All that I am Praise the LORD

July 23, 2023

Book: Psalms

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Scripture: Psalm 103

Remembering the immeasurable gifts of God will lead you to the immense praise of God. Psalm 103 is a call to a total commitment of oneself to God in light of His covenant keeping love for us.

Yeah, I think the rain was a pretty cool story. I mean, literally two hurricanes came by the island and missed us. But it was enough just for rain. There’s a video of us where we’re getting soaked. I mean, it was coming down. It was downpouring. And I said, Sarah, stop praying. You know, it was a really cool experience for the whole team.

Speaking of prayer, let me pray again one more time. Father, I pray that my words would be your words. And anything that’s not of you, that you would just mute me and or let it fall on deaf ears. But it would be uplifting to the body here and glorifying to you. God, teach us and give us insight into your word, into this magnificent psalm that teaches us to bless you with all that is within us. We bless your Holy Name God. We do that now. In Jesus name, Amen.

So Psalm 103, there are no slides, so we’re going to be here the whole time camping out in this Psalm. If you’re a note taker, there are other verses I’ll reference. You want to grab a pen and write that into your bulletin as you tag along. Psalm 103 is an exhortation of David. He looks back on his life, recounting all of God’s goodness. As David has been meditating on the multitude of the blessings he received thus far from God, he realizes something is off. Something isn’t adding up in his mind. In his heart, he realizes his worship of God is lacking. You ever felt that way? The God of the universe who created all things? Who sent his son to die for you and me? And sometimes I struggle on Sunday mornings to lift my hands, to sing a song of praise and gratitude. If you feel like me sometimes, you don’t even want to come on Sunday mornings. You’re like, I could be sleeping at this moment. And David’s realizing his heart needs a pep talk here. But David’s calling for more than just deeper mental recalling of God’s goodness. He’s talking about something far more transforming than just recounting the blessings that God has given us. What we are told here is that our innermost being for all of us here, there’s a forgetfulness or disbelief that lies within. And my center of centers at the very core of who I am, in spite of what I may know and what I may experience, down in the soul of my heart, I’ve lost sight of God’s truth. And therefore, my heart’s worship is lacking. Well, what’s the remedy for this? We read it earlier. How do you bless the Lord with all your soul? Says it there in verse 2, by not forgetting all of His benefits. By remembering. Sounds simple enough. Tim Keller is helpful here in defining from a biblical perspective on what remembering is. Our English definition for remembering is kind of shallow. He says, in the Bible, remembering is to have something so central to your consciousness that it affects you completely and in particularly your behavior. To remember means to have it so central to your consciousness that it controls how you act. Here is my main point of the message this morning. Remembering the immeasurable gifts of God will lead you to the immense praise of God. Let me say it one more time: Remembering the immeasurable gifts of God will lead you to the immense praise of God. It’s not enough to simply say, I believe in these benefits, to have an intellectual grasp of what they mean. You have to do what David is doing here in Psalm 103, which is a vigorous discipline of meditation and contemplation.

Let me give you an example of this. Four years ago, we went to the DR for the last time. We had a skip a year for Covid and Ashley was on that team. She mentioned that. And we were in a different site working in more of a rural community. It was kind of off the beaten path. And we were doing a nighttime service and we were going to do the worship, the teaching testimonies, skits, everything we were leading everything in the community was coming to us and joining us for an evening worship. So it’s at dusk. The sun is setting, it’s getting darker. And then Rick says, oh, by the way, sometimes the electricity goes out and you never know if it’s a couple hours or a couple days. It just kind of roll the dice. Sweet. I’ll file that away. Didn’t think twice about it. So we have everything set up. Everything’s ready to go. We’re dressed in our Sunday best. Everyone’s queued up and ready to go and all of a sudden, boom. I mean, imagine if the lights went out right now. I’d be kind of cool. Don’t do it, Joel. But like, it went out and I’m like, I can see silhouettes of people and I’m thinking, we’re going to have church in the dark, right? Is that creepy? Preaching and singing. Like our songbooks? I don’t know the Spanish yet. I’m going to be like, making up words, right? Even as we’re singing today. I was singing Spanglish. Like, I was just going back and forth into the different choruses. And I’m mentally preparing in my head church in the dark, right? And then all of a sudden, out of somewhere in the darkness, I hear a student’s voice, Hey, we should pray that God turns the light back on. And in my head I responded. And this is what I said to myself. That’s not going to work. I doubt it. I was like, No, we’re going to have church in the dark and we’re just going to go for it. And people are going to have to figure things out. And I was like. No. It’s not going to work. And like a good youth pastor on a mission trip in the middle of the Dominican Republic, I said, Yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s pray. Right? And I said, maybe you should lead us in prayer. You have more. I didn’t say this, but you had more faith in me. And so we began to pray. And there was actually a student who was here early in the service, and he corrected my story a little bit. So this is more of an accurate version of it. But he remembers we were praying. Lights didn’t come on after we prayed for the lights to come on. And then we sang a song and some of us had our cell phones, just the leaders had their cell phones in there putting it on the lyrics. And we’re singing praises in the dark. And then just as the song was halfway through, the lights came on and I remember looking at people and all of our eyes were like bug eyed saucers. I was like, God did it. And it was this amazing experience, everyone was surprised by joy. We were like pumping, pumping. Like giving, pumping, pumping. High fiving. That’s what I meant to say. We were pumped, giving high fives, we stopped singing and literally people were jumping. The gentleman who was with us in the first service, he goes, I remember the lights come on and I see the pastor of the church smiling with his eyes closed, singing. And it was just a memorable experience. And even though the lights went on, I was still in the dark. I was like, John, you doubted God would do this. You had no faith that in praying he would answer and hear your guys’ call. When the lights came back on, we all felt in our innermost beings that God had moved us and did something for us special that night. The first time someone mentioned praying I only had an intellectual grasp of, yeah, I guess God could do that. I had spiritual amnesia of just how powerful and present God was in the air with us that day. But when the lights came on, it affected my consciousness. Everything within me was surprised by joy and I could not contain the smile. I could not contain the happiness. We were all moved to celebrating, and our worship was more, I don’t know. It was more physical. Like we were moving, more like God. You answered us. You showed up. You deserve our praise. You deserve to be for that. But we experienced it in our inmost selves.

If you say I believe that God loves me. But you’re afraid. You’re harboring bitterness or you’re worried or you can’t find hope. You’re like me in the DR. When someone says, Hey, let’s pray. I was like, Yeah, prayer. That’s not going to work. You know that God works here. You have an intellectual grasp of God’s goodness. But you don’t know that God works here in your innermost being and He moves, and you experience His goodness.

Meditation and contemplation are taking the truth down to the very core of who you are. Meditation and contemplation with David is doing here in Psalm 103, is praying your heart hot with the truth until it catches fire in the very presence of God. It’s praying until the lights come on and you see the hand of God has been there the whole time, providing for you, leading you and guiding you. You’ll see here in these opening verses, David is preaching to his heart, in fact. In the psalm, David is not speaking to God. He’s addressing his soul. David begins his psalm by exhorting himself to a deeper sense of worship. Bless the Lord oh, my soul. The very core of who you are and all that is within me. Every fiber of your being. He is storing up in himself, reminding himself of God’s goodness. God’s worthy of praise. Telling his heart, Wake up o soul, and see what God is doing for you and what he’s done. The word all is found in this psalm at least nine times. God heals all of our diseases. He forgives all our sins. He rules over all. Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me. This Psalm is a call to a total commitment to God. A complete praise of God with all that I am. You search this psalm, there are no requests, no supplications. It is 100% dedicated to the praise and adoration of God.

Verse 2. Forget not all his blessings. God has so many blessings. It’s innumerable that it would be easy for some of those blessings to fall through the crack. And slip our consciousness. As a young believer, I used to think that if God would just show a miraculous sign in the sky, so many people would see it and come to faith. Reminds me of the questions I used to get from some of my non-believing friends. Hey, if God is real, all he has to do is show up, reveal himself. Do a little magic trick, if you will, and I’ll put my faith in him. And then you read all the miraculous events in the Bible and how many people experienced these wonders and signs. And how many have they forgotten and walked away. As Derek Kidner puts it, quote, no story surpasses the exodus for a record of human unworthiness, of grace abounding and benefits for God. Israel, fresh from escaping slavery in Egypt, witnessing the ten plagues, crossing the Red Sea, and one of the first acts of worship when they enter is making a golden idol. The golden calf. At least 14 times in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses admonishes the people to remember the Lord and what he did for them. Nine times he cautioned them, Don’t forget. Spiritual amnesia or the sin of forgetfulness, leads us to diminish praise and makes us more prone to wander into sin.

In Matthew 18, the parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates this well. This parable has always scared me, guys, as I believe it’s a piercing commentary on how we are so quick to forget all the benefits we received in Christ. In this story, a king calls into account everybody who owes him debt, and one of these servants comes before him and he owns a huge debt, he can’t even pay so large of a sum of money. The king says, all right, well, since you can’t pay it, I’m going to throw you in jail and sell your family to slavery. And the servant begs and pleads and says, Mercy, give me time. Be patient with me. And the king moved with compassion, it says, does one better. He not only doesn’t just give him time. He forgives the debt outright. Completely and free. And he goes on his way and that same servant turns around and finds another servant who owes him money of far less value. Chokes him, says there in scripture and says, Give me what you owed me. Same thing. The servant says, Hey, I don’t have the money. Be patient with me. Give me time. And he says, No way, Jose. Sorry, that’s not in the Bible. That’s not even the Spanish Bible. He says no, and he throws him into prison to collect on his debt. Well, when the king hears about this, the king calls him again and says, you wicked servant. Did I not show mercy to you? And this is how you repay i?. Now you should be thrown in prison and your debt collected on. And then Jesus says is at the very end of Matthew 18, the end of the parable, he says, ‘so also My Heavenly Father. Will you do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’. You know when the car cuts you off on the way to church. And then you give a very colorful response. Maybe there’s some sign language. Sign language. Yeah. Sign language involved. Right. Try to keep this PG. You know why you got angry, and you respond the way you did? It wasn’t because they cut you off. It’s because you forgot that God paid your debt, which was far greater than that small debt that person did to you. You know, when your siblings call you a name and you return evil with evil instead of overcoming evil with good, it’s because you have this sin of spiritual forgetfulness. If you’re harboring bitterness toward somebody in this room or otherwise, it’s because you have spiritual amnesia. The problem behind every one of these problems is, we don’t remember. Because of the sin of forgetfulness, we have become debt collectors instead of being debt forgivers. Merciful as our father was merciful to us.

So what are all these benefits? David lists quite a few blessings throughout the entirety of this psalm. Starting in verse three, Forgiveness. And oh, how David knew what forgiveness was, right? For starters, he was an adulterer, murderer, and a liar. And when it says that he forgives all iniquities, that word there all is a beautiful thing because it’s the encompassing. Even the sins that you feel are unforgivable, even the sins that right now, if I ask you, what’s your favorite sin? Why can’t you stop sinning? Just don’t answer that. He forgave that, too. In fact, he removed it so much so, that you’re no longer defined by it. And when he sees you, he says he blots them out. Complete forgiveness. Of course, the question is, how can God even do that? That seems so unfair. Isaiah 53:6 gives us the answer. All we like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Who’s him? A thousand years from this point when David was writing his psalm, David’s sin is going to be laid on Jesus Christ himself. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of not just David, but everybody who ever puts their faith in him. So this psalm won’t work from the beginning without Jesus in the picture. Our only hope when we exalt God in Psalm 103, is that our sins are covered by the one who came a thousand years later and bore them on a cross.

The second benefit we see is healing. God’s benefits are both spiritual and physical. Mentioned in the Psalm, here are the words, iniquity, and diseases. And for the similarity between them, there is a difference between God’s handling of our iniquities and our diseases. Forgiveness is immediate. As soon as you ask, as soon as you repent from it. Forgiveness is complete. If you mean it, if you’re contrite, if you repent. Whereas diseases that we have, the healing may be prolonged. Or even delayed. One commentator put it this way: if relationship with God is paramount, this makes perfect sense. For sin destroys our relationship with God and with one another, by the way. While suffering may actually deepen it. I pray a prayer for my kids almost every night. And this is the prayer I pray: God, whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. If it brings suffering to my kids’ life in my life. If it brings pain, if you remove something that’s an idol that we don’t know. Whatever it takes. Please bring it to me and my family. If it draws my kids closer to you, if it matures and we show up with a greater faith because we experience you move in us, if you need to cause it to be dark in the DR, turn off the lights. So I will learn to pray with all my heart. If you need to have a drought in the DR so our team can experience prayer and see hurricanes, be moved so it rains on us to the point where literally it was pouring down flooding, do so and with my kids. This is a dangerous prayer for a parent. Even if it means suffering. Caused them to suffer, that they may know you more intimately. Ultimately complete healing will come when we are resurrected, and death is put to death.

Redemption. Verse 4 is the next benefit we see. All of our sins, some of us really struggle with that, all our sins are really pardoned? I heard a story recently of a pastor who was put in jail because of his faith. Unjustly accused of something, because of his Christian faith, and he was put in jail, and he was scared of his mind to go to jail, but he felt like he was his conviction to stand and do what was right. And he’s in jail. And he hears rumors that the inmates are being influenced by his captors, if you will, to intimidate him and do things to him, to break him, make him confess something. And so as these inmates are approaching him, as his cell door was left wide open so anyone could enter, this is his recounting of the story. He said he was scared, and he began to pray and pray hard. But as the inmates noticed the difference of treatment, they began to actually respect him as they came to know him as a pastor who was jailed. They began to ask him questions. One inmate came to him. If a pastor asks you a question. He said, Shoo, shoo, shoo. What is it? Can a murderer really go to heaven? At that moment, the pastor knew every single accusation against him was worth being in that position to answer that question. He didn’t care that he was in jail. He had a captive audience. He didn’t care that he was wrongly accused because he knew Christ ordained it. He looked into that murderer’s eyes. He says all sins can be forgiven if you put your faith in Jesus. And that person did. Imagine that prisoner, standing for Jesus, knowing that this guy took someone’s life and Jesus takes a crown. And places it on his head. Crowning him with his steadfast love and mercy of our savior. How would that make you and me feel? I’d be cheering. I’d go wild. Because, I mean, what does that mean for us? What does that mean for you and me? Although I’ve had hatred in my heart and we know what Jesus says about that, though the humiliation may be rightly deserved, God bestows on his people the largest of favors, his loyal love and compassion.

Love is the next benefit mentioned here in Psalm 103. Steadfast or loyal love is what he will always be faithful and true, even though we may find ourselves in the pit or, in this gentleman’s case, a prison cell. Mercy or compassion is the quality in which God, our Heavenly Father, empathizes with our frailty. He knows our limitations and our appetite towards sin. And yet he is still tender and compassionate, over and over and over again.

Verse 5 talks about the satisfaction that he brings to us. Jeremiah 32:40 says this: ‘I will make with them an everlasting covenant’, God speaking to his people, ‘that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me’. You see, true satisfaction is not temporary. Like the fleeting pleasures of this world where you have to refill yourself up and never satisfies, and you have to go back to the well over and over. And you thirst again and again. True satisfaction carries the idea that it lasts. God made an everlasting covenant with you and I. Promising he will not turn away from us in doing good. He even safeguards it in our hearts with a holy fear. And praise God for that.

Renewal is the result of all these benefits mentioned. The Eagle serves as a symbol of strength, vitality, and endurance. It says that we shall be renewed like the eagles. When you take a step back and look at all these benefits in these first six verses of Psalm 103, you see how similar it is to the gospel. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, satisfaction and renewal, and even justice mentioned in verse six. The gospel changes everything about our lives. As stated earlier, these benefits all find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ as they ultimately point forward to him. The good news. That’s the main thing that you and I need that we read here in Psalm 103. The problem behind all of our problems is that we forget the gospel. Keeping it central to your heart is key in battling the sin of forgetfulness or spiritual amnesia.

Verses 8-10, they start off with the same blessing or a self-description of God in Exodus 34. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. But if you read Exodus, there’s a little variation. It says, But by no means will he clear the guilty. Here in Psalm 103, it states he does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. And praise God for that. But are these contrary verses, both in the Old Testament? Are they giving different descriptions of God’s love? Well, as they point forward to Jesus, we know that Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake, he made him Jesus to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteous righteousness of God. This is the great exchange. You see, no one will go unpunished. And so Jesus takes our punishment. Punishment. In exchange, we receive his righteousness. There is no better deal you’re going to receive, on Amazon or Walmart or wherever you shop. None of that compares. In fact, it pales in comparison. None of that will satisfy you in the long run.

Verses 11 – 13 shows us the immeasurable, the immeasurable benefits of God. He says, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him. The first measurement here that’s given is God’s love and measurement of heights, right? And so I remember this analogy for a while ago. There is 96 million miles between the earth and the sun. And if it was represented by the thickness of this piece of paper. 96 million miles represented by this piece of paper. Do you realize the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stack of paper 70ft high, just to the nearest star? Let’s expand it a little bit. Let’s go the width of the Milky Way, the galaxy we’re part of. If we stacked papers representing 96 miles per sheet, the diameter of our little galaxy would be 310 miles high. That’d be a lot. That’s just the Milky Way. Not to mention how far beyond. We can’t even see the end of the galaxy. The space that God created. If you are ever doubtful of God’s steadfast love to you, walk outside at night and see if you can see, even with a telescope beyond the stars. And beyond that is God’s love, as far as how it’s immeasurable.

The second measure he gives is the width. He says as far as the east is from the west, if we went on a field trip and we started walking north, sooner or later, once we get to North Pole, we start heading south. But he says as far as the east is from, if we were headed in the west direction and continue heading west, we would never cross into an eastern direction. And he says that’s how far God has removed your sins. My sins from each other. It’s immeasurable. Infinite. And as such, we see that God’s infinitely removed our transgressions, our iniquities from us. Ephesians 3:18 says this: ‘May we have the strength to comprehend with all the saints? What is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and that you may be filled with the fullness of God’. If immeasurable distances are the way of expressing immeasurable love and mercy, the intimacy of a father is another one. As he says here, God is like a loving father. In a family context, a loving father is affectionate and compassionate. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one. Coming from my family background, it’s hard to see God as a loving father. But he has compassion and it’s built on here on a really cool thing. He understands our fragile frames. I’ve exhausted my dad’s patience many times. I’ve never exhausted … You have never exhausted God’s compassion and patience for you. Nor could you. It’s immeasurable. Verse 14 adds that the father knows us and knows our weaknesses and he cares. This is the picture of a good father that recognizes the extra care needed for his child and meets that. With tender mercies. Verse 14-16 (I know I’m zipping through this, guys), I take comfort in knowing that God knows that we’re weak. He knows our frail frames. Not only is our time on this earth limited and short. We’re here today and gone tomorrow. James says our life is like a vapor. But he knows that we’re brittle. He knows that we’re breakable. He knows that we’re weak. You contrast man’s frailty in verse 17 with God’s steadfast love that lives forever and does not have limits. We have. And therefore, promises are from everlasting to everlasting, even passed down from our Childrens’ children. He is faithful, even to our descendants. And being a father, that makes me so happy. Being a grandparent, I’m sure it blesses you too. The psalm ends with David calling on all creation to bless the Lord, to stir up their affection and heart for God. Brothers and sisters, there’s no better way to end this sermon than to do that right now. As we sing one more song about blessing the Lord for the many blessings, the 10,000 reasons that He’s given to bless him, let us sing with all of our heart and all that is within us. Please join me in prayer.

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