Psalm 103: A Psalm of Praise
We have been walking through the OT together this year, and we have seen that God uses people during each season of their lives -- some seniors who thought they were ready to sit back and take it easy; some going through times of difficulty; som in their youth. Whatever season of life, God can use us right where we are. We saw in the OT God bringing Abraham’s descendants together making them into a special nation, and He gave them a king who had a heart for God, King David. David was a great leader, and was well loved by the nation of Israel. David was an artist, a musician, and wrote many ballad and songs for the nation of Israel. They were compiled together into a songbook, that was given the name “The Psalms.” Last week, we saw that there is much in the Psalms that deals with prayer.
But there is a wide variety of topics in the Psalms, for they reflect the whole range of emotions - anger, frustration, joy, questioning - whatever you’re feeling, you can probably find a Psalm that expresses your feelings. Really, that is the purpose of the Psalms -- not to teach us intellectually great truths that we need to KNOW, but rather to lead us EMOTIONALLTY to express truths that we already know. The Psalms lead us to LIVE OUT from our HEARTS what we already know in our HEADS to be true.
That’s a problem that many of us have. The staunch, stoic background that many of us were raised in tells us we can’t show emotion. Hold it all inside. Like the man who said to his wife, “Honey, I love you so much that sometimes it’s really hard not to tell you!”
Or like the man who wanted to take his wife on an airplane ride on one of the old-fashioned crop dusters, but he didn’t want to spend much money. He made a bargain with the pilot. The pilot wanted $100 for both the husband and the wife, but he told the husband, “I’ll make you a deal: If you can keep from screaming out during the ride, I’ll let you both go for $25.
The pilot did all sorts of turns and spins, trying to get the man to scream out. When they got back to the ground, the pilot congratulated the man and said, “I didn’t think you could do it.” The husband replied, “well, there was one point that was sort of hard: I really wanted to say something when my wife fell out!”
Sometimes we are like that husband when it comes to scripture. If it blesses our hearts, we really try hard not to let our face show it, and definitely not tell anyone else. But that is NEVER what God intended for us to be like. We are emotional beings. When we come to scripture, we are to laugh, to cry, to rejoice, to clap, to praise. And the Psalms lead us in all of those emotions.
Today, we want to look at the idea of PRAISE as seen in the Psalms. Throughout the Psalms we see the idea that we need to give God praise, for who He is and what He has done. But this morning, we are going to look at just one Psalm, Psalm 103, and see what it has to say to us. As we turn there, let’s pray for God to guide our time together. PRAY!
Read Psalm 103--
This is a Psalm of praise. And it starts out with the reminder to Praise the Lord. The King James Version uses the term, “Bless” the Lord. But so often we use this idea of blessing in a wrong way. We say, Johnny fell down and broke his leg -- bless his heart! But the term here for “Blessing” is really the idea of “bending the knee” before.
How can a human being “bless” God - we surely don’t give him blessing - He blesses us. But what we do offer is our PRAISE - we bend our knee before him in honor and salute. We magnify him and proclaim his greatness. This is a Psalm of Praise, reminding us that we need to be actively engaged in praising our God. And this morning, I want us to be reminded of 4 lessons about praising our God.
1. Praise is Personal - We live in a corporate society where we come and worship God as a congregation and we sometimes feel if we have been at church, we have done our part in worshiping God. Songs are sung, God’s word is read, and we feel that WE as INDIVIDUALS have praised if we have been present in the crowd. But that idea is never brought out in scripture. There are corporate things we do as a congregation, but praise always carries with is a PERSONAL aspect as well.
This morning, as you leave the sanctuary, the question will not be whether we corporately have praised God as much as whether you PERSONALLY have praised God.
David starts out this Psalm, “Praise the LORD, O my soul” - His praise was personal. It is something that comes not from the head, but from the heart. Remember the story Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the IRS agent: The Pharisee has a beautifully scripted prayer and tells God of all that he has DONE to win God’s favor: the tax collector beats his chest in humility and says, “God, be merciful, to me a sinner.”
Sometimes we know all the right WORDS - we say our prayers, in our HUSHED TONES,
“Our most gracious heavenly father ... we thank thee for thy bountiful blessings ... bless all the missionaries ... give us thy travelling mercies ... and we speak to God like we would never speak to anyone else. And by the what, what are “traveling mercies”? Mercies that travel from place to place? We don’t talk like that in real life, so why use the $10 high-fallooting terms when we pray!
Praise is not what we know in our heads, it is what we feel in our hearts. David says that praise is an internal issue, a heart issue, a soul issue. It’s not whether we sing hymns or chorus or contemporary songs - it’s not whether we stand or sit - it’s not how loud or soft the music is - it’s not whether we know all the words. It’s the response of a heart that is greatful to God. It is very personal.
2. Praise is Passionate - David continues on, “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” In the KJV, the phrase is “all that is within me”. This is referring to a undivided heart. Praise comes from the heart, but it comes from a heart that is set firmly upon the Lord. You can’t be holding on to sin in your heart and praising God at the same time. You can’t be cheating on your spouse and praising God at the same time. It just doesn’t work. You can sing all the words of the songs - you can pray a prayer and it might sound like Billy Graham wrote it himself - but it is not praise to God if your heart is not in it.
James 3 reminds us, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
God wants us to have a heart that is right with him. He doesn’t want our sacrifices, our offerings, until he has our heart. David reminds us in Psalm 51, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Samuel reminds us in 1 Samuel 15 - “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
If we are going to praise God, it starts with a heart that is right with God. It does no good to try to praise God is you are hiding from God. Because to praise God, as we’ve said, is to bow the knee, to acknowledge that God is over us. If that is true, then to truly praise God, we need to do what he says.
This morning, are you passionate about praising God? Or do you simply show up because it’s Sunday morning? God wants worshippers who came with their whole heart prepared to praise!
3. Praise is Purposeful - Verse 2 continues on - Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- Sometimes we forget that there is a reason to praise God. We do it out of routine, ritual, and when we do that, we are no better than the pagans who worship their idols of wood and stone.
How often do we read the Bible just to check off a list, or pray a prayer and not remember whether we prayed or not - - we can’t even remember what we prayed about.
David makes an interesting connection here - praise is tied to remembrance. When we forget what God has done, we will not praise. Praise is tied to remembering. Why is it that Monday most of us here will have the day off work? Is it just so we can cookout out and watch a parade? NO, this is a day that is set aside for us as a people to REMEMBER those who have died for us. We remember those who gave their lives to ensure our freedoms as a people. Because when we forget the great sacrifice that was given for our freedom, we will fail to value our freedom.
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud.
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He’d stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers’ tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No, freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington,
No, freedom is not free.
When we take time to remember, it causes us to be grateful. This memorial day, take some time to thank God for what he has blessed us with, as a nation, and as Christians.
David says, “forget not all his benefits.” Sometimes we are led to foolish thinking by the influence of the world. We get this idea that we GIVE UP a lot to be a Christian
- we can’t go out, get drunk, and throw up with a hangover the next morning --
- we can’t cheat on our spouse, and play russian roullette with deadly venereal diseases
- we can’t be deceitful, and spend every waking hour trying to run from our conscience
But the truth is, the benefits of following God are beyond compare. It’s like the old saying,
“The Christians retirement benefits are out of this world.” Literally!
Really, the truth is, that being a Christian is giving up nothing but hell! The benefits are beyond belief! If you have never trusted Christ as personal Savior, think about it - if you are right, and there is no God, I have lost nothing. My life is as rich and full and happy as could be. But if I am right, and you are wrong - and you stand before God one day with no excuse - you have lost EVERYTHING!
We praise God for a purpose - because he has given us so many benefits. We deserve nothing but hell, but in his grace, he gives us all kinds of blessings and benefits.
4. Praise is Practical - So often we get this idea that we need to use all the general terms.
God bless our church, bless the missionaries, bless all the sick people.
Can God do that? Yes he can. But that is not the best way to pray. Instead, we should pray specifically. Why not just pray one time in your life - “God, bless everyone and everything for all time” - He could do it, and you’d never need to pray again!
But God desires not the formula - not saying a certain phrase - but he desires the sharing of our hearts. He wants us to verbalize what we really feel.
If you come home from work, pick up the paper, and turn on the TV, and your wife comes to talk to you, you can SAY all the right words - Uh huh, yes, yes, Yes I’m listening - yes I love you - but she won’t be satisfied if you say the right words, she wants to know you FEEL them, that you MEAN them.
Praise is practical and specific. God wants us to be specific in giving praise.
He praises God for forgiveness - when we fail to remember that we deserve only hell, we will fail to praise. David remembers he has been forgiven.
He praises God for healing - God sometimes allows his children to suffer sickness to bring glory to his name - Paul for example - but we should always look to God as our healer.
David praises God for his steadfast love in verse 8 - The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He praises God for his compassion.
David’s psalms are filled with specific examples of praise to God for who he is and what he has done.
Today, as we come to worship God, let’s bow our knees to him and give him praise.
Let’s personally give praise, passionately give praise, purposefully give praise, and practically express our praise to God.