A Trip Down Blessing Boulevard
Memory Lane is not a bad place to take a stroll every now and then.
Once in awhile my thoughts take a trip back to the Onion City, Vidalia, GA. Back to the main thoroughfare through town known as “The Strip”, where teens still cruise, wasting their time and their parents’ money. Back on the other side of town where my family lived in a 3 bedroom house on Cadillac Drive in a subdivision called Blueberry Hills. Back where my brother Randy and I raced our bikes up and down the pavement and dirt roads. Back to yards I used to mow for $5, and the house where my first real girlfriend once lived. The church where I first gave my heart to Jesus is not much different from the first time I worshipped there. I have no desire to go back but when I take this trip, I’m reminded of how far God has brought me.
Your map of Memory Lane walks past different addresses, but I’m sure you can look back on where you’ve been and be reminded of how good God has been to you.
This is what I want to do tonight—to take a little stroll not just down memory lane, but down blessing boulevard. Our map will be Psalm 103:1-5, where the Psalmist begins by singing:
Psalm 103:1-2 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
Walk with me past these places where God has brought us, beginning with
1. The Courthouse (v. 3a) Bless the Lord…Who forgives [pardons] all your iniquities,…
Courtrooms usually look smaller on TV than in real life. But if you’re the one standing before the judge, waiting for your sentence, I’m sure that room gets a little larger! Most of us never face that situation in an earthly court. But the psalmist reminds us that if you’re a Christian, you have stood before the Great Judge, and heard the beautiful words not guilty.
God does not acquit us because we are innocent. The Bible clearly declares us all guilty of sin in the first degree. Every one of us stands before God’s bench of perfect justice deserving eternal death in hell. But the psalmist reminds us the same God of Justice is also the God of mercy, and He Himself provides a way for us to be declared Not guilty.
Is 53:5-6 5But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities…6All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
2 Co 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus did something for us that cannot be done in a human court of law- He paid our debt, He served our sentence, He was executed for our crimes. All who trust Him can stand before a holy God and be declared Not guilty. Later, in v. 11-12, the psalmist sings (read).
A convicted criminal might walk with dread past the courthouse, knowing that he will pay the penalty for his crimes. You and I can walk past God’s courthouse singing the song of forgiveness, because God declares us Not Guilty for Jesus’ sake.
When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, “Guilty, or not guilty? ”When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, “That’ll be ten dollars—a dollar for every mile you went over the limit.” Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. “You have violated the law,” he said. “The fine must be paid—but I am going to pay it for you.” He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! “That,” said Billy Graham, “is how God treats repentant sinners!”[i]
God is still forgiving sinners today. If you trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you can walk past the courthouse not with fear, but with thanksgiving. Let’s walk on a little further to
2. The Hospital (v. 3b). Bless the Lord Who…heals all your diseases;
I have discovered that how you see the hospital depends on whether you are there as a visitor, a worker, or a patient.
If you’re a doctor or nurse, all of those computer screens and hypodermic needles and medicine make sense to you. You know what’s going on. If you’re a visitor, you see all the busy people buzzing around to help make sick people better. But when you’re a patient, sometimes you wonder exactly what’s going on.
You wonder if the doctor and nurses really know what they’re talking about. Mind if I see your grades from med school? What’s this shot for? Why are you giving me this pill? The most important question: when am I going to get out of here?
Now I am very thankful for doctors and nurses and other health professionals. But even the best doctor will tell you that they cannot heal you. They can treat symptoms, make you feel better, but ultimately there is only one Healer: God. God can and does use doctors. But the psalmist tells us God is the Great Physician Who heals all your diseases.
Don’t make this verse promise too much. The Psalmist is not asserting it’s always God’s will to heal all our diseases physically in this life; that runs counter to the overall teachings of Scripture and to our actual experience. God can and often does give healing in answer to prayer; but not always.
He does not always heal us this side of heaven. But what you can count on is that all of God’s children are healed eventually. If we could look into heaven right now, we’d see every saint of God who suffered sickness on earth is now healthy, happy, and disease free. There’s no cancer in heaven, no heart disease, no diabetes. God will heal us in this life or through the process of death, but in either case “by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
Do you need healing? There is only One Who can heal your body, your mind, and your soul. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for healing. But also don’t be afraid to trust Him for the ultimate healing in heaven.
James Packer tells about a patient who had an acute abdominal pain. The doctor was called in and quickly gave him a pill. A friend standing nearby said, “Doctor, will it make him better?” The doctor responded, “No, but it’s gonna give him a fit, and I can cure fits.”[ii]
Doctors cannot cure everything, but God can, and God will. Walk past the hospital, the psalmist says, and remember how God has healed you, how He can still heal you, and how one day He will touch you with the ultimate healing in heaven. Well, let’s keep walking to a place that is not so pretty:
3. The Slave Market (v. 4a). Bless the Lord…Who redeems your life from the pit…
During the early part of the 19th century, and young man went to New Orleans and saw a slave being offered to the highest bidder in an auction. He later wrote, “There was a rising hatred inside of me against slavery, and I swore if someday I could do something about it, I would do something about it.” This man later became president Abraham Lincoln who made good his words by signing the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the USA. [iii]
Slavery is one of the ugliest crimes that can be committed against another human being. It was particularly horrible in the ancient world, where cruel masters threw slaves into deep holes where they sank in brackish mud. The holes were sealed shut, and the slave was left hungry, terrified in the darkness amid rats and rodents. The only time the hole was opened up was to show off the slave to a potential buyer.
But there was always one slender thread of hope for the sinking slave: the hope of a redeemer. Someone- a relative, or friend- could come and buy back the slave’s freedom. When this happened, that slave was redeemed or bought out of slavery and set free.
The psalmist declares God has redeemed us from our slavery.
Slavery to what? None of us have ever been put in chains or down in a hole. But Jesus says we are all slaves.
John 8:34,36 …“Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 36Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Jesus came to earth to provide forgiveness, but also freedom. We not only need to find freedom from the guilt of our sin, but also freedom from slavery to sin. Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin. He gives us the power to increasingly say No to temptation and yes to righteousness.
Romans 6:17-18 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Christ sets us free from slavery to sin, and gives us the power to experience an ever-increasing liberty from the habit of sin. Jesus has redeemed us from the power of sin.
John Newton, the ex-slave trader who came to Christ and wrote the words to the hymn Amazing Grace. He once expressed his redemption this way: I am not what I ought to be… I am not what I wish to be… I am not what I hope to be, but…I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin and Satan!”
Can you say that tonight? Can you look back on your slavery to sin, and remember the day Jesus saw you in that pit, and reached in and brought you up? Can you thank the Lord He paid the price for your soul, and set you free from the power of sin? The psalmist sings out, “Remember where He brought you from! Remember the freedom you enjoy today because of Him!” And as you praise God for this freedom, let’s stop by one more spot:
4. The Banquet Hall of the King (v. 4b-5).
When I was growing up, my dad didn’t believe in eating out. I can count on one hand the number of times we ever ate at any kind of restaurant before I was 12 years old. So many times on the two hour trip from Vidalia to Waycross, we would pass the garden of all delights- the Dairy Queen, but we almost never stopped to partake of its delicacies.
Later on, when I got my own job, I discovered the all you can eat buffet. For one low price you can eat until your jaws get tired of chewing. It was like walking into the palace of a King.
The psalmist invites us to remember the Banquet of our King. He crowns us with His love and kindness, and satisfies our appetite for good things. He sets before us a buffet of His bountiful provision, and invites us to come and have all we want.
This is not to say God gives us everything we want. What the Scripture is reminding us is God is generous to His children. God never runs out of what you need; He’s not stingy or selfish with us. He is a generous Father, a Good Shepherd, an openhanded King. Whatever good things you enjoy in life come to you because of Him.
Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Don’t let your troubles and heartaches blind you to how generous God has been to you! He has filled your life with good things. And there’s more where that came from! What needs do you have? Financial? Physical? Emotional? God invites us to come to the banquet table and let Him fill our emptiness with the fullness of His blessing!
Hudson Taylor founder of China Inland Mission used to hang in his home a plaque with two Hebrew Words on it: EBENEZER & JEHOVAH JIREH. The first word means ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us’ and the second, ‘The Lord will provide.’ One looked back while the other looked forward to God’s faithfulness. [iv]
Bring your needs to Him, and let Him provide for you.
It’s good to walk down memory lane sometimes, if for no other reason than to jog our remembrance.
A platoon marching in the steaming hot desert discuss why they joined the military. One man is silent. Finally, somebody asks, “Frank, why did you join the army?” He replies, “To help me forget an old girlfriend.” “Oh yeah? what was her name?” Frank looks out on the endless desert and replies sadly, “Her name was Sandy!” [v]
There are some things you should never forget. I pray this walk down Blessing Blvd reminds you that the same God Who has blessed you in the past wants to bless you right now.
Perhaps you’re weighed down with guilt. You’ve done wrong, and you wonder if God can forgive you. You wonder if you’ll ever get victory over the sins that so easily beset you. The psalmist says remember because of Jesus, you are forgiven from the guilt of sin and redeemed from the power of sin.
Maybe your body is sick and weak, and you wonder if God can heal you. The psalmist says to remember God is still the Great Physician and He still makes house calls.
Maybe you have a need and you don’t know how it will get supplied. God invites you to bring your needs to Him. He is able and willing to meet every need you have by His generous grace and goodness.
Psalm 103:1-2 1Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
[i] Progress Magazine, December 14, 1992.
[ii]Swindoll, Charles R. The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories. electronic ed. Logos Library System; Swindoll leadership library. Nashville: Word Publishers, 2000, c1998.
[iii]Swindoll, Charles R. The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories. electronic ed. Logos Library System; Swindoll leadership library.
[iv] Contributed by Paul Fritz
[v]Morgan, R. J. (2002). Nelson's annual preacher's sourcebook : 2003 edition (electronic ed.) (Page 348). Nashville: Thomas Nelson