Reflections on Psalm 103: A Hymn of Praise for God’s Mercy

Reflections on Psalm 103“Bless the LORD, O my soul!” Psalm 103 begins and concludes with this exclamation and command to the psalmist’s own soul to praise the Lord. Between these two lines, which function as an inclusio and reveal the song’s theme, Psalm 103 flows with the same thought pattern of the traditional Christian Doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow; (Strophe 1: vv1-5)
Praise him, all creatures here below; (Strophes 2-5)
Praise him above, ye heav’nly host: (Strophe 6: vv20-22b)
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (Epilogue: v22c)

This short paper will follow a similar outline, offering personal reflections on the main points of Psalm 103.

How Personal is God’s Mercy! (Strophe 1: vv1-5)

The psalmist begins by reminding himself how wonderfully personal is God’s mercy. He is overwhelmed by the abundant mercy poured out upon him – mercy that manifests itself in visible and hidden ways. These great benefits are intimate in nature as he speaks to himself: forgiveness of your sins, healing of your diseases, salvation from death, loving and tender mercies, and rejuvenation of your soul.

O that every Christian would remember the moments when the Lord works wonders in our lives. It is during times of struggle and depression when I must remind myself how God has not forgotten me, how He has always met my needs in the midst of physical, emotional, and spiritual trials. At the transitional periods in my life God has always provided: going away to college, venturing out into the working world, and lonely nights when I needed loving companionship.  God has always been my Rock, my solid ground, and my high tower in which I sought refuge.  His ear is always listening when I cry out, even though I may not sense Him for long periods of drought.

My memories of His care for a broken heel at the beginning of a long rock-climbing, mountain biking, and hiking trip bring joy to my soul. My friends and I only had a six-week window after college graduation to take such a long vacation away from home. I had saved money and planned for months before, putting my hopes and dreams into the promise of excitement and thrills. But only a few days into the itinerary I slipped from a rock and fell eight feet. My heel palette was fractured by the landing impact of my fall, and I could not put any weight on my right foot. Only one day passed before anger welled up against myself, my predicament, and God for allowing just an accident to happen. But although the wound did not heal completely for almost a year, I was able to continue (under medical authorization) a majority of physical activities on my vacation despite the pain. God healed the hurt in my heel, but more importantly the hurt in my heart during the days that followed. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Close friends and a loving, vibrant church community in my college town of Blacksburg, Virginia were still on my heart during the year following graduation. A half-dozen times I left Northern Virginia after work on a Friday evening to make the trip to my spiritual home for the weekend. At some point on that long drive, my heart would become alive with prayer and song to the Lord. Truly my youth was renewed like that of the soaring eagle, as God was satisfying my mouth with the good things of soulful praise (Ps. 103:5). I had this same experience every trip, and each time it sprung on me without hint or warning.

Psalm 103 calls me to remember how personal God’s mercy can be to his children, and that I should always “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

(Continue reading here.)

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