Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me,bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not 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 (Psalm 103:1-4).
You remember the Biblical charge “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might”? (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). Here is a demand on the totality of our whole being–holding nothing back. Without any trace of doubt, King David wouldn’t be oblivious of this. Thus in his moment of praise, he employed his whole soul and all that is within him.
From my experience, the natural response when one ponders what God has done in their lives should be praise. According to Matthew Henry,
“We make nothing of our religious performances if we do not make heart-work of them, if that which is within us, nay, if all that is within us, be not engaged in them.” ¹
In 1 Chronicles 17:16-20, after God has given David a promise to establish his house and his throne, he went into the temple and poured his heart out in praise to God. David was a man with an appreciative heart, as we must also be. In many places in Scripture, we are admonished to give thanks to God. Infact, Jesus threathened, so to speak, that if we do not praise God, God is able to raise stones to praise him. That my dear friends is sobering.
Looking closely at David’s praise, here are three things he praises God for.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
The starting point of David’s praise is the acknowledgment of God’s holiness. That infact appears to be the proper pattern of Scripture. And Jesus taught it in what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer saying; “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9). “Hallowed be your name”: that is reverence! When we approach God in praise, we must come with awe and adoration of his holiness: “Reverence for God’s self-revelation is the heart of the third commandment (Ex. 20:7) says R.C. Sproul. ²
God is holy–he is purely distinct from all others. Holiness is the highest of God’s attributes. All other things from God flows from his moral perfection. He is pure and there is no darkness in him. (1John 1:5). After they had crossed the red sea and the Israelites had witnessed all of God’s power, Moses, together with the people broke forth in praise singing: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 ).
Acknowledging God’s holiness puts our lives in proper perspective. He is holy and we are not. Albeit, we have been called upon as believers to partake in God’s holiness: “Be ye holy, for it is written, I am holy.” (1Pet 1:16). This command looks daunting because the standard for holiness is God’s standard. How then can we sinful humanity get to be holy as God? “No attribute of God is more dreadful to sinners than His holiness.” This dread showed in the Prophet’s Isaiah encounter of God’s holiness in a vision, he literally shuddered: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). For us who have come to saving faith, we are indeed sure of this one truth that God will work through us to attain the desired result–holiness (Phil. 1:13).
forget not all his benefits
What a loaded phrase. The Psalmist prompts himself not to forget all what God has done for him. Humans do forget but as believers we must not allow our hearts to fossilise in forgetfulness in our walk with God. Paul writing to the Philippians repeatedly prompted them to rejoice. And is quick to note that “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” (Phil. 3:1). You see, one of the ways by which we learn is repitition—constant reminders.
Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians says this about gospel preaching: “Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well[the gospel], teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.” That speaks about repitition—constant reminders about gospel truth so we dont’t forget. Have you ever paused to ponder your life before God? As the hymn writer said: “Count your blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Do you consider all what God has done in your life? Can you pay back? Then praise him.
Who forgives all your iniquity
Dear believer, “do you thank God for your salvation and that of other believers”? Perhaps many of us may thank God for numerous things in life but not our salvation. We may take it for granted that we are saved. If that is the case, you must repent because salvation came at a high cost—the cost of the life of Jesus Christ. See, he has redeemed our life from the pit—from desruction; from death, from eternal damnation. In our natural, unbelieving state as humans; God still saved us. That calls for praise. Praising God for our salvation appears to be the pattern of Scripture. David in this Psalm makes the work of God’s salvation the basis of his praise: “Bless [him] … 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.”
Apart from David, we see other biblical characters praising God about salvation. When Paul pondered the great work of salvation wrought by God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son and applied to our hearts through the Holy Spirit; he burst forth into doxology.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:3-6).
The Apostle Peter in like fashion as Paul, gave us words celebrating the great work of God’s salvation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
In salvation, God has extended his mercy to us who are unworthy. We who are undeserving of anything from God yet he has saved us: “who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” We can only be grateful and live our lives for him. Amen.
1 Matthew Henry, “Psalms 103”, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/psalms/103.html, accessed 31st March, 2019
2. R.C. Sproul, The Reformation Study Bible (Orlando: Florida, The Reformation Trust, 2016) 1763