2020-10-25 Forget Not All His Benefits

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 25, 2020

“Forget Not All His Benefits”
Psalm 103:1-5

            We live in difficult times—and we continue to expend effort to survive and thrive in an especially difficult season of life and history.  We continue to wrestle against the coronavirus pandemic and all its allied ills.  We continue to endure virulent societal and interpersonal animosity.  We also continue to observe, with concern if not outright fear, the accelerating declension in our time from sound Christian faith and practice.  What shall avail for our souls in these times?

            The tonic for these times is deep reflection upon Christ and His benefits.  Let’s do this, God willing, over the next few weeks—using today’s text to launch toward that aim.  Let us one and all give our attention to the reading and preaching of God’s Word once again in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

            David, in this one hundred and third Psalm, exhorts his own soul as led by the Holy Spirit.  He exhorts himself to bless the Lord in view of the Lord’s benefits poured upon his life.  This exhortation is not just for David, but also is for us as well—and that by the same Spirit.  Our text today cleaves neatly in two.  First, we hear God’s command to bless Him (1-2a), and, second, we hear His command not to forget His benefits (2b-5).

            David cries out at this psalm’s outset, “Bless the Lord, O my soul….”  The sense of the word here rendered bless in English (Hebrew barak) is to adore on bended knee.  When the Lord, through David, His inspired penman, calls us to bless Himself, He calls us to worship Him, to praise Him, to magnify Him, and the like.  Moreover, we are to worship the Lord in no half-hearted, insipid way, but we are to worship Him with all that is within us.  We worship the Lord aright when we worship Him with all we have—with every gift that He has given us consecrated to His worship.  We also worship the Lord aright when we worship Him with all we are—to the very core of our beings.  The Spirit deems that this command merits repetition—both for emphasis and for reminder—and we receive that repetition in the first half of verse two.

            David grounds His Spirit-led exhortation to bless the Lord in the benefits of the Lord by urging us, further, not to forget all His benefits.  David lists six benefits of the Lord for our consideration; we consider each in turn, beginning with forgiveness of iniquity.  The unnamed Psalmist, in Psalm 130, writes, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).  Iniquity is another word for sin, guilt, and so forth.  If there be anything beautiful about iniquity, it is this: In Christ, it is forgiven.  For the one trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, there is the promise of removal of sin (Psalm 103:12), and cleansing from sin (1 John 1:9)—and these due to Christ’s atoning work on the Cross (cf. 1 John 4:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Truly, forgiveness of sin—and, hence, right relationship with God in Christ—is fundamental, but there remain other benefits that flow from this one; let’s view them.

            The Lord gives to His own healing of diseases.  God spoke to His Old Testament Church about this, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your Healer” (Exodus 15:26).  We rejoice in Him sparing us dread disease, when He does.  We also rejoice when He delivers us from sickness in a manner that only can be called supernatural, or miraculous.  Let us not forget to praise our Lord—and let us praise Him no less—when He heals in a manner we may deem natural or ordinary, for the same Healer is still at work in any case.  Moreover, not only does the Lord heal us from physical disease, but He also heals in the diseases of the inner man: diseases spiritual, mental, and emotional as well.  Our God remains the Healer, let us bless Him for it.

            The Lord also redeems our life from the pit, as David testifies in another place, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2).  The Hebrew word here rendered pit may denote or connote place of entrapment, the grave, and hell, to name but three.  The Lord, in redeeming our life from the pit, rescues us both from temporal (i.e., this-worldly) and eternal harms.  He does these—especially redemption from eternal harms—by Christ’s redeeming work on Calvary’s cross.  We all can testify to the Lord’s work in our lives to rescue us from some worldly or spiritual danger; let us bless Him for it.

            The Lord also crowns our lives with steadfast love and mercy.  The prophet Jeremiah, weeping over both the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s covenant people to Babylon, wrote this beam of hope that pierces the darkness, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).  We know, through the Spirit, what Jeremiah knew and wrote by the same Spirit.  We find God’s mercies new every morning; we never are without them.  We also note that His mercies never fail; they never cease to do us good.  The love of God, and the compassion of God, never fail—and these blessings crown our lives.

            The Lord also fills our lives with good things from His good hand.  Anything good comes from Him, as James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, testifies, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).  God gives good gifts, such as material blessings, wellness, and the like for our physical good.  He also gives His Word, His Church, His people, and the like for our spiritual good.  These come, moreover, in lavish measure, in order that our lives may overflow from God’s good things poured into us.

            In view of all the foregoing, our youth is renewed like the eagle’s—as Isaiah declares in soaring terms by the Holy Spirit: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).  The eagle molts from time to time, appearing ever youthful with each new set of plumage.  The eagle’s soars, appearing ever vigorous in the skies.  So shall God renew our youthful vigor as He blesses us who bless Him with all these benefits.  To me, and to many of us, I’m sure, this is good news indeed.

            What, then, are the benefits that the Lord has bestowed upon your life in His Son, Christ Jesus?  If you yet have trouble remembering them, then cry out to Him for assistance.  If you have a hard lot just now, and struggle to remember God’s good things in your life, then receive this encouragement from Johnson Oatman Jr. in this portion of his hymn “Count Your Blessings”:

            When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

            When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

            Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

            And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

            Count your blessings, name them one by one;

            Count your blessings, see what God’s hath done;

            Count your blessings, name them one by one;

            Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.[1]

            Forget not, beloved one in Christ Jesus, all the Lord’s blessings to you.  He forgives your sin, heals you from disease, redeems your life from the pit, crowns your life with steadfast love and mercy, lavishes His good gifts upon you, and renews your youthful vigor.  Therefore, praise the Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—with all you have, and with all you are: for His glory and for your good

                                                                                                            AMEN.

[1] Johnson Oatman Jr., “Count Your Blessings” (1897), usually sung to the hymn tune BLESSINGS, composed by W. O. Excell (1897) [accessed at https://hymnary.org/text/when_upon_lifes_billows_you_are_tempest#tune, October 23, 2020].