ga˒al “redeems” is used in the sense of rescue (the noun, 19.14, and the verb, 25.22; 69.18). Together with the Pit, a synonym for Sheol, the grave (6:5; 16:10), these terms are taken by most as a deliverance from death (Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. (1991). A translator’s handbook on the book of Psalms. Helps for translators (871). New York: United Bible Societies.).
Please turn back to Psalm 16
At one level, to be redeemed from the Pit could be an expression simply for rescue from a premature disease (see on Ps. 6:5; 28:1). God continually delivers us from dangers, accidents, tragedies and thus from going down to the grave. Only when we get to heaven will we realize how often we were protected by the personal intervention of our God from premature death. David himself was often very near to death, so perhaps he had premature death in mind.( Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be exultant (1st ed., p. 49). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)
We should take 4a in its strongest sense, as resurrection to eternal life. On this hope, Psalm 16:9–11, which is also Davidic, is even more explicit (Kidner, D. (1975). Vol. 16: Psalms 73-150: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (398). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Psalm 16:9-11  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (ESV).
We who are in Christ were, at one time, dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1) and headed for eternal damnation, a justly deserved punishment. We were helpless to save ourselves. But then God’s mercy intervened to spare us. So abundant are the manifestations of God’s steadfast love/lovingkindness and compassion to us that David speaks of them back in Ps. 103:4as a crown. (Pechawer, L. (2008). Poetry and prophecy (Vol. 3, p. 37). Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing.) Believers are now loved with everlasting love and showered day by day with His mercy. His mercy, at times specified as His tender mercies is a reflection of God’s compassion cf. Ps 25:6; 40:11) (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Ps 103:4). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
- A sure sign of God’s mercy is that we do not continually suffer all the consequences of our sin. We must never become arrogant that we are just fine and secure apart from God. Just removing His hand of protection for an instant, subjects us to tremendous peril.
The symbol of being crowned suggests that our royal glory and authority are divine love and mercy. Thus, Paul sees believers as reigning with Christ “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7) (Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Vol. 14: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14 : Psalms 73-150. The Preacher’s Commentary series (226). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
Poem: John Wesley in his poem: “Love’s Quiet Confidence” said: Though waves and storms go o’er my head, Though strength and health and friends are gone, Though joys be withered all and dead, Though every comfort be withdrawn, On this my steadfast soul relies— Father, Thy mercy never dies! Fixed on this ground will I remain, Though my heart fail and flesh decay: This anchor shall my soul sustain, When earth’s foundations melt away: Mercy’s full power I then shall prove, Loved with an everlasting love. (John Wesley as recorded in Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (114). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.)
Finally, we can give thanks for:
5) God’s Satisfaction & Renewal (Psalm 103:5)
Psalm 103:5  who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (ESV).
The Lord satisfies the longing heart, and that He does not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. There is no satisfaction in this world, but we have satisfaction in Christ who is the Bread of Life (John 6:33–40) and the Good Shepherd who leads us into green pastures (23:2). (See 107:9 and 145:16.) …No matter how old we become, God can satisfy the needs of our lives and the spiritual desires of our hearts (Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be exultant (1st ed., pp. 49–50). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)
Please turn to Isaiah 40
How is the satisfaction linked with how “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”? The mysterious way of the long-lived eagle symbolized strength and speed (cf. Ex. 19:4; Jer. 48:40), which also characterizes human youth. The picture here is that of the believer being strengthened by the Lord even in old age and able to “soar” like the eagle (Isa. 40:31). (See 71:17–18; 92:14; 2 Cor. 4:16–18.) (Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be exultant (1st ed., pp. 49–50). Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.)
Isaiah express this in Isaiah 40:
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 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 (ESV).
Quote: Charles Spurgeon reflected on this will a powerful summary and call: “God satisfies us with good things as long as we live. Satisfaction. A rare word! The richest man in England has not found it. The greatest conqueror has never won it. The proudest emperor cannot command it. Satisfaction! It is no more natural to man than it was to the leech to cease from craving and crying, “Give! Give!” … It is a spiritual blessing, a divine grace that comes from the great satisfying God—the God who is himself all sufficient, the only One who can be sufficient to fill the human heart. Every Christian needs their soul restored, refreshed, reinvigorated because of the ordinary wear and tear that operate on spiritual life, as well as on every other form of life. Though we may have neglected much communion with Christ, and so have lost our vigor, He can give it all back again. Then once more we shall run, and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint (Is 40:31). God can renew our youth like the eagle’s by renewing our courage for him, our confidence in him, our energy toward him, our determination for him, our willingness to run risks in His cause, our ardor to tell others what Christ’s love has been in our hearts.( Spurgeon. (2017). The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes (p. 776). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.)
- Thankfulness gives strength and enables us to be truly satisfied in God as the true source of goodness. May we be a truly thankful people always realizing and praising the true source of all our blessing.
(Format note: Some base commentary from MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997). Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Ps 102:23–103:5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)