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Psalm 103

God’s lavish love

People raised in certain Christian traditions easily fall victim to a guilt-ridden theology, presided over by an angry, vindictive God. This psalm offers the perfect antidote to such a parody of biblical truth.

A David psalm.

Worship Yahveh
my soul within me!
With every fiber of my being
praise his holy name!
2 Worship Yahveh
heart and soul
forgetting none of his good gifts!
3 He forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases.
4 He redeems your life from destruction
and crowns you with unfailing love and mercy.
5 He lavishes such goodness on you
that your vigor is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 Yahveh vindicates and gives justice
to all the oppressed.
7 He revealed his ways to Moses
his feats to ordinary Israelites.
8 Yahveh is gracious and compassionate
slow to get angry
and overflowing in extravagant love.
9 He doesn’t hold onto anger indefinitely
or accuse us endlessly.
10 He doesn’t punish us as our sins deserve
or pay us out in full for our wrongdoing.
11 Because as high as the heavens
are above the earth
so vast is his unfailing love
for all who revere him.
12 As far as east is from west
that’s how far he’s removed our sins from us.
13 As a father is merciful to his children
so Yahveh is merciful
toward those who revere him.
14 Because he knows full well
what we’re made of:
he remembers we’re only dust.
15 Mere mortals,
we’re like grass or field flowers
that burst into life and flourish.
16 Then with the first hot wind that blows by
they disappear without leaving a trace.
17 But Yahveh’s relentless love
for those who revere him
had no beginning
and it will never end.
And he acts with redemptive justice
toward their children’s children and beyond
18 toward all who are loyal to his covenant
and keep his commandments.

19 With Yahveh’s throne founded
in high heaven above
his rule extends over all that is.
20 Praise Yahveh
all you mighty angels who attend to his word
and carry out his commands!
21 Praise Yahveh
all you heavenly armies
servants on alert to please him in every way!
22 Praise Yahveh
all his creatures
throughout all his dominion!
Worship Yahveh
my soul within me!

This psalm is well-known for its opening lines of self-talk, David’s urging himself to take none of Yahveh’s mercies for granted. David has many reasons to praise: God forgives, heals, redeems, restores, and renews. Holy, or unique, God is both just and merciful—vindicating and rescuing the oppressed. Though we struggle to combine justice and mercy, we’d be lost without either one. Thankfully, God unites the two perfectly.

Some see God as angry and vindictive in the Old Testament, but David sets the record straight: God is just and punishes evil, but his anger is limited, while his love is endless. That was what God said when Moses asked him to reveal what was at the heart of his majesty: love.[1] He could easily have obliterated his rebellious people for worshipping the golden calf, but he redeemed and forgave them instead. David knows this from personal experience too, for God had lavished the same extravagant love on him.

Such redeeming love is cause for celebration on the scale we find in John’s Revelation, where all of heaven joins the redeemed from every corner of the world to worship the Lion who is a Lamb.[2] David ends urging himself once more to praise God, his praise now finding its place in that great eternal chorus.

Lord, I praise you that you reign over all and are merciful and just in all your ways. Help me see you truly as you are: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and overflowing in unrelenting love. Then enable me to please you as only those who see you truly can. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

As high as the heavens are above the earth
so vast is his unfailing love for all who revere him.


[1] Exod. 33:13-18, 34:6-7.

[2] Rev. 4 and 5.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.