Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thinking about: Psalm 103:1-5

A Psalm of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”[i]

For just over one year now I’ve sat and basically stared at Psalm 103:1-4.

That’s about all I can do.

I’ve tried to write about it, sermonize on it and I may have touched on it a time or two in Sunday School class, but I never can fully get beyond the shock-of-impact stage. I’ve read it in multiple translations, including the Hebrew and each time I look at it, I am in awe. Dumbfounded. Silenced. If I knew I could have 15 minutes of unquestioned non-interruption, you would find me in the prayer closet having arrived face-down and sliding.

Spurgeon comments on the delight and profit one experiences in observing the lives of biblical men and women, all the moreso that joy in marking God’s goodness in His acts toward them in deliverance and pardon and faithfulness in keeping His promises. “But,” he asks, “would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much as proof of His faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that he wrought all his mighty acts, and showed himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare his arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.”[ii]

Yes, we should review our lives to find those places where the Lord has delivered. We must search and find those places where He has manifested Himself. We must note where He has satisfied with fatness. When I get started in my review I feel as Pilgrim, who, after having awakened under the arbor sped off too quickly not then knowing he left the roll behind. I know that shame and guilt for not having paid attention to realize God’s provision was left behind. So each time I read these verses, I feel as Pilgrim returning to the arbor, going back down the hill and waste the time and energy for lack.

This is the beauty of these words.

Bless the LORD,” David tells his soul. Now, the soul could be simple, slothful, and presumptuous (stupid, lazy, selfish) blink sleepy eyes, waving the waker away until a more convenient time. But David lays a rousing kick to the ribs of the flesh. “Bless the LORD, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.” He got himself into a headlock and nuggied himself like a bad big brother.

The Hebrew is beautiful here. The word for “bless” is baruch. This is important, because it is not the same “bless” as ashre, as in Psalm 1. The reason for the importance is that ashre is unidirectional—from God to one receiver; on the other hand, baruch is multidirectional: from God to a receiver, then the receiver and share it with another and the other can even return it back to God. We can return back to God something He has shared with us and what we return to Him should involve every ounce of our being. The thing we return back to Him is the glory of His name; that is, the recognition of all that is associate with who He is and what He has done to the praise of his glory.

Imagine for a moment you are having a bad day and someone comes along and says, “Hey, did you forget you are saved? Did you forget you are a child of the king? Did you forget you were given everything you need for life and godliness?” And you begin to re-wrap your mind around these truths and you tell God, “Thanks for what you have done for me.” This is what “baruch” is.
Another way to say this is “forget none of His benefits.” He says the same thing two different ways: Bless (by rehearsing and remembering) and forget not. Well, what has He done what needs to be returned to Him and not forgotten? What are the benefits?

First, He has pardoned all iniquity. What does that mean? Some Bible verses that describe this activity:

Ex 34:7 talks about the LORD, “who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Ps. 86:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You."

Isa. 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Simply put: God removes sin.

God moves: On behalf of those who receive His loving provision; Against those who reject it.

God forgives: Those who admit they have sin; Those who want to be rid of it.

God pardons: He excuses the offense without exacting penalty; He pays out kindness where the sinner would deserve wrath.

“As we get older, we know what we need most from forgiveness is not suspension of punishment, but assurance that love is unbroken even when we are separated . . . We must realize that God is against us when we are sinning; yet we dare trust that His gracious love reaches to us across the chasm which separates us from Him. When we understand His loving attitude and accept His grace, He releases love in us. But that love we are able to begin to keep His commandments for us—to love Him with heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” (K. Morgan Edwards.)

Second, He heals all diseases. Look at what the Bible says:

Ex. 15:26: “And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.’

Ps. 30:2: “O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.”

Healing is not an unusual thing for God. It’s weird for us, mostly because we have a hard time believing Him. But do you know what the most amazing thing is? There is no separation of forgiveness and healing—they are both facets of the same act of God. This is true of this entire passage! The benefits being described are one and the same, they just manifest themselves differently! Check out Isa. 53:4-5. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”

Our Christian and Missionary Alliance brethren would get excited here because we are now half-way through the four-fold gospel![iii] Not four different gospels, but one with a wide range of application all centered on the person and work of Christ Jesus! Forgiveness of Sin starts with Him! Healing starts with Him! Jesus is our Savior, our Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King! Bodily Healing is all bound up in the atonement. God is the God of Health! So there is good news for the sick in body, sick in mind, sick in heart. Nothing else is needed because nothing else will work.

Some questions[iv]:

Q: “Does God will that every Christian be healthy all the time? Does sickness reveal that you are out of His will?”
A: No. (2 Cor. 12:7-10; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20; Phil. 2:26-27).

Q: “Should sickness be resisted like sin, because sin is the root cause of sickness?”
A: No. (2 Cor. 4:7-18)

Q: “Does Christ’s death for sin and sickness free one from both?”
A: Ultimately, yes. Presently, no. (1 Cor. 15:42-54; Rom. 8:23. Note 1 Pe. 2:24 and Matt 8:16-17).

Q: “If one has enough faith, will one be healed?”
A: No. God will not be manipulated. (Ps. 103:19; Jn. 11:4).

Q: “If one talks health, one will get well and if one talks sickness, one will get sick, right?”
A: No. This is animism. (Again, Ps. 103:19, Phil 4:8ff)

Q: “Since all adversity comes from Satan, shouldn’t he and it should be rebuked and overcome?” A: Not always (John 9:3; Rom 5:3; Heb 5:8, 12:11; Jas 1:2-5).

Q: “Is there some secret truth of God’s healing I need to know to be healed?”
A: No. God has His timetable (Phil. 2:27).

Q: “Doesn’t God’s blessing of Abraham through Christ guarantee us protection from sickness?” A: What God has left asunder, let no man put together! Don’t distort the message of Duet. 28 and Gal. 3.

Q: “Who is the channel of God’s miraculous healing today?”
A: No one person. Just God through Christ Jesus.

The problem with most of these questions is they are man-centered. We will not understand ourselves until we understand God first.

Third, we are told God redeems our life from the pit.

Ps. 49:15, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “This is one of the greatest affirmations of confidence in God in the Psalms. Although the faithless person cannot buy his way out of death (v. 7ff.), the faithful one is redeemed by the only Redeemer, God Himself. On the significance of the word “receive,” cf. Gen. 5:24; 2 Kin. 2:10; Ps. 73:24; Heb. 11:5. So in v. 15 the psalmist expresses his confidence in God, that He would raise him to eternal life.”[v]

The word for “pit” here is interesting as it has been translated, “pit”, “grave”, “destruction” and “corruption.”[vi] Also, “slime pit” and “dungeon.”[vii] When I read this, the best image I can get in my mind is that of Jonah.

Do you remember when I said that all of these benefits are really one thing with wide application? Here is another proof. Look at what God does, He “redeems.” Redeem means “to take”, “to buy back”, “repurchase”, “get”, “win back”, “to free from what distresses or harms”, “to free from captivity by payment of ransom”, “to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental”, “to release from blame or debt”, “clear”, “to free from the consequences of sin”, “to change for the better”, “reform”, “repair”, “restore”, “to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby”, “to remove the obligation of by payment”, “to make good”, “fulfill”, “to atone for”, “to offset the bad effect of”, “to make worthwhile”, “retrieve”.[viii]

Did you see PARDONING and FORGIVENESS and HEALING in there?

Pilgrim and Pliable were on their way from the City of Destruction toward the Wicket Gate when suddenly they fell in to the Slough [pronounced “slew”] of Despond [the swamp of depression]. Into the night they wallowed and could not get out, especially Christian, who was being pulled under by his burden. Along comes Help, who extending his hand, rescues Pilgrim from drowning in the swamp. Help asks, “what are you doing here?”

Pilgrim responds by recounting his meeting Evangelist and being directed along this path on the way to the Wicket Gate to be rid of his burden when he fell into the Slough. I love Help’s next question, “Why did you not look for the steps across the mire?”

Here is God redeeming from the pit!

What are you struggling with today? What burden is dragging you down? Here is true Biblical Psychology! Here is the study of the soul and the remedy for the problem!

Fourth, He crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.

Ps. 5:12 "For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.”

The Rev. Graham Hunter wrote a little sermonette on this verse and he opened his message by reminding his audience that it is the son of the king who is called a prince and princes often wear crowns, especially to celebrate great and special occasions.[ix] We who have accepted God’s provision for sin and His pardon, we who have and are experiencing his healing and redemption, belong to the Heavenly Father who is King.

“My father is rich in houses and lands;
He holdeth the wealth of the world in his hands;
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full; he has riches untold.
I’m the child of the King, the child of the King.
Through Jesus my Saviour, I’m the child of the King.”

Since you are a child of the king, you have the right to wear a crown. What is a crown? A circlet that is placed on the top of the head, probably made of gold, perhaps decorated with jewels.

Lovingkindness is better than gold. When God crowns us with lovingkindness, we receive something more precious than gold. You may not know this, but I used to sell gold and silver and precious stones and you know what? After a while, it becomes like anything else. It get cut and scrapped and piled and tangled. We used acid and magnets to test it and for the kind of work I was doing, those precious things became no more to me than lumber to a carpenter or iron to a welder. God crowns us with something that does not loose value.

And think about those stones: emeralds and diamonds and pearls and sapphires and topaz and amber and turquoise and lapis lazuli and onyx and rubies and garnets—we could just list them all. But what are they really?

Do you know what turquoise is? It is rust. Have you ever seen old copper? What color does it turn? Guess where turquoise is found—wherever copper is mined. You know what diamonds are—old plant life. You know what amber is—tree sap. So what’s so precious about those stones? And what about pearls? The slobber of a sea slug.

The crown God gives us is rich with life, more green than an emerald.
The crown God gives us is rich with purity, more white than a pearl.
The crown God gives us is rich with loyal compassion, more true blue than sapphires or lapis.
The crown God gives us is rich with fellowship, more bright than the yellow sunshine of topaz.
The crown God gives us is rich with a clear conscience, more transparent than a diamond.
The crown God gives us is rich with blood, more red than a ruby. The blood He shed for us, to wash our sins away, to heal us, to redeem us, to deliver us.

glitter graphics

[i]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ps 103:1. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. All scripture quotations are NASB.
[ii]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, July 9 AM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.
[iii] Simpson, A.B. The Fourfold Gospel. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1984.
[iv] Moore, William C. “Nine Half-Truths on Healing.” Eternity. May, 1983.
[v]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Ps 49:15. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[vi] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Test of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed., H7845. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996
[vii] Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed., HGK8846. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
[viii] Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Includes index. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993
[ix] Hunter, Graham. “Six Jewels in a Crown.” One Hundred Children’s Sermons. Hallock, G.B.F., ed. New York: Harper, 1924.

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