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Psalm 103

posted May 22, 2015, 3:45 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 2:55 PM ]
Of David.

Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts, Who pardons all your sins, and heals all your ills, Who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with mercy and compassion, Who fills your days with good things, so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, to the Israelites his deeds.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy.
He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like the grass; he blossoms like a flower in the field.
A wind sweeps over it and it is gone; its place knows it no more.
But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age, toward those who fear him. His salvation is for the children’s children of those who keep his covenant, and remember to carry out his precepts.

The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all.
Bless the LORD, all you his angels, mighty in strength, acting at his behest, obedient to his command.
Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, his ministers who carry out his will.
Bless the LORD, all his creatures, everywhere in his domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!

Psalm 103 may be the “Mt. Everest” of praise psalms, exalting the soul to breath-taking heights. It begins by praising God for personal benefits, then moves on to God’s mercy toward all people. Even sin cannot destroy that mercy, for the eternal God is well aware of people’s human fragility. It concludes by inviting the heavenly beings to join in praise. 

Its tone hints that it was penned in the latter years of King David’s life when he had a heightened sense of the preciousness of pardon. Also, his acknowledgement of the frailty of life indicates his weaker years.

It forms the basis of hundreds of hymns, including Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise comes from verses 15-17; and Praise God, from Whom All Blessing Flow from verses 20-22.

It’s the text of the second movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 1915 All-Night Vigil, Op. 37, also known as his “Vespers”; a work he considered one of his two best compositions.

Contemporary versions include Ellie Holcomb’s Don’t Forget His Love; Psalm 103 by Sons of Korah and Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). Andraé Crouch, who wrote Soon and Very Soon, also composed Bless His Holy Name, (Bless the Lord O My Soul). Academy of Country Music award winners Brush Arbor recorded “Psalm 103” on their 1983 album I Will Follow.

One of the most famous versions is from the musical Godspell, which opened Off-Broadway forty-four years ago! Interspersed among a series of parables mostly based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are contemporary songs set primarily to traditional hymn texts; and “Bless the Lord” is a setting of Psalm 103!