Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful and uplifting psalms in the Bible. It is a song of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love, mercy, and grace. In this blog post, I want to share with you some insights and applications from this psalm that can inspire and encourage us in our daily lives.
The psalm begins with a personal declaration of praise: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1). The psalmist calls his soul to bless the Lord, to adore him with all his being, and to remember his holy name. This is not a casual or superficial praise, but a deep and heartfelt one. The psalmist is not satisfied with just saying the words, but he wants to feel them and live them.
He then gives four reasons why he should bless the Lord: “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” (v. 2-4). These are four amazing benefits that God has given us: forgiveness, healing, redemption, and love. God has forgiven all our sins, no matter how many or how great they are. He has healed all our diseases, both physical and spiritual. He has redeemed our life from the pit of death and hell. He has crowned us with his steadfast love and mercy, which never fail or change.
The psalmist then expands his praise to include all God’s works and ways: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (v. 8-10). The psalmist describes God’s character and attributes: he is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He is not harsh or vindictive with us, but he is patient and forgiving. He does not treat us as we deserve, but he shows us mercy beyond measure.
He then uses two images to illustrate how great God’s love and mercy are: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (v. 11-12). The psalmist compares God’s love to the height of the heavens above the earth, which is immeasurable and infinite. He compares God’s forgiveness to the distance between east and west, which is unending and irreversible. God’s love and forgiveness are beyond our comprehension and imagination.
He then compares God’s compassion to that of a father: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (v. 13-14). The psalmist reminds us that God is not a distant or indifferent deity, but a loving and caring father. He knows us intimately; he knows our weaknesses and limitations; he knows that we are frail and mortal. He does not expect more from us than we can give; he does not judge us harshly; he does not abandon us in our troubles.
He then contrasts God’s eternity with our temporality: “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him” (v. 15-17). The psalmist reminds us that our life is short and fleeting; we are like grass that withers and flowers that fade. We have no lasting significance or security in this world. But God’s love is eternal and unchanging; it is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.
He then calls on all creation to join him in praising God: “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion! Bless the Lord O my soul!” (v. 20-22). The psalmist invites all God’s creatures to bless him: angels who serve him faithfully; hosts who fight for him victoriously; works who display his glory wonderfully; soul who loves him passionately.
This psalm teaches us how to praise God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It teaches us how to remember his benefits; how to admire his character; how to appreciate his compassion; how to trust his eternity; how to join his creation. Let us make this psalm our own prayer today: Bless the Lord