Forgetting Not His Benefits Psalm 103:1-12
This is the weekend before Thanksgiving. I know that we as God’s people are thankful for many things our God has done. Providentially, in this country we have one day a year set aside to express our thanks to God. We must not forget all that God has done for us.
In the 103rd Psalm, David wanted us to remember some things that we are all too prone to forget. David wrote: “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.” (Psalm 103:1–2). David’s song opened with a reminder to himself of how important it is to bless the LORD God. He called himself to personal praise and to worship. In Hebrew parallelism the phrases, “O my soul” and “all that is within me,” are equivalent statements.
Do we recognize how important proper praise of God is? Both Isaiah and the Lord Jesus, Himself, warned the people about the importance of worshipping from the heart. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.” (Matthew 15:7-8). God was not ever interested in praise that came only from the lips, and liturgy, which was external worship only. The living God desires our hearts to be tuned to Him.
David’s worship and praise had a focus. David’s worship was not just warm and fun feelings, it was proclaiming the wonder of who the Lord Yahweh is and what He is like. He centered his thanksgiving upon what God did for him.
In verse 2, we discover David’s first reason for his whole person to praise and bless God. Here is the theme of our study – “Forget not all of His benefits.” In this first stanza, David listed blessings we must not forget.
From verses 3-4 we learn the first benefit on David’s list was God forgave all of His people’s iniquities. “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Without these benefit we could have no relationship with the thrice holy God at all. Charles Spurgeon observed in his remarks on this verse, “Babes may praise the divine goodness, but fathers in grace magnify His holiness.” When we count our blessings and name them one by one, do we name the blessing of forgiveness of sin?
God did not only delivered us from the guilt and penalty of our sin, He also changed our lives. “Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Not only does He save us and forgive us, and constantly show His compassion and kindness toward us, He fills our lives with physical blessings too. Always remember “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights with Whom there is no varibleness nor shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). If it is good, it came from God.
Verses 6-7 remind us of all that God does. “The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel,” David thinks about the blessings God shed on His people as a whole. From this revelation of who God is and what He does, David wants to underline the privileges we enjoy.
Having thought through a short list of what he should be blessing God for, David wrote about how the living God dealt with the sin of His people. He dealt with our sin in a legal way when He saved us, but we did not stop sinning the moment we were saved. So, while God dealt with sin once for all in our salvation, He also deals with our sin in a practical day to day way
We find in verse 8 that as God deals with us, His sinful children, day by day, He is always “merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” God responds to us first in mercy and grace. Praise God for that. If He acted in His justice, we would be constantly in the divine woodshed.
David adds in verse 9, “He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Leupold wrote that verse 9 promises our God will not stay angry with us for long. There is a great verse on this in another Psalm. “Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Aren’t we glad that God does not remain angry with us, His children, when we sin? I am so glad that we can count on the joy coming in the morning.
The reason He does not remain angry with us is verse 10. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” This verse is for us who know Him. Praise God, He does not deal with us according to our sin. If He did, we would be dead and in hell at this very moment. The Psalmist asks in Psalm 130:3, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” The answer is no one could stand. God does not mark our iniquities and hold them against us. He put them on Christ and He died for them.
Instead, He removes our sin from us. Look at verses 11-12. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
How immeasurable is the grace and mercy of God extended to us? I love this word picture. How far is the heaven above the earth? As far as the heaven is above the earth is how great God’s mercy is. While David rejoices in this truth, he wanted us to know this is not for everyone. He added, “toward those who fear Him.” While His wrath falls in judgment on others, He spares those who have come to Him by faith because He himself delivered them.
Because He saved us, verse 12 is true. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” You can only travel so far north before you are traveling south, but you can go east forever and never be going west. I think of the other wonderful promises of forgiveness that God gives to us who know Him as Savior. In Micah 7:19 we read, “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Again, we read in Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” This reality is what causes Paul in Romans 8:33 to ask, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” We can sing “My sins are blotted out I know/ My sins are blotted out I know/ they are buried in the depths of the deepest sea/ my sins are blotted out I know.”
Let us remember what the Son of God who died for us accomplished. Let us be following David’s advice today. “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:”