Psalm 103: Dwell On The Lord

In recent months there have been numerous articles suggesting more Australians have been thinking about aspects of faith and spirituality. COVID seems to have had an impact, not only in the way we think about health and operate as such, but also in matters of faith, priorities in life, and the dwelling on eternity. Something about this past year has driven people to think about these things!

On one hand this is great. This should be the case due to what the world has experienced this year–coming to terms with our lack of control, the limits on our own capacity, and the realities of living in a broken world. Further, the personal reactions we’ve had due to the circumstances we’ve been through have led many to question and reflect on life. This year has been a reminder that there are greater things going on in the world than you or me.

But on the other hand this has been such an exhausting year for many that the capacity to contemplate and dwell on aspects of faith, and dwell on the Lord and his goodness specifically, has diminished. The impetus, the motivation, the inclination to sit with God is hard at the best of times, but add in the fear, stress, worry of 2020 and we find ourselves hindered in doing so.

Here in Psalm 103 we find, I believe, a passage of scripture to dwell on as we enter somewhat of a new year. In the earlier verses of this psalm we are encouraged to remember the Lord, and we are given plenty of examples. But to take it a step further, we are also given scriptures here to dwell on.

You see, the writer David continues in v5-12 by dwelling on who God is and what he has done. In turn he helps us to dwell upon God, naming the character of God alongside the benefits of God.

There is the reminder of God’s work in bringing his people out of Egypt through Moses, which leads to statements of truth about God’s character. David speaks of God’s compassion and grace, his slowness in becoming angry, and his abounding love in v8. This verse, v8, is such a significant refrain in the whole of the OT.

It is referred to in Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 145:8; Joel 2:13; and Jonah 4:2. If you ever want or need a short and succinct answer to the question of who God is, this is the answer, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

This is God’s covenantal love; his marriage promise to his people encapsulated in one verse.

God’s commitment to his people of the Old Testament and his continued commitment to his people in the New Testament through Christ.

We are reminded here of the incarnation, God coming in the form of a man for the rescue of the world. God has such compassionate love for humanity that he came to be part of our lives. In physical terms this occurred through Jesus of the first century, in spiritual terms this comes to us today through his Spirit. And so when we place our faith in him, recognising our need for God and having that need met through faith in Christ, then we are receiving his compassionate love, his covenantal love, his promised love.

As we walk through 2021 may we dwell on this compassionate love of God knowing the truth of v9-12. Knowing he does not accuse us, he does not hold his anger toward us, he does not treat us as we deserve, he does not repay us for the sins we commit, and nor is he vengeful toward us.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Instead, the Lord’s love is as far as the east is from the west, displayed through our Lord Jesus Christ.


This is the second of a three part series on Psalm 103. The first post, ‘Remember The Lord’, can be found here.

Psalm 103: Remember The Lord

In Psalm 103 we come to a psalm of thanksgiving, perhaps better described as a hymn of gratitude, as the writer, King David, moves from heartfelt personal praise to inviting all of Israel and all of God’s people to remember the Lord, dwell on what he has done, and give him praise. 

In v2 we read, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”

I’m not sure about you but it’s very easy to forget things. I would’ve forgotten more of my life than remembered it. I’m sure you are the same. 

I mean, we all like to think we’ve got good memories and can remember a lot, which of course our amazing brains can. But we’re also not all blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a photographic memory. And so we remember many things we’ve done, sights we’ve seen, and words we’ve listened to. But the reality is that we forget more than we remember. Which to me seems like one of the Lord’s graces toward us. 

Who wants to remember those really embarrassing comments we’ve made to colleagues or others we don’t know so well? Who wants to remember that embarrassing experience we had in high school or going through those years of puberty? Who wants to remember the acute grief we experience when a loved one passes away? There is actually plenty in life that we don’t want to remember.

But, there is also the negative side to forgetting things. We find ourselves forgetting names, numbers, faces, people, dates and times. And as we get older this can have repercussions on our quality of life. 

But David’s point in this Psalm is not a negative one, it’s a positive one. It’s the encouragement to remember what the Lord has done, to remember the benefits that come with knowing God. For there are plenty of benefits that the Lord has given us and when we remember these things we are led to praise and gratitude for them and for him. 

This whole Psalm seems to list the benefits available to us, but in v1-6 we read specific benefits of: 

  • The forgiveness of sin
  • The healing of disease
  • The redemption of life from pit
  • The crowning of love and compassion upon us
  • The satisfaction of our desires
  • The righteousness and justice of God

In the busyness of life it is easy to forget the benefits that come with being crowned a child of God. And these are incredible benefits! Even David, considered to be a ‘man after God’s own heart’(Acts 13:22) evidently needs to be reminded of these things. 

And all these benefits we see fulfilled through our Lord Jesus. This baby Jesus we remember at Christmas, this God-child we read of through the Prophets and writings of scripture, this Son of God born to a teenager in a derelict town, is the one who fulfils all these benefits and provides us with all these benefits through his life and death on a cross. 

And so who would want to forget these things?

We take photos to remember the experiences we’ve had and the places we’ve been to. When we look back on photos we’ve taken, our memories take us back to what we’ve done and experienced. We don’t want to forget that sunrise, or that waterfall, or that animal we got up close to. We don’t want to forget that party with friends, or that dinner with family, or that person we met. And so we take a photo as a keepsake, to help us remember. 

This list here is a reminder for us, a keepsake, as is all of scripture, which helps us remember God for who he is and what he has done. 

And Do Not Bring Us Into Temptation

I am often tempted to eat more than I should. I like food, and it is a temptation for me. I have been around far too many special church morning teas where there are so many good things on offer that my eyes are bigger than my stomach. The same occurs when there are big family gatherings, or Christmas celebrations. And there’s always the story of over-indulging in dumplings from a few years ago. But there are consequences when I over indulge, either in weight increases or general after-effects on the body. It is a delight to my eyes, to my tastebuds, and to my stomach, but I need to watch myself.

Temptations arise within us and surround us all the time. Whether it is the use of our time, the things we have, the purchases we make, or the people we spend time with. We are tempted by the expert marketers who sell us products and services we apparently need. We are tempted by the lusts of our age. And I think it is fair to say that the greatest temptation for men and women today is pornography. The search for gratification through sex and sexuality is highly publicised, talked about freely, and openly available to anyone who wishes to pursue this. There are real temptations which lead to real issues in our lives, which affect our relationships with others and our own wellbeing.

In v13 of the Lord’s Prayer, which we have been exploring for a number of weeks now (see below for a list of posts), Jesus guides us to pray against being led into temptation.

It is important to realise this is the first half of a sentence which ends, ‘but deliver us from the evil one’. The entire idea in this verse is that we need God’s help in overcoming our own sinfulness and fallenness, we need his help in staying righteous and on the path of godliness. The evil one is seeking to lead us down the wrong path, a path of destruction and temptation. Therefore, to pray that we may not be led into temptation is highlighting how we need help in order to avoid falling into the evil one’s snares.

To avoid temptation is an act of wisdom and godliness. To place boundaries or rails in our life to make sure we are adhering to the ways of God is something that falls under the category of wisdom. Sure, there are plenty of situations that will be different for different people, and there are plenty of temptations that are different for different people. And many a time this has been used to a negative or legalistic effect (one can think of the so-called ‘Billy Graham Rule’ here). But recognising and being self-aware enough of these things in our lives is helpful for us. With this in mind, here are three ways we might go about helping ourselves with respect to temptation.

1. Understand what you are tempted by and when.
Take time to reflect on what temptations to sin you are more prone to fall to. I believe all of us have different propensities for this. If we know that when we’re tired and up late with no one around that we’ll end up being tempted to flick onto porn then that’s a start. If we know that after a couple of drinks we will be more flirtatious with others then that’s good to know. If we know that when we’re bored we just pick up the phone and are tempted to start secretly putting money on the horses then recognise it. If we are going to a big party and know we might over-indulge in the food then recognise that. If we’re with certain people and we know we’re going to end up gossiping, then remember this when entering conversations with them.

Be reflective, be self-aware, and then be intentional.

2. Formulate a strategy on what you will do when temptation hits.
To be plan-less against temptation will more than likely lead to you falling into temptation. It’s been my experience, I’m sure it’s yours too. It is frequently recommended that having a close friend you can talk with, call, or text about your temptation/s will help. They can pray for you not only in the moment, but also on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, they can be someone who asks you some hard questions about your lifestyle, decisions, and general discipleship. And that speaks to the larger issue, it’s an issue of discipleship.

A difficulty here is often the call or text to a friend to pray is often left too late or not at all. There does need to be a commitment to this. But by telling someone about our temptation, and what we’re walking into in the coming days or weeks, we can lessen the power of the temptation. Of course, pray about the situation you face. Avoid the situation if it is possible. Staying up late, tired, and bored never really leaves one in a good frame of mind. Even the excuse, ‘I need to wind down a bit’, is helpful only if the actions are helpful. Sometimes just going to bed is the best thing, even if our mind is racing.

The point is, what strategy are you putting into place? What actions are you committing yourself to? What habits are you trying to build?

3. Remember that it is what you do in the lead up to situations that will form the way you operate when temptation hits.
You can’t rely on your own self-will when temptation hits. Saying, “She’ll be right mate” may be very Aussie of you but it’s a terrible plan for when temptation presents itself. However, in the days and weeks and months prior we are building up our own godliness, self-control, and patience by the actions we put in place.

Proverbs 7 warns against falling into temptations. In this case the point is centred on lust and sexual desire. In v25 the writer of Proverbs says, ‘Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.’ And this is the case with temptation, we are not to let our hearts turn toward whatever the temptations are. Instead, we build up our capacity in being able to deal with this, not simply by putting in wise and understanding strategies and habits, but ultimately recognising that we need God’s help in doing so.

I’m currently reading through Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly, and chapter 4 talks about Christ’s ability to sympathise with us in our temptation. When we do fall into temptation we have a Saviour who knows what it is like to be tempted and who is still accessible even when we feel the shame of wrongdoing. Ortlund writes:

“The real scandal of Hebrews 4:15, though, is what we are told about why Jesus is so close and with his people in their pain. He has been “tempted” (or “tested,” as the word can also denote) “as we are”—not only that, but “in every respect” as we are. The reason that Jesus is in such close solidarity with us is that the difficult path we are on is not unique to us. He has journeyed on it himself. It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles, like a doctor prescribing medicine; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles, like a doctor who has endured the same disease.”


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts in this series can be found at the following:

Podcast: #38 of The Sean & Jon Show

Well here it is folks, a year gone by,
We’ve battled, we’ve won, we’ve laughed we’ve cried.

And while it’s a tough year when we look to review,
It’s a year I’ve loved, just podcasting with you

We’ve talked COVID, Quarantine, and everything in between.
And our emotional state has always been easily seen.

Three weeks in and we were mourning being apart, 
We did not know the distance from the end to the start.

We’ve talked Lycra and pets,
Televangelists and awkward texts.
 
We’ve critiqued sermons and each other, 
Eaten spicy food, and disc golf with brothers,
 
Jon has gotten real old, and keeps getting older, 
While Sean is young Spurgeon, and his preaching gets bolder.
 
We have screamed from our porches, and felt the COVID dread,
As Jon demolished Supercoach and let it go to his head.
 
We have had guest speakers, and forgotten about Sean,
We’ve talked mental illness, and mowing our lawns.
 
We played table tennis to fight slavery, 
And seen how poor supervision let Jon’s hamsters be free.
 
We’ve talked Easter, Christmas, and swimming in seas,
We’ve gone from life, to lockdown, to finally being free.
 
Well what a time it has been, to grow through this season.
And as we look at each moment, it’s hard to see rhyme or reason.
 
But through it all, in every moment and strife,
We have seen God’s eternity meet ordinary life.
 
And through every trial we know we withstood,
Even in COVID, God is good.

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #37 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat James Bond, the end has come, and life in 2020 and beyond.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Finishing the season of podcast eps
  • Consistency
  • Sean’s new nickname
  • Shopping centre adventures
  • Disc golf success
  • Meeting new friends
  • TV watching
  • Social media
  • Friends together
  • Fashion Show success
  • We’re going back to in-person services!

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #36 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat driveway tears, changing careers, and Jon’s all-consuming-anger-spilling-forth-from-the-stresses of a COVID year!

Topics Discussed: 

  • Let’s get some sun
  • Meeting people in the flesh
  • Heading to the beach
  • Disc Golf…again
  • What would you do…?
  • Missing the sounds of the home
  • Accomplishing stuff
  • Angry drivers
  • What have we actually learnt about ourselves?
  • Growing in godliness

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #35 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat heading to the beach, learning life lessons you can’t teach, and doing a little Christmas preach.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Gazing into your eyes
  • No stories, again.
  • Up to date with the podcast
  • The longest story ever 
  • The trials of travelling to the beach and back
  • Putting on weight during isolation
  • Time for a trim
  • Hitch-hiking
  • Growing in ourselves and with the Lord
  • Christmas as a growing experience
  • A messy Christmas
  • Being self-reflective

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #34 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat early morning swims, haircut trims, and a battle where the police wins.

Topics Discussed: 

  • No stories
  • Having people over
  • Visiting others
  • Getting into the pool for the first time this season
  • Conversations with others
  • Calling the cops over and over again
  • The Book of Joel
  • Repentance
  • God’s character
  • God’s work in COVID

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #33 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat freedom satisfaction, family COVID test reaction, and reflecting on faith in action.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Freedom
  • Latte in a glass
  • Sean’s parents
  • The goats return
  • Sean’s sister
  • Grand Final weekend
  • The COVID test adventure (again)
  • Year 12 muck up day
  • Shopping and clothes
  • Jonah + God

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #32 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat binging TV, being set free, and mentoring inter-generationally

Topics Discussed: 

  • Disc Golf Stories – Version 1
  • Birthday celebrations
  • TV watching
  • Disc Golf Stories – Version 2
  • Wowed by Celebrity 
  • Cricket and Footy
  • Mentoring and Discipleship and How To Grow

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.