Summary: To keep from complaining, feeling depressed or having anger towards God, David reminds himself of the benefits that God has lavished upon him such as forgiveness, redemption, renewal, compassion and unending love.


Psalms 103:1-22

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While some Psalms are addressed to God, the righteous, sinners, Israel, Gentile nations and others; Psalms 103 was written by David to himself. Unlike others, this Psalm was not written due to harassment of his enemies or private guilt but to remind him to always remember the blessings God has lavished upon him. David knew it was easy to praise God in the good times but not so much during times of trials and tribulations and certainly not during times in which he was the recipient of God’s punishments. To keep from complaining, feeling depressed or having anger towards God, David reminds himself of the benefits that God has lavished upon him such as forgiveness, redemption, renewal, compassion and unending love. These benefits of course can only be received by obeying God’s commands and His will. With all these benefits in mind, with His innermost being David cries out for himself and all creation to praise the Lord!

A Complaining Heart

During difficult times the children of Israel often gave prayers to God riddled with an attitude of complaint! What would it have been like to witness the Ten Plagues of Egypt? Due to their fear that Israel’s numbers had grown too large and would inevitably end up joining their enemies and fighting against them (Exodus 1:6-10), Pharaoh forced Israel into slave labour and worked them ruthlessly (1:11-12). To see Moses approach Pharaoh and say the infamous words “let my people go” (9:1) would have been one not easily forgotten. Nor how could one ever forget the plagues of the turning of water into blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease, boils, hail, locusts, three days of total darkness or the death of the firstborn? We are told God delivered the children of Israel with these mighty acts of judgment (7:4) and when they left Egypt Israel received so many gifts from the Egyptians that it was like they plundered the nation (12:36)! You would think Israel would be eternally grateful and yet at the Red Sea (14:10-12), at the waters of Marah and Elim (15:22-27), and at the Desert of Sin (16:1-3) the children of Israel complained and told God that they wished they had remained slaves in Egypt!

Lest we think less of the Israelite people than we ought, do we not complain to God every time we face difficult times or His punishments? When our health fails, our debts overwhelm us, marital relations break down, appliances break or enemies threaten us; are we not the first to complain to God with hearts filled with depression or maybe even anger? We either sink into a depression so deep that it feels like our souls will be forever crushed or we become enraged at God for allowing these tragedies to occur in the first place! And what about those times in which God punishes us? Even though it goes against Scripture, are we not the first to accuse God of not doing good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28) or giving us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Are not our complaints a subtle attempt to force God to rewrite our story and take out all the bad things in our lives? And if God did choose to rewrite our story without any difficult times then how could one ever mature in the faith (James 1:2-4)? To keep from complaining or being angry at God, we need to be like David and choose to combat these sinful attitudes with one of praise for all the benefits God has already given us!

Benefits God Gave Us

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

In the opening of this Psalms David is rousing himself to shake off apathy or gloom of his circumstances by remembering the benefits that he has already received from God. “We often falsely assume that praise, to be genuine, must be spontaneous. But here we learn that self can be commanded to exercise itself to confess God’s mercy.” For David this intensely personal question of how he was to praise God properly must encompass his entire inner being, the totality of his human essence. Nothing else but loving God with all his heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5) would suffice if it were to be proper thanksgiving. By remembering what the “Lord has done throughout the history of redemption, for creation at large, for the community, and for oneself;” David knows that he can thwart a critical and carping spirit to embrace one of reverence of the One who was the rock of His salvation (Psalms 62:2). The following section will explain the four major benefits that David focusses on and in turn will invite you to count your blessings as well.

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