by James O’Brien Combs, Editor of the Baptist Bible Tribune (1983-1995)
Psalm 103 is a great heartfelt expression of thanksgiving and praise. It is evoked by the Psalmist’s own experience, as evidenced by his use of the personal pronoun and by the grace and majesty of God Himself.
This great psalm says several things about maintaining a spirit of thanksgiving:
THE REASONS FOR THANKFULNESS
We should be thankful to the Lord for His benefits. All good things of life, be they physical or spiritual, have their origin in God. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). We should be thankful for the benefit of forgiveness, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities …” (verse 3). Only through the atoning death of Christ can our sins be forgiven. Mark 2:7 says, “Who can forgive sins but God only?” We should be thankful for the healing of our diseases, “… who healeth all thy diseases,” (verse 3). God has encouraged us to pray for the sick, and I have seen many people restored to health, sometimes suddenly, sometimes progressively.
We should be thankful for redemption and satisfaction. Verses 4 and 5 say, “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” The literal rendering of verse 4 from Hebrew implies we are redeemed from the pit. That is true. Redemption is from the pit of sin.
THE RECIPIENT OF OUR THANKSGIVING
During the Thanksgiving season, there is generally much said about the spirit of thankfulness, or feeling thankful, as though our thanks are directed toward a system, or just to America as a society, or to a general movement of being appreciative.
The Lord is the One to whom thanksgiving is to be rendered. He is the LORD, or Jehovah, as the Hebrew Scriptures read, YHVH. That is the name used in this psalm. He is Jehovah, the covenant-keeping God, everlasting, supreme, sovereign.
He is absolutely righteous. Verse 6 says, “The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” There is always unrighteousness with men, but never with Him. No man can honestly say God has been unfair with him. He could not, for he is the righteous God. We ought to be thankful to Him.
God has revealed Himself. Verse 7 says, “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.” There were men before Moses’ time who knew God and communed with Him, but a special revelation came to Moses. It was with him that special revelation had its beginnings, as indicated in the five books of Moses. God is not a concealed Deity. He has revealed Himself in the wonders of nature and in the Word of God, the Bible.
God is filled with mercy. Verses 8-11 say, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” By His mercy, His loving and tender favor to the undeserving, He deals with sinful man, and yet remains absolutely righteous.
THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD
Verses 13 and 14 speak of God’s remembrance, “Like as the father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
The unthankful often forget His benefits, but He never forgets His own people. The unthankful may enjoy the protection of God, but they do not recognize it.
God protects His children by the removal of their sin. Verse 12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
God protects His thankful children by bestowing pity upon them. Though His children may not be all He desires, He does not cast them off. His pity springs from the fountain of His love. He loved us before we were saved, and extends a special love upon us when we become His children.
THE REALM OF GOD’S DOMAIN
How our souls should be thrilled with His goodness and grace. He has satisfied us here with good things. He will continue to bless us forever in that “kingdom which cannot be moved.”
God’s mercy is from “everlasting to everlasting,” (verse 17). In the eternal city, we shall just begin to enjoy the exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness toward us by Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:7 declares that God has saved us so, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
So today and tomorrow, as well as on Thanksgiving Day in America, bless the Lord. Praise the Lord. Thank the Lord for all of His benefits which He has so richly bestowed on us.
This message is an edited version of one published in the Baptist Bible Tribune, November 7, 1986.