Praise the Lord and Don't Forget His Benefits
Dearly loved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Psalm 103 is a call to worship – a call to Praise the Lord.
The psalmist directs this call to worship inward, spurring himself to praise.
As we recite and meditate on this psalm, we take these words on our lips and find ourselves in the psalmist’s place. We take up his concern for praising the Lord and begin to spur ourselves on to worship our God.
It is a focus that we’ve adopted this year as a Council this year: as a Council as a Congregation we will worship God. We will pursue excellence in worship. In our gatherings on Sunday and as we come together during the week, we are going to Praise the Lord.
That, after all, is the main reason we gather together. This is a worship service. Our attention is not directed towards ourselves. When we are gathered to worship the Lord, our attention should not be on our preferences, tastes, and opinions.
As the gathered people of God, our attention is on the Lord and our goal is to praise Him. The main question in evaluating worship is not, “Did I like it?” but, “Did this worship service bring glory and honour to God?”
Twice this week I had the opportunity to reflect on the intention and direction of our worship. Yesterday, Clare and I attended a conference on worship. One of the presenters reminded us that all worship is directed towards God. She recommended that every song, every reading, every prayer be chosen and planned to be the best to praise God in that service, on that day, in that season, in that congregation. Our goal, after all is to Praise the Lord and worship God.
Earlier in the week, our worship committee met. By the way, if this interests you, the worship committee would love to have another person or two. One of the things on our agenda was to discuss how Trinity would use the projector. Specifically, whether to show short video clips during the offering of the ministries our collection were supporting.
Our chairman framed the question by backing us up. “What is the purpose of the offering?” he asked.
As a committee we chewed on that for a while. “What is the purpose of the offering?”
Like every part of a worship service, the offering is a time to worship the Lord – to reflect on God’s goodness and praise the Lord by bringing our tithes and offerings.
Once we recall and establish that groundwork: the offering is part of our praise and thanksgiving to God, then we could discuss whether or not a video clip would enhance our worship during that part of the service.
Now, we ran out of time on Tuesday evening to build consensus, but the conversation was valuable. It reminded us to frame the offering, the pre-service songs, and everything else in the question, “Does this bring glory to God?”
Now, this question applies to worship services. Once you say it aloud, it seems pretty obvious. But we can expand it beyond our worship services.
The psalmist calls us to Praise the Lord – actually God calls us to Praise the Lord – not just for two hours on Sunday, but all day, every day. We could just as well plan our calendars with the same question in mind, “Does this bring glory to God?”
See, our praise: whether singing or swinging a hammer, mopping the floor or reaching for our wallet is a response to what the Lord has done for us. The Lord has done such incredible things for us that when we think of it, we cannot help but respond with praise.
Think of the blessings you’ve experienced from God.
The psalmist gives himself a list of God’s benefits. The first on his list:
He forgives all your sins!
That’s the biggest difference between people in church and outside of it. We are gathered here for worship because God has forgiven our sins. The bumper sticker has it correct: “Christians aren’t perfect, but forgiven!”
Later in the psalm, David mulls this over:
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
If nothing else, God’s forgiveness is reason for us to praise the Lord. You’ve been forgiven. You’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. That awful load of guilt and sin has been lifted from you. You are dearly loved and forgiven by God. Praise the Lord!
Out of that forgiveness comes much more:
He heals all your diseases
and redeems your life from the pit.
Sometimes we stumble over this one. We know people – forgiven people – who still get sick. They have cancer, emphysema, mental illnesses. Some of them are healed from their diseases; some are not. How can the psalmist say, “He heals all your diseases”?
Healing does take place already now. Our Lord is in the process of renewing all creation. The process has begun with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and we are steadily moving towards the Lord’s return when all things will be made new.
But even now we see signs of the Kingdom, the healing and renewal has begun – within us, within the church, within the world. We do see prayers answered. People are healed. Relationships are healed.
We no longer need to fear death or eternal punishment. We’ve been redeemed from the pit. We’re being restored – made whole again.
That renewal makes our hearts sing with praise for God. Like a child at Thanksgiving, the psalmist’s list of blessings continues:
Crowned with love and compassion
Satisfied with good things
Youth renewed like the eagle’s
It’s quite the picture, isn’t it? God supplies our needs out of his generosity and care. Counting our blessings could take all day.
We need this time in worship services to be reminded of God’s forgiveness and care. A time to stop all the busyness and remember the forgiveness and benefits we have in the Lord.
And as we remember, the gratitude rises. We respond with praise for our God. We urge ourselves on. We urge each other on:
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.
 Ps 103:10-12.