Thanksgiving Sermon: Bless the Lord, O My Soul - Psalm 103

It is a shame that we have only one day set aside each year to give thanks to God as a nation. We should have some time set aside each day, to give our praise to Him who has blessed us so richly.

Scriptures: Psalm 103

Introduction

In just a few short days we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is a shame that we have only one day set aside each year to give thanks to God as a nation. We should have some time set aside each day, to give our praise to Him who has blessed us so richly.

I was shopping in one of the local grocery stores this past week and noticed that Thanksgiving has all but been overlooked. Christmas, because of its great commercial power, is already being pushed in the stores. Noticeably absent are the paper pilgrims that used to decorate the stores no too many years ago. Now as soon as the big push to buy costumes and candy is over, out comes the commercialization of Christmas. We are bombarded with Santa Claus and snowmen.

But as God's people it is fitting that we should focus our thoughts, not only now but often, upon the goodness of God and offer our gratitude to Him for who He is and for all He has done for us.
Thus, today and next Sunday Morning we will be focusing on this theme of Thanksgiving.

If you have your Bibles turn to Psalm 103, the passage we read before our prayer.

Someone has called this David's "Hallelujah Chorus." Notice that in our text he addresses his soul. He is reminding himself, as he praises the Lord, of all that God has done, but in the context we see that he is using a grammatical device here and is instructing his own soul. This is important to a proper interpretation of this passage.

1. Praise the Lord and count your blessings (vv. 1-2)

It is a prayer of nothing but praise to God. There is no supplication, no request, no petition or plea in this prayer. It is pure unadulterated praise to God. David was awestruck with God's blessings. We are not told the circumstances in which David received this Psalm, but it is not difficult to imagine how it happened. Looking at his life, counting his blessings instead of complaining about his burdens, it dawned upon David just how much God had done for him. He realized how good God had been and how undeserving he was of all these blessings. Springing up from the depths of his heart and gushing out onto his parchment came this prayer of praise, this benediction expressing his gratitude toward the Lord.

David praised the Lord with his song, If you ever have a problem praising the Lord you simply have to read this psalm. A psalm is a song. All the psalms were in fact sung by the Hebrews. The canticles, as the book of Psalms is also known, is a hymn book. So David sang this song of praise to the Lord.

I can see David, full of emotion, passionate in all that he did, praising God with all his heart, He'd have a difficult time in some of our churches today. He believed in putting his all into it. This ancient Hebrew King was also an accomplished musician, a man who sang with feeling and with conviction. This was a joyous song of praise to the Lord.

These words were not dry and stale when David sang them. They were full of life and energy. They were part of his worship. You'll recall that David was accustomed to dancing when he worshiped God. Remember that one of his wives, Michal, did not approve and criticized him, and God made her barren for her criticism. Now a guy who dances when he worships God would not be dry and monotonous as he sang this song. It would not be sung like a funeral dirge or a requiem. This was a song of praise. David sang it with joy and with a deep desire to let God and all else who could hear know just how much he really wanted God to receive praise and glory. The psalms are filled with these kinds of praise songs.

Psalm 34:-12 (Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he departed.) "I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord's greatness; let us exalt His name together."

Psalm 66:1-4: "Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awe-inspiring are Your works! Your enemies will cringe before you because of your great strength. All the earth will worship You and sing praise to You. They will sing praise to Your name.'"

Psalm 81, 92, and many, many others are songs of praise to the Lord.

David was serious about praising the Lord. It wasn't something he only did at the temple during religious ceremonies. It was part of his everyday experience. He was grateful to the Lord and he could not help but praise him.

We need to give consideration to this when it comes to the way we sing our songs of praise.

Now, David was singing the ancient Hebrew version of "Count your blessings."

2. Life in relationship with God is whole and healthy (v. 3)

Look at verse 3. (read verse)

One of the names of the devil is the accuser of the brethren. In Job we see him going before God to accuse Job. We have every reason to believe that he goes before God even now to accuse us. He says, "Look at what he said. Look at what she did. These people of yours are sinners. How can they say they really love you and continue to act like they do?" He does not have to lie about us when he comes before the Lord, for God would not permit it. No, there are enough faults in all of our lives that he simply has to point out the obvious.

The Bible calls him the adversary, the enemy. But we also have an Advocate. We have one who goes to the Father on our behalf. We have Jesus Christ the righteous. When the old devil accuses us, our Advocate, Jesus, raises His nail-pierced hand and says, "Just a minute. We see no stain of sin on that one or on that one or on that one, because they are mine. I have bought them with a price and their sins, though they were like scarlet, have been washed white as snow. They belong to me.

As David writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he understands that God forgives our sins. But he also sees believers as people who have been made whole because of their relationship with God.

Verse 3b - who heals all your diseases - remember that he is addressing his soul. So what kind of healing is he speaking of here?

Many take this to mean physical healing. I affirm that God heals physically. While healing is a sermon in itself, suffice to say that God is the great physician to whom we can take all of our physical needs and petitions. He made us and has the power to save us.

James 5:14-15: "Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will salve the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."

But physical healing is not the kind spoken of here. If we are to do justice to the interpretation of this passage, we cannot simply assign to it any meaning we would like. We must understand it in its proper grammatical context. He is talking to his soul, telling it that God heals all the diseases of the soul, sin being chief among them. Does the soul have diseases? Indeed it does. Fear, doubt, depression, anger, lust, hate jealously, pride, greed . . . the list goes on and on. These soul diseases can all be traced back to our fallen nature and the effects of sin. But God can give permanent healing to the soul.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

3. Life in relationship with God is meaningful (vv. 4-5)

Look at verse 4. Because He forgives our sins, because He gives us relationship, because He heals our souls diseases, then we see that life is meaningful.

This verse can be rendered, "He keeps your life from going to waste."

How many people waste the years of their lives on things that, in the long run, really don't count? They spend their days in pursuit of the temporal passing things, and wake up one day, empty, tired and feeling like there is no use going on. In fact, they end up feeling betrayed because the things they worked so hard to obtain failed to bring them the satisfaction for which they longed.

The world does not offer any hope for meaningful living. Money, material, power, position, things, won't do it.
 
God gives His people purpose in living. He gives us meaning. He keeps our lives from going to waste. Our lives are lived with eternal purpose. All lives not lived in Christ are only a shell of what they are intended to be. This is one of the benefits of knowing God, our lives count; they are not lived in vain. They have eternal significance. This is one of the things David is praising the Lord for.

Verse 5: He satisfies your mouth

He gives us satisfaction in our old age. Remember he is speaking to his soul, he is saying that one of the benefits of being God's people is that when we are old we will not have to look back upon our lives with regret. Regardless of your age, or of how many years you have walked upon the earth, God will give you satisfaction.

Here are six practical suggestions to consider as you praise the Lord.

  1. Be aware - Forget not his benefits.
  2. Be honest - Don't be a phony. Don't put on an act. Phony Christians turn people off.
  3. Be grateful - There is nothing that encourages praise like gratitude. Have a thankful heart.
  4. Be vocal - Tell someone. Sing His praises. Bless someone with a testimony.
  5. Be natural - Praise God in a way that is natural for you.
  6. Be consistent - Make it part of your everyday experience.

How about you? Are you living a life in relationship with God? If so, you cannot help but praise Him. This is the same passion David possessed.

How do you praise him? With your life. But we must be careful not to fall into the rut the Israelites fell into - saying one thing and doing another.

Isaiah 29:13  "The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote."

David said I will praise Him with all that is within me. That means, praise Him with my attitudes, my actions, my family, my finances, my words and my work, my religion and my relationships, my voice and my vocation, my church and my children, my hobbies and my habits, I will praise Him not only in word but also in deed. I will praise Him with everything that is within me.

When was the last time you stopped to consider all His benefits? Do you enjoy those benefits? Have you ever experienced forgiveness? Are you living a meaningful life, a satisfied life? Does your soul have diseases that need to be healed? Are you living with an eternal purpose?

Dr. Calvin Wittman is pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He serves as a trustee at Criswell College, and regularly contributes to Open Windows, a monthly LifeWay devotional publication.