The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 103

Psa 103:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF DAVID". The ascription to David clashes with what are undeniably close links with Isaiah. Either the first few vv are David's, and the rest added by Isaiah or Hezekiah; or "David" is to be read as a ref to the descendant of David who sits on his throne (as in Eze 34:23,24; 37:24), and in that case the psalm is Hezekiah's throughout. An alternative is: David's throughout, frequently quoted by Isaiah, who then follows with his own psalm -- Psa 104 -- on the Glory of God.

Psa 103:2

Vv 2,3: Several such periods of iniquity in David's life; and in at least two of these God punished him with grievous sickness (Psa 6, 88, 30, 41, etc). Hence, "who heals all your diseases" (cp Exo 15:26; Deu 7:12-15). To what extent is it true (in the general sense) that iniquities and diseases are related? Often, no doubt, but certainly not always! -- which is why, without a divine pronouncement (such as Joh 5:14), we must never assume such a connection in any specific case. (General discussion of relationship between sickness and sin: SJam 179-200.)

Psa 103:3

WHO FORGIVES ALL YOUR SINS AND HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES: "Humbling as is the statement, yet the fact is certain, that we are all more or less suffering under the disease of sin. What a comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! His cures are very speedy -- there is life in a mere look from him; his cures are radical -- he strikes at the centre of the disease; and hence, his cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that his patients should be merely patched up for a season; he makes new men of them: a new heart also does he give them, and a right spirit does he put with them. He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some speciality. Although they may know a little about almost all our pains and ills, there is usually one disease which they have studied above all others; but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and never yet did he meet with an out-of-the-way case that was difficult to him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but he has known exactly with one glance of his eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor; and the medicine he gives is the only true curative, healing in every instance. Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart which Jesus cannot bind up. 'His blood cleanseth from all sin' (1Jo 1:7)" (CHS).

Psa 103:4

The Goliath, Achish, Saul, and Absalom episodes. How many such instances there were!

WHO REDEEMS YOUR LIFE FROM THE PIT: We are also redeemed FROM all iniquity (Tit 2:14), from transgressions (Heb 9:15), from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13), and from the Law itself (Gal 4:5), from among men (Rev 14:3,4), and from all nations (Rev 5:9).

We are redeemed BY Christ (Mat 20:28; Mar 10:45; Heb 9:12; 1Ti 2:6) and by God (Luk 1:68; 1Co 1:30).

We are redeemed THROUGH Christ's life (Mat 20:28; Mar 10:45), his blood (1Pe 1:18,19; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14), and his death (Heb 9:15).

We are redeemed for ever (Heb 9:12), but only fully and truly and absolutely "redeemed" when Christ comes (Rom 8:23).

WHO... CROWNS YOU: In a fig sense; but also lit when his kingdom was restored to him after the death of Absalom.

Psa 103:5

YOUR YOUTH IS RENEWED LIKE THE EAGLE'S: Not that the eagle does actually renew its youth. (The writings of the rabbis and early church "fathers" overflow with fables and myths about the supernatural recuperative powers of the eagle.)

But rather: 'renewed so as to be like the eagle'; that is, to have a buoyant, tireless strength, as in the eagle-based Cherubim of Glory (Isa 6:2).

THE EAGLE'S: The eagle is swift (2Sa 1:23; Deu 28:49; Job 9:26; Jer 4:13), strong (Exo 19:4; Rev 12:14), tender (Deu 32:11), and high-soaring (Pro 30:19; Isa 40:31).

Psa 103:11

Christ's priesthood -- exercised now in heaven, yet founded on God's condescension and mercy to man upon earth.

Psa 103:12

The sins of God's people: "Covered" (Psa 32:1), "Removed" (Psa 103:12), "Cast behind God's back" (Isa 38:17), "Blotted out" (Psa 51:1; Isa 44:22), "Washed away" (Psa 51:2,7), "Remembered no more" (Jer 31:34), "Sought for but not found" (Jer 50:20), "Cast into the depths of the sea" (Mic 7:19).

The offerer stood with his sacrifice near the east gate of the sanctuary, and the blood was then brought into the Holy of Holies at its west end. Or is this perhaps an allusion to the scapegoat, removing the sins of the congregation far away from their midst? (Note: many Day of Atonement implications in this psalm.)

Psa 103:13

The parable of the Prodigal Son? This v is prob the OT passage closest in spirit to the personal and paternal relationship of God with believers which is so commonly expressed in the NT. While God is described elsewhere in the OT as a Father to the nation of Israel (Exo 4:22,23; Hos 11:1-4; Deu 32:6; Isa 29:16; 63:16; 64:8; etc), it is only here that the paternal relationship takes on a specially personal quality. (The Bible describes the quality of God's love for mankind as being maternal as well: Isa 66:13.)

Psa 103:14

HE REMEMBERS THAT WE ARE DUST: "There is no need for us to associate despondency and despair with the thought of appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ. True, our sins and our failings are constant reminders of the possibility of our failure there. But Paul's message to us is not intended to paralyse us with fear or to crush us under hopeless remorse; it is rather intended to influence our lives for good, to spur us to greater activity in Christ's service; to mould our characters nearer to the pattern he has left us, that we may win success when Christ appears. Paul desires us to remember the one certainty in our lives, and remembering it, to order our lives accordingly. There is no occasion for despondency and alarm, provided we are in earnest about our standing in the day of Christ. It is true that we fail and we sin; but God 'knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust', and has made merciful provision for our weakness. There is no limit to God's forgiveness if it is sought in accordance with His conditions... Are we such egotists as to imagine that our cases are so unique as to be beyond the saving grace of God?" (FWT).

Psa 103:15

Vv 15,16: See Mat 6:28-30. The hot wind from the desert is the "oven" referred to. (See also Psa 37:2; 92:7; Isa 51:12; 1Pe 1:24; Jam 1:10,11.)

Psa 103:16

The wind = "ruach", which also sig the Spirit of God. This v describes the sudden fate of the Assyrians. The word "blast" (KJV), or "spirit" (NIV) in Isa 37:7 is the sw in Heb.

Psa 103:18

THOSE WHO KEEP HIS COVENANT: "We have a tremendous, overwhelming -- almost crushing -- responsibility to God. We should be conscious of it every moment. He has richly given us everything: life and existence and consciousness; the revelation of Himself and His loving goodness; His Word; His Purpose; His call to eternal communion with Him in the Divine Nature; the dreadful sacrifice of His only-begotten Son for our salvation; an earth-home full of infinite beauty and divine imprint; the incomparably marvelous tools of the human mind and hands; the power of thought and memory and imagination. And we have agreed to accept all this from Him, on His conditions. And He asks so little in comparison in return, and that for our own good -- simply the casting off of everything to do with this dark, dying, sinful world and its follies, and total love and devotion and service to Him. And yet we putter away our life in the stinking rubbish heap of the present, as though all these glorious things never existed. Let us open our eyes and hearts, before it has all passed away beyond our grasp for ever. Opportunity pauses for us just so long: and then -- eternal darkness" (GVG).

Psa 103:22

PRAISE THE LORD, ALL HIS WORKS: Not ref to inanimate, unthinking, or unfeeling objects, but instead to men and women new-made (Psa 145:9,10), as in Psa 102:18 (see refs there).

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