Psalm 103

Day of National Thanksgiving – 11/24/2022

A most blessed Thanksgiving Day to each of you. May the LORD, your God, to whom you have come to render your thanks and praise this day, enrich you with His abundant grace and blessing in your giving of thanks!

One of the more stark comments we heard this morning in our Scripture readings came from the mouth of a rather amazed and startled Jesus. He commented to those around Him concerning the 10 lepers He had cleansed: "Were not all ten cleansed?" Where are the other nine?" "Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

As if they were too enthralled by the gift of candy you gave them to say thank you, these lepers were so enthralled by the gift of healing Jesus had given them that they went brain dead. In their excitement over their gift, they could not even remember the simplest courtesy their mothers had always taught them: to remember to say thanks to those who give you something. But even more than that, they missed the fact that they in no way deserved to be cleansed, especially by Jesus. Jesus was no physician; they were paying Him to heal them. Just because they were Jews didn't mean that God, Jesus, or anyone else owed them anything. They failed to remember just how merciful, kind, and gracious Jesus had been to them by healing them.

Remembering is one of our greatest problems as fallen creatures. Husbands, I'm not just talking about remembering your wife on her birthday either. No, to our detriment, we often fail to remember a lot of things.

The late 19th and early 20th-century philosopher, essayist, and novelist George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ("Reason in Common Sense")

All too often, nations, as well as we as individuals, prove this to be true. History is full of lessons if we just remember and do not repeat the mistakes of our forefathers.

The Psalm we prayed together at the beginning of our service today is also just such a call to remember history; specifically, "His story," that is, God's dealings with us. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me; bless His holy name!" we read."Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." (vs 1&2).

The word "bless" in the original Hebrew, as well as the Greek word employed to translate it in the Septuagint, has the connotation of "speaking well of someone; saying good things about them." There is no greater way to say thanks to our benefactor than to proclaim to all who would hear what great things that person has done for us and how gracious they have been to us. Such is praise. Such is Thanksgiving.

The cleansed Samaritan said it all in his prostration before Jesus: "How merciful you have been to me, a poor, unworthy Gentile." My trip to the priest to be officially declared clean can wait. It is you, dear Lord Jesus, whom I bless! See, everyone! "See what He so graciously has done for me!"

What a history these ten lepers had with the Lord! God Himself, in the flesh of Jesus, had come to them! He had washed their putrefying, rotting flesh with His mercy and made it beautifully pink, alive, and clean again. To not remember God's gracious dealings with them is more than unthinkable. It is criminal, is it not?

Unfortunately, our English translations translate what David is exhorting his soul not to forget as the LORD's "benefits." This word David uses does not speak about tangible gifts that someone is given. Rather, the word stems from a verb that meant "to deal fully with someone or something." What one should not forget are God's gracious dealings with them.

What are you and I thanking the Lord for today, such as our home, country, family, and worldly possessions? Indeed, these are great gifts to be thankful for. But we are challenged by David in this Psalm to a higher level of thanksgiving than to simply revel in our gifts. You can be sure the nine lepers who never returned to Jesus were still reveling in their gift of healing. Instead, we are being challenged to never forget God's gracious dealings with us. To do so involves not only recalling all the great things God has done for us but also remembering the mind-boggling grace, mercy, and love of God for us that moved Him to act in such a fashion toward us.

Listen again as David proclaims the LORD's gracious dealings with not only him but with all "who fear the LORD."

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

not to mention all of His advantages,

[3] who pardons all your sins,

who heals all your diseases, 

[4] Who redeems your life from the pit?

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 

[5] who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.

[6] The Lord works righteousness.

and justice for all who are oppressed. 

[7] He made His ways known 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 correct you.

Neither will he hold onto His rage forever.

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

nor repay us according to our iniquities. 

[11] For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

So great is His unwavering love for those who fear Him.

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

So far, he has not absolved us of our transgressions.

[13] As a father shows compassion for His children,

So the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

[14] Because he is aware of our composition; he recalls that we are dust.

We could spend a year of Thanksgiving Days just meditating on all of God's gracious dealings with those who fear and love Him, as David delineates them here. Notice that he even recalls God making His ways and words known to Moses and His mighty acts in delivering the people of Israel.

However, as David directs his and our souls, central to all of God's dealings with His people is His compassionate healing of our leprous, sinful condition. "Bless the LORD, O my soul... Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy... The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Talk about zeroing in on our greatest need. It can't get any more essential to our eternal well-being than the forgiveness of our sins. Our sin is what separates us from God and keeps us from truly enjoying life as God desires us to have it. What good are earthly goods if our souls are forfeited and we spend eternity away from God and in eternal torment?

Similarly, nothing is more important in remembering God's gracious dealings with us than to bless the LORD for forgiving our sins so graciously.

Truly gracious God has been! As David also comments in this Psalm, the LORD is under no delusions concerning who we are. We may delude ourselves and others into believing that we are truly something, worthy of men's and God's adoration and gifts, but the LORD remembers that we are nothing more than dust. He created us from dust, and because of our idolatries and failure to remember His gracious dealings with us, we will return to dust. God owes us no favors or benefits. Our rebellion has made us foreigners to Him. In His righteous judgment, we deserve only His present and eternal wrath and punishment.

Herein lies one of my favorite portions of this psalm: Despite our unworthiness, the Lord's mercy is beyond comprehension. It is of cruciform dimensions. His compassion and mercy for condemned sinners like us have infinite length and breadth, as well as height and depth (Reardon, p. 203). "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us."

In these verses, it is almost as if David could picture the cross of Jesus. There, suspended on the vertical pole between heaven and earth, were the height and the depth of His love, and with arms stretched out wide from east to west on the cross beam, the length and breadth of His compassion were made manifest for sinners. There, the Son of God Himself compassionately endured God's judgment for our sins so that our iniquities might be sent far away from us and we might be healed of all sin's consequences: diseases, plagues, calamities, and death itself.

Join me, fellow redeemed of the LORD, on this day of Thanksgiving as we forget not our greatest blessing and proclaim with David of old: "Bless the LORD, O my soul; He compassionately and graciously forgives all my iniquity." Amen!

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