Daybreak: Psalms 102:1 through 103:22
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)
How easy it is to forget details that once were important in our lives! A while back, I was trying to locate some maps my wife and I had brought with us when we moved into our current home. As I went through box after box searching for them, it was like looking at an archeological dig of my life. One box had some cassette tapes that my wife and I were given when we were attending birthing classes more than twenty-five years ago. There were certificates of education and coursework that I had completed at various times in my career. I even came across a pair of gym shorts from my high school years — it was amazing how much they had shrunk! All of these items were part of my history, and they brought back many memories.
In one of those boxes I found a copy of my testimony which I had typed up right after I was saved in 1994. Reading it, I was surprised at how some of the smaller details were already starting to escape me. Getting saved was the most momentous event of my life, yet some of the particulars were fading somewhat in my memory. Yes, I could remember where and when I prayed through, the day, and the circumstances which brought me to that point, but other details that seemed unforgettable at the time were starting to disappear. The fact is, with the passing of time, our memories dim.
It is vital to preserve godly memories. Memories give confidence and build trust. They are one of our best aids to heartfelt worship. When we recall and rehearse the things God has done in the past, those memories become the foundation for believing that He can take care of anything that comes our way in the future.
Our focus verses reveal that the psalmist David clearly was aware of the importance of remembering God’s benefits. He went on to provide a list of specific blessings that God bestows: pardon for sin — first on his list, and obviously the most important — healing, protection, provision of our needs, and assurance for the future.
Along with remembering God’s blessings comes the responsibility of passing on our memories. Once we are gone from this life, our recollections of God’s blessings will be gone as well unless we have passed them on to others. Our children, our grandchildren, our church family, and those we work with or meet along life’s way all should be told. We want the accounts of God’s faithfulness to live on! When I go home to Heaven, I want someone to be able to say, “He is gone, but I remember him telling about how he got saved. I remember hearing him recount times when God intervened in his life and answered specific prayers.” I want someone else to look at the blessings God gave me along my spiritual journey and be blessed.
Let your family know! Let your fellow church members know! Let your friends and acquaintances know! It is a blessing to remember, and to rehearse to others what God has done in our lives.
The superscription for Psalm 102 is very different from all other psalms. It makes no reference to musical accompaniment, names no author, gives no indication of the historical setting, and offers no instruction as to when or how it was to be presented. Within the context, verses 13-16, 20, and 22 could imply that it was written during the period of Israel’s exile. Although Bible scholars classify Psalm 102 as a penitential psalm, the author does not point to sin as the cause of his miseries, but rather, to his personal circumstances and physical weakness. The psalm includes clear references to the Messiah, so some expositors believe it is entirely prophetic, portraying the anguish of the suffering Christ.
The psalmist enumerated his many complaints in the first eleven verses of the psalm, listing a variety of situations that brought pain. He was heart-broken, had a physical illness, felt lonely, and could not sleep. He faced human opposition, was sorrowful, and most troubling of all, he felt God had deserted him.
In verse 12, the focus shifts from the psalmist’s pitiful circumstances to what God can do: He will hear and have compassion (verses 13, 17, 20) and will restore (verses 16, 21). These verses are prophetic as they were “written for the generation to come” (verse 18); the psalmist’s personal situation was not addressed directly. Instead, he looked forward to the day when God would hear the complaints of all His people, have compassion on them, and restore Zion (Jerusalem).
The prophetic portion of the psalm seems to point to the Millennial Reign, based on the reference in verse 22 to the gathering together of the people. The writer also spoke of the day when the current heavens and earth will pass away and a new heaven and earth will be created (verses 25-26). Verses 25-27 from the Greek translation of the Old Testament are quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12.
Psalm 103, a composition of David, is a song of praise to the covenant God of Israel. It has been universally acclaimed for its beauty of expression. Beginning and ending with the words, “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” it does not contain one sad or negative phrase in all its twenty-two verses.
This psalm is very personal. It is apparent that David had experienced God’s goodness personally. It is also universal in application; David made it known that the goodness he had experienced was available to all who fear God and keep His commandments (verses 11, 17, and 18).
While Psalm 102 begins with a list of the afflictions of man, Psalm 103 begins with the remedy for those afflictions. The first five verses are a call to worship God for the benefits He bestows on those who serve Him — benefits which provide for all of man’s needs from spiritual to physical and emotional, and which culminate in being crowned by God’s lovingkindness (covenant love) and tender mercies (intense compassion).
Verses 6-14 center on God’s great mercy for sinners. Mercy’s dimensions are described both vertically (“as the heaven is high above the earth” — verse 11) and horizontally (God removes sin “as far as the east is from the west” — verse 12). The verb translated pitieth in verse 13 means “to have compassion.” Verses 15-18 continue the focus on mercy, pointing out that God’s mercy is eternal toward those who fear Him and keep His commandments.
The psalm concludes with a grand finale of praise and a call to all of creation to join in blessing God.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- What are three of the afflictions that troubled the author of Psalm 102? What are three of the benefits David listed in Psalm 103?
- The word translated destitute in Psalm 102:17 means “stripped of all resources; poor.” Why do you think God particularly regards the prayer of the destitute?
- What are some ways we might go about cultivating and maintaining a spirit of gratitude for God’s benefits?
Like David, we should purpose to remember all that God has done in our lives. Godly memories will be a strong foundation for the future, and are something we can and should pass on to the next generation.