Theme: Who Should Praise God?
This week’s lessons show us that it is essential to remember God’s blessings, and how we are to praise God for all that he is and for all he has done for us.
Scripture: Psalm 103:1-22
The final question I want to ask of the psalm this week is this: Who should praise God? We might expect the answer to be “those whom God has forgiven, those whom he has rescued from the pit.” Certainly these persons should. But as we come to the last stanza of the psalm (vv. 19-22), we find that the writer is not satisfied with the thought that only the redeemed should praise God. God is so great that nothing but the praise of all creation will do. So he cries out: “Praise the LORD, you his angels” (v. 20), “Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts” (v. 21), “Praise the LORD, all his works” (v. 22), and “Praise the LORD, O my soul” (v. 22).
These final “praises” echo the “praises” of the opening lines, which is a fitting way of bringing the psalm to a close. But although they expand the scope of the praise, progressing from the “my” of verses 1-5 (“Praise the LORD, O my soul”) and the “our” of verses 6-18 (“our sins” and “our iniquities”), to the “all” of creation in verses 19-22, they nevertheless end with the psalmist’s personal note of praise, just as he began: “Praise the LORD, O my soul” (v. 22). There is no missing the point that David wants to praise God more than anything.
As we come to this ending to the psalm, we need to ask ourselves if there is any real praise in our hearts to God and if we have any real share in these blessings. In other words, although I have been asking questions of the psalm up to this point, here I want to turn from the psalm to you and ask pointedly: First, is there praise in your heart to God? Second, do you have a share in the blessings for which God should be praised?
1. Is there any real praise in your heart to God? This question is for Christians. Roy Clements, whom I quoted previously in the week, asks it directly: “We need to ask ourselves whether or not there is any real praise in our hearts. It is so easy to come to church out of habit. It is so easy to repeat “Amen” without ever really speaking to God. It is so easy to hear sermons without ever really listening to God…. If you find your heart cold, then do what David did and count your blessings.”1
If you are a Christian, the most important result of this study may be that you become more aware of your blessings than you were before the study began and begin to praise God for them.
2. Do you have any real share in these blessings? At first glance it might seem that David is speaking of blessings from God that are enjoyed by everybody, since he is calling on the entire creation to praise God. But that is not so. Actually the blessings he is speaking of are for “those who fear him” (v. 17) and for “those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (v. 18). He wants us to ask: Have I experienced forgiveness of sins? Has God redeemed my life from the pit? Has God satisfied me with good things? Have I discovered for myself and do I truly know that “the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”?
If you do not know that, let me suggest that the only place where you will ever discover it to be true is at the cross of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God cannot be more merciful to you than that. Nor can he show his mercy to you in a more graphic fashion. What you need to do now is surrender to the claims of Jesus Christ and so join the great company of those who have been saved by him and bless his name.
1Roy Clements, Songs of Experience: Midnight and Dawn through the Eyes of the Psalmists (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1993), p. 147.
Who besides the redeemed are to praise God? Why?
How does David conclude this psalm? Why?
Reflection: Can you truly answer yes to the two questions asked in this study?
Application: Pray for those around you who are not Christians, that they might come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and so render the praise that is due and share in the blessings that God has promised to those who are his.
For Further Study: One of the things the Psalms teaches us is how to praise God. Order your copy of James Boice’s three-volume study of the entire Psalter, and take 25% off the regular price.