Psalm 103

1  Of David.

 

I

 

Bless the LORD, my soul;

all my being, bless his holy name!

2   Bless the LORD, my soul;

and do not forget all his gifts,

3  Who pardons all your sins,

and heals all your ills,

4  Who redeems your life from the pit,

and crowns you with mercy and compassion,

5  Who fills your days with good things,

so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(II)   6  The LORD does righteous deeds,

brings justice to all the oppressed.

 

 

7  He made known his ways to Moses,

to the Israelites his deeds.

8  Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

9  He will not always accuse,

and nurses no lasting anger;

10 He has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

 

III

 

11 For as the heavens tower over the earth,

so his mercy towers over those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

14 For he knows how we are formed,

remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like the grass;

he blossoms like a flower in the field.

16 A wind sweeps over it and it is gone;

its place knows it no more.

 

17 But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age,

toward those who fear him.

His salvation is for the children’s children

18 of those who keep his covenant,

and remember to carry out his precepts.

 

IV

 

19 The LORD has set his throne in heaven;

his dominion extends over all.

20 Bless the LORD, all you his angels,

mighty in strength, acting at his behest,

obedient to his command.

21 Bless the LORD, all you his hosts,

his ministers who carry out his will.

22 Bless the LORD, all his creatures,

everywhere in his domain.

Bless the LORD, my soul!

 

 

McCann p. 114: moves from individual to Israel to all humanity to all of creation and even to the heavens themselves  – everything is dependent on God and owes the LORD praise.  God rules with mercy, kindness, and love.

 

p. 115: if post-exile, a time of renewed hope but also realistic awareness of problems and loss of the state – a call to renewed praise and a reaffirmation of God ruling over all, including the foreign king.

 

James Mays p. 326: “Psalm 103 has been the favored praise of sinners.  In every age, in liturgical contexts from Communion service to graveside, in the prayers of the simple and the sophisticated, the words of the psalm have ben the means of remembering that the LORD is gracious.”

 

Verses 1 to 5, Verse 6

p. 116:  “bless the LORD”?  McCann suggests it connotes subservience .  acknowledge the LORD, and the LORD alone, as above all others and all else.

 

Verses 3 to 5 describe God’s activity: God pardons, heals, redeems, crowns etc.

Dahood, p. 25 takes note of the connection between forgiving sins and healing in verse 3.  This connection is present even in Jesus and even as Jesus breaks the “causality” connection

 

In verse 4 what is “the pit” we are redeemed from?   Captivity in Babylon?  Misery in this life (Job)?  Or the Pit of Sheol / after death realm of the soul?  Dahood thinks Sheol which means that this is a late psalm with the emerging idea of life after death in heaven for the righteous.  (Dahood p. 26)

Dahood, p. 27, sees a reference to pagan myths of the phoenix in reference to the youth of the eagle.  He sees this as confirmation then of the idea of Sheol as the pit and of eternal life emerging.

 

6 is a transitional verse that concludes discussion of God’s rule, and alludes to what is coming (Moses) by use of “bringing justice to the oppressed”.

 

Verses 7 to 18

Here the psalm raises up the story of Exodus, covenant at Sinai, and journey towards the Promised Land

 

Verses 11, 12 contain merisms “heaven/earth, east / west”

 

Verses 19 to 22

McCann p. 119: “By placing himself or herself in the universe-enco0mpassing congregation of verses 19 -22, the psalmist suggest that submission to God and God’s will is what puts human beings in touch with and in harmony with the entire cosmos God has created and claims as God’s own.  Both the theological and the ecological implications are profound and far-reaching.

 

Psalm 103 for today

God’s grace/love  is showered down upon creation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It falls on the good and the bad alike.  But the “bad”, not knowing God or unwilling to submit, reject the grace or avoid it.  Those who are “righteous” are open to it changing them and their lives, they welcome that grace.  Which is why we worship, why we gather together to praise God …  True wisdom = recognizing who we are as human beings in relation to the LORD.  All falls into place with that.

 

God forgives without limit –  Prodigal Father story of Jesus.  If we will ask, if we will turn back to the LORD.  There is always hope.  P. 121: “No one is unacceptable in God’s sight!  This is grace!”

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THE PSALMS

Alter, Robert.  The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary.   (W. W. Norton, New York, 2007).

Brown, William P.  Psalms.  Part of the Interpreting Biblical Texts series edited by Gene Tucker.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2010).

Clifford, Richard J.  Psalms 73-150.  Part of the Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries edited by Patrick Miller.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2003).

Dahood, Mitchell.   Psalms I – 1-50: A New Translation with Introduction and  Commentary.  Volume 16 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1965).

———————– Psalms Ii – 51-100: A New Translation with Introduction and  Commentary.  Volume 17 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman.  (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1968).

———————– Psalms III – 101-150: A New Translation with Introduction and  Commentary.  Volume 17A of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman.  (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1970).

Krauss, Hans~Joachim.  Theology of the Psalms.  Part of the Continental Commentary series.  Translated by Keith Crim.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1992).

———————–  Psalms  1 ~ 59.   Part of the Continental Commentary series.  Translated by Hilton C. Oswald.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).

———————–  Psalms  60 ~ 150.   Part of the Continental Commentary series.  Translated by Hilton C. Oswald.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).

Mays, James. L.   Psalms.  Part of the Interpretation  Bible Commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick D. Miller and Paul J. Achtemeier.  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994).

McCann Jr., J. Clinton.  Great Psalms of the Bible.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009).

Schaefer, Konrad.  Psalms.  Part of the Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry edited by David W. Cotter.   (Liturgical Press, Collegeville: MN, 2001)

Webster, Brian L. and David R. Beach.  The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word.  (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2010).

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