Reading through the Bible together

Monday, November 18, 2013

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Psalm 103 is one of the most joyous and beautiful of the Psalms.  It has been called the “Highest Mountain Peak" of the various praise Psalms because it takes the soul to breath-taking spiritual heights.  When our son was in his teens, I once read this Psalm aloud at the close of Sabbath.  When I finished, he spoke with tears in his voice:  “That is BEAUTIFUL!”  

This Psalm is crafted like a grand musical symphony, with four parts.  Read it aloud and  give a good pause after each section.  In the introductory section (vs. 1-5), the speaker talks to himself.  Most  Psalms directly address the LORD or the  congregation.  This one teaches us how to talk to ourselves.  Pastor Paul Tripp is fond of saying, “No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do.”  Psalm 103 shows us how to talk to ourselves and command our soul to remember all the LORD’s benefits--to remember how He forgives our sins, heals our diseases, redeems us from destruction, crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and satisfies our mouths with good things.  It shows us how to command our souls to praise God.

In the second section (vs. 6-14), the speaker becomes a spokesperson for the children of Israel,  remembering how the LORD delivered them from Egyptian oppression and was “merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy”:  “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”  “As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

The third section (vs. 15-18) illustrates the shortness of man’s life without God.   “As for man, his days are like grass; . . . But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him and His righteousness on the children’s children to such as keep His covenant and who remember His commandments to do them.”

In the fourth section  (vs. 19-22a) the speaker summarizes why God helps individuals and His people: “His kingdom rules over all.”   Then the speaker instead of calling on himself to praise God, he calls on the myriad of angels and all God's  works to praise Him: “Bless the Lord, you His angels. . . . Bless the Lord, all you His hosts. . . . Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion.”

As we read verse 22b, the passage at the end of the composition bringing it to a formal close, we can join the speaker as he repeats the first line of the Psalm: 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul.”



R. Lynn Sauls
Retired Professor of English and Journalism
Southern Adventist University