It was 1519 in Leipzig, Germany two centuries before Johann Sebastian Bach came to that city, became the music director in the church there and wrote new music for every Sunday – a body of work which all of us have come to know and love. But about two centuries before Bach in Leipzig, a powerful force had been unleashed in Germany and all across Europe in the form of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a Catholic monk, a very powerful personality, a very powerful figure and very capable teacher. He had posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany – 95 theses, 95 issues that he felt needed to be addressed and corrected in the Roman Catholic Church.
As a result of that, two years later he was called to a council in Leipzig. He had not yet really become a Christian, but the Lord was showing him the errors of the Roman system and drawing him toward the true gospel. He was summoned to a church there in Leipzig – very church which I visited, much to my own joy and benefit – and he was forced to sit at a kind of tribunal to answer for his heresies. He had denied penance. He had denied purgatory. He had denied indulgences – buying your way into forgiveness and heaven. He had denied salvation by works, he had denied papal authority, and his worst crime was he had affirmed sola Scriptura, that the only authority is the Bible.
In light of this he was summoned to Leipzig to face a man named Johann Eck. He was the Roman Catholic Church master debater. They brought the best to handle Luther. Eck’s responsibility was to expose and denounce the heresies of Luther and particularly sola Scriptura – Scripture alone. The result of that encounter, that tribunal, was a papal bull, or a papal declaration. Exsurge Domine came out in 1520, and what that papal bull declared was that all the teachings of Martin Luther were heretical, and they were banned all across the Roman Catholic landscape.
That amazing discussion between Luther and Eck was overheard by a young man. In fact, this young man was Eck’s secretary. He was there to assist Johann Eck. His name is Johann Gramann. In listening to this discussion he came away realizing that Luther was right, and the one he represented, Johann Eck, was wrong. He was convinced of the true faith eventually and joined the Reformation, left Leipzig, and Gramann became a gospel preacher.
In 1525 he wrote a hymn, a hymn that has endured to this very day. Happily in 1863 it was translated from German into English. The title of that hymn is My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker. “My Soul, now praise your Maker/Let all within me bless His name who makes you full partaker of mercies more than you dare claim/As high as heaven’s above us, as dawn from close of day, so far, since He has loved us, He puts our sins away/Praise Him forever reigning, all you who hear His Word – our life and all sustaining/My soul, O praise the Lord!”
In 1680 a man named Joachim Neander, another German poet, had been living a very sinful life. He decided to go to church to mock the preacher with some of his friends. But sitting under the preaching of the gospel he was converted. He eventually became the assistant pastor to the very pastor he had come originally to mock and under whose preaching he was saved.
When he became the assistant pastor he was given the regular responsibility – get this – of preaching every Sunday at the 5:00 a.m. service. He died at 30. Maybe that 5:00 a.m. service killed him. But during his final year at the young age of 30, he wrote a hymn, which you already sung this morning: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation/O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy hope and salvation/All ye who hear; now to His temple draw near, join me in glad adoration.”
1719, Isaac Watts who wrote some 750 hymns, including When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and many others, wrote this hymn: “O bless the Lord, my soul/His mercies bear in mind/Forget not all His benefits who is to thee so kind/Thou bless the Lord, my soul/ His grace, His love proclaim/Let all that is within me join to bless His holy name.”
It was the 1800s in Scotland, and there was a young man by the name of Henry Lyte, who his father described as a useless young man – sort of Scottish flake who only wanted to fish and hunt. Life became difficult for Henry Lyte because he was orphaned. In 1816 he was by the bedside of a dying man. He saw death’s cold, grim reality, and he left that deathbed to find a Bible and begin to read it.
Through reading the Word of God he was converted to Christ. He became a preacher of the gospel, preacher of the Word of God. He also was a fine musician who played the flute. And he also was fluent in Latin, Greek, and French. And then he wrote poetry. I think in 1834 he wrote his best; and you also sang that this morning: “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven/to His feet thy tribute bring/Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven/who like thee His praise should sing/Praise Him for His grace and favor to our fathers in distress/Praise Him, still the same as ever/slow to chide, and swift to bless/Praise Him, praise Him, glorious in His faithfulness.” That hymn has become so popular that it has been sung at many coronations.
Now why am I mentioning these hymns spread from 1525 to the 1800s? Because they were all written based on Psalm 103. And in fact, all the music this morning was written from Psalm 103, including It Is Well With My Soul. Perhaps only Psalm 23 has led to more music than Psalm 103.
Psalm 103 is pure praise from start to finish. It is eternal praise, and it is gospel praise. It is full of gospel truth. In fact, I think I’m safe in saying that Psalm 103 is an Old Testament anticipation to the book of Romans. Psalm 103 is pure worship. It has a riveted focus on one person: Yahweh. That is the only name of God used in this entire psalm. Yahweh is the tetragrammaton, the unspeakable name of God, the I AM. It is focused on worshiping the I AM, the Eternal One.
The worship is basically made up of recitation and remembrance of the magnificent reality of His salvation blessings. And when I say this psalm is pure praise I mean that in this sense: there is no mention of any historical circumstances around this psalm. Many psalms, as you start into the psalm, you see at the beginning at the heading of the psalm a historical note: “This was written at a certain event or a certain time, certain occasion.” There is no mention of any historical circumstance with regard to the writing of this psalm. That is very fitting. It is universally applicable.
For the Christian believer it is the focus of his life. For a believer this is true north. There is no mention of enemies, foes, or threats. There are no requests; there are no complaints; there are no petitions. This is just pure worship to God. No clouds on the horizon, no notes of disappointment, no lines of sadness. It is all joyous, thankful, overflowing praise rising from the hearts of those who have been given full and eternal salvation. No more pure outbursts of praise exists in Scripture.
And this is an all-in praise. It begins with four “alls” and it ends with four “alls.” It begins and ends with a very personal call to worship. The first line, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” The last line, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” And so it begins and ends with a personal call to worship, and in between it traverses the infinite universe to command everyone and everything that exists to praise the Lord, to bless His name, to worship Him. It is a psalm only for believers, those who, according to verses 11, 13, and 17, fear the Lord, those who fear the Lord, or those who are true worshipers of the Lord; or in verse 18, “those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.” This is for true worshipers who obey the commandments of God.
It is set in the listing of the Psalms as the first psalm in four psalms that close out Book Four of Psalms. There are five books of psalms. This Psalm 103 is part of four psalms that close Book Four. They’re all calls to praise. Psalm 103 begins, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Psalm 104 begins, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great.” Psalm 105, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders.”
Psalm 106, “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting.” At the very end of Psalm 106, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. Let all the people say, ‘Amen.’ Praise the Lord!”
And you find as you begin Book Five, the first line is, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.” It’s as if the praise at the end of Book Four is still echoing at the beginning of Book Five. So this is a section of psalms that are just loaded with praise. The psalm that we’re looking at begins that list of four psalms that ends Book Four.
Some ancient sources tell us that David was most likely the author; we can’t be sure about that. And some say that they think David is the author in his old age; we can’t be certain about that. But I can be certain about this: old age is the best time to praise the Lord. I can tell you that from personal experience.
Why is old age the best time to praise the Lord? Because you have the longest, richest experience of divine power and blessing and providence and favor. The older you grow, the more your life ought to be constantly an act of praise, an act of worship. If you have walked with the Lord for decades and decades and decades into old age, you have a long, very intimate, very personal, highly manifest, very real life of experiences with the power and the blessing and the providence of God. This entire song is offered as worship to God.
Again, Yahweh is the only divine name that appears, and it is His own name; not a descriptive name, but His name: I AM. It is the worship of the I AM, the one true and living God, the one who eternally exists, who never had a beginning, who never has an ending. He is alone absolute reality; all other reality He created. He is constant, independent, sovereign. He is truth, He is love, He is light, He is life. He is beauty, He is perfection, He is holiness, He is joy. He is everything. So He alone is worthy of worship. This is Yahweh, and He is also the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now this psalm is a call to worship, it has three parts. The first call is an internal call, verses 1 to 5, let’s look at it. It’s an internal call. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” It begins with the command to one’s own soul to speak to God in ways that give Him honor and glory, describing His majesty, describing His full beauty, describing all that is true about Him in terms of attributes and works. “O bless the Lord, my soul.” This is self talking to self. If you’re going to talk to yourself, say this: “Soul, bless the Lord. Bless the Lord.”
That’s where worship starts. And the cry in the soul to the soul is only as loud as one’s knowledge of God. It’s only as compelling as one’s holiness. If you don’t know much about God it’s a very small voice that calls you in your own heart to bless the Lord. Or if your life is cluttered with transgression and sin and iniquity, you’re really going to find it very difficult to call on your soul to worship the Lord. This is from the soul that has a deep knowledge of God and a love for what is holy and pure.
And by the way, there’s no organ playing here. This is worship without a praise band, worship without an orchestra. There are no low lights. There’s no smoke and there’s no moody darkness. This is heart worship. This is the bubbling over of a heart that is reflecting on God and His character and the salvation that He is given.
The song is in the heart before it’s ever in the room. This is true worship. And the Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth, without regard to any external experience, without regard to any external aid; the sheer extravagant, exuberant joy and gratitude for God and His saving grace. “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
I find myself singing hymns in my head most of the time, I suppose in some ways next to breathing. The most routine thing I do is sing hymns in my head; and it’s been that way for many years. Part of that is the legacy of the hymns that I have grown to know and love. But what prompts the memory of those things is the heart desiring to worship. And when my heart reaches out to worship, it wants to find words that sometimes are better than I can come up with; and so it finds its way to hymns.
“Bless the Lord. Worship the Lord.” There’s something singular about that. This is all about Him and about none other. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” – that’s the general command; and it’s followed by this statement in verse 1 – “and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
“Bless the Lord,” and not just in kind of a partial focus or a partial concentration, or you know, finding a little slot in there along with everything else. But, “Bless the Lord, all that is within me,” all my faculties. This is not externally motivated, this is internally motivated. This is basically like loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. With all your capacities, with all your capabilities, you should be blessing the Lord; and you should bless His holy name, the name that encompasses His holiness, which is His separateness from sin.
Again, we have no knowledge of any event or any circumstance that prompts the psalmist to write this; so that this isn’t somehow motivated by an occurrence in life, this is a way of life. Nothing external moves the psalmist. It is the sheer contemplation of God in all His glory and His grace extended to us in salvation that causes praise to rise in the heart, and it rises to Him and the name of His holiness. It embraces His holiness, His separateness, His otherness. It is the heart erupting in gratitude for salvation.
This is how we are to live our lives; and it gets very specific in verse 2: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits, forget none of His benefits.” Some would translate the Hebrew word “sufficiencies”; but I like “benefits.” This is a command to my soul to note every benefit from God, every benefit, to catalog every grace, every mercy, every act, every provision, every protection, every kindness, every expression of love, every providence.
The song that I used to sing as a kid was this: “Count your blessings/name them” – any of you remember it? – “one by one.” That comes from here. “Count your blessings/name them one by one/and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” That’s exactly what this is saying, “Forget none of His benefits. Forget none of His benefits.”
This is so critical, that back in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy when the Lord is warning the people of Israel, Deuteronomy chapter 8, verse 11 says, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statues which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground when there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers didn’t know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God.” The warning: “Don’t forget the Lord, don’t forget His benefit, or you’re going to perish.”
This is how we are to live our lives with a constant cataloging and recitation of the Lord’s benefits. We’re behind, way behind. We’re behind today, aren’t we? We’ve already been forgiven today. We’ve already been protected and preserved today. We’ve already been illuminated and enlightened, and encouraged and blessed today. And so far, we probably haven’t said anything about thankfulness to the Lord.
This is how we are to live our lives; this is the fountain of praise. Just imagine what relationships would be like in a marriage and in a home and in any other kind of situation if we were constantly cataloging the blessings of God, which are beyond our comprehension, and living in constant praise and worship to Him. We wouldn’t have time for the nonsense. Forgetting is fleshly, forgetting is sinful. Live your life cataloging all His benefits, and you’ll live your life in joy, your own joy; and you make joy for everybody around you.
Now the Lord asks that we remember all His benefits. He also later asks, in verse 18, that we remember His precepts to do them. Is that asking too much? Remember His benefits and thank Him. Remember His commandments and do them. Is that too much to ask? He has forgotten our sins. That’s what He says: “Your sins I remember no more.”
In turn, can we remember His benefits? The benefits from God come nonstop at us. No one has ever lived who has been able to remember them all, so none of us comes close to worshiping in the way we ought to worship. To worship like this is what God demands, and it is what God deserves; but it is not what He gets.
He gives us at least a list to start with. Here are benefits, verse 3, “who pardons all your iniquities.” That’s a stunning statement, “who pardons all your iniquities.” Isaiah 43, forgets them, doesn’t ever remember them. This is the first of God’s gifts to the penitent sinner who has become a true worshiper. This is salvation, this is the door to all of the treasure house of divine grace and mercy. This is the beginning. This is the first gospel statement.
The gospel, the good news is that God forgives all your iniquities. That’s the good news. It’s not about a happy life. It’s not about purpose. It’s not about fixing your life so that you can be more maximally fulfilled. It’s not about giving you what you want. The good news is about the forgiveness of sin, by which you escape hell and enter heaven. This is where our thanks begins, “I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven. Again today, I’m forgiven. I’ve been forgiven. I’ll continue to be forgiven.” Just keep cataloging God’s forgiveness.
And then He heals all your diseases. Well, some people have said that means your physical diseases. It doesn’t, because it’s a parallel statement to “forgives all your iniquities.” And He does actually forgive all your iniquities. So whatever “healing all your diseases means,” it has to be as comprehensive as the forgiveness of your iniquities; and that can’t be referring to physical illness, because all of us are in the process of dying, and we’ve all got physical illnesses. What He’s talking about here is healing our spiritual diseases, the diseases of the soul.
In Isaiah 1, as God looks at sinful Israel, chapter 1, verses 5 and 6, He says, “Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick; the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil.” “You’re like an untreated leper,” He says to Israel, talking about spiritual maladies.
The Lord forgives all of our iniquities, and He heals all the diseases of our soul – pride, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, hatred, rebellion against Him. Those are the things that He heals. One day when we’re glorified He will heal all the diseases of our body when we receive a new body like Christ’s resurrection body. What are the benefits? Forgiveness and spiritual healing, which really describes regeneration, the making of a new creature or the new birth.
In verse 4, “who redeems your life from the pit.” He’s talking about your salvation, your redemption. But connected to your redemption is your resurrection, right? You will rise from the grave to be glorified, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, redeemed, “I belong to God who will lift me out of the grave.” Psalm 49:15 says, “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,” – or the grave. Amazing benefits: forgiveness of sin, the healing of your spiritual diseases, the redemption of your life, that one day means you will be lifted back up out of the grave to eternal glory.
And in the meantime while we wait for that, verse 4 says, “Bless the Lord who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.” It’s like a kind of coronation. He crowns us with lovingkindness. What is that? Committed love, checed [kheh'-sed] [???] in Hebrew. It means “committed love” or “covenant love.” That’s the kind of love that is unbroken, expressed in determined acts of the will of God by which He keeps His promise to those who belong to Him. He is a pardoning God. He is a forgiving God. He makes covenant with those who put their trust in Him; and He will never break that covenant.
So we thank Him for His committed love, His unbroken love, His covenant love, and also His compassion that is the action from that covenant love. Covenant love describes the relationship, and compassion describes the action of that relationship, the emotional side of God’s favor. God not only loves us with a committed love, but He loves us emotionally. He loves us so that He comes down and cares for us. He crowns us like royal sons and daughters with heavenly benefits. Committed love; it’s the promise of an unbroken love forever. And the fruit of that love is acts of compassion.
Verse 5 says, “He also satisfies your years with good things.” The sanctified, blessed life is the satisfied life. The sanctified, blessed life is the satisfied life. If you are walking with the Lord, if you have been saved, you walk in a way that God showers you endlessly with His heavenly blessings. They literally drown us in a constant barrage of love.
As a result, verse 5 says, “Your youth is renewed like the eagle.” The satisfied life is the wholesome life. It’s strong; it’s nourished; it flourishes.
You know, it was said back in 2 Samuel chapter 1 about Saul and Jonathan that they were swifter than the eagles and fiercer than the lions. This is the kind of imagery of a vigorous, strong life, powerful life. And that’s exactly what is promised by God to those who are His own. We need to be thanking Him for the forgiveness of our iniquities, for healing all of our spiritual maladies, for redeeming us, for resurrecting us from the grace, for crowning our lives with committed covenant love, and by that love pouring out acts of compassion on us, and satisfying us with every good thing, every good thing that pours life and vigor into our spiritual lives. “We will” – says Isaiah 40 – “mount up with wings like eagles; we will run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint.” This is what it means to be blessed by God. And so, in turn we bless Him back.
So the first call to worship is internal, speaking to my own heart, and thanking Him and praising Him and blessing Him for all this that He has given to me, so that my life is just this nonstop conscious expression of praise and worship. I don’t have time for other foolish things.
The call to worship then is internal; then secondly, it’s external. It starts in verse 6, and we’ll have to move through this rather quickly; but it’s external.
In verse 6, the psalmist moves beyond speaking to his own heart and he speaks of what God does for everyone who comes to Him. “The Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses.” All of these salvation promises were given originally to Moses, they’re in the Pentateuch. And then they were given to the sons of Israel.
God has revealed His redeeming purpose. God has revealed His righteous nature. God has revealed His judgments. He started with Moses at the first five books of Scripture, and then He gave His revelation to the sons of Israel, so that from the beginning from Genesis right on through the whole Old Testament we know about God’s redemptive purpose. And we know, as verse 6 says, literally Yahweh is always working total righteousness. Yahweh is always working total righteousness. He is always working in perfect righteous ways, according to absolutely righteous principles; and therefore, is undeviating in the correctness of His judgments – exact judgments. He provides righteousness for those who are captives to sin; and yet His judgments are righteous.
This is the riddle of the Old Testament: How can God provide compassion and righteousness to sinners and still be just? That’s the riddle of the Old Testament solved in Isaiah 53. The answer is He can give us mercy, grace, and forgiveness, because He punished Christ in our place. This is God’s redemptive plan. The only historical thing in this entire psalm is verse 7, which is general reference to Old Testament as the point of revelation of God’s character, nature, and redemptive love.
Then starting in verse 8 He gives all of us reason to bless the Lord. “The Lord is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in committed love.” We know those things; and they’re spread out in the Old Testament. I think of Exodus 33:34. I think of Lamentations chapter 3. There’s more of it in the Psalms, all the way through even to Psalm 145. These are things we know about the Lord: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in committed, covenant love.
Amazingly, verse 9 says, “He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.” What that means is He will not perpetually find fault with us. Is that good news? He will not perpetually find fault with us. He will not keep on bearing a grudge forever against us. Though He is perfectly righteous and all His judgments are correct, He will not always be our enemy. He will provide a way to become our friend. He will not always be angry with us.
In fact, verse 10, one of the most precious verses anywhere in Scripture: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins.” Is that plenty of reason to bless the Lord? “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” If He did that we’d all be in hell. He hasn’t done that. He put our sins and our iniquities on Christ.
And now as Christians who belong to the Lord, we still have sins. But even now He doesn’t deal with us according to our sins. Our sins are many; His judgments are few. Our sins are heavy; His discipline is light. We are weak, but He has not crushed us; He only wounds us, and then heals us. Our sins have been continual and persistent; His blows are occasional and slight. Our guilt is heinous and provocative; His forgiveness is patient and merciful. John Calvin said, “He wonderfully blesses those He might justly destroy.”
His lovingkindness, His covenant love, His committed love, His complete forgiveness of all our sins is so staggering and so vast that it can only be explained by two illustrations of infinity. And by the way, these are the most perfect illustrations you could find in human language, which isn’t surprising since the Holy Spirit is the author.
But look at how he explains this kind of mercy, this kind of salvation. Verse 11, here’s the first illustration of infinity: “For as high and the heavens are above the earth, so great is His covenant love, His committed love toward those who fear Him.”
“As high as the heavens are above the earth.” How high is that? Well, people in biblical times wouldn’t have understood; probably thought they could count the stars. I’ll give you a little help. The latest NASA stat tells us that they think they know where the edge of the universe is, and they suggest this: if you go 186,000 miles a second, which is the speed of light, you could reach the end of the known universe in 225 trillion years.
He loves us with a committed and covenant love that is infinite, has no bounds – God doesn’t have to use that kind of hyperbole – is so stunning and so staggering that you might wonder if it’s actually true. But God wants to illustrate His love for us in an infinite way.
He does it again with another perfect illustration of infinity: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” How far is the east from the west? That also is infinite. Line going in two opposite directions go into infinity.
And yet our ingratitude for this kind of covenant love and this kind of forgiveness, it takes our sins into infinity. Our ingratitude and stubborn sinfulness would exhaust the patience of anyone, except the One who loves us infinitely and forgives us infinitely. No wonder Micah says in 7:18 and 19, “Who is a pardoning God like You? Who is a pardoning God like You?”
Why such love? Why such infinite forgiveness? Verse 13, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He’s mindful that we are but dust.” He loves us like this because He’s our Father. He’s our Father. “He has compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children. So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him,” those who worship Him, true worshipers.
He gets it, He knows our frame, He knows our human structure. He’s mindful that we started out as dust and we go right back to dust; He understands that. He knows the feebleness of our will. He knows the strength of our sinful impulses. He knows the violence of our selfishness. He knows the readiness of our disobedience. He knows the easy disruption of our prayer, the fragile character of our joy. He knows all that.
“He knows” – verse 15 says – “that we’re just like grass; like a flower of the field, we flourish. The wind passes over, it is no more, its place acknowledges it no longer.” We’re here and gone. We’re so fragile.
He is infinite, and we’re this little pile of dust that blows away. He understands our meager strength, but He’s not like us. He is not like us. “And He extends to us lovingkindness” – says verse 17 – “that is from everlasting to everlasting.” Another statement of infinity.
What do you mean, “He loves us, His covenant love is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children,” – meaning – “on to generation after generation His saving righteousness”? What does it mean, “His lovingkindness or His committed love is from everlasting to everlasting”?
Listen to this. What it means is that as long as God has existed, He has had covenant love for His people. That’s right. It didn’t start when you believed. There was never a moment in the mind of God when He didn’t love His own, never. In eternity past before anything existed but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God had full covenant love extended toward those who had not yet been created.
From electing love to glorifying love, you are loved by God. You were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. He loved you in Christ before time began, and He will love you in Christ when time is over. The committed love of God for His people is as eternal as God is. There’s no time with God. He doesn’t learn anything. He doesn’t arrive on a new idea. He doesn’t come up with new people to redeem. He has always loved His own as long as He has existed.
God’s love is passionate, God’s love is emotional, it is parental, it is protective, it is vast, it is constant, it is omnipotent, it is infinite, it is active, it is beneficent, and it is infinite to the point that it will never change. He has always loved you; He always will love you.
Who does He love? Those who worship Him, true worshipers who manifest the truthfulness of their worship by, verse 18, “keeping His covenant and remembering His law, or His precepts, to do them,” those who are the faithful and the obedient.
I’ve said this before: we’re saved by grace, but our salvation is manifest by our obedience, isn’t it? We could never hope to trace back into eternity and grasp the glorious perfections of God. We could never pursue those glorious perfections forward into eternity future. But we can and must unceasingly praise and worship and bless the Lord who has always everlastingly loved us.
Now listen, honestly, nothing more clearly demonstrates our remaining sin than the ease with which we forget such staggering love and blessing. Say that again: nothing more clearly demonstrates our remaining sin than the ease with which we forget such staggering love and blessing.
There’s a final call to praise: an internal call, an external call, now a universal call, verse 19 – we’ll just do this briefly. “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” There is a king far greater than David, far greater than any other king. There is a king over all; it is the Lord. And since He is over all, the psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, you His angels.” They’re part of the “all” – holy angels, heavenly angels, eternally righteous angels. “Bless the Lord, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!”
Four things are said about the angels: they are His, they are strong, they are obedient, and they serve Him. They are forever worshiping Him. Their voices are never silent; and the psalmist calls on them to keep blessing the Lord.
And then in verse 21 he reaches beyond the angels, beyond the personal beings, and says, “Bless the Lord, all you His hosts.” What does he mean by “hosts”? You go back to Deuteronomy 4:19 where it says all the hosts of heaven are the sun, the moon, the stars. So he’s literally calling on all the created universe, even the inanimate elements of it, to praise the Lord.
Sounds like Psalm 148, listen: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord.
“Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all deeps; fire and fail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruit trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and winged fowl; kings of the earth and of all people; princes and all judges of the earth; young men, virgins; old men, children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. Praise the Lord!”
All creation is called to praise. So praise is first internal, and then external, gathering the saints, and then universal. The crescendo is incredible: starts in a fortissimo of worship with one person, ends in a pianissimo of the entire universe. And he ends right back where he started, “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” which is a way of saying, “Let it begin with me,” – right? – “let it begin with me.”
It was 1974, and there was a little boy born in England. This little boy was born into a very dysfunctional family, and his father committed suicide when the little boy was seven. He didn’t know that his father had taken his own life until he was ten. Left some scars on him. His mother remarried to a very abusive step-father who eventually ended up in prison for abusing the family. Hard life for that little boy in England.
Sometime later in his youth he went to a mission meeting in England where he heard the gospel and was converted to Christ. He is a very good musician. And in wanting to celebrate what Christ had done in his life he started writing songs. And he came to Psalm 103 and he wrote a song on Psalm 103. The name of that song is Ten Thousand Reasons, and that little boy was Matt Redman, and Ten Thousand Reasons is his expression of Psalm 103. Five hundred years after 1525, for all those five hundred years believers have been offering God their salvation praise through Psalm 103.
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