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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 103

Verse 1

Psalms 103:0.

An exhortation to praise God for his mercy, and for the constancy thereof.

A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד ledavid This is one of the psalms of David, which it is supposed was written by him after his recovery from a great illness. See Delaney, book 4: chap. 7. It may be so; but, as we read of no illness that he had, it is by no means clear whether such was the occasion of it, or whether he composed it after a deliverance from some other calamity. It contains a thankful acknowledgment of the great and abundant mercies of God, especially that of pardoning sin, and not exacting the punishment due to it, and is an exquisite performance, very applicable to every deliverance: it may properly be said to describe the wonders of grace, as the following psalm describes the wonders of nature.

Verse 3

Psalms 103:3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities Diseases were generally considered, under the Mosaic dispensation, as the punishment of iniquities; and therefore the healing of his diseases is mentioned as the consequence of the forgiveness of his sins. We cannot have a more full and satisfactory comment on this passage, than the frequent cures wrought by our Saviour on the bodies of men, emblematical of the cure of their spiritual diseases. See particularly the case of the paralytic, Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:38.

Verse 5

Psalms 103:5. So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's Dr. Delaney observes, that it is generally understood of the eagle, when his feathers moult and fall off gradually and new ones succeed, that his youth is renewed with his plumage; and "I am well assured, (says he,) that these feathers fall by pairs, one in each wing; and that those which fall at once are the two feathers exactly corresponding to each other in each wing; and that this pair is renewed by a new growth, before the next pair falls: a plain appointment of providential wisdom and goodness! for by thus preserving the exact balance of the wings, which a very little inequality (the difference of less than half a feather) in either would destroy, the eagle is never utterly disabled from pursuing his prey; though it be evident, he cannot pursue it with full vigour, till all his feathers be renewed; and therefore his youth is then said to be restored." The fact is, that all birds have yearly their moulting-time, when they shed their old, and are afresh furnished with a new stock of feathers. This is most observable of hawks and vultures, and especially of eagles; which, when they are near one hundred years old, cast their feathers, and become bald like young ones, and then new feathers sprout out.

Verse 8

Psalms 103:8. The Lord is merciful and gracious It is astonishing, after a sentence like this, that any persons should be so blinded by their zeal for infidelity, as to represent the God of the Hebrews as a severe, cruel, pitiless, and vindictive monarch. See Chandler's Life of David, vol. 1: p. 6.

Verses 11-13

Psalms 103:11-13. For as the heaven is high, &c.— There cannot be a nobler amplification of the divine mercy and placability than that contained in the 11th and 12th verses: and what can equal the tenderness ascribed to our paternal Creator in the 13th? One would think it impossible, if daily experience did not convince us to the contrary, that human creatures should be regardless of such love, and ungrateful to so solicitous a benefactor! For my own part, I can hardly conceive it possible for any heart to be unaffected or uninfluenced by such a composition as this before us.

Verse 19

Psalms 103:19. The Lord hath prepared Hath established.

Verse 20

Psalms 103:20. Hearkening unto the voice of his word As soon as he speaks the word. Green. Hebrew. Hearing, or upon hearing the voice of his word. Merrick renders it: Who, cloath'd with light, his word obey, And wing, as he directs, your way.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, When God opens our hearts to a real discovery of what he is to us, and hath done for us, we are overwhelmed with wonder, and filled with thanksgiving. Thus the Psalmist (and with him every living servant of God),

1. Stirs up his soul to the grateful work of praise. Bless the Lord, O my soul; proclaim his goodness and grace; and all that is within me, let every faculty be engaged, and every nerve extended, to bless his holy name, so worthy to be praised. Bless the Lord, O my soul; delay not, nor be sluggish in the service; and forget not all his benefits, the least so infinitely beyond our deserts, and yet the whole so great and numberless, that they are more than we are able to express. Note; (1.) It is good often to commune with our own hearts, and stir them up to the needful work of gratitude. (2.) God deserves our heart, our whole heart; and every saint of God longs for still more of the love of God. (3.) We are strangely apt to forget God's benefits, and have much reason to be deeply humbled at all times, that we are so unduly affected with the sense of them, and so little thankful for them.

2. He enumerates a variety of particulars, for which his soul was bound to bless and praise God. [1.] Who forgiveth all thine iniquities: great, numberless, aggravated as they have been, he forgives them, through Jesus, freely and fully. [2.] Who healeth all thy diseases. Sunk under a complication of miseries is the fallen spirit; diseased in every faculty; fatally sick, beyond the power of human medicine to recover; but there is balm in Gilead, and a physician there. He who is able to forgive all our sins, can heal all our spiritual maladies by the power of his grace; and every believing soul feels this, in a measure, by blessed experience, and praises the divine physician. [3.] Who redeemeth thy life from destruction. Eternal ruin, because of our sins, awaited us, and hell yawned ready to receive the guilty wretch; but Jesus interposed, paid the immense ransom, stayed us from going down to the pit, and opened the gates of life and immortality to the lost and perishing. For this great redemption praise the Lord, O my soul! [4.] Who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; with a glorious measure of those infinite blessings contained in the covenant of grace. [5.] Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's: good things of a temporal nature; health, prosperity, long life, and juvenile vigour, even to old age: good things of a spiritual nature; satisfying the hungerings and thirstings of the heart with those rich supplies of righteousness and grace in Jesus, which enable us with vigour, delight, and zeal, to run the way of God's commandments; and when coldness and decay would creep upon us, he renews our strength; so that in the liveliness and activity of our souls, even in old age, we mount up with wings as eagles; Isaiah 40:31.

2nd, Not only the Psalmist's praises were excited by his own mercies, but he felt the kindness shown to others as done to himself.
1. He praises God for his general care over the poor and oppressed, whose patron he was ever found, and whose wrongs, sooner or later, he would vindicate.
2. He adores him for the peculiar favour ever shewn to his Israel, [1.] In revealing to them his mind and will; committing to them his lively oracles; in all the divinely-instituted ordinances of his worship, which he delivered to Moses, instructing them in the way of salvation; and in all his acts of power and grace exerted for them, engaging their trust in him, and love towards him. [2.] In his patience and pardoning mercy shown to his believing people, notwithstanding their former provocations. His nature is mercy, and his bosom the seat of tender compassion. Slow to anger, he is ever ready to forgive: yea, when for our good he is compelled to chide, to visit our offences with the rod, and our sin with scourges, his paternal heart yearns over our sufferings; he is in haste to fall on the necks of his returning prodigals, and turn away from his wrathful indignation; to restore comfort to his mourners, and seal their pardon and peace with the kisses of his love. Had we our deserts indeed, we had long since lain down in everlasting burnings; but far other have been his dealings with us: his rich grace pardons our innumerable offences. High as the heavens are above the earth, so vast and boundless is his mercy; and far as the east is from the west, so far hath he put away our iniquities: they are forgiven, yea, forgotten; sunk as a stone in the abyss of his infinite love. He knows our feeble frame, the weakness of our bodies, which would be crushed as the moth, if he laid for a moment his heavy hand upon us: the infirmity of our flesh, so impotent to good, so prone to evil; and therefore he pities us, as the tenderest father the child of his love. Note; (1.) If God's pity to us be so great, let us learn of him to exercise the like compassion towards each other. (2.) They who have a real sense of their own deserts must ever stand amazed at themselves that they are out of hell. (3.) God's pardons are free and full; the greatest dishonour we can shew him is, to distrust his promises and question his grace.

3. The character of the people of God, towards whom this love and kindness is manifested, is set forth; or rather this mercy shewn them engages their hearts to him. They fear him; not with that fear which hath bondage, but with that filial fear which springs from the spirit of adoption. They keep his covenant; live upon the inestimably precious promises of it; make it all their salvation, and all their desire; and, renouncing every other hope and confidence, depend alone on the merits of their Redeemer: and they withal remember his commandments to do them; steady to their obligations, and desiring to approve themselves obedient children to the Father of Mercies.

3rdly, And lastly, We have,
1. God's eternal kingdom and glory set forth, as an engagement to universal adoration of him. In heaven his radiant throne is placed, prepared, or established, fixed and immoveable, and his dominion universal; for his kingdom ruleth over all; angels, men, yea, devils, and all in heavens earth, and hell, are subject to his government, and must submit to his disposals.

2. A call to render to this glorious Jehovah the universal praise due unto his name. [1.] Let the brightest and noblest creatures lead the way; and angels and archangels, his waiting hosts, his attendant ministers, mighty in power to fulfil his high behests, deep in attention to his commanding word, let them begin the song, and bless their great Creator. [2.] Let all the hosts of earth, the great congregation of the righteous, unite their hearts and voices in his praise; especially his ministers of flame, whom he hath intrusted with his gospel, and sent to spread the knowledge of his grace and good-will to men. [3.] Let all his works spread forth his glory; the heavens above, with all their shining orbs; the world beneath, with every creature, animate or inanimate, which moves or grows, or dwells in air, earth, or sea, all, all must learn to bless and praise. [4.] Shall then my soul, O Lord, alone be solitary and silent amidst the universal shout of thanksgiving? No; bless the Lord, O my soul! every day, still increasing, more constant, more enlarged; while life and breath endure, may my bosom swell with gratitude, my lips be filled with praise, the earnest and beginning of those unceasing praises, which shall be the everlasting employment and the unutterable joy of every faithful soul in the regions of eternal bliss and glory.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 103". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.