Because the one true God is the fountain of all blessedness, it is our duty and delight to call attention to His intrinsic blessedness. We do this by recounting His characteristic benefits. If we are to personally bless the Lord in this way (Psalm 103:1-5) we will have to exhort ourselves to do so and we will have to avoid the danger of forgetting all that God has done for us.
By the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are enabled to be a thankful people who do recount the benefits that the Lord has so graciously bestowed upon us. But what is the greatest benefit the Lord has graced us with that ought to be at the center of all our recounting?
In Psalm 103:2 the Psalmist starts to recount specific personal benefits that he has received from the Lord. How he starts answers our question and instructs us about the rightful priority in recounting the benefits of the Lord for the purpose of calling attention to His blessedness.
Who pardons all your iniquities (Psalm 103:3a)
As we consider this personal benefit that the Psalmist recounts we need to remember that he is in fact talking to himself about these benefits. Remember, in Psalm 103:2 we read “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” Now David says to his soul “who pardons all your iniquities.”
The Priority of Recounting this Benefit
Why is it that this personal benefit is recounted first and ought to be the atmosphere in which all of our recounting ought to find oxygen? Though it is great to be delivered from physical sickness and death and to have strength when weary, all of those and all other benefits would be for naught if our “iniquities” were not deal with. If our iniquities are not dealt with before we pass into eternity, every healing, every deliverance, every benefit that we receive in this earth from a gracious God is but a prelude to a deserved eternity away from His presence and power. That is case if our iniquities have not been pardoned. In the words of Jesus:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)
The Substance of this Benefit
This benefit is that rebel sinners who were not seeking God (Romans 3:10-18) were drawn to Him through Jesus so that their sins might be pardoned or forgiven. We all understand that forgiveness can only be granted by the offended party. Every sin we commit is an added offence against our Creator and Sustainer. Only God who has been offended by our sin can grant us forgiveness. Because God is good and does good (Psalm 119:68) He must do so in a way that justly punishes the evil that has been committed. Today we have even more clarity about God’s plan of redemption than David had at the time he wrote this Psalm. With great knowledge we recount the personal benefit of forgiven sins because we know that Jesus came to die in our place that our sin might be deal with justly and we might be pardoned in spite of all our offences. As Peter puts it:
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:24 -25).
The Extent of this Benefit
To have any of our sins forgiven before the Lord would be undeserved and reason to give great praise to God for His benefit toward us. But notice the claim that David has regarding this personal benefit: “who pardons all your iniquities.” Each of us are born sinners who commit sins or as this verses says “iniquities.” This word refers to something that is crooked, bent, twisted, and distorted. That is the biblical picture of our sin. When we chose to live for ourselves and God’s creation rather than for Him and His purposes toward others we are crooked, bent, twisted and we are actively distorting God’s will and purpose for us as His creation. The benefit that we ought to prioritize and rejoice in above all is the benefit of being pardoned of all our crookedness and twisted living. There is great reason to give praise to a God who sent His own Son who was perfectly pleasing in His sight to live a perfectly straight life for crooked and distorted people like us. Later David will return to this theme in Psalm 103:10-12:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Two Important Results of Recounting this Benefit
If we would be careful to always be recounting this personal benefit from the Lord there would be two major results in our lives.
First, we would not become so discouraged and fainthearted in our walk with Jesus Christ when we succumb to sinful crookedness again. Why? Because all our iniquities have been pardoned. If you have trusted in Jesus, the Son of God for salvation, He is your only hope of entrance into heaven. And therefore this is the benefit that you have received from the Lord: All of your iniquities have been forgiven. Jesus died for you and your sins before you were born which means that at that time all your sins were future. Therefore, if you place your faith in Christ all your past, present and future sins are atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. We can be sure that if we do not constantly keep this benefit from the Lord before our eyes we will find it impossible to call attention to the intrinsic blessedness of our God. Rather than seeing His marvelous grace we will illegitimately be cowering under what we perceive to be His righteous wrath against our sin. But we must not forget that Jesus drank the last drop of God’s righteous wrath against our sin if we have trusted in Him alone. All His dealings with us now are by grace alone and any discipline He administers to us is from the loving heart of Him our heavenly Father. We will not forget this as we continually recount this central benefit from the Lord.
Second, we would take sin much more seriously. Far from producing a lax attitude toward contentiously obeying the Lord, to have this central benefit before our eyes is to always being reminded of what it took for our sins to be forgiven. The cross is simultaneously a picture of God’s infinite grace and mercy as well as a horrifyingly accurate picture of our infinite sin against the infinite God. Our sin against God is as ugly as the Son of God having to die in our place that we might be forgiven. The cross is simultaneously the most beautiful and ugly picture a born again believer has ever seen for it is on the beautiful cross that our pardon has been purchased and the glories of Jesus shine brightest. But at the same time it is through considering the cross that we see the horror of our sin. Anyone who looks at the cross and sees license to sin because of the free offer of pardon is someone who has not yet truly understood the cross. True recounting of the Lord’s benefit of pardoning all our iniquities results in a greater passion for holiness.
So how might we live a life recounting this central benefit from the Lord? First, it would require that we truly know Jesus as our Savior. Have all your iniquities been pardoned? If they have not been you cannot bless God for this benefit. However you can as soon as you trust in Jesus alone. But second, by filling our hearts with the truth of who Jesus is and what He did in our place. How might we do this? Through daily walking with the Lord personally in His Word where we read of the Person and Work of Christ and through gathering with God’s people where we remember Christ at communion and hear Christ proclaimed through the preaching of the Word.
God has pardoned all the iniquities of those who trust in His Son. Living a life of recounting God’s benefits means living a life recounting this central benefit from the Lord.
Previous Installments in this Series through Psalm 103
#1: Recounting for the Purpose of Blessing
#2: Exhorting Yourself About Wholehearted Blessing