weekly Meditations

on psalm 103

Over the past months, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 103.  In this season of uncertainty, I thought it would be helpful to put out some of my meditations on Psalm 103—a psalm filled with grace and truth.  Expect one each Wednesday. I pray God will feed your heart through his word.

~ Pastor Dan

  • Week 3 - THE NEED

    "...who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit…. 

    (Psalm 103:3-4a)

    I suppose everyone, at some point in his or her life, experiences what it means to be truly thirsty--when you feel like your saliva has turned to a sludgy gel you can barely swallow. For me, it was on the side of a mountain in sub-freezing temperatures with my water frozen solid in my pack. Such dire thirst makes you think of one thing and one thing only--the need for water. Everything else disappears. And oh what refreshment and satisfaction you feel when you take your first swallow.

    Needs. We all have them. At some level we all feel them--the need for water, for food, for warmth, for shelter and companionship. But there is a need beneath needs--something the human soul cannot live without…at least not for long. We might call it the essential need of the human soul. It's the need for God--to belong to him, loved by him and in life-giving relationship with him. Without him, we're no better than a flower plucked from its root and placed in a vase. Life may linger for a while, but it is essentially dead. 

    When David preaches to his soul, he preaches how God has supplied this essential need--free of charge--to all who will seek life in him. He supplies forgiveness of all iniquity. Wait! Did David really say "all"…as in all past, all present and all future sins? Yes, he did! Yes, God does! Without forgiveness, there is no reconnection, relationship or living refreshment. There is only disconnectedness from Life. But God forgives at the expense of his own life that we might become wholly his--to re-graft us into the Root of life. Not only is there provision for guilt, but provision for its effect on the human body. Sin casts a long shadow of decay over our bones, marrow, muscle and tissue. We've been stung with the terminal disease of death that pulls us endlessly toward the grave. Yet, among the many gracious provisions, God "heals all your diseases." Yes! He has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes as the corruptible puts on the incorruptible. What a day it will be when our flesh is free from the numbing effects of sin so that we can enjoy with the fullness of all of our unfiltered senses the countless wonders of God in Christ, creation and the community of the redeemed. And never again to die, as God will redeem our "life from the pit" of death. The death of death--thrown forever into the burning sea, never to rise again. These provisions of grace are living waters for the thirsty soul in need of God.

    David is preaching to himself the gracious benefits found in Christ, who alone provides atonement for all iniquity, healing for every disease and release from death. This we must preach ourselves each day, so as to strengthen our hearts in the truths of God's grace. 

  • Week 2 - Forget not

    "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…."

    Psalm 103:2

    We live in a world hungry for the new and novel. This is especially true when it comes to upgraded technology, like the latest smartphone, or the newest form of social media, like Tik Tok. As a result, we leave behind a wake of discarded goods in a never-ending search for the new.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that the fascination with the new and noteworthy has made its way into the way we as Christians practice our faith. For example, think about the last time you heard a song like "Shout to the Lord" or "Shout to the North" used in a worship service. (I guess I had the word "shout" on my brain!) My guess is that it's been a while. Why? What happened? We've sailed farther down the river of "new" leaving behind songs that seem "so yesterday." But it's not just with songs. It's with words too. Too often, this same drive toward the new and immediate sends us running for a fresh prophecy or a new experience set forth in the newest packaging. Mind you, we're commanded to sing new songs to the Lord (Psalm 96:1) and the Spirit does communicate through the gifts. At best, however, the gifts of the Spirit communicate truth in a manner subject to fallibility. And at worst, they communicate synthetic words born out of human invention to create a false sense of the "spiritual."

    We need something deeper, something more certain, upon which to feed and restore our souls. After speaking to his own soul, David tells himself in verse 2, "forget not all his benefits." In saying this, he's reminding himself to remember something already known, already revealed and already true. To restore the soul requires a refocus of the mind to remember the innumerable gracious benefits that God offers us in his covenant--ALREADY given. These benefits rise out of his covenant promises to us, from which God will NEVER turn way. These are ironclad benefits of grace. In short order, David will list some of those benefits. But those benefits are then anchored in the enduring and unfailing words of Scripture (see verses 7-8 and compare to Exodus 34:6). 

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. If David, who was inspired by the Spirit to write infallible Scripture (like many of the psalms), fed his soul on the old but living words of his Bible, how much more should we? Perhaps we've made so much of new experiences that we have lost the appetite for that which truly satisfies; namely, the presence of God communicated through the old but powerful words of Scripture. So, when you find yourself empty and dry, may I suggest feeding yourself on what has already been revealed? Didn't David confirm this elsewhere when he said, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (Psalm 19:7)? I believe so.

  • Week 1 - Self Talk

    "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!" 

    Psalm 103:1

         Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror with exasperation and asked, "What is wrong with you!?" or "Why are you feeling this way?" If so, you're not alone. There are times when we experience things on the inside, in our respective souls, that we can't make sense of or sort out--maybe feelings of sadness, agitation, depression or what I think of as the general sense of inward "blah." At times we can pinpoint the cause of our inner discombobulation--a torn relationship, an inward struggle or physical ailment. At other times, and perhaps even most of the time, we cannot diagnose our soul-problem. 

         So, we ask ourselves questions like, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (Psalm 43:5). Psalm 103 provides both a sympathetic consolation as well as a way out of the doldrums in the spiritual life. I say sympathetic consolation because King David, a man after God's own heart, is here directing, even commanding, his soul to bless God.

         Why? Because, in a broken world infected by sin, there are times when our souls do not feel like blessing the LORD. All of us can relate. But the psalm is not written to leave us there, but to show us a path back to praise and blessing. And the path begins with speaking truth to the self. But it's not truth in the sense of mere fact. 

         The truth that will be spoken to the self in Psalm 103 is full of beauty, wonder, glory, God and quotations from scripture itself. In verse 1, David shows us that to move out of the doldrums, we have point our hearts back to glory, back to God, back to truth, back to the name of the LORD and splendor of all that his name entails. And as we do, we will begin to feel the fresh winds of life, passion and joy return to our fragile hearts. This is the starting point of psalm 103.