“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His Holy Name. Praise the LORD, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.”
- M. Lloyd-Jones, at the beginning of a sermon entitled “Four Pictures of Life” in his Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons, writes the following helpful comment.
“I always point out whenever I happen to preach from the book of Psalms that a Psalm is a song and should always be taken in its entirety. Certainly there are individual verses in the Psalms which merit prolonged and separate attention but a Psalm is generally composed so as to give expression to some one big prevailing thought or mood.” (Lloyd-Jones, p. 181)
Our task is to ask just what the big prevailing thought or mood of Psalm 103 is. This calls for a careful examination of the Psalm, in its context. It seems that Psalm 103 and 102 are to be taken together. In Psalm 102 we find ourselves identifying with one who is afflicted and as a consequence is crying out to the LORD for deliverance. In fact the Psalms superscription states that it is “A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament to the LORD.” (Psalm 102 – superscription) At the very least this Psalm describes the characteristic response of the Godly person to affliction. They cry out to God for deliverance, praying and meditating upon the reality of the LORD as the one who delivers us. Some take this a little further suggesting that it is “A prayer of the Afflicted One” and that it should be interpreted in a Christ Centred way. The message here is that we pray as an afflicted person who is bringing their need before God in tandem with the Lord Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. In Hebrews 2:17-18 we read, “For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” If we are identified with Him in His suffering we will also be identified with Him in His resurrection.
Psalm 103 continues the theme, leading us on, once we have cried out to God for deliverance, we also praise the Lord for all that He has done for us. The one thing that this Psalm focuses upon is our reverent praise of the LORD who has delivered us in His grace. The praise offered here is focused upon the message of the Word of God. At the heart of Psalm 103 is a biblical statement about the character of God which seems as if it has been lifted right out of Exodus 34:6ff.
“He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel: the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbour His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:7-10)
What Psalm 103 calls us to do is to praise the LORD making sure we continually remember His benefits. What this means is that we must be careful to remember the His works of grace. We must not leave it up to chance that we might remember them. We must take steps to make sure that we remember. This applies not only to us as an individual. It applies to our society and children. Listen to the Word of God in Deuteronomy 4:9-10.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when He said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear My words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
We live in a day when the great acts of God’s grace are being forgotten by many. It is our responsibility to teach these things once again as we praise the LORD for His grace, and as we cry out to Him for deliverance, and as we recommit ourselves to remembering His Word and to teaching it to the generations yet to come. This is God’s plan for deliverance. Will we follow it?