Commentary on Psalm 103
What is the message of Psalm 103 for us today?
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
To Phineas F. Bresee, one primary objective of a church service was "getting the glory down." In saying that, he did not mean working up a frenzied emotional atmosphere with a significant volume of "amens." Instead, Dr. Bresee, who was one of the principal founders of the Church of the Nazarene, meant that every service should be characterized by a conscious sensing of God's gracious presence. [ more on P.F. Bresee ]
Psalm 103 is the song of someone who "got the glory down." It's the song of a believer with a full heart; it is of someone who has experienced the incomprehensible dimensions of God's love.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1).
Those words can only spring from a heart that senses that God is indeed with His people. One of the noblest hymns in the Old Testament, Psalm 103 does not sound one jarring note. It is a hymn of pure praise.
I enjoy meetings and large Nazarene gatherings where "getting the glory down" is a wonderful celebration of God's presence. This spirit of Psalm 103 has been characteristic of the Nazarene movement down through the years. I hope we never lose it.
Naturally, we do face certain tensions that tempt us to quench the Spirit. A shallow emotionalism that crops up has caused us to be overly wary at times. The Devil tries to induce us to tone down things in the name of propriety, decency, and good taste. A need to care for the mechanics of programming and organization has sometimes stolen away the energy and time to enjoy and praise the Lord.
When Satan succeeds with these tactics of distraction, it is unfortunate. It means we have not remembered "all His benefits," as the Psalmist reminds us to.
When I originally wrote this column, a 14-member Nazarene Mission Team from Northeast Oklahoma was with us helping finish the Moncalieri church building in northern Italy.
As part of the morning worship service on Sunday in the new building, Rev. Robert Leffel and I read Psalm 103 alternately in English and Italian. What a great moment it was as believers born in nations thousands of miles apart witnessed that the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him (v. 17). [ Missionary stories from Italy ]
This remembrance of the loyal love of God and His forgiving power brought tears to the eyes of Italian and American alike as all heard those words in their native language.
Our challenge is to keep the spirit of Psalm 103. No fear will cause us to hesitate in our praise to the Lord.
Let's "keep the glory down" this year. "Bless the Lord, O my soul."
Imagine what a transformation there would be if every member of your local church could recapture in his life the spirit of Psalm 103. What a transformation there would be in our entire denomination if every local church would recapture the spirit of Psalm 103. Our dropout rate would plunge downward. Our efforts would be more fruitful.
Such a transformation would, of course, have to start with you and with me. "Bless the Lord . . ."
-- Howard Culbertson.
I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It was published in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes produced by The Foundry.