Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, 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.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
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. (Psalm 103:1-12)
This is fun.
God, always happy to remind humanity who he is (even though he’s done it innumerable times before and gets rightfully annoyed when we forget) is presenting us with his accomplishments. Not that we’re hiring him. But so that we might worship him.
However, I must admit…there’s always been a little hesitation in me regarding parts of Psalm 103.
“Healing all your diseases”?
“Satisfying our desires with good things?”
Lord, I want to say in a classic bout of neurotic overthinking, should you really be opening with that line? You’ve already got too many Christians down here who chase after nothing but these things. You’ve already got too many pastors down here who speak of nothing but these things, because they know it fills pews (and coffers).
I mean, most of the rest is okay. Talking about your love is great, Lord. But should you really be encouraging all the rest of that business?
Imagine, if you will, this random guy on the internet bursting into the throne room in the middle of an angelic worship session, nattering and clucking in monotone under his breath as he reviews Psalm 103 over a pair of spectacles. The angels stop in mid-sentence to stare at this small, impudent figure as he strides towards the throne without looking up from the document.
Proper theology usually focuses instead on forgiveness of sins. You ought, Lord, to better emphasize “for those who fear him” – in fact, really, just make the whole thing about that. And Verse 19 should have been the headline, because it goes over your sovereignty. These are the bullet points I would have gone with.
Those gravity waves detected from a black hole collision last year? That actually came from every jaw in the throne room hitting the floor simultaneously.
Oh, and Lord…I know it’s your resume and not mine…but I’m not sure about that whole “he does not treat us as our sins deserve”. I think you’re incentivizing the wrong things here. People who tear apart churches, embarrass your body with their political anger, hoard wealth, look at pornography…give these people grace and they will only run with it. Won’t a proper reward structure help discourage sin, as you wish?
The four living creatures surrounding the throne (Rev. 4:8) would be facepalming, if being covered with eyes didn’t render the gesture moot.
Oh, and Lord…come on. We both know you don’t heal every disease. Why is that in there?
A string breaks on someone’s guitar.
I don’t know, Lord. A lot of good religious people have a very different image of you, and it’s been working nicely for them for a while. Are you sure you want to disrupt things with this Psalm 103?
James and John look over at the throne and, in unison, inquire: “Do you want us to destroy him?”
And well would I deserve it.
Scripture tends to disrupt us, and not just in ways we expect. Having lived the Christian life for a few years will at least get you accustomed to being disrupted by God revealing your sins. We don’t like it, but we expect it. That’s one reason we stop reading our Bibles. We don’t want to deal with what we might find.
But then God will turn around and disrupt, too, the part of us that likes to act as amateur doctrine proofreader or church controller. Like Jesus overturning money tables, Scripture takes our distorted views of God’s love – formed by years of disappointment and heartache into ingots of religious-sounding lowered expectations – and upends them onto a foundation of grace and generosity. He disrupts us on every level, always towards righteousness, but sometimes also towards hope.
And always towards a better understanding of who he is.
There are good exegetical explanations for the tension between, e.g., “every disease” and the fact that God sometimes does leave hopes unmet in this life (as Jesus’ life attests).
But at all times, let our understanding of man, nature, and God start with Scripture – all of it – and work from there. Let us respect and treasure every passage, every verse, every word of Scripture as true and perfect, without adjustments to “fit” to our reality. Scripture is reality.
Our world is merely catching up.