The Great Benefits of Our Gracious God – Psalm 103

A career with benefits. Some of you have a job which has benefits (perks) which you enjoy: maybe a company car, expense account, retirement stuff, bonuses, etc. Maybe you don’t have a career with benefits and want one. As Christians we have a career with benefits: our career is our Christian walk which we daily engage in and the benefits are manifold from our gracious God. Someone has called Psalm 103 “Heaven’s benefits package.” Our gracious God is worthy of praise for His great benefits He gives. What are the various benefits of our gracious God? In Psalm 103, David highlights several benefits YHWH provides His people.

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

The Psalmist calls on “all that is within me” to remember “all His (Gods) benefits” (1-2). “God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all” (Spurgeon 2: 276).

Benefit #1: Salvation (3-5)

3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

Forgiving (3a): certainly God has forgiven in the past, but He continues to forgive (pres. Tense). It’s continual – He is still forgiving. The scope of forgiveness is “all iniquity.” All wrongdoing is removed. From His immense steadfast love (v.12) He removes all our sins, transgressions, and iniquity (v.13).

Healing (3b): the term “diseases” is used figuratively (poetically) for the sickness of sin. Further, the parallelism of this verse combined in the larger context of v.3-5 and Psalm 103 generally points to spiritual sickness & healing.

Note: I do not, though, wish to minimize the healing power of YHWH, the God of health. “Among the greatest blessings which we receive of God is recovery from sickness” (Pulpit 8.2.382). Whether by natural or supernatural means, God is able to work healing (See Psa 30.2). That’s why, when we one of us gets sick, we pray. And there is NT precedence for this (James 5.14).

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

Redeeming (4a): “redeems your life from the pit” seems to be language that would be familiar to the Jewish mind concerning the patriarch Joseph. God redeemed Joseph from the pit thru the Ishmaelites. Rescue by ransom.

Adorning (4b): with steadfast love and mercy. More in #2…

5who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Satisfying (5): “good” things come from our good God and He “satisfies” us with them. The people of God are the only satisfied people on earth. While unbelievers search in vain for satisfaction, Christians have found true satisfaction from the only source of satisfaction. See 1 Timothy 6.17.

Benefit #2: Steadfast Love (4b, 8, 11, 17-18)

Intentionally in the middle (of the sermon) because this is the lynch-pin to this Psalm.

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

The Crown of Steadfast Love (4): exclusively reserved for His people who enter into covenant with Him (“us”). Not a crown of jewels and gems, but of grace and “lovingkindness” (ASV, KJV). This is something which God continues to do (“adorning”), He is continuously pouring our His steadfast love (and mercy, too!) upon our heads.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

The Cornucopia of Steadfast Love (8, 11): He’s got lots of it! So great is His is love, it is inexhaustible! Like the horn with all the food and vegetables coming out we often see at Thanksgiving, so God’s love is pictured as overflowing. What’s it like David? Verse 11.

17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

The Conditions for Steadfast Love (17-18): 1) Fear YHWH – that reverential awe and respect of the one true Creator. 2) Faithfulness (keep covenant) – even as God keeps covenant; God says, “I will be your God” to which the people say, “We will be you people.” Involved in this is a standard of conduct shaped by principles and values established by God. 3) Obedience (remember commandments) – perhaps some parallelism here; we remember His commandments when we keep covenant.

Note: Nelson Glueck on Heb. Hesed “in its secular usage as ‘conduct in accord with a mutual relationship of rights and duties’; he also emphasized the mutual or reciprocal and the obligatory character of the term in its religious usage for persons in relation to each other and to God.” “Israel understood God to be committed to the community in covenant relationship as the One who provided for all needs, yet One also always free and uncoercible.” This Hebrew term “compactly incorporates all three of these dimensions (commitment, provision for need, freedom) in a single word” (ABD 4: 377). Unconditional? Hardly! See Ex 20.5-6, 2nd commandment.

Benefit #3: Slow to Anger (8, 13-16)

Does He get angry? Oh, yes. We read about the wrath of God. But of His slowness… 2 Peter 3.9; Romans 2.4

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

YHWH the Father (13): While Jesus would come to show us God the Father, even in the OT, the concept was there. David recognizes the paternal patience of YHWH, like a father is patient and compassionate with his children.

YHWH the Creator (14): He knows and remembers certain things about us (our frame, we are dust). How does He know these things? He’s the one who created us! And since He knows us, He knows we are “frail children of dust” (esp. seen in 15-16) and cannot withstand His holy, righteous anger.

Since God is the Father and since He is the Creator, He is slow to become angry. He treats us, His children, with compassion, mercy, and grace.

It’s the greatest benefits package in the world. And it’s ours! So it’s no wonder David closes this with a doxology of praise to God. Everything needs to praise God because He’s given us salvation, shows us steadfast love, and is slow to anger.

WORKS CITED

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996. CD-ROM.

Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell. The Pulpit Commentary. 23 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1962. Print.

Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David. 2 vols. Nashville: Nelson, n.d. Print.

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Robed in Majesty

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” (Psalm 99:1, ESV)

The LORD (Heb. YHWW, the covenant God of Israel) reigns. Therefore, YHWH is King. That YHWH is King is a thread which is all over the OT. Indeed, God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1.11, which speaks of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. Christ’s kingdom is NOT almost 2,000 yrs old as some in the brotherhood have claimed). Psalms 93-99 picture the majestic King & what it means for YHWH to be King. YHWH is the majestic King. But what does that mean?

The Majesty of Seeing God

Ezekiel (ch.1): Ezekiel sees the chariot of God, God’s Rolls Royce, a living vehicle transporting the living God. Then God rides up and notice that the best Ezekiel can do is use simile to describe the majesty & glory of God (esp.v. 26-28). He is beholding the glorious majesty of God.

Daniel (ch.7): We typically come to Daniel 7 because of the vision of the eternal kingdom of the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus), running straight for the interpretation; however, I want us to pause here and note the glory of the Lord described here. Here is God – the Ancient of Days – and Christ – the Son of Man – in heavenly glory, majesty. Daniel gets a glimpse and records it.

Transfiguration (Matt 17.1-8; Mark 9.2-8; Luke 9.22-27): Building on the Son of Man motif, the gospels record the glory of Jesus as His humanity is pulled back & His deity shows forth for a moment in time.

Revelation (chs.4-5): Described here is heaven, even the throne room of God. Words fail to completely capture what John sees and like the prophets of old, he struggles to capture the majesty of God.

These written accounts serve to describe the glorious majesty of God, picturing God “robed in majesty” as the King YHWH.

The Majesty & The Earth (93.1; 96.10)

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”” (Psalm 96:10, ESV)

Immovable, Unshakeable: God does this; He makes the earth established. We know from the NT He does this thru Christ (Heb 1.3, “sustaining all things by His powerful word”). He holds absolute sway over the world and everything in it. Nothing disturbs it unless God allows it to do so. Notice, the earth is happy about that (97.1) – it rejoices & is glad God is in control. So too should we be happy. We should adore God for His majestic power. “Atheism is the mother of anarchy; the reigning power of God exhibited in true religion is the only security for the human common-wealth. A belief in God is the foundation and corner-stone of a well-ordered state.” (Spurgeon 2:135).

Earthquake! Then the holy splendor of God causes the earth to quake. His glory is earth shaking! Let the whole world be moved to adoring awe, every tribe, language, people must bow before His infinite majesty.

The Majesty of God’s Vengeance (94.1)

O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1, ESV)

Revenge? No, not revenge, which denotes an evil intention, delighting in the return for injury for injury. Throughout the NT we are told “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,” that is, do not seek revenge. Certainly God is not in the revenge business. However…

Avenge: When it comes to upholding justice & righteousness, God will avenge and mete out vengeance upon those public wrongs. We must understanding that this serves to preserve a society. For example, the punishment of a criminal by the state is what is necessary to maintain law & order – it is not revenge, but it does seek to uphold justice by avenging bad (evil) behavior. So God, robed in majestic justice & righteousness, perfectly judges the earth and repays the wicked what they deserve for their evil behavior.

The Majesty of the King’s Holiness (99.3, 5, 9)

Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:3, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:5, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:9, ESV)

Let us tremble – not at His power, or His greatness but at His holiness. Notice the triple “holy, holy, holy” in Psalm 99. This seems to correspond to the “holy, holy, holy” of the seraphim in God’s throne in Isa 6. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Holiness Rules According to the Perfect Standard: “God is light” and His holy reign will be absolutely (morally) perfect. cf. Psa 19.7-9

Holiness Works Toward Highest Ends: God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. These combine so that He always seeks what is best for all men, esp. His people. “God so loved the world…” to see Christ in us.

Holiness Sees Patient Suffering: We’ve seen a number of Psalms where the psalmists are right on the brink of throwing in the towel. But God sees this & everything. And He sustains them and us through it; you have breath in your lungs because He allows it.

Holiness Elicits Worship from Creation: “Worship at His holy mountain…at His footstool.” How could we do otherwise? The angels of heaven are praising His holiness even as we speak.

Behold your King! This same King left the splendor of heaven, put on flesh, lived among us a perfect life and died on a cross so that we might have the right & privilege of enter into His rule & reign as citizens. One day we will meet Him – we’ll have our Revelation 4, Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7 moment and see the King face-to-face.