Forget Not All His Benefits | Psalm 103

August 19, 2018 Speaker: Nate Greenland Series: Psalms: Soundtrack for our Souls

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 103

We’ll be in Psalm 103 today, so I invite you to turn there in your Bibles. We’re continuing on in our short summer series on the book Psalms in a series titled Soundtrack for our Souls.

I don’t know about you, but I need a soundtrack. Music speaks into and draws out of a part of us, our souls, like nothing else can do. I need a soundtrack because I love nonfiction...too much probably! Whenever I’m driving around or doing yard work or housework, if there’s no one to talk to, I’m listening to an audiobook or podcast, trying to learn something new about marriage or theology or real estate or history.

But more knowledge, by itself, isn’t enough. We were created not just to know about God and to be able to truthfully and systematically describe His attributes and ways of working in the universe. We were also created to respond to that knowledge in worship - in the songs we sing and the songs we live.

I made the hard-for-me choice on my commute home last night to listen to music instead of an audiobook. As I was listening, a lyric in the song caught me and out of nowhere tears welled up in my eyes as God brought a family in our body to mind and moved me to pray for them. That needed nudge of His Spirit wouldn’t have happened if I was tuned in to an audiobook.

So this sermon series is a welcome reminder for me that we need a soundtrack for our souls and I hope it is for you as well.

QUESTION:

Have you ever been rightfully entitled to something, either something you paid for or something that was gifted to you, and yet you barely scratched the surface of fully the benefits of that thing? Maybe it was a gym membership you used once every month, or a timeshare property you never seem to get away to. My parents gave me a gift certificate to an indoor skydive several years ago for my birthday and I just never used it. And that feels lousy. You know there’s more to be had and enjoyed, but you fail to remember it all and take action.

The same is true for us with our walk with Christ. We’re all too forgetful of the benefits of knowing and being known by the Lord. David has some helpful words for us in that regard to bring us around to a greater awareness of and experience of God’s blessings and benefits.

With David’s hymn of remembrance and thanksgiving in Psalm 103, we’re going to look at 3 things: The bounty in God’s benefits; the tenacity of God’s benefits; and the boasting from God’s benefits.

PRAY

READ PS 103

The bounty of his benefits

[1] Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

[2] Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

David starts out the first 5 verses of his song in a unique way - by talking to himself. On the face of it, it seems strange to us. Few of us talk to ourselves out loud, and we look a little funny at those who do. Growing up, I’d often catch my grandmother in Spokane, who’d been a widow well over a decade, working in the kitchen late at night preparing for Thanksgiving the next day, talking or muttering to herself in a cute, endearing way, all the things she needed to prep and get ready.

But on the surface, it seems a little…off. He’s not just thinking to himself internally or out loud, “man, I should be praising God more.” NO. He’s having a full-on monologue with himself. “Effectively he’s saying, “Nate, you need to get your rear in gear here. Let’s go. You’ve been quiet too long. You’ve fallen into a rut. Do you not realize who your Creator and Savior is…praise Him!”

This is not craziness. It’s what maturity looks like. It’s one way of getting ourselves out of an apathetic rut. What are New Year’s Resolutions but a conversation between our aspirational self with our lazy self about what kind of person we want to be and where we want to grow. What is journaling in many respects but a reflective conversation with ourselves, and God, about the joys and sorrows, fears and hopes of our lives.

The fact is, talking to ourselves in these ways is healthy. David employees this not just here but in Psalms 42, 43, 62 and elsewhere. Learning to preach the truth to ourselves is essential really, because we’re so prone to forget the truth and believe lies.

To use an outdate musical metaphor that might be over some of you teen agers heads, it’s like recognizing when the record player needle of your life has gotten stuck and isn’t advancing and moving forward – we need to pick ourselves up and get unstuck and continue singing the songs we’re created to sing.

So what does David call himself to remember and not forget? God’s benefits! His Gifts. His blessings. And we need this reminder, especially in the reformed stream of Christianity, because of our tendency to get imbalanced. We see the error and false doctrine espoused by those who preach a health and wealth gospel. We see the lie that it that says if we have enough faith and obedience and if we sow our financial seed, God will shower material, tangible blessings on our lives.

So we react to this perversion of the gospel and go a little too far the other direction where we say, “I only want you Jesus. You’re enough. I don’t want your gifts.” There’s a good song on the radio right now with the chorus of,

“Help me want the Healer

More than the healing

Help me want the Savior

More than the saving

Help me want the Giver

More than the giving

Oh help me want You Jesus

More than anything

YES!! We ought to want Jesus above all else. The reason you ought to hunger and look forward to heaven isn’t first and foremost so you can see loved ones or have healing or something else. It’s so you don’t have to look through a glass darkly anymore at your triune God, but get to see and know and enjoy Him face to face.

And yet, in that pursuit David tells his soul and tells our souls – “don’t forget ALL his benefits” It’s ok to remember. We must remember His benefits and all His gifts to us because they’re a demonstration and an outflow of His character and who He is. James tells us that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights”. By tracing back all the rays of light that Christ has shined into our lives we can look back up those beams to their Source and give Him the praise He deserves.

Carly does an awesome job at home of creating photo books at the end of each calendar year or even after a big family vacation like our recent road trip a few weeks ago to Yellowstone. And one of my favorite things to see our boys doing at home is, when there’s a lull in playing or some other activity, to get these photo books out and sit on the couch and pore over them, pointing fun memories out to us or each other. They’re reinforcing in their hearts and minds the God-given blessings and benefits of being in the Greenland family.

So it’s clear now that we’re called and commanded not to forget but to remember ALL God’s benefits. Let’s look at just two of them.

 FORGIVING AND FORGETTING

[3] who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

[10] He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

[12] as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

In a song that proclaims we ought not forget God’s benefits, the sheer number of words and verses devoted to reminding us that in Christ we’re FORGIVEN communicates how central and essential this benefit is. In fact it’s the first benefit David leads off with.

Some benefits are more secondary and peripheral, such as how the Holy Spirit involves Himself in providing spiritual gifts to believers. That’s an area that Jesus-loving faithful brothers and sisters debate about.

But the magnitude and majesty of God’s complete forgiveness of our sinful hearts is central to our faith and relationship with Jesus. It’s not up for debate. If Jesus doesn’t heal our bodies this side of heaven, we’ll be ok. If he doesn’t give us the income we want, we’ll be ok. If he doesn’t allow a relationship to be fully reconciled, we’ll be alright. But if he doesn’t forgive and remove our transgression, iniquity and sin, we’re dead.

V3 says that God heals all our diseases, which is a curious phrase, because that’s not often our human experience. Even David who wrote this song would say that. He prayed and fasted for a week that his son would be healed, but he wasn’t. His son died.

Many of you right now could desperately use some healing, so what are we to make of this verse. While I definitely believe that God gifts us healing through common means like doctors and modern medicine as well as through His miraculous touch, David is being poetic here about the state of our souls before God.

Sin, which is rebellion and mutiny against God, is a cancer that every single one of us is born with. It metastasizes and mutates unless the Great Physician removes our cancerous heart, gives us a transplanted new heart and continues to radiate us with His Holy Spirit.

Isaiah makes it clear in chapter 53 of his book that all of humanity was sick with sinful hostility toward God. We read in 53:3,5

[3] He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

[5] But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

The book of Jeremiah makes a similar point in 3:21–22 where we read:

[21] A voice on the bare heights is heard,

the weeping and pleading of Israel's sons

because they have perverted their way;

they have forgotten the LORD their God.

[22] “Return, O faithless sons;

I will HEAL your faithlessness.”

So he HEALS us of the cancer of sin. What an amazing benefit! When our eyes pop open every morning we should be overcome with gratitude over. That cancer that gripped my soul with hatred toward God and self-absorption has been healed. Hallelujah!

But that’s not all. He forgets our sin as well. Again, David says in verse [12] as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. When our Great Physician removes our dead, cancerous heart, he doesn’t just take it out and then put it in a jar of formaldehyde and set it on your coffee table as a nice little daily reminder. “Yah Nate, that transplant I gave you was pretty dang expensive. What do ya say you don’t screw up this new heart with any more of that hard living. You think you can stay on the straight and narrow for a change buddy?”

No!! If we’ve been made alive with Christ, God says in Jer 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Now God’s memory isn’t faulty, and in reality, all of time is before Him at once, it’s all in his view, but God here is using the confines of human language to try and get us to grasp the reality that he doesn’t hold even our most heinous sins against us.

And we can be guaranteed of this because for God the Father to remember our sins, would be for Him to say Jesus’ death was insufficient and lacking. Scripture tells us just the opposite - that Christ died once and for all, absorbing the Father’s just wrath for sin, rising from the dead and being seated at His right hand because He had accomplished the redemption of the Fathers sons and daughters.

This verse is special to me because in my late teens, I carried around a lot of guilt for my sin. I knew in my head God had forgiven me, but i wasn’t experientially walking in that reality. My soul didn’t deeply feel the freedom of that truth.

If I’ve shared this story up here, forgive me. I got to go on my first ever backpacking trip my senior summer of high school. We were up in the Canadian Rockies, seeing the northern lights at night...it was amazing! At the beginning of the trip, before starting out on the trail, our leaders had all us young guys pick up a good softball sized rock and load it on our backpacks.

Adding weight is the exact opposite of what you want to do when you go backpacking. Obviously, you want to pack as light as possible. Our guides explained that we were to be praying and meditating off and on over the next several days as we’re hiking up mountains with this extra weight about what most weighs us down in our relationship with God.

About the 4th day into the hike we reached our summit and I was sick and tired of carrying around this literal and spiritual extra weight of guilt over forgiven sins. This being my first time having hiked to the top of a mountain, I was blown away at how far I could see in every direction, to the east and to the west, and that’s when this verse hit me - “Nate, as far as the East is from the west, that’s how far I’ve removed your transgressions from you.” With that rock in my hand, I nearly dislocated my shoulder hurtling its weight from me as far as I could and that new freedom felt amazing.

We get it so backwards as followers of Christ. We forget the truth, thinking He remembers our sins; when in fact He calls us to remember the truth that He has forgotten our sins.

Where do you need to remember this benefit of your relationship with God this morning? What confessed and repented of sin, do you need to stop bearing the guilt of as though Christ didn’t already bear it for you? God is saying to you and to me this morning, “I’ve forgotten your sin. Why do you still remember it in a way that defines you more than what what my son, in love, accomplished on the Cross defines you.

He offers you and I a clean, guilt free conscience if we walk with Him in HIs light. Take God up on it!

The tenacity of his benefits

We’ve barely scratched the surface of Jesus’ benefits and didn’t get to talk about how he redeems our life from the pit, giving us meaning and purpose, or how He provides our souls with deep satisfaction we’re looking for in a million other things.

But I want to transition from the bounty in his benefits to talking about the tenacity of His benefits. The fact of the matter is, even as amazing as all of God’s gifts and blessings are, we’ll continue to forget them, despite being commanded to remember them. So we need hope, and David knows this.

In verses 6-14, David shifts from singing to Himself to singing to all of Israel. And with that shift, he invites his hearers to remember some history, specifically Israel’s exodus out of Egypt and even the garden of Eden.

[6] The LORD works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.

[7] He made known his ways to Moses,

his acts to the people of Israel.

[8] The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

[9] He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

David in his song here isn’t so much reminding his fellow Israelites that God kicks the butt of other nations who oppress Israel, though He often did. No, the anger and chiding David mentions isn’t in response to the other nations. It’s in response to Israel's fickle and forgetful hearts. So many of these lyrics here closely echo what God spoke to Moses when He revealed His glory to Moses in Exodus 34: 5-9.

[5] The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. [6] The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, [7] keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

 [8] And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. [9] And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.” Exodus 34:5–9

The more I sat on this passage here, the more I was blown away by the gutsiness of Moses and his interaction with God. Moses brazenly asks to see God’s glory. God says ok, but you only get to see a tiny glimpse of it while hidden protected in a rock and covered with the blast shield of my hand. Once I finish passing by, like the last bit of the setting sun, then you can open your eyes.”

In response to what must have been a terrifying experience where Moses quite possibly second guessed himself and wondered if this might be the day he meets his Maker meeting His maker, rather than asking this glorious God to “please just stay at a safe distance, so that Your holiness doesn’t scorch and obliterate my people in our stiff-necked sin.

No, Moses says, “would you please go in the midst of us...BECAUSE we’re a wicked people. For Moses, as terrifyingly glorious as God’s holy presence was, the prospect of being left to themselves with their stiff, unrepentant necks was even more terrifying.

We know Israel’s history. They continually were forgetting ALL the benefits and blessings that God had poured out on them. Just. Like. Us. Just like you and me. So David’s reminder of God’s tenacious, steadfast love toward His children is much needed good news for us as we think about how forgetful, unsatisfied and indifferent we are with God’s provision in our own lives. Whereas our frame is frail and our heart prone to fail because we come from dust, His steadfast love, in the very midst of us, is solid and sure.

The good news of the gospel, is that even though we not only often forget God’s benefits, but we forget God himself, He never, ever forgets us. God, speaking through Isaiah in 49:15-16 captures this unfailing love for us so tenderly and with an amazing foreshadowing of the cross of Christ. God says,

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

Isaiah in 49:15-16

It is impossible for Jesus to forget you, even when you forget Him. He’s incribed you on the palms of His hands through the nails of His cross. That is amazing grace!

The boast of His benefits

Finally, we’ve talked about the bounty in Christ’s benefits and the tenacity of Christ’s benefits. Let’s close out with the boasting from Christ’s benefits.

[19] The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

[20] Bless the LORD, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word!

[21] Bless the LORD, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will!

[22] Bless the LORD, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

As David closes out his song, you hear the sound of a man whose soul has come alive and he can’t contain his excitement about who our great God and King is. Notice the journey he’s taken in this song. He started at a place of maybe feeling a little apathetic or dead, needing to exhort and preach to his own soul to get it jump started with remembrances of all of God’s blessing in His life.

Then, as a result of stirring himself up rather than merely waiting for the feelings to hit...which seldom do, he gets to a place of remembering the goodness of God in his own life, and it’s not enough for him to enjoy God for Himself - he has to share. He closes out his song by calling all of creation to lift their voices to God for all that He’s done and for all that He is. That’s not a sense of obligation for David. It’s the natural fulfilment of delighting himself in God.

CS Lewis has this brilliant observation about how God has created us - that we get our deepest and fullest enjoyment of God when we share our enjoyment of Him with others. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis writes:

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed. It is frustrating to…come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

When believers and unbelievers alike ask you how are you doing, how often do you give praise to Jesus for one of His benefits in your life - whether it’s strength to go through a trial, patience he’s given you with a difficult child, restored health, less anxiety, a great vacation...etc. Let’s not let those opportunities pass us by to enjoy God more fully by celebrating His goodness in our lives.

We have gathered here today to remember our great God and the countless benefits of His salvation and mercy, and in remembering to celebrate Him. And in celebrating Him, to go out from this gathering compelled to invite, through our lives, those who don’t yet know him to experience all that He is.

More in Psalms: Soundtrack for our Souls

August 12, 2018

A Song of Thanksgiving | Psalm 116

August 5, 2018

Sin’s Siren -- God’s Salvation Song | Psalm 51

July 29, 2018

Jesus: Lord of Lords | Psalm 110