A Pep Talk for the Soul

Original Date: 
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Series: 

Psalm 103 Life Songs: A Pep Talk for the Soul

Psalm 103

Of David.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Of David
Psalm 103 is a pep talk for the soul.

It is a Psalm of David.

The Biblical record does not tell us when in his lifetime he wrote this Psalm, but there are many occasions in his story when these words may have fallen from David's lips.

When he was a young man his death was ordered by King Saul, his father-in-law and mentor. For months on end he lived as a fugitive in the hills of Israel. Separated from his wife and forced to act like a madman in the presence of his mortal enemies, he lived his every day on a dangerous precipice where the slightest mistake would mean his life. He was a wanted man, a hunted animal in a land which had once hailed him as a hero.

Surely in the long nights he spent hidden away in secret caves there were times when the running nearly got the best of him. Times when he felt like cursing God rather than worshipping Him.

Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul. Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach to his heart. Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."

Or again, after David married Bathsheba she bore him a son who lived only a short time. For seven days David fasted and wept while his infant son was overcome by illness. He was so distraught over the sickness that when the child died the servants did not dare tell him for fear of what he might do.

Surely this was one of the darkest times of David's life, a time when the forces of unbelief waged relentless battle with his soul. And yet, when he did learn of the child's death, scripture tells us he picked himself up off the ground, put on clean clothes, and went into the house of the LORD to worship (2 Sam. 12:20).

Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul. Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach to his heart. Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."

Or still later, as David's reign as king neared its end, his son, Absalom, mounted a coup against him. Once again the loyalties of a nation that had so revered him were turned away. An exile from his own city David was forced into enmity with his own flesh and blood.

Surely in those days when he was mustering an army to fight his own son, David must have wondered where God was. Surely there were times when he was prepared to abandon his faith in God for the life of the frustrated skeptic.

Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul. Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach to his heart. Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."

King David is a man who once wrote: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Ps. 34:1). He was a man after God's own heart who was dedicated to glorifying God in all things, but that doesn't mean he went through life free of the bumps and bruises that are common to us all.

David was a man accustomed to tragedy. He faced more than his share of pain--some of it self-inflicted, true, but extremely painful nonetheless. And when the dark times came Psalm 103 is the kind of self-exhortation he needed. He descended into himself and corrected his spiritual sluggishness, he coached himself, he stirred up within himself the worship God demands and deserves.

Psalm 103 is a pep talk for the soul. A sermon to the heart. A reminder of the reasons God is worthy to be praised. "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."

The Unknown Child
Sometimes we too need pep talks for our souls. Sometimes we need to preach to our hearts and remind our souls of the blessings that come from God. Sometimes when the stuff of life happens...when everything seems to slow down and you can hear the blood rushing through you head and feel the weight of a hundred thousand worries pressing down on your chest...sometimes when pain and grief and illness and loss hit so hard that your soul seems to be tottering on the edge of despair...then it is that you need a pep talk for your souls.

I’ll tell you when Psalm103 became vital in my life. After Beth and I had been married about 4 years, we got the news we were longing to hear: “Beth is pregnant.” But in the same breath that the doctor gave us the positive test results he let us know that something was wrong.

Barely comprehending what was happening, we found ourselves at the hospital getting an ultrasound--trying to get a picture of a baby who was only supposed to be six weeks old. "There's something there," the doctor told us, "but it doesn't look the way it should."

For one long week we waited, hoping beyond hope that our baby would survive and thrive, but then we got the news we didn't want to hear, our baby was gone. A miscarriage.

It was in the midst of this emotional roller coaster that a friend of mine, Matt Mitchell, a pastor in Pennsylvania, shared a message from Psalm 103 with me. It proved to be a pep talk for my soul. A gentle reminder, even in the midst of pain and uncertainty, that I have ample reason to give praise to my Lord.

Sometimes when our whole lives seem to shatter and our hopes and dreams and plans get put aside by a totally unexpected crisis, when our souls feel their very blackest, that's when we need to preach a reminder of praise to our souls. When the doctor calls and tells you it’s cancer. When your adult child says, in no uncertain terms, that she wants nothing to do with you anymore. When your boss says you can keep working, just not for him.

It’s at these moments that we need to stop and preach to ourselves. We need to say to ourselves—as Ernie Bruns would say—“Self! You still have reason to praise God.”

That’s what David is doing. Verses 1 and 2:

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

David reminds himself to "forget not all his benefits." Then he goes on to list many ways that God is good to His people. There are seven in verses 3 through 6 alone:

He "forgives all your sins"
He "heals all your diseases"
He "redeems your life from the pit"
He "crowns you with love and compassion"
He "satisfies your desires with good things"
He renews your youth "like the eagle's"
He "works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."

Many and splendid are the ways that God is good to His people. Dramatic and satisfying are the reasons we have to give Him praise.

This morning, I would like us to consider just three. Three reasons David had for always praising God. These are three truths that can make up the pep talk for our souls.

As Far as the East is From the West
The first is the forgiveness of sins. Verses 8-12:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

David praises God because he knows something of the mercy of God. He knows that the LORD is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

He knows that God is a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin, his own experience with Bathsheba taught him that. But he also knows that for those who repent and confess God stands ready to lessen the discipline and treat us in a way we do not deserve.

Even in the period of the Old Testament, prior to the cross, this mercy of God was easily seen:
God had shown patience with the patriarchs,
brought redemption to the slaves in Egypt,
raised up judge after judge in Israel's morally deficient early days,
granted a king to a nation which had abandoned Him,
sent one prophet after another to call His people back to Himself,
and restored David after he had fallen into sin.

And if this was the experience of the Old Testament saints, how much more so for us who know Jesus Christ?

We know that God's love for sinners is very great. Verse 11 says that "as high as the heavens are above the earth" that's how great God's love is for those who fear and serve Him.

Nobody has yet given an exact measurement of the universe. From our perspective on this rock we call earth the celestial heavens spread out above us in a never ending canopy. That's how great God's love is for His chosen people.

It is out of that unending love that God sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that we would not have to experience Hell. All who put their trust in Him and give Him their lives will not taste Hell, but instead will enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Verse 12 says, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us."

Let your mind dwell on that for a second. East and West NEVER touch. Never. Wherever you go, there’s always east, and there’s always west—and they do not meet. They are forever running away from each other.

And for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our sins have been removed from us like east from west.

That means there is no record of our sins anymore. No abiding smudge still attached to our record. Our sins are separated from us by a measureless expanse that stretches beyond infinity.

Does that describe you? Have your sins been forgiven? Removed from you like
east from west? Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?

If you don't know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then you must repent of your sins and trust in Christ to be saved. You must cast yourself into the boundless mercy of God and receive the forgiveness of your sins. You must accept Him by faith and believe in His name and let Him do His redeeming work in your life.

And if you do know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, then His forgiveness of your sins must be the first stanza in the song you sing to your soul. When the cares and difficulties of this world get you down, preach to your heart this sermon on the forgiveness of sin:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious...He will not always accuse...he does not treat us as our sins deserve...For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise Him for the forgiveness of sins.

The Lord’s Love
The second reason for praising God in Psalm 103 is the everlasting love of the Lord. Verses 13-18:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

The everlastingness of God's love for us is contrasted in these verses with the frailty of human life.

Perhaps on no occasion are we better reminded of the fragility of our existence as when we learn of a miscarried pregnancy. After our experience, I learned that some people estimate that as many as 1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many women lose children without ever knowing they are pregnant. Many eggs are fertilized without ever implanting in the uterine wall. In fact, there are so many things which must go exactly right, and so many things that can go wrong, before a child can be brought safely into this world that it’s not much of an overstatement to say that it is a miracle that any children are born at all.

When we hear of miscarriages and heart attacks and cancer we must reflect again on what delicate stuff it is that we are made of. David says in v.15 that we are like a flower of the field: blooming for a day and then gone from this life. Even those who live into old age, people who make it to 100 like my great-grandmother, even they are here for only a blink in the scope of eternity.

We pretend sometimes that this is not so, we pretend sometimes that we are going to live in this world forever. But David knew better. He knew that this body was created from dust and that it will return to dust. He says so in verse 14.

But God's love isn't like that. God's love isn't limited by our frailty or subject to the same limits as we are. From everlasting to everlasting God's love is with those who fear Him. From beginning to end, even from the point of our conception, God's love abides with His covenant people.

In fact, in verse 13 David compares this everlasting love of God to the love earthly dads have for their children. I read this week that God was a father before He was the creator. God had a son—Jesus—long before He created Adam. And so, God has always been the ultimate Father. And those parental feelings of love and protection that we earthly dads feel is just a fraction of the everlasting love that God has for us.

And more than that, our own frailty on this earth is not the end of the story. There is a coming day when all those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead and these "dust"- formed bodies will be trans-formed bodies--to be like Christ. In the everlasting love of God there is a day coming when Beth and I will meet our first child on the golden paved streets of heaven. And I know there will be no tears there that day--and if there are, they will be tears of the purest joy.

God's love for His people is everlasting.

And David knew that. He relished the fact that God loved him. Even though he didn't deserve or earn God's love--no one can (and that makes it all the sweeter)--he was loved by God, and he knew it and it was a reason for praise!

If you are feeling crushed and destroyed, if sadness seems to be the cloak that life has wrapped around you, make this truth a part of the pep talk for your soul: God's love for you has no end. Preach to your heart this sermon on the everlasting love of the Lord:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him...As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone...But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him.

Praise the Lord O My Soul. Praise Him for His everlasting love.

His Kingdom Rules Over All
The third and last reason for praising the Lord from Psalm 103 is the sovereign rule of the Lord over our lives. Verse 19 says it this way:

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

The Lord is king. He rules over everything from his throne in heaven. Everything in our lives is ruled by God. And David knew that. Nothing makes it into our lives by accident. Nothing is outside of God's kingly control. Not the Sun, not the Moon, not the Stars. Not creatures, not humans, not chest pains or cancer. Nothing is outside of God's kingly control.

And when you put together the truth of God's everlasting love for his people and the truth of his kingly control of all things, then you can praise God that nothing that comes into your life will be for your ultimate harm. God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. All things.

And we know that.

Not that we can explain why some pregnancies miscarry and others don’t. Not that we can explain how two kids can be raised in the same home and one grows up to the love Jesus and the other walks away. Not that we explain how some people can smoke two packs a day for 60 years and feel no ill effects, and others get lung cancer at the age of 65.

I wouldn’t presume to try to explain those things to you. I don't know why some people enter old age with nimbleness and clarity while others face lameness and forgetfulness. I don't know why some people face hunger or abuse or neglect. There is so much that I just can't explain about this world and the things that happen over the course of this life.

But there is someone who can. There is a King who stands sovereign over it all. I don't know the answers to life’s tough questions, but there is someone who does: The King.

The King, the King, the King.

He holds the strings of our lives in His hands. There is nothing outside of His kingly control. He is compassionate and gracious, He loves us with an everlasting fatherly love, and His kingdom rules over all.

All. All. All.

All people. All governments. All weather systems. All animals. All molecules. All galaxies.

That's everything. There is nothing that happens without His knowledge. Nothing that happens by accident that He can't control. Nothing that comes into our lives free of His gracious, loving, sovereign hand guiding it so that it will work--not for our harm--but for our good.

David knew that.

I know that.

And you, you all, desperately, excessively, profoundly need to know that.

God is in control. When you are feeling lost and the events of your life seem to be spinning at a frantic, riotous pace remember: God is in control. Incorporate it into the fabric of your life. Sing it over and over again to your soul. Urge your heart to know and believe and cling to this truth:

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord, O My Soul. Praise Him for His sovereign rule over our lives!

Fight! Fight! Fight!
This is the pep talk our souls need. This is a sermon we must all learn to preach to ourselves.

Life is going to intrude and interrupt, it is going to surprise and scare us. Curveballs and change-ups are going to come our way. But in the midst of our discouragement and despair, never forget that we still have good reasons to praise the Lord. We have forgiveness. We have His love. And we know that no matter how dark things look—He is not out of control.

David wants us all to join him in his call to all of creation to bring praise to God:

Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works, everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the LORD, O my Soul.

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