PSALM 103 – Give Thanks
Morning folks! Just imagine for a minute that you are a multi-millionaire. CONGRATULATIONS!
Maybe you’ve made it big as a footballer or a musician or maybe you’re the guy who started Amazon or Facebook? BUT… however you got all your money – what are you going to do with it?!
We’ll let’s say…
• you buy a fancy car,
• a big house,
• a speedboat,
• a holiday villa in the Bahamas
• BUT you’ve still got pots of cash left so… you decide to give some away to your old school or your University… to help the next generation – £2 million no less.
WOW! That is Big. That is generous. And as you write the cheque you probably think to yourself: “They’re going to be pretty amazed by this. And so thankful. They will probably name a new library or Science Block after me.”
BUT then the weeks pass and you don’t hear back.
• Every day you check the post – but there’s no letter.
• You look at your phone – But there’s no call.
• You check your emails – Nothing.
• You peep out the curtains down the street – but no taxi has been sent to take you to a VIP reception to thank you for your AMAZING GENEROSITY!
That may be hard to imagine, but it’s inspired by a true story I heard of a man who gave £700,000 to the College where he had been a student in Cambridge. AND the college did write to him and invite him over lunch so that they could thank him properly.
AND when the old guy came over for lunch he said: “Well this has been lovely, not least because I have given 3 times as much to another organisation, and I know they’ve banked the money ‘cos it’s gone out of my account – AND it’s been 6 months… but they haven’t been in contact.”
Do you get that folks? Over £2 million and not a word of thanks!
According to Shakespeare one of the cruelest expressions of human selfishness is the failure to say: “Thank You.” AND one of his greatest tragedies – King Lear is written as an illustration of that thought.
It is the story of a man who generously gives all his noble titles and properties to his 3 daughters, only to find himself hopelessly reduced to poverty and homelessness as his daughters cruelly and callously reject and betray him.
“Ingratitude, thou marble hearted fiend,” we find King Lear saying. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is the have a thankless child!”
And some of you will have experienced that. You’ve poured out your lives for your children – you’ve given them your all! AND yet, they’ve taken the gifts and ignored you the giver.
AND it is so easy for us to be like that with God OUR Father too, isn’t it?
Which is why we find King David here in Psalm 103 reminding himself – telling his soul to say: “THANK YOU!” That’s how this Psalm begins and ends, doesn’t it?
• So, in verse 1 he says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” – “THANK YOU!”
• Verse 22: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” – “THANK YOU!”
David is talking to himself here, isn’t he? He’s telling himself the things he needs to hear. AND while that may sound a bit nuts to you – we all do it that don’t we? We all go round talking to ourselves!
We carry an internal dialogue in our heads everywhere we go. You know… issues, relationships, information comes in and we mutter away to ourselves about it in our heads! Am I the only one?
I don’t think so! For at least David knows this about himself. So, he prods himself, he stirs himself, he says: “Come on David… Thank the Lord.”
AND he determines within himself NOT to be a thankless child…
• As he lists 17 reasons to be thankful – 17! Talk about a catalogue of goodness!
• 17 blessings not to be taken for granted.
• 17 reasons why he – and you, and I should praise God.
AND please note from this Psalm that there is no request from beginning to end. He just stops! AND says: “Lord… Thank You!”
AND first up he says “Thank You” for:
(1.) What God Has Done (v.1-5)
I mean, just look at the verbs here in verses 1-5:
• Verse 3 - He “forgives”, he “heals…”
• Verse 4 - He “redeems”, he “crowns…”
• Verse 5 - He “satisfies”.
Now David was no easily impressed gooey eyed goon – “Aw, you’re amazing God. I love you.” No, he was a superstar of his day! People sang songs about him – that was the level of his celebrity and gifting. He had been given so much.
AND yet when he has a Kaleidoscope of things to thank God for – The first thing he thanks him for is in verse 3: “who forgives all your iniquity...”
That’s where David starts. 17 benefits and the first one… because it’s the foundational one.
You can have everything else in all the world, but if you don’t have your sins forgiven… it counts for nothing. Because sin corrupts everything in our lives and our whole world – that’s why the world is the way it is, it is crippled by our sin.
BUT what is sin? It is a permanent desire to rid the soul of God. It’s not doing bad things – its taking all God’s good gifts and then living and acting as if he wasn’t there! That’s what sin is.
And YET what God promises is:
• to not just forgive our sin…
• BUT to heal us and deal with the corrupting power of sin, as he sets about making us whole.
Now ultimately that will only happen fully when we get to heaven – BUT we do get glimpses of it today. AND it is expressed positively and negatively in verse 4:
• Where God: “…redeems your life from the pit…” Yes!
• But more than that he: “…crowns you with steadfast love and mercy...”
The picture here is from ancient Rome. Where a wealthy man, who didn’t have a son to inherit his estate, quite often would adopt a slave to be his heir.
So, imagine you are a slave and you’re at a slave auction – being sold off with a load of other slaves.
• You’ve lived for years in fear of your life because displeasing your Master could see you put to death in an instant.
• And now you’ve been bound up in chains that are cutting into your wrists and ankles…
• AND dropped in a pit to wait and see what kind of tyrant your next Master will be.
Then suddenly the Slave Auctioneer runs up and looks down into the pit and he says: “Good news! Some bloke with more money than sense has redeemed you.” He’s set you free!
And so, you are pulled out of the pit, and your chains are taken off. AND you feel this lightness – it is wonderful to be saved and redeemed!
BUT there’s more! As you look up, the man who has paid for your freedom walks towards you… AND it’s, it’s, it’s… the Emperor himself! AND to the astonishment of everyone around he places a crown on your head and a purple robe around you.
Eurgh! You’ve just been in dirty rat-infested pit! How could he even be near you let alone touch you?
BUT he even takes you by the arm and leads you back to his palace and he says: “Welcome! You are now in the Royal Family… and all that is mine is yours.”
Redeemed… but more than that crowned.
Now for the Old Testament readers of this Psalm they would have thought back to their Exodus from Egypt for their deliverance – BUT for us, our redemption focuses on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.
I mean, we have this permanent desire to rid ourselves of God. We know it!
• Yet he sends his son to die, not only to forgive us;
• BUT then he sends his Spirit to change us from the inside out.
AND the question therefore for us today is: Just how conscious are we of what Jesus has done for us?
He is like the rich man at the slave auction paying the price so that we can not only go free – BUT more than that be crowned with steadfast on going, forever love.
As I’ve spent time in this Psalm this week – God has given me afresh a real sense that the ground could and should open up in front of me at any time because of the reality and depth of my sin. As Romans 6v.23 says: “The wages of sin is death… but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is STAGGERING the way the creator of the world tolerates me – and does not just obliterate immediately but sends his son to die for me. AND yet for vast chunks of my life… I’m just not conscious of it.
BUT I’ve been saying this week and I want to say this morning – and every morning: “Lord, Thank You. Thank you. Thank You.”
In fact, why don’t we do that now? Let’s stand and do what David does and sing…
>> BLESS THE LORD, OH MY SOUL…
And then we’ll continue with the rest of the Psalm.
Why don’t you take a seat if you’ve been standing?
So, folks, we thank God – firstly for What He Has Done, but secondly – David thanks him for:
(2.) What God Is Like (v.6-19)
He tells us in verses 8-10 that God is Unbelievably Patient
People often say to me that they don’t like the Old Testament because “God always seem to be angry”. BUT he is not! Do you see that in verse 8? He is “slow to anger.”
He has every right to be angry with us for the way we’ve treated him and his world. BUT he sets limits on his anger against us!
You see God’s anger – his settled, controlled, hostility to evil – is called into existence by something external to God’s own person – namely our sin.
BUT his anger isn’t an eternal attribute of his character… as love is.
• For there was a time before the world was made when there was no anger at all in the heart of God – For there was no sin to provoke it.
• And the Bible tells us equally that there will be a time in the future – in the new heaven and a new earth – when there will be nothing to raise God’s anger… for we will sin no more.
AND so, verse 9 tells us God won’t: “…keep his anger for ever.”
And surely as we read here, we are to see the contrast with us? Are we slow to anger? Are we abounding in love?
Will Carling the ex-captain of the England rugby team said in his autobiography, “If someone does something against me, what I do is I file it. I just put it in a file. And then I pull it out at some point.”
That’s very honest isn’t it. And maybe we are like that? We may be Christians but we nurse our grievances and keep our quarrels going.
BUT God is not like that! And at what cost does he not do it? As he sends his son.
AND he encourages us likewise to bear the cost of forgiving others like that – as Colossians 3 verse 13 tells us: “…forgive… as the Lord forgave you.”
Oh, how this world, how WE need THIS characteristic of God. THIS forgiveness. He does NOT treat us as our sins deserve.
What about you? Who do you need to reach out to and forgive today?
For verses 11 and 12 show us that God Does Not Hold Grudges – as David writes: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Many years ago, when I was living in Edinburgh, myself and the folks I was living with had a certain young lady who I am now married to and some of her Uni mates round for Sunday lunch. AND after lunch we went out for a walk by the sea – and knowing that this young lady liked playing frisbee and wanting so desperately to impress her I borrowed a friend’s aerobee for us to chuck around on the beach.
I know, I know – an aerobee is a bit different to a Frisbee, cos of its habit of travelling very long distances. Which might have been why my friend gave specific instructions to be careful when throwing it around by the sea before we left.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed what happens next. AND you’d be right! As fairly soon after we’d set off one of her friends sent up a wild and ambitious throw, the wind took it – and it went and went and went and landed a preposterous, unreachable distance out to sea. And so, we didn’t even bother waiting for the tide to bring it back in – we just walked on knowing full well that it was gone.
AND folks when God removes our sins – likewise we are not to stand around on the shore watching and waiting for them to come back. So many of us do that!
BUT think about what it is that is so profoundly on your conscience and nobody knows about it, but oh my goodness it eats away at you and YOU can’t forget it – Do you know that that sin, those sins…
• God puts them in a metal box,
• he wraps them in chains,
• and then dumps them beyond the farthest horizon.
Can you see them disappearing over the horizon? Because God sent his son to die for you.
Just as you can’t see the East from the West – so when God looks at us, he is no longer looking at our sin. And when he is looking at our sin, he is no longer looking at us.
And the fullness, the completeness of that forgiveness makes God Accessible All The Time – as verse 13 declares: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
Folks, I think we spend our lives putting up boundaries so that people can make limited demands on us. But do you see that because of God’s forgiveness there are no boundaries with him?! Just as there are no Boundaries for a child has with its Father when it is crying at 3 in the morning – so we can cry out to our Heavenly Father at any time of the day and night.
And that reassurance is not time limited. As verse 17 reminds us that God’s character is Eternal.
Once again, I want you to see the great contrast in these last verses between us and God. AND if you are a member of our church hold onto your seats – because these are the words that are going to be read at your funeral. So best to get them in place now!
• What are we like? Verse 14 – “We are dust”! So someday you will be able to hoover us up!
• AND then verse 15: We are “…like grass…” We are so fleeting and fragile. And one day we will just blow away.
AND yet sadly this verse gives us one of the main reasons why we ignore that fact – and turn our backs on God in Britain… because we are flourishing!
The Lord in his kindness has allowed us to flourish, he lavishes gifts on us, but in our flourishing, we say, “Well who needs God?” “Religion? – Well it’s a nice handrail for the non-copers or lovely stories for the kids, but it’s not for me.”
But our flourishing is over so quickly – do you see? Verse 16: “…for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
• So, our loved ones may treasure our memory, but they too will die.
• We may achieve notable things in this life – building businesses, forging careers, writing books – BUT businesses come and go, careers fade and books go out of print.
• Even the names on our graves will eventually be rendered indecipherable by wind and rain.
“And its place knows it no more.” So, think of your home now – I’m assuming that’s where you are as you watching this. It’s your place, it’s your sofa, your table, your bed. BUT can I just say… that one day in that place that is your very own… no one will know that you were ever there.
Now I know what you’re thinking – as soon as this service is over, you’re going to put up a plaque, or at the very least chisel your initials on the kitchen cupboard doors!
But it won’t work! Everything about us will be forgotten.
BUT the contrast between us and God the creator could not be greater in verse 17: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children...”
This world may forget you; this world will forget you… but if you put your hand in his God will not.
His love is from everlasting to everlasting – trust him – and verse 18 – seek to: “…keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.” – you will never be forgotten as he wraps his arms around you for all eternity.
So, what do we do in response to this, folks? Let me give you 1 point of application as I finish up. In fact, I’ve already given you it haven’t I? Several times!
You know what the application is here, don’t you? Give thanks! Give thanks to God!
• For what he’s done!
• For who he is!
• For all his benefits!
Say, “Lord, thank you. I’m just dust – I’m grass! Yet you set your love upon me! Lord, thank you so much.”
AND in the short time you’re here – while you still have breath to do so – ask God to:
• Help you to speak and sing his praises – in word and deed…
• To help you to so live out and proclaim his character that others might discover the wonders of his grace…
• That the lost may be found…
• The spiritually dead be raised to life
• That whole families might know his forgiveness
• AND communities may be changed by his love.
Will you pray that prayer?
AND commit yourself to declare his praises everyday… with every breath that you have?
Even when you don’t feel like it?
In fact, especially when you don’t feel like it. On those days – when you wake up with a groans not gratitude in your heart – Like David the Psalmist talk to yourself and say: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”
Let’s take a moment now just to give thanks. Just to stop and count our blessings. And then we’ll sing again…
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.
So, let me invite you to join with believers from all over the world to sing of God’s… Amazing Grace.