1Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
2Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits - 3who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,4who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel: 8The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9He will not always accuse, nor will He harbour His anger forever; 10He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13As a father has compassion on His children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; 14for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
15As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children - 18with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.
19The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
20Praise the LORD, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His Word.
21Praise the LORD, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22Praise the LORD, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah, “The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” (Isaiah 43:20-21)
Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Of course, there are hundreds of other passages of Scripture which point us to the reality that we were created to worship. The story of human history is about worship, whether it is worshipping the sun and the moon, mountains, money, fancy cars or even ourselves. Human beings instinctively worship something or someone.
We often hear people talk about this God-shaped void within the human heart. There certainly is a void within each of us, but sadly, for many, it is not God-shaped…
However, once we come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit begins to transform us from within. It is then that verses like Revelation 4:11 start to make perfect sense: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power.”
One of the consequences of living in this broken world is that we tend to focus on the negatives we see all around us.
We find it very easy – in fact, quite natural - to complain and be critical about virtually everything.
There is a lot of wisdom in the old song we first learned as children: “Count your blessings, count them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, count your blessings, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
As Christians, we have more things to praise God for than to grumble about. When we focus on our hurts, our sorrows and our struggles in life, we often forget just how good the Lord has been to us, despite the fact that as believers, we should know better.
This is why we need to be reminded to stop and consider the reasons why we should be giving thanks to God. When we do this, it will cause us to rejoice in Him, and to thank Him for who He is and what He continues to do in our lives each day.
As we give God the praise and gratitude which is rightfully His, our own faith deepens as we respond to Him.
Psalm 103 is a timely reminder to Christians down the ages to ascribe to God the glory which is due to Him.
The NIV translation calls us to praise the Lord, but other translations such as the KJV and NKJV say, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!”
We usually think of the Lord blessing us, but here we are reminded of the importance of us blessing the Lord. To bless God means more than simply to praise. It is to praise with genuine affection and gratitude.
We are blessing God when we worship Him by offering praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Loving the Lord and exalting His holy name is worship.
The Christian teacher and author Warren Wiersbe, who died just a couple of weeks ago, wrote, “Worship is the believers’ response of all that they are - mind, emotions, will, and body - to what God is and says and does.” In other words, worship is more than just singing a few hymns or choruses in a Church building on a Sunday morning. True worship is a complete giving of ourselves to God in response to Him and all that He is.
In John chapter 4 Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. Their conversation turns to worship when she says to Him that while the Samaritans worshipped on a mountain, the Jews insisted that the only place for acceptable worship is in Jerusalem, in the temple built by King Solomon. Jesus responds to her by saying, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Matthew Henry writes, “The stress is not to be laid upon the place where we worship God, but upon the state of mind in which we worship Him.”
This is the same message which David is trying to convey through Psalm 103. True spiritual worship is a complete response with every aspect of our being to God. It is not just about singing or raising our hands to Him. When we learn to worship, we offer Him ourselves, or as Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.”
In Psalm 103 David offers pure praise to God. He is not asking the Lord for anything. Rather, he is blessing the Lord with all his being as he acknowledged all that God is and all that God had done.
The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. He is known to be the author of 73 of the 150 psalms in the Bible, and most commentators agree that he wrote many other psalms in Scripture where the identity of the writer is not clear, so he wrote at least half of the psalms.
He was the psalmist of Israel who was known for his praise and worship of God. David knew the Lord was worthy to be worshipped and praised. In the first two verses of Psalm 103 he twice writes, “Praise the LORD, O my soul.”
We worship the things that we consider as being of great value. And as we well know, it is easy for us to place a greater value on possessions and pleasure, rather than on God. The temporal things which so easily distract us have no eternal value, but our houses, garages and cupboards are full of things we thought we simply cannot do without. No sooner do we finally get hold of that one thing we’ve really wanted for so long, then we go in search of the next best thing.
If you think about it, we should be extremely grateful and humbled to think that God still looks upon us with favour. In verse 8, David wrote that the Lord is compassionate and gracious. In His mercy, God does not give us all that we desire, but in grace, He gives us what we need. The Lord is our true treasure – not the things we have placed such high value on. We are to love Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.
The greatest gift of all is our salvation through Christ. The Cross of Calvary, and what God achieved for us there should humble us, and at the same time, fill our hearts with the same kind of gratitude that David displays in so many of his psalms.
Worship is offered to God alone because only He is worthy and deserving of worship. David blesses the holy name of God because only the Lord is holy. He writes in Psalm 99:5, “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool: He is holy.”
David reminds us of the many blessings we have received from God.
Of course, we all go through times of real struggle. There is no denying that, and it is really hard to pack up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Life just does not work that way, but when we do step back for a moment and consider how blessed we really are, it does help us to see above our current situation and to acknowledge the blessings of God.
In Psalm 103 David reminds us of so many aspects of God and how He has blessed us.
First and foremost, he reminds us of the forgiveness we have.
This is David’s first reason to praise the Lord. At the top of his list, David places the forgiveness of God. For those who are in Christ, He has forgiven us all our sins. Does this sound too good to be true? It should, because as David writes in verse 10, God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
The moment you turn to Jesus Christ as your Saviour in faith and repentance, God forgives your past sins, your present sins, and even the sins you have not committed yet. Sin and temptation continue to be the struggles of every Christian, but one day we will stand in His presence and our sin nature will be completely removed.
Jesus is the one who one day will, in the words of Jude 24, “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
God, through Christ, has granted us the mercy of forgiveness. Not only that, but in the words of verse 12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
The Lord has removed our guilt and He grants us a complete and full pardon. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, but according to His mercy and grace. The word ‘forgives’ in the context of Psalm 103 is a verb that implies continuous action. He is the one who takes the initiative in restoring the relationship between a Holy God and rebellious sinners.
He says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
The apostle John speaks of this wonderful reconciliation we have with God. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
The curse of death is this great monster which hangs over us all, but God has given to us the miracle cure of salvation. He is the great Physician who has given us the answer to our greatest problem. How can we not offer Him our praises?
The good news is that every child of God will receive complete healing in heaven. In heaven, there will be no more sickness, pain, or death. We will have new glorified bodies.
There is one disease we all have, and it is fatal. It is the disease called sin. The wages of sin is death, both physical death as well as spiritual death. But God has provided a cure in Jesus. Jesus can and does give us eternal life and a new glorified body.
He has redeemed us. The word ‘redeem’ means to rescue or to purchase back. Because of our sin, we are in serious trouble, but God is watching over us and protecting us from danger every day. The devil cannot touch you without God’s permission and death cannot claim you until God’s purpose for your life has been fulfilled. Verse 4 in the NKJV says that God redeems your life from destruction.
The word ‘destruction’ here refers to the grave or to hell. But in the midst of trouble and danger, we are secure in the hands of God. If you are a Christian, you have been rescued from death and are saved from hell.
But God not only redeems and protects us. He brings us into His family by adopting us as His own. We are children of God. We are the children of the Great King. We are the objects of His love and mercy. He lavishes His love and blessings on His own. God knows our weaknesses, our failures, and the things we go through every day. And so He treats us with mercy.
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the role of Jesus as our Great High Priest. There is such an incredible promise given to us in Hebrews 4:15-16: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Jesus is our faithful High Priest who knows our needs before we ask for help.
As we grow in our lives of true praise and worship, we find ourselves appreciating and enjoying the blessings of God even more.
We know the words of Psalm 23 so well: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
It takes true contentment to be able to echo those words of David, because it is in our times of struggle that we really need to learn to praise God.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: God does not always give us what we want, but He always gives us what is best for us, even though we struggle to see His purposes at the time.
One of the reasons is that without God, there will always be an emptiness in the human heart. In the book of Ecclesiastes, David’s son Solomon wrote of the vanity of man without God. Solomon had everything he could possibly wish for, but he soon learned that the things of this world could not satisfy his soul.
J Vernon McGee wrote, “Man has tried to be happy without God; it is being tried every day by millions of people.”
Jesus is the only one who brings true purpose to our lives and eternal answers to our greatest questions.
Ask anyone what they really want from life, and you’ll find that being loved, having joy and experiencing peace will be right at the top of their list. Jesus offers all three and so much more.
Paul asks in Romans 8:31-32, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
The Bible teacher Steven Lawson wrote, “A high view of God leads to high worship and holy living, but a low view of God leads to trivial worship and low living.”
So if we are to worship God in spirit and truth and live our lives as living sacrifices, we need to rise to a level beyond the trivial and superficial.
We need a Biblically accurate and proper view of God. And in order to do this, we need to get into the Word and seek His true nature and character as He has revealed it to us through His Word.
We need to remind ourselves of the Gospel, and what Jesus has done for us. We must learn to humble ourselves in gratitude to God, because our salvation is completely and totally dependent on God’s undeserved and unearned grace and mercy shown to us.
When we begin to understand these things properly, we will learn what it means to respond by worshipping in spirit and in truth.
This doesn’t mean perfection, because that is impossible on this side of the grave, but we must learn to worship God for who He is.
Set your heart on Christ. Learn, with His help, to worship Him at all times and in all circumstances, and you will begin to live the abundant life that He has promised. The abundant life is not about the possession of things, and it is certainly not about living your best life now. That is still to come in eternity, but you can live a joy-filled life here and now when your joy is found in God through Christ.
We live in a busy and stressful world, which means that far too often we either take for granted, or even forget what God has done, and who He is.
Just before his death, Moses sang a song of praise to God which is recorded in Deuteronomy 32. In verses 3 and 4 he sang, “I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
That is the God who has saved us, and He is worthy of our praise.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Psalm 103
It is hard to not feel inspired by reading the words of this psalm, yet so often we find it difficult to give God the glory that He is due.
Why do you think we struggle at times to worship and praise Him?
How do we guard against merely going through the motions of worship?
Which verses in this psalm stood out to you, and why?
Read John 4:19-24
What is your understanding of worshipping God “in spirit and in truth?”
Discuss this quote by Steven Lawson: “A high view of God leads to high worship and holy living, but a low view of God leads to trivial worship and low living.”
Our view and understanding of God will remain tinted by our sin, and it is only in eternity that we will really “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), but what can we do, with the Lord’s help of course, to have a higher view of God and His nature?
Close by praying that God would teach us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.