Eugene Peterson’s book “Eat this Book” teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. Psalm 103 encourages us to rehearse the good things that God has done for us and respond with passionate thanks.
PSALM 103: 1 – 12 (NIV)
“Praise the Lord, my soul;/all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,/and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins/and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit/and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things/so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness/and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,/his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,/slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,/nor will he harbor his anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve/or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,/so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,/so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Psalms 103 and 104 are part of a quartet of four hymns that conclude Book IV of the Psalter. They are closely linked, as the ‘Bless the Lord’ frames of each indicate. Psalm 103 speaks of a God who creates and sustains all life. The Message version of the first two verses reveals the passion of the psalmist writer:
O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
I wonder if I have ever praised God from “head to toe!” Enthusiastic worship, whether external or internal, (depending on our personality type, I suppose) is a “must” for the Hebrews – and should be for us as well. The Psalm also gives us the encouragement to practice the soul training exercise of reciting or journaling our blessings daily.
David, whom scholars agree is the author of this psalm, blesses God (or “praises” God in the NIV) for a variety of actions: forgiving sins, healing disease, redeeming lives, crowning lives with love, satisfying desires, working righteous and justice for the oppressed, making God’s ways known to man, acting with compassion and grace, being slow to anger and quick to love, and removing our transgressions. What a job description God has! And how easily we forget his work in our lives.
♥ When God’s words are written in our hearts, they come into our mind unbidden. Try to memorize these verses 1-2 (or more) 12 verses of Psalm 103.
♥ Write about a time or share with a your spouse, your children or a friend about a time when you have felt one of the actions listed in the paragraph above (forgiving, healing, acting with grace, etc.). How does this recounting sustain your faith?
♥ Make a list of the songs and hymns that these verses remind you of – Great is Thy Faithfulness or Amazing Grace, for example – and choose one or two to listen to or sing during your day for the next week.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Lately, I have been intrigued by all of the ways churches serve as the holders of memory. Our churches, especially older churches, literally have remembrances carved into them. My church has stained glass with names long forgotten by the congregation. Our hymn board was given in remembrance of a name forgotten by the congregation. As I reflect on Psalm 103, I am beginning to see these names in new light. They are like the lines of the Psalm in that they are reminders of the ways in which God met people in their need. They are records of God’s action. Commemorations of the acting God.
“As I reflect on those names, I am also beginning to know what it feels like to forget God’s benefits. To lose the stories of God and God’s people is tragic. I am therefore grateful that the space between the lines is a generative space, capable of birthing and holding the new stories of God’s steadfast love. What is lost can be found again, what was born can be reborn, what was dead can be made alive. (Adam Hearlson, Working Preacher website, August 21, 2016).