By Henry Mahan
A few things that are worthy of notice at the beginning of our study are:
1. Most agree that this is a Psalm of David's latter years, for there is a clear sense of the frailty of this life, there is a keener awareness of sin, and there is a high priority placed on mercy and forgiveness.
2. Not one petition nor request occurs throughout the entire Psalm. This is another sign of spiritual maturity--more praise and less petition, more gratitude and less 'give me.' As we grow in grace our prayers change.
3. The name Jehovah is mentioned eleven times in 22 verses. The Psalmist kneels in adoration and praises the Lord himself. It is possible to be taken up with blessings, gifts, and benefits and fail to praise the Lord himself!
v. 1. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul.' This is the highest form of praise. Not just with the lips but my heart, my innermost being, my soul loves and praises the Lord. Blessed is the man who has learned to converse with himself concerning spiritual truth (Psalm 4:4; Psalm 77:6). 'All that is within me, bless his holy name.' Let my judgment bless him by submitting to his word. Let my imagination bless him by holy meditation. Let my affections bless him by loving what he loves. Let my desires bless him by seeking his will. Let my hope bless him by restful assurance and peace. 'Bless his holy name.' His name signifies his nature and attributes. I bless and rejoice in him as he is revealed in his word written and in his word incarnate. 'Let God be God!' The holiness of God is his chief attribute and glory. The holiness of his name is that which beautifies all that he is and does. He is a just God and a Saviour (Isa. 45:21). He is righteous and merciful (Psalm 85:10; Rom. 3:26).
v. 2. The Psalmist's praise and gratitude has four attributes.
1. It is personal 'my soul.'
2. It is sincere 'all that is within me.'
3. It is constant 'forget not.'
4. It is specific 'all his benefits.' My all praise his all!
vv. 3-5. David begins a list of his benefits. 'Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.' Forgiveness is of God, who delights to show mercy. It is from God, who only can forgive. It is in Christ, who is our ransom, redemption, and righteousness. And it is complete with God, who forgives all our iniquities (Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7).
'Who healeth all thy diseases.' The diseases of this body are the results of sin, and God will heal them when it is according to his will and when it serves his purpose; but the diseases referred to here are spiritual diseases which, like our sins, are all healed in Christ. He bore ALL our spiritual sicknesses and diseases in his body on the tree, and by his stripes we are healed forever (Isa. 53:4-5; Matt. 8:17).
'Who redeemeth thy life from destruction.' We must die--all men do; we may die violently or in great pain--many have; but we shall never perish! Christ, our righteousness, redeems us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). Christ, our sin-offering, has redeemed us from the judgment of sin (Rom. 8:1, 33-34).
Christ, our risen Lord, has redeemed us from the grave (John 11:25-26).
'Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.' Earthly kings are crowned with material crowns of gold, silver, and diamonds, symbols of their material kingdoms which shall all pass away. We are kings and priests, crowned, dignified, and beautified with the love, mercy, and grace of God, which is his kingdom of righteousness and peace and shall never pass away. Our crowns are not of gold but glory, and our robes are royal robes of his righteousness.
'Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things.' No natural man is ever satisfied or at peace, for the things of this world can never satisfy the soul. But the 'good things' of Christ (John 16:15; John 3:35; Rom. 8:31, 37; 1 Cor. 3:21) are ours, and all these good things satisfy our appetites and needs so that our 'youth is renewed.' The youth and strength of grace are constantly renewed; and while the outward man may decay, the inward man is renewed day by day until we are carried into his presence (Psalm 17:15). God's people, even in old age, have a keen spiritual eye, an open ear to his word, and they run and are not weary (Isa. 40:31).
v. 6. Going from personal blessing to the general righteous justice and judgment of God, David declares that all injustice and oppression shall receive just retribution at the hand of God (Rom. 12:19; Deut. 32:35).
v. 7. God made known unto Moses his way of mercy and grace in Christ (John 5:46). He did not leave Moses to discover truth for himself. God alone can reveal himself (Luke 10:22; 1 Cor. 2:9-14). The people of Israel saw less than Moses, for they beheld the ACTS of God without understanding or seeing the glory of his grace in Christ.
vv. 8-14. In these verses David rejoices in the Lord's feelings for and dealings with his chosen people in Christ. We are sinners and are always in need of his compassion and grace. His mercy forgives sin, his grace bestows favor, his longsuffering and patience give space for repentance and faith, and his abundant compassion will never fail. Why 'hath he not dealt with us after our sin'? Is it not because he has dealt with Christ for our sins and iniquities? (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:24). Our minds cannot comprehend his great mercy to us in Christ. It is higher than the heavens. Our sins are covered, blotted out, and removed as far from us as the east is from the west--infinity! They are remembered no more. The guilt of sin can no more return than east can become west. 'Such pity and love as a father has to his children dear, like pity shows the Lord to all who worship him in fear.' Our Lord also knows how and of what we are made, for he made us! He knows our weaknesses, infirmities, and flesh. He knows we are made of dust, are dust still, and will return to dust (Heb. 4:15).
vv. 15-18. Men are like the grass and the flower, which live but for a season and are soon gone; but the mercy of the Lord in his covenant of grace in Christ Jesus is everlasting, and his righteousness shall endure forever upon those who believe (Rom. 8:16-23). Forever in glory with him is our inheritance!
vv. 19-22. David closes with a grand chorus which springs from his knowledge of the boundless power and glorious sovereignty of God. His throne is fixed in the heavens; his government is over all and knows no alarm, disorder, nor surprises. He will accomplish his purpose and be glorified. Therefore, let everything that hath breath praise and bless the Lord-- especially my soul!