Sunday, May 05, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!"

“Praise the LORD, O My Soul”
May 5, 2019 :: Psalm 103

We’re going to take another break from the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t plan this break, but apparently the Lord did.

When Emilee died on Thursday, and Heather and I went to be with Ken and Rob & Michele at the hospital, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to just preach the next text in Matthew this Sunday. I was pretty sure that I needed to go back to the Psalms.

And I figured that if I needed the Psalms, probably many of you would need the psalms, too.

As I said a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading and praying through the Psalms deeply in 2019. They have been the focus of my morning devotions each day.

And I just finished reading that excellent book on lament, that biblical practice of taking your pain and sorrow directly to the Lord.

A few weeks ago, we looked together at Psalm 41 which has some strong lament in the middle of it.

I highly recommend Psalms of lament when your life hurts.

Psalm 103 is not a song of lament though it recognizes the reality of pain and suffering in our lives.

Psalm 103 is more a song of comfort and gratitude.

We often read it in November around Thanksgiving.

And we sing from it year round to give praise to the Lord for His many blessings.

In recent years the song “10,000 Reasons” has become popular, and it is based on this Psalm. Psalm 103. We’re going to sing it next Sunday.

The thing I appreciate the most about Psalm 103 is that in it King David talks to himself.

You know that it’s okay to talk to yourself?

I like that this Psalm gives me permission to talk to myself because I do.

You know if you wear a Bluetooth earpiece nowadays people just assume that you’re talking on the phone. “Yes, hello!”

So, it’s socially acceptable to talk to yourself now.

Well, it’s also spiritually acceptable to talk to yourself.

In fact, it’s spiritually recommended to talk to yourself.

It’s spiritually necessary to talk to yourself the way that David does here.

He talks to his soul.

The title of our message is the first line of the Psalm:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

That’s what we call Hebrew parallelism.

The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
I say, “the Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.”

When David says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

He’s saying the same thing twice.

He’s talking to his soul which he calls his inmost being.

The King James says, “All that is within me.”

He’s talking to himself.

And he’s telling himself what to do.

We all need to do this from time to time.

We all need to give our own souls a talking to.

Because our own souls, our own hearts, don’t necessarily want to do what they are supposed to do.

Can I get an Amen?

David talks to his deepest insides, the real David down deep inside, his heart, his soul, and he says, “Hey, soul? Praise the LORD.”

“You may not feel like it, but do it anyway.”

“Praise the LORD. Praise His holy name.”

That’s important. That means praise God as He truly is. As everything that His holy name signifies.

David is preaching a sermon to his soul.

Why did he need to do that?

What was going on in his life?

When didn’t he need to remind himself of this?!  Remember the life of David that we read about a few years ago in 1 and 2 Samuel?

My friend Pastor Russell Muilenburg once wrote this about Psalm 103:
The Biblical record does not tell us when in his lifetime he wrote this Psalm, but there are many occasions in his story when these words may have fallen from David's lips.
When he was a young man his death was ordered by King Saul, his father-in-law and mentor.  For months on end he lived as a fugitive in the hills of Israel.  Separated from his wife and forced to act like a madman in the presence of his mortal enemies, he lived his every day on a dangerous precipice where the slightest mistake would mean his life.  He was a wanted man, a hunted animal in a land which had once hailed him as a hero.
Surely in the long nights he spent hidden away in secrecy caves there were times when the running nearly got the best of him.  Times when he was ready to throw his hands up in the air and turn his back on God.  Times when he felt like cursing God rather than worshiping Him.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or again, after David married Bathsheba she bore him a son who lived only a short time.  For seven days David fasted and wept while his infant son was overcome by illness.  He was so distraught over the sickness that when the child died the servants did not dare tell him for fear of what he might do.
Surely this was one of the darkest times of David's life, a time when the forces of unbelief waged relentless battle with his soul.  And yet, when he did learn of the child's death, scripture tells us he picked himself up off the ground, put on clean clothes, and went into the house of the LORD to worship (2 Sam. 12:20).  Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or still later, as David's reign as king neared its end, his son, Absalom, mounted a coup against him.  Once again the loyalties of a nation that had so revered him were turned away.  An exile from his own city David was forced into enmity with his own flesh and blood.  Surely in those days when he was mustering an army to fight his own son, David must have wondered where God was.  Surely there were times when he wanted to give in to the dark impulses of his soul.  Times when he was prepared to abandon his faith in God for the life of the frustrated skeptic.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." (“A Pep Talk for the Soul” Russell Muilenburg,  Sermon: 3/5/00)
One of things I’ve loved about reading the Psalms this year is that we often DON’T know what was going on the psalmist’s life that was causing and shaping the psalmists to write these songs.

So they are so readily applicable to whatever is going on in our lives right now.

You don’t have to be going through the exact same thing as David to sing the same song he does.

But we do need to sing this song, and we need to sing it our ourselves, to our own souls.

V.2 “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–”

He repeats himself again.

And this time, he takes it another step.

Praise the Lord involves remembering.

It involves remembering, not forgetting all of the blessings that the Lord has given you.

Sometimes, when something bad happens to us, we forget all of the good things that have happened to us.

And we forget WHO gave us all of those good things.

David says to David, “Don’t forget all of the LORD’s benefits.”

And then he lists some of them to himself (v.3).

“...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

David says, “Remember that, David?!”

“Don’t forget!”

It’s so easy to forget.

So David says to David, “Remember He "forgives all your sins" (and David was forgiven much!). He "heals all your diseases" (David had been healed many times by the Lord). He "redeems your life from the pit" (How many times did the Lord rescue David? He "crowns you with love and compassion" (and David knew about crowns. What a beautiful picture of his care for David–a crown of love and compassion on his head!) He "satisfies your desires with good things" (The Lord was David’s shepherd.) He renews your youth "like the eagle's" (Giving David the vigor and vitality he needed to be a man after God’s own heart).

All of those blessings and more have been given to David by the LORD.

And David told David to not forget any one of them.

We need to count our blessings, too. And remember that they are the Lord’s blessings given to us.

That’s David’s list in verses 3-5. What’s on yours? What’s on mine?

“Praise the LORD, of my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

In verse 6, David moves from focusing on himself to all of God’s people, and he begins to say even more what God is like. V.6

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

David sees God clearly.

He sees that he worships a God–who no matter what the circumstances that we find ourselves in–this is a God worthy of our praise. And he preaches that goodness and praiseworthiness of God to his own soul that his soul would give God the worship that he demands and deserves.

How can he do this? He knows who God is. He says (v.7) that God made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. Because God spoke through the 10 Commandments and through the miracles and through the prophets and through the Word of God, we can know what kind of a God, God is.

Does verse 8 sound familiar to you?

It should. It’s one of those foundational touchstones of the whole Bible.

It comes from what God said about Himself when Moses asked to see His glory.

And God said, “No, that won’t work. But I’ll hide you in the cleft of a rock, and I’ll pass by and you can see the afterglow of my back.” Whatever that means.

And when the LORD went by, He said His name.

His holy name.

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

That’s who God is!

And David knows it.

And he wants his soul to know it and respond with praise.

In the remaining verses of Psalm 103, I want us to see 3 major things about the LORD that are always worth praising. Three reasons to praise the holy name of God no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Three aspects of His character that are foundational, bedrock truths about God that we can build our lives upon no matter what comes.

The first is that:


“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The Lord is the gracious forgiver of our sins.

David could give praise to God because he knew something of the mercy of God. He knew that the LORD is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

He knew that God is a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin; his own experience with Bathsheba had taught him that. But he also knew that for those who repent and confess, God stands ready to forgive and show mercy and to lessen the discipline and treat us in a way we do not deserve.

And if this was the experience of David, an Old Testament saint, how much more so for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior?

We know that God's love for sinners is very great. Verse 11 says that "as high as the heavens are above the earth" that's how great God's love is for those who fear and serve Him.

Think about that for a second. Nobody has yet given an exact measurement of the universe. From our perspective on this rock we call Earth, the celestial heavens spread out above us in a never ending canopy. That's how great God's love is for His chosen people.

It is out of that unending love that God sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that we would not have to experience Hell. All who put their trust in him and give him their lives will not taste Hell, but instead will enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

O, how we do not deserve this! And O, what a joy this truth is for us sinners!

That’s what this table down here represents.

Verse 12 says, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us."

Let your mind dwell on that for a second.  East and West NEVER touch, especially the minds of the Israelites. East went that way and West went that way, and they didn’t touch. And for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our sins have been removed from us like east from west. Opposite directions.

That means there is no record of our sins anymore. No abiding smudge or stain still attached to our souls. Our sins are separated from us by a measureless expanse that stretches beyond infinity.

Does that describe you? Have your sins been forgiven? Removed from you like east from west? Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?

I have to tell you this morning, that if you don't know Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior, then you must repent of your sins and trust in Christ to be saved.  Or you will not be forgiven. You must cast yourself into the boundless mercy of God and receive the forgiveness of your sins. You must accept Him by faith and believe in His name and let Him do His redeeming work in your life.

And if you do know Him as your own Lord and Savior, then His forgiveness of your sins should be the first stanza in the song you sing to your soul each day. Preach this to your soul!

“The LORD is the gracious forgiver of my sin. Praise the Lord, O my soul.”


“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

The LORD is the everlasting lover of our souls.

The everlastingness of God's love for us is contrasted in these verses with the frailty and brevity of human life.

We have felt that this week with the passing of Emilee.

She was here, and then she was gone.

Our lives are temporary and short and fragile.

Verse 14 says that we are dust.

We pretend sometimes that this is not so, we tell ourselves that we are going to live in this world forever.

But David knew better. He knew that this body was created from dust, and that it will return to dust.

But God's love isn't like that. God's love isn't limited by our frailty or subject to the same limits as we are. It’s not fragile and breakable and brief.

David says that from everlasting to everlasting God's love is with those who fear Him. From beginning to end, even from the point of our conception, God's love abides with His covenant people.

In fact, in verse 13, David compares this everlasting love of God to the love earthly dads have for their children.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."

The love that Rob has for Emilee is a beautiful echo of the oceanic love that the Father has for His children.

I love my four children. I can’t believe how big they are getting. Robin is done with school. Drew is headed into his senior year.

But our love for our children is just a fraction of the everlasting love that God has for us!

Right? Like we saw last week? How does God feel about us who are His “little ones?”

And think about this, our own frailty and brief life on this earth are not the end of the story.

There is coming a day when all those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead and these "dust"-formed bodies will be trans-formed bodies–to be like Christ.

Think about that!

In the everlasting love of God there is a day coming of glorious reunions with those who gone on before.

And we know there will be no tears there that day–and if there are, they will be tears of the purest joy.

God's love for His people is everlasting. And David knew that. He relished the fact that God loved him. Even though he didn't deserve or earn God's love–no one can (and that makes it all the more sweeter)–he was loved by God, and he knew it and it was a reason for praise!

If you are feeling crushed and destroyed, if sadness seems to be the cloak that life has wrapped around you, make this truth the second point of the sermon that you preach to your soul: God's love for you has no end.

“The LORD is the everlasting lover of my soul. Praise the Lord, O my Soul!”

Number three and last. We need to preach to our souls that:


“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

The LORD is the is the sovereign ruler of our lives. David says that his kingdom is over ALL. A-L-L. All!

The Lord is king. He rules over everything from his throne in heaven. Everything in our lives is ruled by God. And David knew that.

Nothing makes it into our lives by accident. Nothing is outside of God's kingly control. Not the Sun, not the Moon, not the Stars. Not creatures, not humans, not chest pains or cancer, not blood clots, not miscarriages or stillbirths or broken relationships or famine or earthquakes, or the loss of a job, or anything else!

Nothing is outside of God's kingly control.

And when you put together the truth of God's everlasting love for his people and the truth of his kingly control of all things, then you can praise God that nothing that comes into your life will be for your ultimate harm. God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. All things.

We don’t know He does it.

And we don’t have to like everything that He allows.

He doesn’t like everything that He allows!

He hates death, for example.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s out of His control.

He is the King.

The LORD holds the strings of our lives in His hands. There is nothing outside of His kingly sovereignty. And He is compassionate and gracious; He loves us with an everlasting fatherly love, and His kingdom rules over all. All.

David knew that. And we know that.

And we need to preach it to our souls.

God is in control.

When you are feeling lost and the events of your life seem to be spinning at a frantic, riotous pace, remember: God is in control.

Incorporate it into the fabric of your life. Sing it over and over again to your soul.  Urge your heart to know and believe and cling to this truth:

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

“LORD is the Sovereign Ruler of our lives. Praise the LORD, O my Soul!”

Lament, yes.

Don’t just praise God. Take Him your pain and your complaint and your trouble and your anguish.

But, also, give Him your praise.

Think about how these three things all fit together.

God isn’t just one or two of them. And He doesn’t just do one at a time. He is all three all the time.

Do you feel burdened by the indescribable weight of your sin?  Preach to your soul. “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His gracious forgiveness.”

Do you feel lost and alone in this incredibly hostile world? Preach to your soul.  “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His everlasting love.”

Do you feel the ravages of doubt and fear in a life that so often fails to make sense?  Preach to your soul.“Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His sovereign rule over my life.”

David wants us all to join him in his call to all of creation to bring praise to God: v.20.

“Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”