Grace For The Journey
Today is our third and final installment of reflecting on some of the benefits God has so graciously bestowed on us throughout 2016. Once again, we’ll be looking at David’s magnificent Psalm 103:1-5:
“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
We’ve looked at the benefits of forgiveness and healing in the two previous blog. Today let’s rejoice in the truth that . . .
He Redeems Your Life from the Pit
David declares that Jehovah “redeems [our] life from destruction” (verse 4a). The term “destruction” is likely a reference to death. Perhaps David had been at the very brink of death’s door and the Lord had delivered him. Certainly there were numerous episodes of that nature in his history. In the light of New Testament revelation, the phrase has a much greater application for us.
The verb “redeems” is related to the Hebrew noun goel, which literally means “a kinsman with the right to buy back.” That concept would be fulfilled ultimately in Christ, our “kinsman” (cf. John 1:14; Hebrews 2:11ff), who paid the price of redemption by the shedding of His blood (Luke 1:68; Ephesians 1:7). There are two senses in which we, as children of God, partake of the benefit of redemption.
First, we are redeemed from the guilt of our transgressions. As noted above, this Jesus accomplished as the perfect sacrifice for sin. As the lamb (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7) that was without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18-19); Christ, by his death, satisfied the justice of God (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 3:24-26); thus becoming an efficacious Redeemer (see Job 19:25). We enter into this blessing, of course, when we submit to the terms of the sacred plan of pardon (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27, etc.).
But there is another way in which we shall be redeemed. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul affirmed that “we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). This, of course, is an allusion to the resurrection of the human body, in an immortal form, at the time of Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff).
It is significant that Christianity stands aloof from the philosophies of paganism that so disdained the human form that they contemplated the bliss of eternity only in terms of a spirit. Such ideas occasionally infiltrated the early church (see 1 Corinhtians 15:12), as it has the modern church. (The dogma of “realized eschatology” denies the future resurrection of the body.) It is a thrilling concept to note that the redeemed body of the post-resurrection experience will be one “fashioned anew;” indeed, it will “conform” to the body of Jesus’ glorified state by the exercise of the Savior’s awesome power (Philippians 3:20-21).
The benefits thus described are like a glorious “crown.” The term becomes a metaphor for the qualities of God’s nature (e.g., His “lovingkindness”) and the extension of that benevolence to sinful man by His “tender mercies,” a term which hints of the destitute nature of one needing pity.
The kindly mercy of our Maker has been revealed in a host of ways.
- Jehovah’s kindness has been manifested in the wonders revealed to us in the amazing architecture of the created universe (Psalm19:1ff; Romans 1:20).
- The Lord has evidenced his merciful kindness in the providential activities he has exerted among us (Acts 17:25).
- God has manifested his kindness in the sending of a Savior (Titus 3:4ff).
The eventual crowning of God will find fulfillment in the glories of that realm He has prepared for the obedient (John 14:1ff). In that day, there will be bestowed the “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), the “crown of life” (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), and the “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). This will be the ultimate expression of the kindness and compassion of the Lord God. The Christian should be diligent to retain this expectation, for it is possible to lose the hope of one’s crown (Revelation 3:11).
Does not this promise make you feel like a king? (cf. Revelation 3:21).
Finally, David declares that Jehovah “satisfies your mouth with good things” (verse 5a). This clause is difficult because of the possible meanings associated with the word “mouth.” The Hebrew word portrays the mouth as an instrument to help us live – food and water go through the mouth. The word literally signifies a sense of “length of years” or “beyond the prime of life.”. The Hebrew Targum interpreted the expression to mean “the days of old age” (Kirkpatrick, p. 601). If the prevailing view – that length or maturity of age – is correct, then the sense of the first portion of 5a would be this: “Even in your advanced age, you will be satisfied, because of the good things with which God supplies you.”
The second portion of verse 5 appears to lend support to this concept. It speaks of one’s “youth” being renewed, like the eagle. The eagle is a bird that enjoys an unusually vigorous longevity. On average, this large bird lives from twenty or thirty to fifty years. G. S. Cansdale, in his authoritative work, All The Animals of the Bible Lands (p. 143), cites a case of a captive eagle in Vienna that lived to the age of 104. The meaning of the phrase thus may be: “Your disposition will be that of a youth, indeed, you will continue to soar as the majestic eagle.”
If, then, we combine these thoughts, the passage may be suggesting this idea: Those who walk with the Lord, and who are recipients of His gracious benefits, even though they advance in years, will nonetheless, possess a spirit of delightful vigor, savoring their lives, and praising God for His beneficence. The thought may be somewhat analogous to Paul’s declaration in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man in being renewed day by day.”
The psalmist’s sentiment would encourage us not to be “grumpy old men and women” as we ease beyond our prime, even though this time of life is fraught with difficulties. Rather, with great joy, we ought to realize that “the best is yet to be.”
There is a chasm – a universe wide – between David’s radiant disposition, and that commonly evinced by the world’s skepticism. One could hardly find a better example of the dismal outlook regarding old age than that expressed in Matthew Arnold’s (1822-88) dreary poem, “Growing Old.” In this writing, Arnold, a bitter critic of the Bible, speaks of losing “the glory of the form” and “the lustre of the eye.” He describs the decay of stamina and strength. He speaks of stiff joints and frayed nerves. He laments the “hot prison” of agedness, with its month-after-month of “weary pain.” He groaned that he was but a “phantom” of his former self — just a “hollow ghost.”
In his commentary on the Psalms, John Phillips reminds us of the strange and sad case of Howard Hughes. At the time of his death, Hughes was worth two and one-half billion dollars. Yet he lived as “a recluse in a Las Vegas hotel. He was wholly unkept, with matted, shaggy hair and long, claw-like nails.” At his death he weighed but ninety pounds (see: Exploring the Psalms, Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1988, p. 126). Two words described him: “Most miserable.” What a vivid contrast to the exalted and thrilling view of age expressed by the venerable king of Israel.
What rich truths lie buried in Psalms 103:1-5! Surely the balance of the song would warrant an equally keen interest. Why not give it some consideration?
If you’ve been a Christian for several years, I’m sure you will recall many “pits” of painful providence from which God has redeemed you throughout the years. But the most important pit of all is the pit of death and destruction, which looms before all of us due to our sin nature.
The Bible says in Luke 24:1-6, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!’”
Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If He did not rise from the grave, then our faith is foolish and false and provides no eternal value to our lives. The apostle Paul acknowledged quite candidly, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). But if Jesus did rise from the grave – which He did do and appeared to hundreds of people – then our faith is firm. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof positive of His victory over sin and death . . . and it guarantees the same thing for the Christian believer. God redeems your life from the pit of death and hell when, by grace through faith, you place your trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
What a powerful reminder from the psalmist to “forget not” all that God has done for us in the past! He forgives all our sin, heals all our diseases, and redeems our lives from the pit.
It’s important to remember that one of the reasons David reminded us to “forget not all His benefits” is because we do forget them. We get so caught up in the details, demands, and stress of daily living that we may forget all the good our God has done on our behalf.
So as you advance into 2017 with plans, hopes, and dreams for your future, forget not all that God has done for you, because what He has done in the past He will continue doing in the present . . . and all the way into your Promised Land.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “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.”