Psalm 103: Thanksgiving

My soul, bless the Lord; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.  Praise the Lord and do not forget all His benefits.  Oh, if only, if every wish of my heart, bone, and being, thought and breath, contained the strength to esteem our Lord!

How impossible!  For when I tell my being not to neglect any of His kindnesses, how can I bring them all to mind, or tally them?  For 22 verses, our psalm goes on, listing what I don’t want to slip my mind, which presents me with a reason to exhaust myself in expressing thanks.  Alas, I am, unable.

The first reason God gives us to be thankful is something we may believe to be a small trifle.  The God of all absolves us of all our iniquity, curing our plague of sinfulness through His life-giving grace.

To itemize all the sins we can remember, which He forgives, will take our entire lifespan.  Once started, we will find ourselves sinning while compiling such a list, resenting the task as the misdeeds pile up.  Now, this doesn’t even include the disobedience we don’t remember or those wrongful deeds we don’t realize we committed.  More than the grains of sand on the seashore are our many iniquities.

Still, God doesn’t demand us to remember our every sin.  Neither does He call us to dwell on the ones we refuse to let go, which dog us all our days.  Ponder what God says in this psalm—He chooses not to recall our sins or take them into account!

Now, some of our wrongdoings came about by accident—others from ignorance.  With some, we raised our fist in defiance to the Almighty.  Oh, we understood about some deed being sinful—but we still went on.  All these, no matter the size or frequency, grew out of rebellion, an insult against God, acts of ingratitude for all His blessings.

So, what does God do?  The all-knowing God casts our transgressions from us, as far as the east is from the west.  All His righteous anger, He lays aside.  Your adoring Father concentrates on His compassion, as vast as the measureless distance between heaven’s eternal arches and earth’s time-bound soil.  To show Himself as our loving Father, He shines on us with infinite kindness.

Consider this—He remembers we are dust!  To form Adam in Eden, God first used the virgin soil.  Such dust in the Garden, perfect, which came alive by His touch, breath, and voice, for us to live forever in harmony with our Father and His glorious angels.

Today, we are of different dust, corrupted by our doing, now destined for the cemetery.  All this is our fault, and also the blunder of our first parents, the result of sin, bringing us the wages of death.

Now we understand more about the nature of God, for He gazes down on our fallen and returned-to-dust condition.  To conquer our death and reversion to dust, He descends with His forgiveness into our sin-filled pit.  For after we return to the earth, we will receive restoration in the resurrection of all flesh.  On the Day of Christ’s return, our bodies will never die or become such wayward dust again.

Still, as a merciful God, He wants to bless us with more.  So, He bids us to bring to mind what He does, removing the memory of our many failings from His mind.  This reality enables us to thank Him and delight in Him.

Like our uncountable sins, our Father’s heaven-sent favors are also too numerous to calculate or catalogue.  So, the writer for Psalm 103 sums them up.  Your Lord heals all your sicknesses.  From corruption and death, He redeems your life and adorns you with His care and grace.

Deliberate on what Your affectionate Father does, which benefit not only our souls but also our physical bodies during our journey home to heaven.  For both soul and body in this life are connected, which means to ignore one is to belittle the other.

Does your soul understand apart from the perceptions and organs of your body?  The eye beholds God’s wondrous creation and His many gifts to us.  The ear listens to His voice in the preached Word—but also the laughter of little children.  The body senses His washing in Baptism and savors His marvelous salvation in His Supper.

The mind, in union with the soul, can think about these things and revel in them.  So, if someone is wrestling with pain, loss, or loneliness, or if fear and doubt afflict someone’s mind, his soul cries out for divine mercy and deliverance.

Your Father above takes careful note of all this.  Nevertheless, we still live in a contaminated world of our making, and we reap what we sow.  So, He must work through all the evil taking place in our lives until He frees us from them in eternity.  What does this mean?

In His wisdom, God allows ailments to come our way.  For these show us our weakness and our need for His help.  After, in various ways, He restores our health so we may again value His kindness and caring for us.

“Give doctors the honor they deserve, for the Lord gave them their work to do,” Scripture reveals (Sirach 38:1).  Also, “My son, when you are sick don’t be negligent but pray to God, and he will heal you” (Sirach 38:9).  Yes, God works through His means and methods, but we also pray.

In His protecting arm, God also keeps you from becoming sick.  All the “what ifs” you will never realize or recognize.  In the end, He will cure us of our last disease—death.  In our final breath, He will sweep us up in His mighty arms to bring us home.  On the Last Day, Christ’s voice will call our dust from the grave.  Together evermore, both body and soul will bask in His unfading goodness and glory.

The psalm mentions God redeeming us from the pit.  The worst being damnation following death.  Still, think of the other places, from which God saved you.  In foolishness, you tripped and tumbled down.  One pit may be the painful consequences of forgetting Him and His Word.  Another, guilt and shame, which swallowed you up because you didn’t heed God’s Word or rely on His power in the battle’s strife.

Did your Father abandon you as we deserved?  No.  Though, He did let the dank mustiness of dirt fill our mouths.  Later, by the Word of Christ, He turned our eyes to Him, who liberates us from our self-dug holes and caverns.

In each of these, the voice of your Father came calling on you to trust Him.  In one way or another, His rescue came by His Gospel Word, but also by His rule of history over our life’s events.  In what appeared only to be a failure, we learned, often much more than what we thought to be a success.

Despite your wanderings, God “crowns you with love and compassion.”  So, you now don the headdress of royalty.  So dazzling, but invisible to the eye, you wear a specific crown your Father chose for you.  Resplendent and gleaming with His gifts, placed on your head, He provides you with many reasons to be grateful.  All the jewels, including the precious stones hidden from sight, are in this crown.  All this is from His love for you, which drops down from His throne, in His grace and provision.

In mercy for you, His child made of dust, God wanted to make sure your life stirred with real point and purpose.  For you are not some beast of the forest, whom no one cares about or whose passing is not noted.  To help you make sense of your life, He gave you His Son and the Scriptures.  Not done, He also gave you a soul to recognize all the gems in your crown as a treasure-trove for giving thanks.

Oh, how our minds trip up when we try to recount all this psalm says about our bountiful blessings.  From one thought to another, we stagger back and forth like a drunkard.  For we never finish reflecting on one turn of favor before the next arrives.

Contemplate how life goes with God within the psalm’s closing verses: eternal is God’s mercy.  What little we understand, about what is everlasting.  Is the love of anyone else for you, or yours for them, endless?  Of course not, for this love begins and ends, waxes and wanes, and disappears from us when someone dies.  Your car gets old and rusts.  The refrigerator and the stove blow a coil, and you need to buy a new one.

Ah, but God’s forgiveness is forever!  Without a beginning, for He thought of you and planned your redemption before He crafted the world and time began.  Without an ending, for what He graces you with extends into the time beyond all time.

So, what should be your greatest joy in life and hope in death?  Nothing else but your generous Father and God, your beloved Savior, the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament.  All else fades away and perishes, but not so our Triune God or His mercies from above, which never cease.

Now, this changes all the colors and hues of life.  For, now, you can start each day with “Blessed be God and all His graces!”  Now, you can identify the pleasures you experience, not only as gifts but also the adversities in your life, because God is functioning through them for your eternity.

Oh, your work will remain.  Countless problems will still come along, which you will need to solve.  Daily struggles will wend your way, and you will also deal with many disappointments.  Amid all these, many fortuitous turns will pour down from heaven, more than you can number, and many unnoticed.

So, if you awake tomorrow, say this prayer as you start another day.  Though the words will be worn well with age, the truth in them is always new.  “Rejoice in the Lord, my soul, everything inside me, extol His sacred name.  Amen.”