When Your Soul is Tempted to be Despondent
May 10, 2020
Several months ago, while reading my Bible, I was struck by the beauty of a particular psalm and though I didn’t have time to study it in detail that day, I knew I didn’t want to forget to study that psalm, so I grabbed a sticky note, wrote the psalm number down and put it on my computer. There it stayed for several months.
Then COVID-19 arrived and I knew I wanted to do a series of sermons on the bigness of God — to remind us of His power and authority, and of His kindness and compassion. I wanted these sermons to give us something to hold onto when our souls are tempted to despair. One day while I was in my office, I saw that sticky note again and opened my Bible back to that psalm and though, “Ok. That one has to be in this series.” And that’s what brings us to Psalm 103 this morning (and next Sunday morning).
The editor’s superscription tells us that it is a psalm of David, and it well might be, but we just don’t know whether it is or not — and while it has some themes similar to Psalms 32 and 51, it is impossible to know if this is David’s reflection at the end of life on God’s grace towards His sin. As I mentioned earlier, it is in a group of praise psalms (103-106) that ends the fourth book (section) of psalms. But it also pairs well with Psalm 102; that psalm is filled with despondency and despair; this psalm is an admonition to a despairing soul and what the one who is tempted to despair must do. One commentator says about Pss. 102-103, “The hope of the preceding Psalm (v. 13) has been realised. Sorrow has been turned into joy.…Praise and thanksgiving take the place of complaint and supplication.” [Kirkpatrick, 599.]
This song is one of overwhelming joy. I found myself moved to tears multiple times this week as I studied. What is particularly remarkable about this psalm is that while it is written in the context of temptation to despair, it is not a despairing song: “There are no clouds in the horizon, nor notes of sadness in the music, of this psalm. No purer outburst of thankfulness enriches the church.” [MacLaren, quoted by Leupold, 715.]
I summarize the opening verses of Psalm 103 this way:
When tempted with despondency, the believer always has reason to praise God.
Let’s listen to this song and heed the one command it gives and the reasons for that command:
1. One Great Command for the Despondent Soul — Praise (vv. 1-2)
- Temptation to despondency is a reality (Ps. 102 – 103:1)
- When tempted to despondency we must praise the Lord (v. 1)
- When tempted to despondency we must preach to ourselves (v. 1-2a)
- When tempted to despondency, we must remember not to forget (v. 2b)
2. Five Compelling Reasons to Praise God Always (vv. 3-5)
- He forgives all our sin (v. 3a)
- He heals all our (sinful) diseases (v. 3b)
- He redeems us from death and Hell (v. 4a)
- He crowns our lives with grace (v. 4b)
- He satisfies us in all things (v. 5)
Download the rest of this sermon on Psalm 103:1-5.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.