“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget 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 as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).
In previous studies of Psalm 103 (see the links below), I have emphasized that this psalm represents the outpouring of praise by an individual who is filled with gratitude for what God has done in his life. In his praise of God, the psalmist celebrates God’s mercy and the forgiveness of sin.
It was divine mercy that caused God to remember the frailty of the psalmist and to act in delivering him from the power of the grave. All the words and actions of the psalmist are based upon his understanding of the nature of the God who revealed Himself as the Lord, “a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, a God who keeps steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving inequity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6).
In order to express his gratitude to God, the psalmist summons every emotion in his being and all the strength of his body to declare the praises of the God who had blessed him.
Thus far we have seen that the psalmist has experienced God as a God who forgives. His sense of guilt has been forgiven and his spiritual separation from God has been restored. We also have seen that the psalmist has experienced God as a God who heals. God is the great healer and he alone has the remedy that his children need.
The psalmist also has experienced God as a God who redeems. God brought him back from the edge of the abyss and gave him a new desire to live. Finally, we have seen that the psalmist has experienced God as a God who rewards. The love of God not only delivered the psalmist from sin, disease and death, but also rewarded him with the honor and dignity he had lost because of his inequity.
In this post I want to emphasize one more reason why the psalmist summons his innermost being to praise God. The psalmist also invites those in the congregation of believers, the community of God, to bless the Lord together with him.
The reason the psalmist praises God is because he experienced God as a God who satisfies. He said, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits–who satisfies you with good as long as you live.”
In the Hebrew, the word for “good” is טּוֹב (‰ôb). The word describes a state of happiness and well-being a person enjoys when that person receives a blessing from God. Generally, the word (‰ôb) refers to practical or economic benefits. The word “good” can also mean “happy.” The word is often used to describe a happy occasion in the life of an individual.
The word translated “satisfied” is the Hebrew word שָׂבֵעַ (´¹b¢a±), but that word has many different meanings. The primary meaning of the word is “to be satisfied with nourishment.” When the people of Israel ate manna in the desert, they ate and they were satisfied.
The word also means to be full. In Psalm 147:14, the city of Jerusalem is called upon to praise Yahweh because he has filled her with the best crop of wheat. The Bible declares that when David died, that he died “at a good old age, full of days” (1 Chronicles 29:28). The expression “full of days” (literally “satisfied of days”) is an idiomatic expression that expresses the death of a faithful believer blessed by God (see Genesis 25:8).
The Old Testament portrays God as the creator who showers the mountains with rain and the earth is satisfied with the fruit of God’s labor (Psalm 104:13). The trees of the LORD receive all the rain they need and they are satisfied (Psalm 104:16). God gives the animals their food in due season and they are satisfied (Psalm 104:27).
But for a blessed Israelite, his satisfaction was God himself: “I will be satisfied with Your presence” (Psalm 17:15). Another individual praised God because he had experienced God’s faithful love (God’s hesed). For him, his fellowship with God satisfied him more than the richest food available to him (Psalm 63:3-5). Thus this blessed believer praised the Lord because he had received a special blessing from the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 33:23).
The author of Psalm 103 had much to be thankful to God. Because the psalmist was delivered from death, God now satisfied him, not only with nourishment for his body, but also with nourishment for his soul. By faith, the psalmist was able to tap into God’s riches and find satisfaction for his soul. Paul expressed the same idea with different words. Paul said, “My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches and glory.”
This post was originally published on April 12, 2011.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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