As we begin Thanksgiving week it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of visiting family, preparing meals, watching football, and maintaining traditions. And while we should be cultivating thankfulness all year, Thanksgiving affords a unique opportunity to focus on the many reasons we have to be thankful. The Bible is not void of discussion on thankfulness either, especially in the Psalms. When the Psalms express thankfulness, it always directed to God and his gracious work for his people. As Christians, we should take our cues from the Psalmist not only on Thanksgiving, but every day as well. Sure, we can be thankful for material possessions, family members, and other earthly things. But when we express our appreciation for these things, it must always be directed towards the Giver, the God who gives us every earthly blessing, but also an abundance of heavenly blessings.
Psalm 103 is a beautiful expression of overflowing thankfulness to God. In verse 1, David says: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Every fiber of David’s being is pouring out blessing, praise, and honor to God. He is celebrating God’s goodness towards his people. But he doesn’t end there. He goes on to explain in greater detail what this goodness looks like. In verse 2, David urges himself (and us) to “forget not all his benefits.” He is telling us to call to mind what God has done for us. In essence, he is saying to remember so you can see how he has worked for you. It’s hard to praise the Lord when you can’t remember what he has done for you. So remember. Call to mind the great things he has worked on your behalf. I imagine it will elicit the same joyous praise that David exhibits here. Thankfully, he expounds on these benefits. And while this is David talking, these benefits apply to us as well. The following verses show us five ways that God’s benefits are made manifest in our lives:
He forgives all of your iniquity (verse 3a). This is the foundation of our praise. All other benefits mean nothing if our sins are not forgiven. At the cross, our greatest problem was dealt with by God himself. This alone gives us reason to celebrate and be thankful for the rest of our lives. Our sins have been forgiven.
He heals all of our diseases (verse 3b). God is the great healer. Modern medicine is an amazing gift to us, but God ultimately heals us of our illnesses. Some of you today might wonder when you will be healed. Maybe you have faced illness your entire life and there is no hope for a cure. This verse doesn’t seem to apply to you. Oh, but it does. Even if you do not face healing in this life, there is a great healing coming for you. The body you have right now won’t be this way forever. One day you will have a new body that is free of disease and decay. Hold on for that final day, and trust in the God who will one day finally heal all of your disease.
He redeems our life from the pit (verse 4a). Before God saved us, we were living in a pit of sin, despair, and hopelessness. We had no way of escape. But God, in his great mercy, redeemed us from that pit. Not only does he forgive our sins, but he takes us out of that sinful life and redeems us. He makes us new creations by the atoning work of Jesus.
He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy (verse 4b). A crown is given to royalty. When we are forgiven and redeemed we are brought into the royal family of God, and given the benefits of being his children. This is the application of his healing, saving, forgiving, and atoning work—we get never-ending, always faithful, mercy and love from our heavenly Father. The benefits just keep coming!
He satisfies us with good, renewing our youth like the eagle’s (verse 5). All of the benefits mentioned in the previous verses are good things that satisfy our souls. He satisfies us with an abundance of good, namely the goodness of himself. He is the ultimate source of good and he is the only good one. This goodness towards us renews us and gives us new life. I squandered my youth, and this verse, like the ones preceding it, reminds me that God is a forgiving and redeeming God. He redeems our youthful wanderings and gives us new vigor to serve him and honor him all of our days.
The rest of the Psalm is a further exposition of his goodness towards us. These verses are rich with evidences of his work on our behalf, and give us many more reasons to be thankful this holiday season. In verse 10, David reminds us that God does not deal with us according to our sins, or repay us evil for evil. His dealing with us is only good and merciful, even though we deserve only condemnation and wrath. And again in verses 11-12 we see that not only does he give us mercy, but he removes our sin from us and looks compassionately on us.
All of these great realities about God’s work on our behalf culminate in a final word of praise and thanksgiving for all that he has done. In verses 20-22 David says that all of heaven and earth will sing his praises because of the good things that he has done. The heavens and the earth cannot be silent about God’s wonderful interactions with us, nor should we. If we are in Christ we have much to be thankful for this Thursday, and every day. God has removed the stain of sin, given us the righteousness of Christ, and promised us a great future with him. Let us join the everlasting song and praise his name forever. He has done great things for us.