Beginning the Journey (for new Christians)
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Names of God
Sermon on the Mount
9. Psalms: Rejoicing in God's Character
(Psalms 103, 145, and 117)
Bless the Lord! Orante figure from the Catacomb of Priscilla, Cubicle of the Velata, Rome (second half of the third century). This pose of arms lifted in prayer is found in thousands of figures in the catacombs, representing a soul at peace in paradise.
Psalm 103 - Bless the Lord, O My Soul
Our first psalm is a familiar one, a psalm that has spawned dozens of hymns and choruses. It is attributed to David:
Bless the Lord (103:1)
The first line introduces the psalm:
"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name." (103:1)
More familiar may be the Authorized Version that translates the verb as "bless":
"Bless the LORD, O my soul:
and all that is within me, bless his holy name."
"Bless" (KJV, NRSV, NJB) or "praise" (NIV) is bārak, which we examined in chapter 8, meaning "bless, praise, salute," here, "to declare God the origin of power for success, prosperity, fertility," that is, to "praise God."1 When Aaron the high priest blessed the people, he lifted his hands toward them as an act of conferring a blessing (Leviticus 9:22). When Jesus blessed his disciples at his ascension, he lifted his hands toward them (Luke 24:50). When we bless God, we often extend our hands to him in prayer and worship, following the pattern of both the Old Testament saints and the early church.2
But this blessing was no mere gesture. The psalmist prays with his whole heart; he pours out his heart before God in worship. "Within me" (KJV, NRSV), "inmost being" (NIV), "depths of my being" (NJB) is qereb, "midst, among, inner part," denoting the internal. It is often used as a parallel to "heart" and "soul." He blesses Yahweh's "holy name," that is his holy person, his sacred being.
The psalmist calls upon his soul, himself (nephesh), to bless God. Sometimes our body seems tired, our spirit dull, our attitude "bummed out," depressed. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves to praise. We don't praise because we feel like it, but because God is worthy. Usually, after we've offered praise for awhile, our spirit gets in tune with God's Spirit and we begin to feel like worshipping. By our will we command ourselves to worship.
Forget Not All His Benefits (103:2-5)
"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits...." (103:2)
Now David begins to enumerate all the benefits4 that the Lord brings to us:
"3... who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life5 from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (103:3-5)
A look at the verbs in this list tells the story, suggesting themes that are developed throughout the Bible:
- Forgiveness and pardon6 from sin -- spiritual
- Healing7 and restoration from sickness8 -- physical
- Deliverance or redemption9 from the grave10 -- physical
- God's love11 and compassion12 as a garland on the head -- physical, spiritual, emotional
- Sustenance13 for our bodies14 -- physical
The result is:
"... so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (103:5b)
The renewal15 to one's youthful state16 is compared to that of an eagle. References to a renewing of youth here and in Isaiah 40:31 may stem from the fact of the eagle's longevity or perhaps its fresh appearance in new plumage following moulting.17 Kidner notes that verse 5b "is not implying (as RSV's apostrophe suggests and as some ancient commentators believed) that eagles have the power of self-renewal; only that God renews us to be 'young and lusty as an eagle' (Prayer Book Version, 1662) -- the very picture of buoyant, tireless strength which Isaiah 40:30-31 takes up."18
You've tasted of God's forgiveness, his healing when you've been sick, rescue from life-threatening experiences. You've felt his love, sensed his compassion, found that he supplies your physical needs. All these, the psalmist affirms, are the benefits that Yahweh bestows on us, and for all these we bless him.
The God of Righteousness and Justice (103:6)
He goes on to talk about Yahweh's moral standard of rightness and truth that stand out like a beacon of light against the backdrop of man's sleazy compromises and equivocations.
"The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed." (103:6)
If you and I are ever placed in positions of power, we dare not take advantage of the poor, for our God will be working against us. He is the one who stands up for and defends the cause of the poor, the fatherless, the prisoner, the foreigner in our midst (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Psalm 72:4, 12; 109:31; 146:7; Proverbs 22:22-23; Isaiah 58:6-7; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:7). Our God is righteous and just and demands the same of his people.
The God Who Revealed Himself to Israel in the Exodus (103:7)
"He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel." (103:7)
What we know about God is not merely deduced from nature (though we can learn something about God from his creation, Romans 1:19-20; Psalm 19:1-4). The Judeo-Christian faith is a revealed faith, God speaking to and through men his truth as well as demonstrating his faithfulness in his actions.
The Gracious and Merciful God (103:8-9)
The next verses encourage us when we struggle with sin and are based on God's revelation to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness.:
"8The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever...." (103:8-9)
The "God of the Old Testament" is sometimes caricatured by unbelievers as an angry, spiteful, unforgiving God, but that is the opposite of how he actually revealed himself to his people. The definitive revelation of God's nature is found at the second giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai in Exodus, when Yahweh reveals himself to Moses with the words:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7)19
This passage is referred to as a summary of God's character often in both the Psalms (86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; and 145:8) and the rest of the Old Testament (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:7; 2 Chronicles 30:9).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is known as the merciful and compassionate God. "Compassionate" is raḥûm, from reḥem/raḥam, "womb" as the seat of one's emotions.20 "Gracious" is ḥannûn, "gracious," from ḥānan, which depicts "a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to someone who has a need."21 Aren't you glad that love lies at the basic character and value system of our God?
The God Who Forgives Us Completely (103:10-13)
Now come some of the most refreshing words to the repentant sinner that one can imagine:
"10He does not treat us as our sins22 deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.23
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (103:10-12)
David employs two similes to illustrate the completeness of God's forgiveness:
- Height -- "for as high as the heavens are above the earth...."
- Distance -- "as far as the east is from the west...."
It's interesting how the graphic nature of these comparisons can help us grasp the abstract and take hold of it!
The Lord Has Compassion on Us as Children (103:13-14)
The psalmist's next simile is one of a father and his children:
"13As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust." (103:13-14)
"Has compassion" (NIV), "pitieth" (KJV) is rāḥam, "love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate," formed from rehem, "womb," thought of as the seat of the emotions, the verb form of the adjective we saw in verse 4b above.
God has deep, heartfelt compassion because he is our Father as well as our Creator, who formed us from "the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). We don't have value based on the mineral and biological content of our bodies. We have value because the Lord breathed his own breath into us, gave us life, and values us as his children, created in his own image.
The Transitory and the Eternal (103:15-18)
Now David contrasts man's tenuous, transitory existence to eternity:
"15As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17But from everlasting to everlasting24
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children --
18with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts." (103:15-18)
Our time-bounded life may define us -- unless we can see beyond this life to the never-ending nature of God's love for us. His love lasts beyond the grave and so do we. Yes, love is the chief of his "benefits" for which we praise him.
The Lord Is King over All (103:19)
Again and again in the Psalms we see an affirmation that Yahweh reigns! He is a "great King" above all gods (Psalm 95:3) and over all the earth (Psalm 47:2; 48:2).
"The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all." (103:19)
Jesus' proclamation that the Kingdom of God is "at hand" in his own person (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Luke 21:31; 17:21) follows this same theme.
Let Angels, Creation, and My Own Soul Bless the Lord (103:20-22)
The King is served by angels, heavenly hosts (armies), and servants of all kinds. They and all his works are to offer him praise.
"20Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion."25 (103:20-22)
All creation praises Yahweh the revealed God, the compassionate God, the Creator, and the King. The psalmist ends where he began -- with his own need to praise. And so he calls his own soul -- whether he feels like praising or not -- to join with the chorus of heaven and earth in fulsome praise:
"Praise the LORD, O my soul." (103:22)
Q1. (Psalm 103) Which one or two aspects of God's character mentioned in this Psalm stand out to you? Why do you think the Exodus was so foundational in Israel's understanding of God? According to Psalm 103:10-12, what are the limits to God's forgiveness?
Psalm 145 - I Exalt You, My God the King
Our next psalm that extols God's character is also attributed to David and is titled: "a psalm of praise." In its themes it has some similarities with Psalm 103, but it is a completely different style -- more didactic rather than personal.
An Acrostic Psalm
Psalm 145 is one of nine psalms (9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145) which are structured as an acrostic, with each verse or section beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As we have observed, the intricacy of patterns in the psalms is considered part of their poetic beauty, so adding the level of complexity presented by an acrostic contributes another level of aesthetic pleasure to those who used this psalm in their worship.26 Thus verse 1 begins with a word beginning with Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, verse 2 begins with Beth, and so on.27
Beyond the acrostic structure, the psalm consists of a series of alternating calls to praise followed by grounds for praise.28 We won't spend as much time on the details of this psalm, just enjoy it for how it extols Yahweh's nature and character.
I Extol You, My King (145:1-2)
David begins by extolling God:
"1I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever." (145:1-2)
Each of these key verbs we've met before -- exalt,29 praise/bless,30 and extol.31 Praise is on the psalmist's lips.
Your Greatness Is Beyond Reckoning (145:3-7)
Next he meditates on how one generation will tell another of Yahweh's greatness and mighty works. He is probably thinking especially of the amazing events of the Exodus -- one mighty miracle after another.
"3Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
5They will speak of the glorious splendor32 of your majesty, 33
and I will meditate34 on your wonderful works.35
6They will tell of the power of your awesome works,36
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7They will celebrate your abundant goodness37
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.38" (145:3-7)
How do we pass on our faith to the next generation? Partly through the stories we tell of God's faithfulness, both in our lives and in the history of God's people. If we keep our Christian experience to ourselves, we may well cripple the transmission of our faith to our children.
The Lord is Gracious and Compassionate (145:8-9)
As David rehearses the character of Yahweh, he repeats the characteristic description that we saw in Psalm 103:8 above and many other places in the Old Testament:
"8The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made." (145:8-9)
All He Has Made -- Yahweh the Creator (145:9b, 13b, 17b)
Notice the phrase "all he has made" in 9b. The phrase is repeated three times in Psalm 145, each with a different characteristic of God's grace.
- "He has compassion (raḥămîm) on all he has made" (9b)
- "The LORD is ... loving toward all he has made" (13b)
- "The LORD is ... loving (ḥāsīd40) toward all he has made" (17b)
The phrase "all he has made" is the noun ma`ăseh, "deed, act, workmanship ... that which is done or made." This noun is derived from the verb `āśā, "do, fashion, accomplish," often used in the creation accounts.39
The Glory of Yahweh's Kingdom (145:10-13a)
The same word, "All you have made" (ma`ăseh) is picked up in verse 10 as well. This passage praises the Kingdom of God. Note how many times kingdom and dominion occur:
"10All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.
11They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations." (145:10-13)
Yahweh is King over an everlasting kingdom. And when Messiah Jesus began his ministry, he proclaimed the coming of just this Kingdom of God.
The Faithful Character of Our God (145:13b-16)
The next group of verses describe Yahweh's graciousness and benevolence. If you were to consider this in the same way as "all his benefits" in Psalm 103:2, you would have quite a list. Behold the character of our God:
"13bThe LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.
14The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
18The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy. (145:13b-20)
We've seen nearly all these verbs and adjectives scattered throughout the psalms we've explored so far. Here they are all together in a paean of praise of God's character.
The Lord Is Near (145:18-20)
I especially like the promise in verses 18-20:
"The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy." (145:18-20)
Do you feel far away from God? Here is a promise for you. The operative words are:
- "Near" or "nigh," the adjective qārōb, from the verb qārab, "come near, approach ... coming into the most near and intimate proximity...." Qārōb is used like a noun describing one who is near -- a kinsman or neighbor.41
- "Saves" is yāsha`, "save, deliver, give victory, help," the root from which the names Joshua and Jesus are derived.
Call on him in full sincerity and surrender (that is, "in truth") and he promises to be near you and deliver you from whatever trouble you find yourself in. He also promises in verse 20a to "watch over" (NIV, NRSV), "guard" (NJB) or "preserve" (KJV) you. The verb is shāmar, "keep, guard," with the root meaning, "to exercise great care over." We examined this word in chapter 6 in Psalm 121:3-8
My Mouth Will Speak in Praise of the Lord (145:21)
The psalm ends in praise (tehillâ42) as it began -- personally ("my mouth") and universally ("every creature"). It is a declaration of praise and a call for "every creature" (NIV) or "all flesh" (literally, KJV, NRSV) to bless (bārak) Yahweh's name forever.
"My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever." (145:21)
This call is fulfilled in the Book of Revelation where we read:
"Day and night they never stop saying:
'Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.'
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever." (Revelation 4:8-9)
Q2. (Psalm 145) Which aspects of God's character mentioned in Psalm 145 stand out to you in particular? Why is it important for "every creature," every human being, to praise him? What are you doing to help that happen?
Psalm 117 -- The Faithfulness of the Lord Endures Forever
The final psalm to consider in this chapter is Psalm 117, the shortest psalm in the Psalter -- all of two verses. There is no title or author indicated, just a call to praise from "all nations" and then the reason for that praise:
"1Praise (hālal) the LORD, all you nations;
extol (shābaḥ) him, all you peoples.
2For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise (hālal) the LORD." (117:1-2)
I'm struck, as I've studied the Psalms, how many times the "nations" or "Gentiles" are called upon to praise Yahweh. Faith in him is not just a national religion of Israel -- or of Christians. It is a call for all the peoples of the earth to know and praise him as Yahweh, I AM THAT I AM, the everlasting God! As I mentioned in a previous chapter, full praise to God requires evangelism, telling all nations -- and our neighbors -- of the greatness of our God.
In verse 1b, "extol" (NIV, NRSV) or "praise" (KJV) is a relatively rare praise word, shābaḥ, meaning "praise, glorify," here in the Hithpael stem with a reflexive connotation, "glory in." In most cases it is used to praise God for his mighty acts and deeds (Psalms 63:3; 106:47; 117:1; 145:4; 147:12; and 1 Chronicles 16:35). 43
The second verse contains two aspects of God's character which are given as the reason for our praise:
- The greatness of his love and mercy (ḥesed) toward us, and
- The everlasting nature of his faithfulness and truth (´ĕmet).
Of course, we've seen these character anchors lauded in other psalms, but as we revisit them in this short psalm don't pass them over lightly. His love and faithfulness are the bedrock of our faith: (1) God is love. (2) God can be trusted. Praise God!
Notice the adjectival expressions that qualify these words: "great" and "everlasting" -- bigger than we can imagine and for as long as we need them and longer still. I can't help but think of a couple of lines from Jeremiah's Lamentations that lie at the root of some of the great hymns of the Church:
"22Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.'" (Lamentations 3:22-24)
If you've been tracking with the Hebrew words used in the psalms we've studied, you'll observe that we've seen them again and again in psalm after psalm.
- Steadfast, enduring, constant, lovingkindness, merciful love (ḥesed)
- Compassion, tender mercy, deep, tender love (raḥămîm, derived from reḥem, "womb," as the seat of the emotions)44
- Steadfastness, faithfulness, fidelity, dependability (´emûnâ, closely related to ´ĕmet that appears in our psalm).45
Q3. (Psalm 117 and Lamentations 3:22-23). Why are love and trustworthiness so important as the bedrock of the Old Testament faith? What kinds of terms does the New Testament use to talk about these characteristics? Can you think of any New Testament verses that speak of these themes?
Now all the lessons are available together in e-book and paperback formats.
Our God is so good! How can we ever doubt him? How can we neglect to praise him for the qualities of his core being that allow all us poor, sinful creatures to relate to him -- what's more, to be loved and desired by such a majestic God? We are blessed, brothers and sisters. We are blessed beyond all measure to be loved by such a God.
As we learn from the Psalms to vocalize with our own mouths, to praise the character of our holy God, we'll be fitted both to endure the struggles of this life and to enjoy the glories of the next.
Exercise. For one of the psalms in this lesson -- or another psalm with a similar theme -- do one of the suggestedexercises to help you experience the Psalms (www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-exercises.htm). These include such things as praying a psalm, meditating, reading to a shut-in, paraphrasing, writing your own psalm, singing, preparing a liturgy, and memorizing. Then report to the forum what the exercise meant to you personally or share what you've written with others.
Father, let my soul, my mouth give praise to you. Let my words tell the stories of your greatness to my children and my grandchildren. Let my deeds reflect your justice and righteousness. Let my heart soak in your love and compassion and dependability. Let me be like You, like Jesus. In His holy name, I pray. Amen.
- "Before the Lord We Bow," by Francis Scott Key (1832), music: "Darwall's 148th," by John Darwall (1770). Psalm 145:1.
- "Behold, Bless Ye the Lord," words and music by Bob Probert (© 1979, Maranatha! Music), may be sung as a two-part round. Psalm 103:20-22.
- "Bless His Holy Name," words and music by Andrae Crouch (© 1973, Lexicon Music, Inc.). Psalm 103:1.
- "Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul," author unknown. (arrangement © 1972, Youth With a Mission), Psalm 103:1-3.
- "God My King, Thy Might Confessing," words: Richard Mant (1824), music: "Stuttgart," by Christian F. Witt (1715). Psalm 145:1.
- "God of Our Life," words: Hugh T. Kerr (1916), music: "Sandon," by Charles H. Purday (1857). Lamentations 3:21-22.
- "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," words by Thomas O. Chisholm (1923), music by William M. Runyan (1923). Lamentations 3:21-22.
- "I Will Bless Thee, O Lord," words and music by Esther Watanabe (© 1970, Esther Watanabe). Psalm 103:1
- "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever," words and music by J. H. Fillmore (public domain). Psalm 89:1
- "O Bless the Lord, My Soul," words: James Montgomery (1819), music: "St. Thomas" by Aaron Williams (1770). Psalm 103:1
- O Bless the Lord, My Soul," words: Isaac Watts (1819), music: "St. Michael" by Louis Bourgeois (1551), adapted by William Crotch (1836). Psalm 103.
- "O Lord, Thou Art My God and King," words: The Psalter (1912), music: "Duke Street," attributed to John Hatton (1793). Psalm 145:1.
- "O Magnify the Lord with Me!" (I Will Bless the Lord at All Times), unknown author and composer. Psalms 34:1.
- "O My Soul, Bless God the Father," words: United Presbyterian Book of Psalms (1871), music, "Stuttgart," by Christian F. Witt (1715), adapted by Henry J. Gauntlett (1805-1876). Psalm 103.
- "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven," words by Henry F. Lyte (1834), music: "Lauda Anima," by John Goss (1869). Psalm 103:1.
- "Psalm 145:1-7," words and music by M. Warrington (© 1972, Youth With a Mission, Inc.). Psalm 145:1-7.
- "Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise," words: John Ellerton (1886), music: "Ellers," by Edward J. Hopkins (1869). Psalm 145:1.
- "The Steadfast Love" (of the Lord never ceases)," words and music by Edith McNeill (1974, 1975, Celebration). Lamentations 3:21-22.
- "The Tender Love a Father Has," words: The Psalter (1912), music: "Avondale," Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932). Psalm 103:13.
- "We Will Exalt You, Our God the King," words and music by Mitch Cervinka (1998). Psalm 145:1
- "Ye Servants of God" (your Master proclaim), words: Charles Wesley (1744), music, "Lyons," attributed to Johann M. Haydn (1737-1806). Psalm 103:21.
- John N. Oswalt, bārak, TWOT #285; Holladay 49-50.
- For all the scripture references in the Bible on lifting hands, see my article, "Lifting Hands in Worship," Paraclete, Winter 1986, pp. 4-8.
- Leonard J. Coppes, qrb, TWOT #2066a.
- "Benefits" is gemûl, "recompense, reward, benefit" (Jack P. Lewis, gāmal, TWOT #360a).
- "Life" is ḥay, used in the plural as a noun, "life," from ḥāyā, "to live, have life" (BDB 1092).
- "Forgives" is sālaḥ, "forgive, pardon," always used of God's offer of pardon and forgiveness to the sinner, never of people forgiving each other (Walter C. Kaiser, sālaḥ, TWOT #1505).
- "Heals" is rāpā´, "heal, make healthful." It is used a number of places in the Old Testament including Isaiah 53:5 ("with his stripes we are healed") and Exodus 15:26 ("I am the LORD who heals you") (William White, rāpā´, TWOT #2196). The basic idea of the word is physical healing, but it is also occasionally used in figurative sense, depending upon the context (1 Kings 18:30; 2 Kings 2:22).
- "Diseases" is taḥalu´îm, used of physical ailments of one kind or another (Edwin Yamauchi, ḥālā´, TWOT #648a.).
- "Redeems" is gā´al, which we've seen a number of times before, "redeem, ransom, do the part of a kinsman" to rescue or help a relative who is in need (R. Laird Harris, gā´al, TWOT #300).
- "Pit" (NIV, NRSV), "destruction" (KJV) is shaḥat, "pit, destruction, grave, corruption." There is a dispute about the derivation of shaḥat, either from shûaḥ "dig a pit" or perhaps "sink down" or from shāḥat "to go to ruin." The translation "grave" or "decay of the grave" fits very well in most of the passages (R. Laird Harris, shūaḥ, TWOT #2343.1c.).
- "Love" (NIV), "lovingkindness" (KJV), "steadfast love" (NRSV) is ḥesed, which we've seen several times before. In our passage it appears in verse 4b, 11b, and 17b.
- "Compassion" (NIV), "mercy" (NRSV), "tender mercies" (KJV) is raḥămîm, from reḥem/raḥam, "womb" as the seat of one's emotions (Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146b).
- "Satisfies" is śābēa`, basically "to be satisfied by nourishment" (Bruce K. Waltke, śābēa`, TWOT #2231).
- "Mouth" (KJV), "desires" (NIV), "as long as you live" (NRSV) is uncertain. The Masoretic Hebrew text reads `edyêk, "your ornament" which is taken to mean "your mouth" by the KJV. The NRSV has emended this to `ôdekā, "your continuing," which they translate "as long as you live" (Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 365, footnote 1).
- "Renewed" is ḥādash, "renew, repair, rebuild" (Carl Philip Weber, ḥādash, TWOT #613).
- "Youth" is ne`ûrîm, "youth, early life ... with a stress on the early, immature but vigorous, trainable stage of life." (Milton C. Fisher, n`r, TWOT #1389d).
- Milton C. Fisher, nesher, TWOT #1437.
- Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 365.
- You can find a detailed exposition of this passage in my study on The Names and Titles of God (JesusWalk Bible Study Series, 2006), chapter 10, "The God of All Grace."
- Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146c.
- Ḥānan is cognate with Akkadian enēnu, hanānu "to grant a favor," Ugaritic ḥnn "to be gracious, to favor" (Edwin Yamauchi, ḥānan, TWOT #694d).
- Ḥēṭ´, "sin ... the failure to hit a mark, a turning away from obedience, a lack of wholeness or of acceptance before God" (G. Herbert Livingston, ḥāṭā´, TWOT #638a).
- `Āwōn, "infraction, crooked behavior, perversion, iniquity, etc." (Carl Schultz, `āwā, TWOT #1577a).
- "Everlasting to everlasting" uses the term `ôlām, a word to indicate indefinite continuance into the very distant future (Allan A. MacRae, `lm, TWOT #1631a).
- "Dominion" is memshālā, "rule, realm, dominion, sovereignty" (Robert D. Culver, māshal, TWOT #1259c).
- "The versatility of the psalmist is obvious. He took the acrostic pattern in his artistic stride and found it no obstacle to a coherent development of his message" (Allen, Psalms 101-150, p. 296).
- In the Hebrew text the letter "N" (nun) is missing, but can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QPsa) as well as early translations: the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate. It is missing in the KJV, but included in the NKJV footnote and in most modern translations as part of verse 13b or 14a. See Allen, Psalms 101-150, p. 294, note 13b.
- Allen, Psalms 101-150, p. 295, cites Gunkel, Die Psalmen, p. 610.
- "Exalt" (NIV), "extol" (NRSV, KJV) is rûm, "to be high," here symbolic of positive notions of glory and exaltation (Andrew Bowling, rûm, TWOT #213).
- "Praise" (NIV), "bless" (NRSV, KJV) in 1b and 2a is bārak, "to bless," which we also saw in Psalm 103:1 at the beginning of this chapter.
- "Extol" (NIV), "praise" (KJV, NRSV) in 2b is hālal, "praise, boast," which we saw in chapter 4.
- "Splendor" (NIV) in verse 5a is hādār, "ornament, splendor, honor," which we saw in chapter 8 above, "splendor of his holiness" or "holy array." Most frequently this word is applied either to the king and his royal majesty or to God himself. It is not only an endowment for royalty, but also an activity worthy of royalty. (Victor P. Hamilton, hādar, TWOT #477b).
- "Majesty" in verse 5a is hôd, which we saw in chapter 1 above in Psalm 8:1. It refers to God's "splendor, majesty, vigor, glory, honor" (Victor P. Hamilton, hwd, TWOT #482a).
- "Meditate" (NIV, NRSV) in verse 5b is śîaḥ, "meditate, muse, commune, speak, complain" The "basic meaning of this verb seems to be 'rehearse,' 'repent,' or 'go over a matter in one's mind.'" (Gary G. Cohen, śîaḥ, TWOT #2255). This is a different word than hāgā, "meditate, utter, mutter," which we saw in chapter 3 above in Psalm 1:2b.
- "Wonderful / wondrous works" in verse 5b is pālā´, "be marvelous, wonderful," usually referring to the acts of God beyond human capabilities, either cosmic wonders or historical achievements on behalf of Israel (Victor P. Hamilton, pālā´, TWOT #1768).
- "Awesome works / deeds" (NIV, NRSV), "terrible acts" (KJV) in verse 6a is a substantive from yārē´, "fear, be afraid, revere" (Andrew Bowling, yārē´, TWOT #907). We might use the phrase "awe inspiring."
- "Goodness" in verse 7a is ṭûb, "good things, goodness, fairness, graciousness." Here it refers to God's moral goodness (Andrew Bowling, ṭôb, TWOT #793b).
- "Righteousness" or "saving justice" (NJB) in verse 7b is ṣedāqā, "justice, righteousness," which we've seen many times (Harold G. Stigers, ṣādēq, TWOT #1879b).
- Thomas E. McComiskey, `āśā, TWOT #1708a.
- Ḥāsīd, an adjective from the same root as ḥesed, "love, lovingkindness" (R. Laird Harris, ḥsd, TWOT #698b). The Septuagint translates it as hosios, "holy," both in verse 13b and 17b.
- Leonard J. Coppes, qārab, TWOT #2065d.
- Tehillâ, "praise, praiseworthy deeds," is derived from hālal, which we first encountered in chapter 4 and Psalm 150 (Leonard J. Coppes, hālal, TWOT #500c).
- Shābaḥ, Holladay, p. 358a. "Praise, commend" (Gary G. Cohen, shābaḥ, TWOT #2313).
- Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146b.
- Jack B. Scott, ´āman, TWOT #116e.
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