Psalm 103 contains the words of someone who has been on an impressive journey with God. The cheerful introduction often diverts our attention from “all the benefits” (v. 2) that are being called to mind. The next four lines rotate the gospel-gem in the hand of the Psalmist, as he remembers God’s faithfulness.
Sin: Forgiven (v. 3a) – David realized that all other gospel blessings flow from God’s defeat of sin. That which casts paradise into chaos has been defeated (sin) and has been defeated eternally (at Calvary) so that it could be forgiven internally (in me).
There was no blessing David could think to call to mind before the forgiveness of his sins – not his shepherd-to-king journey, not Goliath, no military victory, no time of peace, not his friendship with Jonathan, no gift to be able to write psalms or lead people… nothing. David knew all blessings from God flow from God’s willingness to forgive sin and transform us into people who could receive any other blessing it pleased God to give.
Suffering: Physical Ailment (v. 3b) – Next, as David recalls God’s blessings, he looks at two forms of suffering in which God had been faithful. First, David recalls God’s faithfulness to heal disease. It is not clear whether David is reflecting on a miraculous near-death recovery or the general marvel that our bodies were designed with an amazing capacity to fight illness.
Regardless, David saw that he owed God his physical life as much as he owed God his spiritual life. A healthy body was as much a gift from God as Christ’s righteousness—the flipside of forgiven sin. Every breath was a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Suffering: Emotional Despondency (v. 4a) – Second, David recalls God’s faithfulness in the darkest hours (“the pit”) of his life. Again, David does not give us specifics – his father who overlooked him, his best friend’s father had tried to kill him, the guilt of sinning with Bathsheba, the guilt of having her husband killed, a daughter who was raped, and a son who revolted against him. It could be any of these or other moments not recorded in Scripture.
But we do see David wanting to let us borrow his faith when ours is weak. We know David well enough to know he did not have a “cush” life. He shared his life with us in Scripture so that we could share in his hope in God during our darkest hours.
David wrote this psalm for public worship so we can feel free to put our story into his phrase “the pit.” We can put our story on his words because David is merely recalling “all the benefits” of the Great Story – the gospel. When God offers us salvation, it is more than a free ticket to heaven. It is a gateway into His story and this is where David goes next.
Identity: Transformed (v. 4b) – David was no longer a father-forgotten, social-outcast shepherd boy. He was the king of Israel. When he says God “crowns you” with love, this is no accidental phrase. It was his story. But it is also our story, because when we are saved we are adopted by the King of kings.
What it noteworthy is that David highlights God’s steadfast love and mercy as the crown worth remembering. To him it was more astonishing to be transformed from an object of God’s wrath to the child of God’s affection than it was to go from rags to riches. Even a son staging a mutiny could not remove this crown. It was a wrong that brought peace because it had no rivals.
Now why was David writing this Psalm? Verse five would seem to indicate that David was tired and discouraged. More than this, it appears he had begun to down whether God would still be good to him. So what does he do? David begins to preach the gospel to himself by recalling God’s blessings in every area of his life – sin, physical suffering, emotional suffering, and personal identity.
This is both instructive and encouraging for us. It is instructive, because it gives us a pattern to follow in times when we are tired and doubt creeps into our mind. It is encouraging, because we see that even great men like David who slayed giants and wrote Scripture needed this kind of exercise on a regular basis. After all, David wrote many psalms.
If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.