Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
In last week’s lesson Joshua gathered the tribes of Israel to Shechem where he recounted how God had blessed them and delivered them through the centuries. He reminded them of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reminded them of Moses and how God miraculously brought them out of Egypt. And then he recounted their more recent history of how they traveled through the wilderness to arrive the promised land. Through it all, Joshua is sure to remind them “it was not by your sword or by your bow”. It was by God’s divine intervention that they had been blessed with this land. Finally, he reminds them that they need to decide whether they will be loyal to the God who has brought them thus far or if they will serve the gods of the land in which they now live. You may remember the familiar passage: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Boyd’s, Townsend, and Standard title this week’s lesson “Love and Worship God”. The Scripture text comes from Psalm 103: 1-17, 21-22.
Last week’s lesson was from one of the twelve books of history. This week’s lesson comes from the five books of poetry and wisdom. Those five books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There are 150 Psalms and the book of Psalms is further divided into five books. Psalm 103 (today’s text) is in the fourth book. No one can say with certainty why Psalms has been divided into five groups but each group concludes with a doxology.
David is the author. It is believed he wrote this psalm in the latter part of his life. David now has the benefit of experience and all that living a long time brings with it. He has fought wars, killed a giant, and been an adulterer and a murderer. Now he understands the depth, height, and breath of God’s amazing forgiveness. When David looks back on all that he has been through, he realizes all that God has brought him through. This is a psalm of thanksgiving. David does not petition God for anything in this psalm, he does not ask for deliverance, help, or blessings. He is thankful and he wants to let God and all the people know that God has been good to him.
What takes place in this passage:
David begins this psalm with “Bless the Lord, O mysoul”. This is essentially saying let all that I am bless God. The soul is not a part of a person. The soul is the person. Townsend commentary says it this way – “You do not have a soul; you are soul”. So with everything that David is, with every fiber of his being, he declares bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me. It is the totality of what and who David is. David exhorts – “Do not forget all his benefits”. And then he lists some of the benefits of a close and personal relationship with God. Davis remembers how God has given him forgiveness, healing, redemption, crowned him with loving-kindness and tendermercies, and how God has satisfied him with good things.
He continues by remembering the character of God. Verses six through fourteen are addressed to the community. He began verse one with his own personal exaltation and continues verse six by exhorting the community. He reminds them that God works vindication and justice for the oppressed. David wants them to know that God has a special love for the oppressed but also for those who have repented of their sin. He can write about God being merciful and gracious and slow to anger because he knows of his own sin. He says “God does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities”. David knows that if anyone deserves punishment for their sin it is him. Just remembering what he has done and how God has still been merciful and gracious to him is enough for him to give thanks with every fiber of his being.
David continues his description of God’s goodness with the use of simile. He compares two different things to make the point of God’s greatness. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast love toward those who fear God”. “As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us”. Oftentimes mere words are inadequate for the feeling in our soul. When words aren’t enough painting a word picture gets us a little closer.
Finally, in the remaining verses David senses the ideas of eternity and transience in his own life. He describes the entirety of life as grass and a flower of the field. It grows, flourishes, and then with the blowing of the wind, life is gone. And just as he began this psalm with an exhortation to bless the Lord, he closes in the same way.
If I had ten thousand tongues, I couldn’t thank God enough. That’s the idea that comes to mind as I read this psalm written by David. He is in his later years of life and clearly realizes how good God has been to him – even when he wasn’t good to himself. This is a psalm of complete, wholehearted,and unreserved thanksgiving. Townsend writes “praise is offered to God simply because of who God is, thanksgiving is offered in response to specific things God has done”. David had plenty of specific things to thank God for. But he also wanted all of the Israelites to know about this gracious and merciful God. A God who is gracious and merciful to repentant sinners also.
Key Characters in the text:
The Lord God –
David – He is the son of Jesse and successor of King Saul. He was a shepherd boy, a young warrior who killed Goliath, the adulterer who forced Bathsheba, the murderer of her husband and yet still regarded as the greatest king of Israel. Even with all of his problems and sin, he is still known as a man after God’s own heart.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Psalm– A hymn, sacred song, or poem. The book of Psalms is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.
- Soul– Primarily, “soul” is the life principle (Gen 2:7). For Hebrews it indicated the unity of the person as a living body. The New Testament term also refers to one’s life (Matt 2:20) or existence after death (Luke 21:19).
- Simile– A figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in“she is like a rose.”
Themes in this Lesson:
- Thank God for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- God loves the sinner too.
1. Psalm 103 is an individual thanksgiving to God. Do you have one?
2. A repentant heart recognizes the harm of sin against others and God. Yet God does, in fact, forgive us. Can we do the same for those who have hurt us and caused us harm?
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.– Maya Angelou
David could never forget how God made him feel when he realized God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Nextweek takes us to the New Testament. From the Gospel of Luke we look at Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, the Holy Spirit’s encounter with Simeon, and the realization of the young couple that their child would be a savior for the world.