Praise God (Psalm 103)
Psalms sing to the soul. The very soul of music is the music in the soul. Psalm 103 rings out the praises of God without interruption. Although the words belong to the Old Testament, the music belongs to the New Testament. There is not one jarring note in this song of praise. Whereas Psalm 102 is filled with complaint and petition, Psalm 103 rings out only praise and affirmation. The circles of praise ever enlarge. The individual begins with personal praise (vv. 1-5). He then enlarges on the grounds that Israel has for national praise (vv. 6-14). There is finally a call for universal praise from every created thing (vv. 20-22). The psalmist eagerly invites you to sing a song of a forgiven soul.
Praise God with the Priority of Praise
The priority for praise is personal. Twice the psalmist exhorts himself for praise: "Praise the Lord, Ï my soul" (vv. 1, 22). Praise is not our natural response. It must be excited, aroused, and stimulated within. Regardless of how we feel or what others do, it is our duty and responsibility to praise God. We know that the psalmist was a passionate praiser of God. If someone such as he had to goad himself to praise, how much more do we.
The priority for praise is total. He speaks to his own soul. This is the ego of the psalmist speaking to his total being. It is a dialogue within himself. All of us carry on inward conversations. What should be the subject? The praise of God. We should praise God with all that is within us. Every faculty, capacity, and inclination must be given over to the affirmation of God.
The priority for praise is unforgetful. We are not to forget any of God's acts performed for our benefit, His deeds of loving-kindness. There is a great inclusiveness here: all of me is to praise all that He has done. That is enough challenge for a lifetime of praise. We tend to forget God's goodness and remember our own griefs and complaints. What is the "all" that we are to remember? He gives us a series of images.
We thank God for the law court of heaven: He "forgives all your sins" (v. 3). This is the fountain from which all else flows and the greatest cause for praise. Praise God for the hospital of heaven: He "heals all [your] diseases" (v. 3). This is sometimes immediate (2 Sam. 12:13) and always ultimate (Rom. 8:23). We praise God in the slave market: He "redeems [your life] from the pit" (v. 4). We have been bought back from the grave itself. All of the above would be enough, but God takes us to the throne room where He weaves us crowns of loyal love, the banquet room where He fills us with satisfaction, and finally to the mountaintop where our vitality is renewed like that of the eagle. These are all of His benefits, none of which we should forget and for all of which we should offer Him praise.
Praise God for the Reality of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the divine revelation of God from the beginning. The psalmist looks back to what God revealed of Himself to Moses in the past. Moses asked to know the ways of God (Ex. 33:13). In response God passed before Moses proclaiming His basic attributes (34:6). These attributes are named in our psalm: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (v. 8).
Forgiveness is the actual operation of God in our experience. God does indeed drop His case against us. "He will not always accuse" (v. 9). On Calvary God ceased to press His suit against you. He is not like a person who harbors a grudge looking for the opportunity of revenge. He does not try to balance the books against you (v. 10). Who could deny the truth that God has not dealt with us as He might?
Forgiveness is the immeasurable separation of God from our sins. God's love is like Himself—infinite. The psalmist stretches language to its capacity to measure the divine geometry of forgiveness. The height is as high as the heavens, the breadth as far as east is from the west. Others saw that God casts sin into the depths (Mic. 7:9) and goes to the length of casting it to the back of His presence (Isa. 38:17).
Forgiveness is the fatherly invitation of God to His family. No infinite distances express the grace of God as does the intimacy of family. The Lord has compassion on His children better than the best of human fathers. Whether you look back to history, inward to personal experience, upward to the heavens, or homeward to the Father, every horizon is filled with praise for the God who forgives.
Praise God for the Eternity of His Love
One ground for the fatherly love of God is His knowledge of our own mortality and frailty. God knows our mortality. His knowledge is personal. He Himself knows as no other how we are formed. He made us. His knowledge is historical. He was present and personally responsible when He fashioned us from the dust (Gen. 2:7). The Everlasting One understands in a way we cannot what it means to face death and the grave. God does have compassion on such frail, mortal people as we are.
He knows the brevity of our vitality: "As for man, his days are like grass." He knows the vanity of our beauty: "he flourishes like a flower of the field" (v. 15). He knows the anonymity of our memory: "its place remembers it no more" (v. 16). Our weakness, frailty, and brevity of life call out divine mercy.
In contrast to all of this is the eternity of God's love: "from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him" (v. 17). Join with all creation forever to praise the eternal One!