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 — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103.1-5.
What a wonderful few verses for kick-starting today’s new walk with God! Totality of blessing calling for totality of response. He meets me this morning, as always, with forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, satisfaction, and renewal. But how do I meet him? Forgetful of past blessings? That, sadly, is too often the truth of it. I come to him burdened or under pressure or preoccupied with what lies ahead in the day and, instead of praise, my prayers are all petition. Wrong, wrong, wrong! says the psalmist. Begin by remembering all God’s “benefits”, he says, and praise will flow — soul-praise, praise from deep within.
First, there is forgiveness of sin or, literally here, the removal of guilt (Hebrew — awon) and, closely linked to it, the healing of diseases. As Jesus demonstrated in the case of the paralytic let down through the roof by his friends, disease (dis-ease?) can be the consequence of sin and the guilt that attaches to it. “Which is easier:” says God in Christ, “to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2.9). He comes to me today as he came to the paralytic with both forgiveness and healing.
Then there is redemption from “the pit” — a metaphor in the Psalms for adversity. He comes to me in “the hole” my troubles have put me in and lifts me out of it, placing me alongside himself on his throne where he “crowns” me with love and compassion. “Love” here is heseth — that constant, faithful, unquenchable covenant love of God that is constantly working for my good; which combines here with “compassion” — merciful recognition of, and feeling for, my weakness and frailty.
And finally there is what the NIV calls “satisfaction of my desires” but which is probably, in Hebrew, the “filling of my existence” with good things. My desires are often such as God might choose not to satisfy, but he does fill my being with good things; and the outcome, says the psalmist, is that my youth is renewed. That’s good news to a 66 year-old! I might be aging on the outside but God will keep me young on the inside. The image of the eagle is of something that effortlessly soars high in the heavens — “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40.31).
Hold me close, let your love surround me.
Bring me near, draw me to your side.
And as I wait I’ll rise up like the eagle,
and I will soar with you, your Spirit leads me on
in the power of your love.