“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).
Today I conclude my study of Psalm 103. For the previous studies on this wonderful psalm, click on the links below. Each link will direct you to a study that deals with the psalmist’s expressions of praise in the first five verses of Psalm 103.
The final declaration of the psalmist’s praise is his gratitude for the renewal he experienced as God healed him of his disease. The psalmist 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 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
It is the grace and love of God that renews the life of his people when they wither like the grass (Isaiah 40:7). The goodness of God is powerful to strengthen, not only a person’s spiritual life, but also their temporal life. By God’s grace, people are renewed like the eagle, that is, in strength and vigor.
The reason the psalmist praised God was because he had experienced God as a God who renews. The Hebrew word for “renew,” is חָדַשׁ (hādash). The word carries the idea of repairing or rebuilding. It is possible that the idea of the psalmist’s life being renewed like the eagle is based on the fact that eagles renew their feathers periodically. It is also possible that the imagery was taken from Isaiah 40:31: “Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”
The fact is that the psalmist was declaring that his restoration was so complete that his strength and his vitality were renewed and he received a new lease on life. His life was rebuilt, made anew by the power and grace of God in bringing him out of the grave into this new relationship in which God made an impact on his life.
The psalmist knew that when God touched him, forgave his sin, and healed his disease, that something different, something new, something important had happened to him. It is interesting that Arthur Weiser, in his excellent commentary on the book of Psalms, published in the Old Testament Library said this: “The poet realizes that the opportunities which life offers lie before him just as they did in the sunny days of his youth. He is able to infer from his own experience that it always means a new beginning when God enters into a man’s life. This is the Old Testament understanding of what the New Testament describes as being ‘born again.’”
Now, when a German Old Testament scholar uses the word “born again”, you know that something very important has happened. No wonder the psalmist was praising the Lord! He was a born again psalmist. So we can identify with his rejoicing. His experience of being close to death, of being touched by the love and by the grace of God brought him to the realization that God had given him a new life. And now he wants to dedicate this new life to the worship and to the praise of God. Now he wants to declare to everyone around him what the Lord had done for him.
Time and space do not allow me to study the remainder of Psalm 103. You should read the rest of the psalm because in this psalm, the psalmist declared what God has done, not only in his life, but in the life of his people. Now he can enjoy his personal relationship with God in which he is able to call God “a father who has compassion for his children” (Psalm 103:13).
As we come to the end of our study, what have we learned from these first five verses of Psalm 103? We have learned that the psalmist is able to teach us the true meaning of worship. Worship includes not only public praise and prayer. Worship, in the Biblical sense, is the expression of love and gratitude to God for everything that God has given to us and everything that God has done for us. When we read the book of Psalms, we discover that it is full of outbursts of praise to God.
However, to the author of Psalm 103, gratitude to God was the fundamental motive behind his expression of praise. His worship of God included adoration, confession, praise, and thanksgiving. But, above all, he was grateful for what God had done for him. The psalmist did not worship God to gain the favor of God, but rather to express gratitude and thanksgiving for what God had already done, for what God was doing and, by faith, for what God was going to do in the future.
The study of Psalm 103 is important to God’s people because in this psalm people learn from the psalmist how to worship God. People in our churches today need to learn that the biggest motivation for worship is gratitude. This is the reason people of faith must join the psalmist and praise the Lord: “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and that is within me. Bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and do not forget all of his benefits.”
Why should believers today join this born again believer of Psalm 103 in the praise of God? There are several reasons. I think believers should praise the Lord because, like the psalmist, believers know that God is a God who forgives all of their sins. Believers should praise God because they know that God is a God who heals all of their diseases. They should praise God because they know that God is a God who redeems their soul from the grave.
Believers should praise God because they know that God is a God who rewards them with his faithful commitment and tender love. They should praise God because they know that God is a God who satisfies them with every good thing. They should praise God because they know that God is a God who renews them by giving them eternal life.
What else can people say and do in view of God’s mercy? What else, but repeat the words of the psalmist and use them as an invocation to their own being to praise the Lord: “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not all of the things that God has done for you. Bless the Lord, all of us, people of God and forget not all the things that God has done for us.” As long as we remember all of the things that God has done for us, we will praise God and rejoice in the knowledge that God is our Redeemer, who is alive and present with us, the God who will be with us always until the end of the days. So, let’s use again the words of the psalmist and say, “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me.”
Let us express our gratitude to the God who renews us: “Lord, we are so grateful for everything that you have done for us. We know that we have been forgiven. We know that we have been healed. We know that you have rewarded us and satisfied us. Now, Lord, we come before your holy presence and we bring to you our lives. We offer upon the altar of service everything that we are and everything that we have as an expression of gratitude for all of the benefits that you have given to us. We thank you and we praise you for what you have done for us.
Arthur Weiser, The Psalms. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1962.
This post was originally published on May 2, 2011.
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Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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