The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Psalm 103:1-22, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Psalm 103:1-22, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
Psalm 103:1-22, The Heart of Worship:
- Over the last few weeks we addressed various issues and concerns with themes centred on the assurance of true hope, and our security in a troubling world. This morning we’ll be looking at the comfort of worship.
- Now it’s been a while since I’ve preached a Psalm. However, this is a special text. Next to Psalm 23, the most hymns have been inspired by these verses. Psalm 103 is pure praise and pure worship focused on Yahweh, the unspeakable name of God, the ‘I AM.’
- And really, I’ve enjoyed my meditation on this Psalm because there is no mention of any historical background, there’s no mention of enemies, or threats, there are no requests, complaints, or petitions. It is just a single focus on God and worshipping Him.
- It is such a simple Psalm, yet so profound! It is a song of worship to God. But this Psalm is a call to worship, and we have a really simple outline before us. There are three parts of this call: a personal call, an outward call, and a universal call. So let’s get into it:
1. The Personal Call:
- Text – v1-5
- Explanation – Corporate worship cannot exist without personal worship. Let me explain. By definition, to worship God means to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; that everything you do points to glorifying Him, and, to love your neighbour as thy self!
- When this doesn’t exist on a personal level, every other attempt is hypocritical, it is superficial. That is because it won’t flow from the heart, where worship starts.
- But if your life is untidy with disobedience and sin and wickedness, you’re really going to find it difficult to cry out in your soul to worship the Lord. It is from the soul, the heart, where a deep knowledge of God and a love for what is holy and pure, comes from.
- Remember, singing praises isn’t it. That’s not worship, it is part of worship. Personal worship is reflecting on God and His character and the salvation that He has given. This is true worship. And doesn’t God’s Word call us to be worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth? Who worship Him without any external experience, or external assistance?
- Illustration – Many folks have come to me and said, ‘well I can’t really worship without clapping.’ ‘I can’t worship without raising my hands.’ ‘I can’t worship unless the lights are dimmed.’ Listen, I use to believe this too. But that is not the truth about worship.
- True worship, is when you find yourself – focused and set on the Lord, you’re singing praises in your head and going about life. Something true takes place here, it is the heart desiring to worship. The reason songs play such an encouraging role, is because when the heart reaches out to worship, it wants to find the right words and so many songs express just those words our hearts are longing to express.
- Application – It’s beautiful, right? It all about Him. Our passage says “Bless the Lord.” Or “worship the Lord.” It is all about Him and none other. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
- “Bless the Lord,” not partially, but with “all that is within me!” That’s loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And also not based on anything, like something circumstantial or something special happening.
- This Psalmist simply wrote these words upon the meditation of God in all His glory and His grace. I mean, it just comes from a heart appreciating God and giving thanks! He further writes, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”
- That could be every grace, every mercy, every provision, every protection, every bit of kindness, and every expression of love. Part of worship is considering His benefits and giving thanks. To forget this, or to not consider this, is sinful. I mean, His benefits includes forgiving all our sins! Isaiah 43 says He forgets them!
- Conclusion – And in addition, He heals all your diseases. Now this doesn’t refer to physical diseases, this idea flows from the statement “forgives all your iniquities.” It is like Isaiah 53:5, Christ was pierced for our transgressions; and crushed for our iniquities. Yet through His sacrifice, we are saved – it says; “with His wounds we are healed.”
- What He’s talking about here is healing our spiritual diseases, the diseases of the soul – sins. So the Lord forgives all of our iniquities, and He heals all the diseases of our soul; how? Verse 4, “who redeems your life from the pit.”
- He’s talking about your salvation. It is Psalm 49:15, and I’m paraphrasing – “God redeems the soul from the power of the grave.” And to add to His benefits, we continue to read that He crowns us with lovingkindness. That’s the kind of love that cannot be broken. Because His love for us is committed, He has made a covenant. And the result of that love is acts of compassion.
- Verse 5 says, “He also satisfies your years with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” This is what it means to be satisfied by God, as Isaiah 40 can add; “We will mount up with wings like eagles; we will run and not be weary, we will walk and not grow faint.” So the first call to worship is internal, speaking to the heart.
- Bridge – Therefore, we need to be thanking God for the forgiveness, the spiritual healing, for the salvation, for resurrecting from the grave, and for crowning our lives with committed love and compassion. Thus He satisfies us with every good thing.
2. The Outward Call:
- Text – v6-18
- Explanation – Now the outflow from the personal call is extended here. The psalmist moves from speaking to his own heart, to what God does for everyone who comes to Him. See God has revealed His redeeming purpose, His righteous nature, and His judgments.
- Verse 6 really tells us that God provides righteousness for those who are captives to sin; and yet His judgments are righteous. This is the riddle of the Old Testament: How can God provide compassion and righteousness to sinners and still be just? The answer is Isaiah 53, God can give mercy, grace, and forgiveness, because He punished Christ in our place.
- This is God’s redemptive plan, for He is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That’s a reason for us to collectively give thanks and worship! Verse 9 says, “He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.” Friends, God will not keep a grudge against us. He will not always be angry with us.
- In fact, look at verse 10, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins.” Isn’t that plenty of reason to bless the Lord? If God did that, we’d all be in hell. He hasn’t done that because He put our sins and our iniquities on Christ.
- Illustration – John Calvin said, “He wonderfully blesses those He might justly destroy.” That’s His mercy! Verse 11 reminds us that there isn’t a limit to the extension of His grace. He loves us with a committed love! Again in verse 12 we read, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” That’s a line going in two opposite directions, into infinity.
- No wonder Micah 7:18-19 says, “Who is a pardoning God like You?” now you might be wondering why such love and forgiveness? Look at verse 13… So He loves us like this because He’s our Father, and because the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him, those who worship Him truly.
- Application – This is so intimate. He knows the weakness of our will, and the strength of our sinful impulses. Verse 15 says, “that we’re just like grass; like a flower of the field, we flourish. The wind passes over, it is no more, its place acknowledges it no longer.” We’re so fragile.
- Conclusion – But He is infinite, He is not like us and therefore “He extends to us lovingkindness that is from everlasting to everlasting.” So there was never a moment in God’s mind that He didn’t love His own. It is parental in the sense that He has loved us before we even were. His love is protective and constant and it will never change.
- Bridge – so who does He love? Verse 18, those who worship Him, “keeping His covenant and remembering His law.” This outward call is to bring true worshippers in union before God, to collectively sing praises and give thanks, to remind one another of His works and promises, and to create a togetherness. But there’s also a third:
3. The Universal Call:
- Text – v19-22
- Explanation – now the universal call isn’t just a call for all to come and worship God, but the call for all things universally that will glorify God. Our verses tell us that the Lord’s throne is the greatest. His power over rules all!
- And since He is over all, the psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, you His angels.” They’re part of the “all” and what can be known about them is that they are His, they are strong, they are obedient, and they serve Him. They are always forever worshiping Him. Their voices are never silent. So these mighty beings give Him praise, right.
- Illustration – But go ahead to verse 21, he says, “Bless the Lord, all you His hosts.” What does this mean? Deuteronomy 4:19 tells us that all the hosts of heaven are the sun, the moon, the stars. So he’s literally calling on all the created universe, even the lifeless elements of it, to praise the Lord.
- Application – So all creation is called to praise Him. See the praise is first internal; and then external, as we gather; and then universal. But the writer ends where he started, “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” which is a way of saying, “Let it begin with me!”
- Conclusion – Friends, what needs to happen for you to be in obedience to your worship of such a merciful, glorious, just, and loving God? Remember, the Psalmist hasn’t given us any circumstantial occurrences to give thanks or praise to God. He simply meditated on God, he filled his mind with the truths and promises of God.
- I think we need to take a step back, and rethink our approach of worshipping God. Are we always going to wait for something to drive us to Him, or are we going to come willingly and freely to Him who loves perfectly, continuously and eternally.