A Meditation on Psalm 103

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The one hundred and third psalm is a beautiful evangelical hymn that is personal, abounding in steadfast love that gives thanks for God’s compassion and mercy. The deliverance of Israel, coupled with God not dealing with them according to their sin, gives cause for this praise hymn to repeat the magnificent phrase of countless blessing. David urges his soul to bless the Lord as C.H. Spurgeon defines the meaning of this striking key-note of soul music as the very soul of music.[1]The psalm begins and ends in a similar fashion and can be divided into five sections (vv.1-2;3-8,9-16,17-19,20-22). The first section deals with David’s call to bless the Lord as a way of recalling God’s past acts of redemption. The body of the psalm can be divided with specific dealings of the Lord’s hesed of the individual (vv.3-8), the community (vv.9-16) and from the perspective of humanity (vv.17-19). David concludes the psalm with a universal call to praise having mediated on the Lord.

There is a twofold theme of this psalm which can be divided by attributing the steadfast love (hesed) and compassion of God, demonstrating His graciousness and slow to anger in which He has towards the nation of Israel. There’s a sense of remembrance and ignoring of the goodness of God from past deeds as David begins the psalm addressing himself to count the endless blessings and benefits which God is the main source of. The divine attributes of the love and mercy of God are a reoccurring theme and rooted in the biblical text that can be enjoyed because of the freedom found in His salvation. This love is eternal, displaying His fundamental character towards Israel that results in the universal call to praise God as savior and creator, Father and sustainer, merciful and mighty.[2]The psalm testifies of the Lord’s work making known the promises as seen in redemptive history in the life of Moses during the Egyptian oppression. The language which is used by the psalmist here suggest more in mind then the Exodus of Israel but corresponds to that of Isaiah 40-66 in which restoration is a key theme.[3]God’s generosity and vindication as a gentile Father towards a rebellious people truly signify the immeasurable love and mercy God possess and His affections are never fading.

God’s generosity and vindication as a gentile Father towards a rebellious people truly signify the immeasurable love and mercy God possess and His affections are never fading.

The psalm is appropriate in ascribing blessing and thanksgiving towards God because of the endless love for “those who fear him,” (vv.11,13,17). Three times the psalm draws this point that ties with the love and compassion of God which can be discovered in obedience. The discipline of the Lord should not be taken as some abstract concept that doesn’t have any bearing. His motivation for such discipline is saturated with love for his creation as the creator because He knows our dusty frame (v.14). This is due to our sinful human condition as fallible and finite beings. We’re incapable of comprehending the depths of this love and David understands that the life of man is short lived as a blade of grass or flower in the field. Though our lives may be inconsequential in the greater scheme of things, this doesn’t diminish God’s hesed for us in any way. For this reason, the psalmist mediates on this compassion of the Lord which is from everlasting to everlasting and reminds the reader that our mortal lives are worth a great deal according to His covenant promise. The justice that is rendered towards present and future generations are solidified as long as this agreement is upheld. The extension of His lovingness are limited to those who fear Him as Maclaren explains that: “All men share in that lovingkindness and receive the best gifts from it of which they are capable; but those who cling to God in loving reverence, and who are moved by that blissful “fear” which has no torment, to yield their wills to Him in inward submission and outward obedience, do enter into the inner recesses of that loving-kindness, and are replenished with good, of which others are incapable.”[4]

This psalm of thanksgiving testifies of the vindication and many benefits for the soul (vv.2-5) which are immeasurable abiding in love and mercy. There is a sense of intimacy that is drawn from this section (vv.6-14) that is family related in nature. As if the prodigal son (Israel) returns again to his Father and even though punishment for turning their back on Him is suitable, the Father is compassionate and dismisses all wrongdoings. God does not always accuse and does not wish to end the relationship. The heavens are the zenith in which God distances himself with our sins and continues to express the paternal love that we don’t deserve.

God does not always accuse and does not wish to end the relationship.

David draws to a close with the very same proclamation calling on all of creation, in heaven and on earth, to praise the Lord of host. His kingship rules the totality of creation and because of His loving-kindness, the universe can now become recipients of this grace. His kingship takes over in which all heavenly host, aides, mighty warriors, armies and officers are in complete obedience to His will rather than entitles that might rebel against it.[5]This is David returning to this first thought that all who align themselves with the salvation of the Lord are to give continual thanks for all his works (v.22). John Goldingay states, “By day and by night the sun, the moon and the stars pour out to one another their inescapable witness to the fact that their maker is the glorious God.”[6]This becomes the hymn by which our soul must engage in the testimony and worship of the Lord. An attentiveness to the ongoing call to exhort His name because of the hesed He has shown humanity. The ending of the psalm is more of a crescendo that has no expiration but exclaims the sovereignty of God that always bearing witness to His compassion, mercy and salvific deeds. So great is His love that echoes His goodness, giving us cause to always bless the Lord, O my soul.

 

Bibliography

            [1]Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011, Vol. 2, 275.

[2]Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 16. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975.

            [3]Mays, James Luther. Psalms. Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994, 329.

            [4]Maclaren, A. The Psalms. In W. Robertson Nicoll (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible: Psalms to Isaiah. Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton Co, 1903, Vol. 3, 258.

            [5]Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel. Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

            [6]Goldingay, J. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006, Vol. 2, 670.

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