I'm memorizing Psalm 103 this month - one verse a day - and meditating on it as I go. Here's what I know so far:
Praise the Lord, o my soul,
all my inmost being, praise His holy Name.
Praise the Lord, o my soul,
and forget not all His benefits:
who forgives all your sins,
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
- Psalm 103:1-6
I've been reading study notes for a bit this morning on this psalm, and learned a few things that helped me internalize the truth of these verses a bit, and I thought I'd share them with you. The Nelson Study Bible (KJV) has a "wordfocus" section that defined "soul" a little more clearly - in Hebrew the word is nephesh, and it can mean your very breath, your life force as connected to your blood, your personality (what makes you... you), and it can also refer to the seat of your intellect and emotions. So this psalm really does call us to worship God with everything we've got - all that we are is to respond in worship to Him.
This reminds me of a sermon Scott preached last summer where he proved on a metaphysical basis that the universe is actually singing. There's these tiny, tiny particles that make up protons and neutrons that are zinging around comprising matter, and each of them emit a unique frequency - creation is musical! How cool is that?
Another thing that jumped out at me this week is the phrase in verse 5 about your youth being renewed like the eagle's. I know eagles can live a really long time, but renewed youth? What's that about? The NIV Study Bible says that this refers to an eagle's "proverbial unflagging strength." Thinking about eagles always makes me think of that verse in Isaiah 40 about flying on "wings as eagles" - which reminds me of a sermon Ben Patterson preached once at Hope College. He described the way that eagles fly: they tuck their wings, dive headfirst into the air, plummet toward the ground at high speed, and then, at just the right moment, they spread their wings and catch the current, to float along effortlessly on the wind. (Not quite a comforting analogy, is it? God says we will soar on those sorts of wings. That explains a bit...)
Something else I learned as I was studying is that "desires" in verse 5 can refer to food - which gives implications to renewed youth as well, I think - we need sustanance to be renewed; if we don't eat, we faint. Similarly, in our spiritual walk, we need spiritual food to keep going. When we're not engaged in the spiritual disciplines, we're not unflaggingly strong at all - but when we're in the Word and praying actively (and not just "oh God help" sorts of prayers, but rather the 2-way conversation, listening sorts of prayers) and honestly seeking to follow Him not just in how we think but in what we do - then those eagle-wing moments are no longer scary, but exhilarating.
actually looking for an explanation of verse 6; I get the justice part, but am wondering what it means for God to "work righteousness...for the oppressed." I've always thought of righteousness as an abstract characteristic, not so much as something you could "do" - or that God could, in this instance. Anyway, I've come across some great commentary worth sharing.
From Matthew Henry: "In singing this psalm we must in a special manner get our hearts affected with the goodness of God and enlarged in love and thankfulness." (I love that - "we must...get our hearts affected..." It's possible to read the Word and miss it. God, let that not be the case with me; affect my heart, please!)