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Bible Commentaries

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 103

Verses 1-22

Psalms 103:1-22. Title. David is supposed to have written this most beautiful Psalm, when he was newly recovered from a dangerous sickness to vigorous health. (Notes, Psalms 30:3-8: title. 1- 10. Psalms 12:1-8.)

V. 1 . ’ He wakeneth his dulness to praise God, shewing that both understanding and affections, mind and ’ heart, are too little to set forth his praise.’ (Marg. Ref. Notes,Psalms 63:5-6. Deuteronomy 6:5. Mark 12:28-34.) ’ He calleth forth all his powers and faculties, all that is within ’ him, that every part of his frame may glorify its Saviour ; ’ that the understanding may know him, the will choose 1 him, the affections delight in him, the heart believe in ’ him, and the tongue confess him.’ Bp. Home.

V. 2. David’s fear of losing the sense and remembrance of the benefits, which God had bestowed on him, shews both what the fallen nature of man is most prone to, find what divine grace teaches the Degenerate chiefly to watch and pray against ; namely, ingratitude to God, and forgetful- ness of his benefits ; especially by means of present trials, conflicts, and discouragements. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalms 106:12-14. 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; 2 Chronicles 32:31. Luke vi 11-19. P.O.)

V. 3, 4. The sickness, with which the Psalmist had been visited, was the correction of his sin : but, having obtained forgiveness of all his iniquities, the malady also was removed. Sinful passions are the diseases of the soul : but if sin be pardoned, these also will be healed : and in proportion as they are healed, we have evidence that our guilt is pardoned.

(Notes, Psalms 32:3-5. Psalms 107:17-22. Job 33:19-30. Is. 38: 17-20. Matthew 9:28. P. O. 18.)

Crowneth (or, encircleth) thee with loving- kindness and tender mercies. (4) Note, Psalms 32:6-7.v 7 Thus his life was redeemed from the grave, and his soul from " the pit " of destruction ; " and all his comforts were restored and increased. (Marg. Ref.)

V. 5. Eagle’s.] It is generally agreed, that the eagle is very long-lived, and seems at an advanced age to possess the vigour of youth. Perhaps the Psalmist had nothing more in view than this. He had been reduced to great weakness, with loss of appetite and other infirmities, which he supposed to indicate his approaching death, or the labour and sorrow of old age. But he unexpectedly recovered health, appetite, and strength ; and seemed, like the eagle, to be restored to the vigour of youth, at an advanced time of life. Many traditions about the eagle seem not sufficiently proved : nor is it certain, that in moulting her feathers, she materially differs from other birds. ’ I ’ can never sufficiently bless thy goodness, who . . . dost restore my strength, and makest my youth and freshness ( return like the eagle’s. Oh, that I may with fresh de’ light and joy be still praising thee, and be lifted up to ’ heaven, (as they are when they have renewed their plumes,) in more vigorous love, and affectionate desires ’ and endeavours, to employ all my renewed strengtling’ thy faithful service.’ Bp. Patrick. (Notes, Is. 40: 27-31. Ezekiel 1:5-14. Revelation 4:6-8.)

V. 6- 8. Lively gratitude for recent personal benefits led the Psalmist to remember, with adoring praise, the glorious perfections of his gracious Benefactor, as manifested in his dealings with his creatures. The omnipotent Sovereign of t! e world uses his power in executing righteousness, relieving the oppressed, and crushing the oppressor. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalms 12:5-6; Psalms 72:4-7; Psalms 99:4

4.) This he especially did when he delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage ; and hy Moses made himself known to the people, and brought them acquainted with his works, his truth, and laws : and especially he shewed his glory to Moses, and proclaimed his name, as " merciful " and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." (Marg Ref. Note, Exodus 34:5 ’ How full of consolation to the penitent soul are the words of this verse ! ’ {8) ’ " The Lord is merciful " ; the bowels of his ’ tender compassion yearn over us, as those of a mother ’ yearn over the child of her womb. He is " gracious " ready to give us freely all things that are needful * for our salvation. He is " slow to anger," bearing with ’ the frowardness of his children ; . . . giving them by this ’ his long suffering, time for repentance : and he is " plenteous in mercy" (isn n), " great, mighty in mercy," ’ placing his chief glory in this attribute.’ Up. Home.

V. 9. ’ He sheweth first his severe judgment; but so soon as the sinner is humbled, he recciveth him to mercy.’ Assurances of this kind must always be understood of true believers ; or of those who by affliction are brought to " repentance, and works meet for repentance : " for God will keep his anger for ever, in the full meaning of the words, against all that continue to the end of life im- penitent and unbelieving. (Notes, 11- 13. Psalms 30:5; Psalms 77:5-12. Psalms 92:6-7. Is. 57. 15, 16. Jeremiah 3:4-5. Micah 7:18-20.)

V. 10. ’ Blessed be his holy name, there is mercy even in our punishments : our sufferings are never so great as our sins.’ Bp. Patrick. Every mitigating circumstance, every remaining comfort or hope, is mercy : all short of final misery is mercy : and even the chastisements themselves are mercies, as means of grace used by our gracious Father, for our profit.

(Notes, Ezra 9:15. Job 11:5-6. Lamentations 3:21-23. Habakkuk 3:2. Hebrews 12:4-11.)

V. 11- 13. The immeasurable height of the arch of leaven, is an emblem continually before us, of the infinite mercy of God to his people. The space, between the rising and setting sun, may remind us of the immense distance to which their guilt is removed from them ; and the compassion of a tender Father feebly represents the kindness and tenderness of God to them. (Marg. Ref. Note, Is. Iv. 8, 9. Matthew 7:7-11, v. 11.) A wise and good father will not be severe to mark every failure in his child ; he will encourage his feeble attempts to obey him ; he will feel every stroke which he inflicts, when chastising him for his good ; and he will always gladly remove his sufferings when he is able. The character, to which these blessings exclusively belong, even those " who fear God," should be carefully noted. (Notes, 15- 18. Psalms 147:10-11. Genesis 22:11-12. Ecclesiastes 12:11-14; Ecclesiastes 5:13. Acts 10:1; Acts 2:34-35.)

V. 14. The word rendered " our frame," generally means, the device or imagination which we frame in our hearts. The clause seems to mean, that God knoweth our fallen nature, both in respect of its depravity, and frailty ; and should he deal with us in strict justice, we must all be crushed and destroyed. He therefore exercises fatherly compassion to those who fear him ; otwithstanding the evil which he witnesses in their hearts and lives : and he is long-suffering to the wicked, giving them space for repentance, and repeatedly warning them, before he inflicts deserved punishment. (Notes, Romans 2:4-6. 2 Peter 3:9-14 Revelation 2:20-23.) Our frame.] Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21. (Notes, Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:20-22; Genesis 5:21.)

Dust.] (Note, Genesis 18:27-28.) The sentence " Dust " thou art and to dust shall thou return," was pronounced against man as fallen. (Note, Genesis 3:17-19.) " By one " man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and " so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Note, Romans 5:12-14.)

V. 15-18. (Notes, Psalms 90:3-6. Is 40: 6-8. James 1:9-11.1 Peter 1:23-25.) This affecting illustration of human frailty, and the transient nature of all earthly glory and prosperity, frequently occurs in Scripture : but it is here contrasted, most beautifully, with the everlasting mercy and truth of God. ’ Let not man presume, who withereth ’ like the green herb : but then let not man despair, whose ’ nature, with all its infirmities, the Son of God hath taken * upon him. The flower which faded in Adam, blossoms ’ anew in Christ, never to fade again.’ Bp. Home. The language used by the Psalmist is very emphatical : " The " mercy of JEHOVAH, is from eternity, and to eternity." (Note, Psalms 90:1-2. Ephesians 1:3-8; Ephesians 3:9-12. 2 Timothy 1:9.) And this mercy, which is from everlasting in its source, and to everlasting in its efficacy, is ensured to all those who fear GOD, in every generation ; who must therefore be the same with true Christians. (Luke 1:50.) " And his righteousness unto children’s children." ’ His just and faithful keeping of his promise ; ’ that is the promise made to Abraham, and in him to all believers, of special benefits to their posterity. (Notes, Genesis 17:7-8. Jeremiah 32:39-41. Acts 2:37-40. Romans 4:9-12. Galatians 3:10-14. Hebrews 6:13-15.; But then the persons spoken of, to prevent mistakes, are further characterized ; " To such as keep his " covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." They come to God, according to the covenant of mercy ratified " with Abraham in Christ, " which the law given four hundred and thirty years after" wards could not disannul;" (Notes, Galatians 3:15-18; Galatians 3:26-29 ;) they adhere to it as their only ground of hope ; and daily endeavour to " walk in all his commandments " and ordinances blameless." They cannot indeed perform his commandments (20) ; but they remember them, with a real desire and purpose of unreserved obedience, and habitually endeavour to accomplish that purpose.

V. 19. The mediatorial kingdom of God, as administered by Emmanuel, seems especially intended. This kingdom he " hath prepared," and established " in the " heavens," out of the reach of all the changes of this ower world. According to his everlasting purpose, he began to do this by the promises and predictions of the great Redeemer, from the fall of Adam ; and by the various introductory dispensations and institutions which made way for his coming ; all of which have received their accomplishment in Christ our King, and in his exaltation in heaven, as " Head over all things to the church," " angels, " principalities, and powers" in heaven, as well as all men, being subject unto him. (Notes, Psalms 47:6-9. Matthew 3:2. Ephesians 1:15-23. Revelation 11:15-18.)

V. 20- 22. ’ In that we, which naturally are slow to praise God, exhort the angels which willingly do it, we ’ stir up ourselves to consider our duty, and awake out of ’ our sluggishness.’ (Notes, Psalms 148:1-13. Luke 2:8-14 Revelation 5:11-14; Revelation 19:1-6.) The language used, concerning the obedience of " the angels, who excel in strength," should be compared with that which describes the obedience of frail, sinful man (18). The business, privilege, and felicity of angels consist in perfectly doing their Maker’s will. ’ The heart of the Psalmist is full, and over floweth with joy. Unable worthily to praise JEHOVAH for his mercies vouchsafed to the church, he inviteth heaven and earth to join with him, and to celebrate, in full chorus, the redemption of man.’ Bp. Home. (Marg. Ref.) ’Let all with one consent bless his holy ’ name : and thou, my soul, be sure thou never forget to ’ make one. O fail not to bear thy part in this joyful ’ quire, that daily sing his praise.’ Bp. Patrick. (Note, 1, 2.)


" God is a Spirit," and must be worshipped " in spirit " and truth." We must therefore " call upon our souls, and " all that is within us, to bless his holy name : " we must also intreat him to assist us, that we may " lift up our " souls " unto him ; otherwise the most excellent words, and the most melodious singing, will be entirely unacceptable. But alas ! how prone are we all to forget his benefits ! Without constant recollection we shall continually omit to render thanks to God, for the unceasing favours of his providence and grace: and indeed we never keep pace with our great Benefactor in these returns, or in making a proper use of his goodness. His readiness to forgive makes way for all his other benefits to the sinful race of men : and without an interest in his pardoning mercy, no natural endowments, or providential gifts, will prove real blessings. But the true believer may praise the Lord, for having forgiven, and for daily forgiving, all his iniquities, having set forth his own " Son to be the propitiation for " our sins, and for the sins of the whole world." (Note, 1 John 2:1-2.) He is also daily healing the diseases of the soul, which are far more malignant than those of the body : and as he preserves our temporal lives, so he redeems the souls of his people from merited destruction, " and crowneth them with loving-kindness and tender " mercies." The plentiful provision made for our outward wants, and even for our enjoyment, demands a tribute of grateful praise : but the feast, with which our God satisfies the souls of his people, is a far more important obligation. (Notes, Ixiii. 1 ) The renewal of health after wasting sickness is very pleasant, and should be acknowledged with hearty thanksgiving : yet the renewal of our souls to holiness, and the renewal of our spiritual strength from day to day, are blessings of a nobler and more enduring nature. But we cannot recount the half of our mercies, nor by any means form a due estimate of them, till they be completed in eternal glory. We should therefore, to enliven our gratitude, trace these streams back to the foantain. and consider the Lord’s constant goodness to his- people, as well as his peculiar kindness to us. He is the righteous Judge of the world, and the Patron of all that are oppressed : he rescued Israel from Egyptian bondage, and executed judgment on their haughty oppressors : but he redeems his people from a far more deplorable slavery. " He made known his ways unto Moses, and his acts to " the children of Israel : " but he has displayed, more clearly, his glorious perfections by his Son Jesus Christ ; and has afforded us far greater advantages than they enjoyed. We are shewn in the most effectual manner, that " The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and " plenteous in mercy : " and happy are we, if we have come at his invitation to share the blessings of his gospel. In this case, we may indeed experience rebukes and corrections ; but " he will not always chide, neither will he " keep his anger for ever : " and every humbled penitent knows, " that he hath not dealt with him after his sins, " nor rewarded him according to his iniquities." If indeed this be our character, we need not yield to discouragement, at the consideration of our most atrocious and multiplied transgressions ; seeing the mercies of God are still larger than they all : and when we trust in those mercies, he will put away our sins far from us, and " bury them in the " depths of the sea." Indeed we are yet weak and frail ; our days are few, our temporal comforts are withering as the grass, and we shall soon be gone, and " our place will " know us no more :" but our heavenly Father " knoweth " our frame, and remembereth that we are dust ; " and he pities us under all our sorrows and trials. He will indeed thwart our wayward inclinations, and will not indulge us to our hurt ; he will also rebuke and correct us for our sins : but he will support and comfort us under every trial, and he cannot want power to relieve his afflicted children. His mercy is from everlasting in its origin, and to everlasting in its blessed effects, and should be habitually contrasted with all the fading glories of this world : and those, who belong to the Lord, have the fairest prospect of felicity for their children ; and may entertain a cheerful hope, that he will make known his righteousness and salvation even to their remote posterity. But they are distinguished by their characters, as well as by their privileges : for they " join themselves to the Lord" according to his gracious covenant, and, while they trust in his mercy, they " re" member his commandments to do them." (Notes, Is. 55: 1- 3; 56. 3- 7) Our glorious God and King has prepared a mercy- seat for his throne in heaven, on which he rules over all. Let us then rejoice, that innumerable hosts of angels, who " excel in strength," are continually celebrating his praises. Their employment and happiness consist in doing his commandments, in hearkening to the voice of his word, in being his servants, and doing his pleasure. Such would have been our constant delight, if we had not been fallen creatures ; such it is in a measure become,, if we are " born of God ; " and such it will be for ever in heaven to all who arrive there : nor can we be perfectly happy, till we can take unwearied pleasure in perfect obedience to the will of our God. Let us then copy the examples of these bright spirits; and cordially join our feeble hallelujahs to their exalted praises of God our Saviour : let us glorify him, along with " all his works in ’’ all places of his dominion;" and rejoice in hope, that the earth, as well as the heavens, will at length be filled with those who praise the Lord, and " do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word."

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Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 103". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.