Psalm 103

Nathan once told David a story that made him angry at the evildoer. Then Nathan said, “You are the man!”

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the story of a man who was forgiven a humongous debt who grabs a fellow servant by the throat and demands that a pittance of debt be paid back immediately. The story arouses our anger. We want to pry his fingers off his neighbor’s neck and ask him what is wrong with him. Then the Spirit says, “You are the man.”

Lord, please have mercy on us. Lord, please help us to forgive others.

We do well to focus our attention on the king in the parable. There is no one like him. He is gracious and compassionate. He does not treat his servants as their sins deserve. His love remains forever with those who fear him.

The king in Jesus’ parable is Jesus himself. Everything Jesus did and said during his life on earth shows that he is the king who forgives. And that is what Psalm 103 is all about: the king who forgives.

Listen to Psalm 103 here and then we will briefly consider its beauty.

Psalm 103 is comforting and memorable. It emphasizes the Lord’s faithfulness, kindness, and compassion. He is, above all other things, a forgiving God.

Psalm 103 provides two striking illustrations:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed his transgressions from us.”

“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

Believers will hold on to these truths and repeat them out loud, especially when their sins are troubling them. When believers come to their pastor to confess their sins, they come with the hope that they will hear such declarations.

Psalm 103 is like Psalm 23 in this unique way: even though it does not use the word “king,” the psalm is all about the King of kings, the Messiah who will come from David’s royal line.

Book IV of the Psalter (Psalms 90–106) makes much of the fact that the Lord reigns in heaven. This theme is especially prominent in Psalms 92-100. Then comes a cluster of three psalms (101-103), with the first one and the last one being ascribed to King David. Without saying it explicitly, these three psalms anticipate and promise the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7. In spite of David’s many struggles, in spite of Israel’s many sins, in spite of the destruction of Jerusalem, in spite of 70 years of exile—in spite of everything that could or would happen—the Lord who reigns in heaven will come as David’s son and establish his throne forever.

Jesus is this forgiving king. He is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He prayed from the cross that the people crucifying him be forgiven. After he rose from the dead Jesus appeared to his followers, assuring them that their sins were forgiven and sending them into the world with the message of repentance and forgiveness

Psalm 103 reminds us that the coming of Jesus Christ is both personal and cosmic. Because the Lord is the faithful God of Israel and because our forgiving king has come, each of us can count our blessings and put “forgiveness of all my sins” at the top of the list.

Because the Lord is the faithful God of Israel and because our forgiving king has come, we can encourage all the saints, all the angels, and all creation to praise and thank the Lord with us. Praise the Lord!