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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
   and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works vindication
   and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
   his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
   nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
   nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
   so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
   he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
   they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
   and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
   on those who fear him,
   and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
   and remember to do his commandments.

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
   and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
   his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
   in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. (NRSV)

Reflection
The Psalms are interesting passages because they are poems that usually express thanks or lament. Their rhythmic nature makes them a good basis for both hymns and devotions. They contain passionate descriptions of both pain and love.

Psalm 103 is an expression of thanks for God’s continued and steadfast love. Several years ago, a former associate pastor led a discussion on prayer. She noted that one of the best ways to start a prayer is by giving thanks. As we start our Lenten journey, a time of increased spiritual discipline and prayer, it seems only right that we start with a psalm of thanksgiving.

This passage contains beautifully poetic descriptions of God, but the thing that stands out are the myriad of ways that God supports and cares for us. God vindicates us (or validates), knows our innermost feelings and beliefs, provides compassion, and loves us unconditionally like a parent. Indeed, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,” a hymn based on this psalm, paraphrases it this way in its first verse: “Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.” That sums it up nicely. God takes us when we are at our lowest, carries us, and puts us back on our feet.

When I’ve gone through difficult times in my life, it has been the constant and steadfast nature of God’s love that has helped me though those struggles. I’ve relied on the teachings of our faith: that we were created by God and nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

As the third verse of “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” puts it:

Father-like he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hands he gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him! Widely as his mercy flows.

Prayer
Creator and Father God, thank you for your constant and steadfast love and the numerous ways you support and care for us. Like a parent or a best friend, you support us, pick us up, and put us back on our feet. Your love knows no end, and for that we are eternally grateful. Amen.

Written by Mark Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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