Restoration & Praise

Christian Fellowship Center

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON

Lesson for Sunday 

DECEMBER 16, 2018

LOVE AND WORSHIP GOD

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Devotional Reading: Psalm 816:1-7

Background Scripture: Psalm 103:1–17a, 21, 22​
LESSON SCRIPTURES: Psalm 103:1–17a, 21, 22
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2018-2019).


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:
3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
7. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
8. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 
11. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 
13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
14. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
15. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
17.a But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.
21. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
22. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.

Lesson Aims
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Give the reasons for praising the Lord found in today’s text from Psalm 103.
2. Tell how these reasons apply to Christians living under Jesus’ new covenant.
3. Compose a psalm to the Lord, combining an acknowledgment of the Lord’s character with an awareness of the blessings He has given.

Introduction

Praying It Upward

Sometimes when a person is the recipient of a kind deed, the individual will talk about “paying it forward.” The idea is that anyone who has been helped should “forward” that kindness to someone else. This way of thinking is meant to counter a self-centered, “me first” frame of mind.

The principle of paying it forward can be drawn from certain biblical passages. When sending His disciples to preach and do miracles in His name, Jesus said, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8; compare Romans 15:25–27).

Scripture also encourages the practice of “praying it upward,” of acknowledging that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Offering praise to the Lord does not mean ignoring the needs of others around us; if anything, it encourages us to bless others as we have been blessed and to thus “pay forward” the goodness we have received from God.

The Bible includes dozens of commands to praise the Lord. The book of Psalms witnesses many such imperatives and a variety of expressions of praise to God. One such is the source of this lesson text.


LESSON CONTEXT
The book of Psalms has often been described as “Israel’s hymnal.” It is replete with expressions of emotions directed to God. These range from praise (as in today’s passage from Psalm 103) to extreme frustration and anger at how God appears to be addressing (or not addressing) the problems of a broken world. Often there is disappointment and confusion expressed over how God’s own covenant people are being mistreated while evildoers seem to suffer no consequences in doing as they please (see Psalms 73 and 74). No sentiment seems to be off-limits in the Psalms. This makes the book of immense value to God’s people when they pray.

The above factors and others have resulted in Bible scholars noting various types of Psalms. These include hymns, psalms of thanksgiving, laments, royal psalms, wisdom psalms, and messianic psalms. Certainly some of these can overlap, so one must be careful not to be too rigid with such classifications. A writer can go from lament to praise in the same brief psalm (as in Psalm 13).

Like any hymnal, the book of Psalms includes contributions by different authors and covers a wide span of time. The oldest psalm is by Moses (Psalm 90), and there is at least one psalm that comes out of the setting of the captivity of God’s people in Babylon (Psalm 137). These two benchmarks are separated by approximately 900 years.

About half of the psalms are attributed to King David, known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1). Today’s passage from Psalm 103 is one of those psalms. While some psalms include a superscription that provides the setting (example: Psalm 51), there is no such background given for Psalm 103. It simply notes the association with David.

LESSON


1. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
The word bless is used in Scripture both of what God does for people and what they offer up to Him. God’s blessings are His gifts to His people, what the psalmist (David) calls “his “benefits” (Psalm 103:2, next). The people’s blessing of God is expressed in praise of Him and gratitude for those benefits. Indeed, the Psalms often use the words bless and praise rather interchangeably, as parallel thoughts (examples: Psalms 34:1; 104:35; 145:2).

David’s blessing of the Lord is not a casual, half-hearted sentiment. It comes from his very soul. In the Old Testament, the word soul is often used to signify a person’s being or essence. The frequently used device in Hebrew poetry known as parallelism, in which the second line of a verse repeats the thought of the first line—sometimes in reverse order—highlights this meaning. We saw this earlier as an example in lesson 1: An individual’s soul is therefore all that is within that person. In a sense, David is talking to himself, encouraging remembrance of the Lord’s goodness. Similar “soul talk” is found in Psalm 42:5, 11. A person’s name represents that individual’s character or uniqueness. God’s holiness is one of His most prominent qualities (examples: Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; Isaiah 6:1–3; Revelation 4:8; 15:4).

What Do You Think?
In what ways can the church keep God’s name holy?
Digging Deeper
What will be your part in helping it do so?


2. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
One’s offering of praise to God is closely linked with remembering all He has done. Thus David expresses the desire not to forget all the blessings the Lord provides. Moses urged the Israelites who were on the verge of entering the promised land to remember the Lord’s goodness. He also warned them of the high price that would accompany forgetfulness (Deuteronomy 8:10–20). Israel’s track record in this matter is hardly exemplary (see Psalm 106).

3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.
Here David specifies some of the Lord’s blessings. They are both spiritual (the forgiveness of iniquities) and physical (the healing of diseases) in nature. As Immanuel (“God with us”; compare Isaiah 7:14), Jesus demonstrated His power both to forgive sins and heal diseases, as in the case of the paralytic brought to Jesus (Mark 2:1–12).

What Do You Think?
How can Sunday school classes do better at ensuring the prayer time focuses just as much, if not more, on spiritual issues as it does on bodily health?
Digging Deeper
As a result of doing an online Bible search of the phrase “pray for,” what changes do you need to make in your own prayer life?


4. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
David describes God’s power to change our circumstances from the worst to the best—to be treated as royalty as we are crowned with lovingkindness and tender mercies. Christians can give thanks for the redemption provided by Jesus’ death and resurrection; His work has left death itself destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).

5a. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things.
David focuses on the material blessings (good things) that only the Lord can provide. The Lord as provider is a theme repeated often in the Psalms (examples: Psalms 103:5; 104:28; 145:16).

5b. So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Compare Isaiah 40:29–31.

6. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
David now calls attention to the Lord’s compassion toward the oppressed. The Lord has always been passionate that righteousness and judgment (in terms of a just judgment) be carried out on behalf of those who are often mistreated or overlooked because of their powerless status. The Lord makes clear how compassionate He is toward groups such as widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 24:17–22; compare Exodus 23:3, 6, 9).

His people, however, do not always demonstrate such compassion, which is why the Scriptures (both Old and New Testament) highlight the necessity of seeing such people, or anyone in need, as God sees them (Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 7:1–7; Matthew 25:31–46; James 1:27).

What Do You Think?
In what ways can believers stand up for the oppressed today?
Digging Deeper
What will be your part in doing so?


7. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
Within pagan religions, the worshippers are often left groping and guessing what the deities desire. There is no concept of revealed truth. In contrast, the Lord has not left His covenant people in such uncertainty. He has revealed His will for all people through the words of Holy Scripture.

Moses told the Israelites “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). God’s acts on behalf of His people cannot be duplicated by any other god, for there is no other god.

8. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
This verse proclaims one of the most important statements of faith within the Old Testament. It was first revealed to Moses when the Lord permitted him to see a portion of His glory on Mount Sinai and “proclaimed the name of the Lord” before him (Exodus 34:5–7). It is highlighted, with minor variations, at various places within the Old Testament (Numbers 14:17–19; Nehemiah 9:16, 17; Psalms 86:15; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

What Do You Think?
What are some ways the church can extend God’s graciousness to others?
Digging Deeper
What will be your part in doing so?


9a. He will not always chide.
The word translated chide comes from a Hebrew word that indicates accusing or bringing a case to court (Hosea 4:1–4; Micah 6:1, 2). That happens when human sin reaches a critical point and must be confronted. But God delights most of all in showing grace, as the previous verse notes. Satan is the one who carries the reputation of being “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

9b. Neither will he keep his anger for ever.
God does not let His anger smolder or allow it to control His entire perspective and temperament, as is often the case with human anger. God’s anger is not like human anger, which is often uncontrolled, irrational, and guided by highly questionable motives. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). God’s wrath, by contrast, is a holy, righteous response to human sin. He alone knows when and how to administer it. But it is clear to David (and to all those in Scripture who know God in an intimate way) that God’s mercy and grace are what make Him worth “blessing” with all one’s soul.


10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
The clearest evidence of God’s mercy is in the way He deals with human sin. If He were to treat us as we deserve, based on our sins, then our plight would be hopeless. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:3, 4).

11, 12. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Our knowledge of the vastness of the heavens is far, far greater than it was in David’s time. Yet his words are still true: their height cannot provide an adequate means of measuring the extent of the Lord’s mercy to those who fear Him.

In measuring how far the east is from the west, some have observed that a person could begin at a certain point and travel south to the South Pole then north to the North Pole, then travel south again to the original starting point. However, a person could travel around the world many times going east, reaching the starting point repeatedly without ever moving in any direction but east. Thus we can speak of a North Pole and a South Pole but not of an East Pole or a West Pole, since there is no place at which east meets west. God’s intention is that our sins be removed so that we never “meet” them again.

13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
The knowledge of God as a father is more clearly revealed in the New Testament because of the fuller revelation of God provided by Jesus. But God as father is not totally foreign to the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalm 89:26). Fathers who read a verse such as this must ask themselves how much sympathy they consistently demonstrate toward their children. Or do they “provoke” their children “to anger,” which Paul warns fathers not to do (Colossians 3:21)?

14. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
As Creator, God knows how we are put together. The Hebrew verb from which frame comes is used in Genesis 2:7 to describe how God “formed” man from dust. From our perspective that fact may cause us to reflect on our unworthiness and inadequacy. God sees it as a reason for sympathy and patience.

15, 16. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
These verses also comment on the transitory nature of human existence. As we age, we tend to recognize our limitations, and we sense how quickly time has passed. But even young people should acknowledge the truth of David’s words and “remember now [their] Creator in the days of [their] youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

17a. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.
In contrast with humanity’s temporary, fleeting existence, the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him. This echoes the previous “limitless” language of verses 11 and 12. Rather than dwell on the frailty of human beings, David finds his delight in exalting the faithfulness of God.

What Do You Think?
How should Psalm 103:15, 16 change your priorities?
Digging Deeper
How does your answer change, if at all, when Psalm 103:15, 16 is considered alongside Psalm 90:12?


21. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
As the psalm nears its conclusion, David returns to his original command to bless … the Lord. In so doing, David calls on all of God’s hosts to do so. Angels are called on to do so in Psalm 103:20 (not in today’s text). This may be another instance of parallelism, where one expression is synonymous with the other. One may think of the “multitude of the heavenly host” that assembled to praise God on the night of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13).

On the other hand, it may be that these hosts are the starry hosts, or celestial bodies (Deuteronomy 4:19). Such were created as the Lord’s ministers, or servants, to do His bidding, as indicated when He created them (Genesis 1:14–18).

22. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.
David concludes with a call to the entire creation to join him in his adoration of the Lord. Clearly he does not want to perform a solo! At the same time, praise is something intensely personal for David, and he never grows tired of expressing it. He ends the psalm with the same enthusiasm he had at the beginning.

Conclusion

What's Your Story

As you think about God’s blessings in your own life, what comes to mind? What’s your story?

What psalm, poem, or testimony could you compose to “bless the Lord”?

No doubt every one of us could point to circumstances, whether in another country, our own nation, our city or county, or our personal lives, that reflect how badly broken by sin this world continues to be. David, the author of Psalm 103, certainly experienced much heartache and sorrow during his lifetime—much of it due to his own choices to disobey God.

It may seem hard to believe that we are in the midst of another Christmas season and approaching the end of another year. If you have a calendar on the wall somewhere in your home, flip back to January of this year. Go through each month and think about the blessings you have received. (You may want to write them down or keep a record of them electronically.) Consider, as David did, both the spiritual and material blessings given by the Lord. Thank Him for the circumstances and the people He brought into your life—even during the hard times, those situations that were not on your schedule or even in your mind when the year began. And take time to “bless the Lord.”

Some of the brokenness resulting from the curse of sin will not be fully eliminated until Jesus returns and “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) are established for eternity. At that time, all diseases of all varieties will be done away with for good. Until then we—like Paul, whose thorn in the flesh remained despite his prayers that it be removed—must trust God’s grace to be sufficient and trust that He will use us to bear witness of His power even in the throes of our pain (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). There is no excuse not to bless the Lord!

Prayer
Father, may we bless and magnify Your name! We praise You for the grace You have shown to us, especially now during this season of remembering the wondrous gift placed in the manger in Bethlehem. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thought to Remember

Learn to speak the language of blessings and praise.
 

Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2018-2019).