Praise of God’s Providence
1 Of David.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;[b]
my entire being, bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits.
3 He forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases.[c]
4 He redeems[d] your life from the pit
and crowns you with kindness and mercy.
5 He satisfies your years with good things
and renews your youth like an eagle’s.[e]
6 The Lord performs acts of righteousness
and administers justice for all who are oppressed.
7 [f]He made known his ways[g] to Moses,
his wondrous deeds to the people of Israel.
8 [h]The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
9 He will not always rebuke,
nor will he remain angry forever.
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our offenses.
11 As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his kindness toward those who fear him.[i]
12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.[j]
13 [k]As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were formed;
he remembers that we are only dust.[l]
15 The days of mortal man are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field.
16 The wind sweeps over him, and he is gone,
and his place never sees him again.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the kindness[m] of the Lord is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children,
18 with those who keep his covenant
and diligently observe his commandments.[n]
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.[o]
20 [p]Bless the Lord, O you his angels,[q]
you mighty in strength who do his bidding,
who obey his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, O you his hosts,
his ministers who do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
everywhere in his domain.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.[r]
- Psalm 103:1 In its literary construction and sublime concepts, this psalm is one of the most pure and joyous of the Psalter. Healed of a grave sickness that he considers to have been caused by sin, the psalmist regards this cure doubled by God’s pardon as a privileged experience of the love of the Lord. By this favor, God has shown his love for the psalmist in concrete fashion, thus powerfully confirming for him the revelation he made of this love to Israel through the Exodus and to Moses in the meeting on Sinai.
God’s love is boundless for the righteous and magnanimous for sinners, disconcerting for the ephemeral creatures that we are and long-suffering to the point of extending to the far-off descendants of his faithful ones. Such is the love of the infinite God whose name is holy, whose throne is in heaven, and whose reign is eternal. He is the Father who will reveal Jesus and whose ineffable goodness Paul will proclaim (see 1 Cor 2:9). We can thus understand how right the psalmist is in calling upon heaven itself to celebrate such a God.
The signal corporal and spiritual cure obtained by the psalmist constitutes only a pale figure of the Resurrection that definitively snatches Jesus from corporal death and the sinful world and shows him his Father’s love with incomparable force. By sharing in the Resurrection of Christ through the sacraments, Christians discover that “God is love” in an experience derived from that of Christ and far superior to that of the psalmist. In all truth, every Christian can recite this psalm to praise the God who is love.
- Psalm 103:1 Soul: see note on Ps 6:4. Name: see note on Ps 5:12.
- Psalm 103:3 Following the Old Testament understanding, the psalmist considers sufferings as the punishment for sin (see Ps 41:5; Ex 15:26).
- Psalm 103:4 Redeems: i.e., “delivers.” Pit: i.e., the grave (see note on Ps 30:2).
- Psalm 103:5 Like an eagle’s: because of its acknowledged long span of life, which at times reaches one hundred years, the eagle was regarded as a symbol of perennial youth and vigor (see Isa 40:31). It was thought that when an eagle became old and its eyes grew dim, it flew toward the sun, so that the film was burned away from its eyes and its plumage was renewed by the sun’s scorching rays.
- Psalm 103:7 God made known his ways to Moses on Mount Sinai, telling him that his attitude toward human beings and his great works find their inspiration in his loving kindness. Passing mysteriously before Moses, God cried out: “The Lord, the Lord, a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and fidelity, who shows mercy to thousands. He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, but will by no means forgive the iniquity of the fathers, visiting it upon their sons and their sons’ sons, to the third and fourth generation” (Ex 34:6f).
- Psalm 103:7 His ways: see note on Ps 25:10.
- Psalm 103:8 God pardons sinners who repent, a truth often affirmed (see Pss 86:15; 145:8; Ex 34:6; Neh 9:17; Isa 57:16; Jer 3:12; Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2). Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 103:11 Kindness: see note on 6:5. Those who fear him: see note on Ps 15:2-5.
- Psalm 103:12 God places a huge gulf between his faithful and their sins, extending, as it were, from one end of the earth to the other (see Isa 1:18; 43:25; Jer 31:34; 50:20; Mic 7:18f).
- Psalm 103:13 What an amazing condescension on the part of God’s love. Although he is well aware that we are fragile and ephemeral creatures who, like grass or flowers, are carried off by the slightest breeze, God keeps in his love the whole lives of his servants. He presents a just account of their merits and blesses their descendants who are faithful to his covenant.
- Psalm 103:14 The Lord has compassion on those “who fear him” (v. 13) because he knows their frailty, that they are but dust (see Gen 2:7; 3:19; Job 4:19; Eccl 3:20; 12:7).
- Psalm 103:17 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 103:18 Keeping the covenant entails obeying the Lord’s commandments (see Ex 20:6; Deut 7:9), i.e., doing the will of God (see Mt 6:9-15).
- Psalm 103:19 His kingdom rules over all: see Pss 22:29; 145:11-13. The Book of Obadiah concludes with this cry of triumphant eschatology (v. 21: “and dominion will belong to the Lord”).
- Psalm 103:20 The psalmist calls upon all creatures to join him in praising the heavenly King who rules all things with love (see note on Ps 9:2).
- Psalm 103:20 The angels are God’s messengers (see Ps 91:11).
- Psalm 103:22 Bless the Lord, O my soul: this last line was probably added by the redactors of the Psalter to show that God’s word is efficacious by itself and needs no intermediary.