What is the Meaning of Psalm 103

“Praise the Lord for His Imputation”

Psalm 103

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Psalm 103

Let’s turn back in our Bibles to Psalm 103.

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We will take a break from our intense study of a church philosophy of ministry. As we take this break together we can reflect on God’s goodness to us in this passage.

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As we consider this passage together, let me introduce it this way. Let’s say there was a man who was convicted of the horrible crime of murder. And the day of his reckoning has come; he is to stand before the judge. And after a long trial over many weeks, it becomes very apparent to all in the room that the man is guilty because of the constant presentation of one indisputable fact after another. It comes time for the sentencing and the man nervously awaits his condemnation. Sweat practically drips from his palms as the judge begins… And then pronounces the man not guilty. [Breathe in quickly…]There are gasps all over the room and the man walks out as free as a jailbird.

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Now, we would all think what of that judge? Would we think that he is gracious? Would we think that he is righteous? That judge would be fired if not worse.

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Now, let’s bring that illustration into the realm our sin against God and now we’re in the court room of God. How can God just let us off the hook? How can we, come before the Lord as sinners, and expect God to remain righteous and still be able to pardon us of all of our horrific sins?

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In part, Psalm 103 addresses this. However, in the New Testament we are given more detail regarding how God is able to do this.

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And however God is able to be just and still justify unjust people, it is certainly a cause for praise!

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This song is easily divided up by observing the audience that is addressed in each section. For example, in verses 15 the psalmist is focused on the individual. Verse one, “O my soul.” And then the psalmist repeats that line in verse two and then begins in verse three to address his own iniquities when he says “your iniquities.” “My soul, your iniquities….” He is talking to himself when he says “O my soul” and he is telling himself that the Lord has, verse three, pardoned all his iniquities. So the first five verses concern an individual praising God.

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Now, verses 6-18 concern another audience. It is not the individual, but God’s people corporately. For the Old Testament believers, this would be the people found in the last part of verse seven, “the sons of Israel.” And as this section continues, the psalmist includes himself with them and he says, verse 10, he has not dealt with “us.” “Us” is also found another time in verse 10 as well as in verse 12. And during the Old Testament era, people of Israel were solely “those who feared the Lord.” That’s why you have this phrase “those who fear the Him” found in verse 11 and in verse 13 at the end, as well as verse 17 at the end. Verse 18 also includes those who “keep his covenant.” These are all phrases that deal with God’s people, the people of Israel. So verses 6-19 concern praising the Lord corporately; whereas verses 1-5 concern praising the Lord individually.

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Now, verses 19-22 concern praising the Lord universally. All of creation is called upon to praise the Lord. As we saw in the great commission, the little word “all” helps us to understand the universality of the call to praise the Lord. Verse 19, he is sovereign over all. Verse 20, the Angels are called upon to praise the Lord … Similarly, verse 21, all of the Lord’s hosts are called upon to praise the Lord. Hosts here probably has reference to Angels. And then verse 22 all of the Lord’s works are to praise the Lord as well. And the psalm ends as it started, with the individual focus of praising the Lord, “Bless the Lord O my soul.”

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Now, I keep saying the word praise and in our versions it uses the word “bless.” What does it mean to “bless the Lord?”

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When the psalmists say “Bless the Lord,” they are giving a command to offer up praise for a particular purpose. This is not praise just because of who God is, but this is praise because of what he does, all of his benefits. This is an exhortation to recognize him as the source of all prosperity, both spiritual and physical.

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Now, why all the praise in this passage? What is the psalmist praising the Lord for in this passage? Why is he calling upon others to praise the Lord?

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The majority of the answer to this is found in verses 6-18, the passage that concerns what God has done for his people corporately. And we can apply this to what God has done for us who are a part of the new covenant, even though this is written to folks in the old covenant. The cause for praise in these verses concerns how God has treated us, knowing that we’re sinners. For example, verse 10, he has not dealt with us according to our sins. Also, verse 12, as far as the east is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. And interestingly, verse 17, Psalms 103:17 (NASB) But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children.” And it’s this last phrase, his righteousness to children’s children, that we will give some attention to this morning. So the reason for blessing the Lord, that is, praising him because of his benefits, the reason for praising the Lord this morning in this passage is because of what we know God has done with our sin (motion out) and what he has done with his righteousness (motion in).

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Now, it is a well-established fact that during the course of our times together I am not going to shy away from using theological terms. And the major term for today we will eventually discuss more in our Thursday night series on the basics for believers. This term I want to address today is a foundational theological term that all Christians should know. In fact, you would not be on the Lord’s path to eternal bliss without it! Don’t you want to know what it is? Of course you do!

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What we’re going to discover today is that God has imputed our sin to Jesus (motion out) and he has imputed Jesus’ righteousness to us (motion in). That’s the word, imputation. For those of us who have called upon the Lord for salvation, the Lord has imputed… And what I mean by that is that God has credited something… God has credited or imputed our sin to Jesus (motion out) and he has imputed or credited Jesus’ righteousness to us (motion in).

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ILL: I went on a break from studying Psalm 103 and I walked up the stairs from the basement where my office is in my house and I said to my wife, “Did you know that Psalm 103 is all about imputation?” And she replied, “Amputation, what?” So, I sympathize with you this morning; it’s ok to learn a theological term and get it confused.

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That’s why I would like to preach to us this morning on the eve of Thanksgiving the message of Psalm 103 which is Praise the Lord for His Benefit of Imputation.

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As already noted, in verses 1-5 David is commanding himself to bless the Lord, to praise the Lord for what he has done while recognizing that the Lord is the source of all prosperity, both spiritual and physical prosperity.

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Verses 1-2 concern the command of praising the Lord and verses 3-5 concern what the Lord has done to encourage David to praise the Lord. So, first, notice here that David is commanding himself to praise the Lord. Verses 1-2… Psalms 103:1-2 (NASB) 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits” and then he delineates what those benefits are in vv.3-5.

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David is commanding himself to do this. He is calling all of his faculties to do this when he says, “and all that is within me.” Now, let me ask you a question, “have you ever commanded yourself to do something pleasing to the Lord?” Do you go around talking to yourself? Now, if you did, there’d be certain people who want to lock you up. However, this is a very scriptural thing. When we studied Lamentations together what we saw was Jeremiah forcing himself during his lament, his time of mourning, …he is forcing himself to consider all of what the Lord is. And David here as well is commanding his “soul” that is, himself… Not just his spirit, the “soul” in the Old Testament refers to the entirety of the person. The spirit of a man does refer to the spiritual part of him; flesh refers to the outer part of a man. But ‘soul’ in the Old Testament refers to the entirety of man. David is commanding himself to do this.

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The “O” there is to grab attention. David is trying to grab his own attention. If you were from America, you might say “Yo! My soul” depending on where you were from. So, David is trying to get his own attention and he is commanding himself to praise the Lord for what he has done … To force himself to meditate on the fact that the Lord is the source of all prosperity, both spiritual and physical prosperity.

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And David, verse two, also commands himself not to forget. David is commanding himself to forget not one of all of God’s benefits to him. And this word for “forget” does not have a reference to what happens to you if somebody tells you their phone number and you let it slip away from your thinking. The Hebrew word for “forget” has reference to purposefully leaving something out of someone’s thinking.

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For example, David here is practicing what Moses said. What did Moses command his people? Deuteronomy 4:9 (NASB) “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

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Deuteronomy 4:23 (NASB) “So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you.

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ILL: Arg, I forget the covenant…if I only would have written that down on a piece of paper, then I would not have forgotten the covenant. [act like writing down on paper ‘don’t’ forget covenant today’] Is that what’s going on here? No, this is a purposeful decision to go down another path. So David is commanding himself to purposefully call to mind the Lord’s benefits to him. In doing so, one can experience a great spiritual effect.

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APP: Perhaps you are sad or discouraged or you are wondering whether God loves you are not or you are doubting his goodness to you…. Wait a second, purposely call to mind…. Don’t purposefully go down that path and forget his promises to you… Purposely call to mind God’s benefits to you. Do this! Don’t listen to yourself; preach to yourself! And what are those benefits?

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They are found in verses 3-5. We’re not going to detail each one of these lines, so that we can get to the main topic of the psalm, found in verses 6-18. Suffice it to say at this point that, verse three, we have the benefit of forgiveness of sins both lines there have reference to that. Isaiah 53:10 would be a cross-reference for how sin and disease are related. Disease here is metaphorical for the sickness as it relates to sin.

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Verse four, the Lord redeems, that is, he buys back your life from the pit, or the grave. So the Lord buys back your life from the grave in that he raises you from the dead. So here we have the benefit of the resurrection. Again, verse four at the end, the Lord crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion. That’s the source of the first line of verse four. Without God’s lovingkindness and compassion, we would not experience redemption from the grave. Romans 8:23 is a cross-reference that proves that redemption relates to the resurrection.

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And verse 5 is extremely difficult, literally “who satisfies your ornaments with the good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” It’s probably best to understand this as satisfying you with good things. And as you are satisfied with good things, your youth is renewed like the eagle. As the Lord gives you good things, you are invigorated. It’s probably saying not much more than that. You have food to eat, you get strength. So call to mind all these benefits; preach these benefits to yourself.

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Now, verses 6-18 make up the majority of the psalm in length and it also contains the main theme of the psalm. We will spend most of our time here this morning and use the New Testament cross-references to help us understand how imputation works today.

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Concerning my opening illustration, as we get into how the Lord can still be righteous while declaring unrighteous people to be righteous, we need to keep in mind a certain attribute of God. Verse six, keep in mind that the Lord performs righteous deeds and judgments (or justice) for all who are oppressed.

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In other words, the Lord is righteous. He will execute justice for the ones who are oppressed. David offers as an example of the Lord’s righteousness how he executes justice. So verse six is somewhat of a introductory statement as we began the consideration of imputation.

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Now we know that this is the Lord’s character because of the Lord’s revelation of himself. Verse seven, the Lord made his ways known and he made his acts known. He made known his ways to Moses and his acts to the sons of Israel. And now David will quote what the Lord revealed to Moses in verse eight. David writes that the Lord is compassionate and gracious slow to anger and abounding lovingkindness, which is a quotation of Exodus 34:6. In Exodus 34, the Lord tells Moses to go up to the top of Mount Sinai with two stone tablets that have been cut out. They’re to be like the ones that he had before, which he broke when he saw that the children of Israel were playing the harlot against the Lord.

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So Moses went up onto the high mountain and the passage says that the Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as Moses called upon the name of the Lord. Then it says that the Lord passed by in front of Moses and the Lord himself proclaimed what we have in Psalm 103:8. And after Moses heard these words, it says that he hurried to bow himself low toward the earth and he worshiped.

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In verse nine Lord will not be angry with his people for ever. We know that because the Lord has said he is slow to anger.

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And beginning in verse 10 is where we began to have the idea of imputation. There are two parts to our understanding of imputation, thanks to here and the New Testament. The New Testament teaches, and we will see this in a minute, that our sin has been credited to the account of Jesus Christ (same motion out). The New Testament also teaches that the righteousness of Christ has been credited to our account (same motion in).

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Verse 10, the Lord has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. This is the upfront statement on how the Lord treats his people, no illustrative way of speaking, just states it. Now, the question is, “how can Lord be righteous and not deal with his own people according to their sins?” How does that work… how could he do that? Well, we get more insight into this beginning in verse 11.

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Beginning in verse 11, David offers three illustrations in order to help us understand how the Lord is able not to deal with us according to our sins or reward us according to our iniquities. The first two illustrations are found in verse 11 and verse 12. These both orient us geographically. Verse 11 is vertical, in that it describes the relationship between the sky and the earth. Verse 12 is horizontal. They will teach us about our sin as it describes the relationship between the East and the West.

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The first illustration verse 11, David says that just like the heavens are above the earth and that’s pretty high, so great is God’s lovingkindness towards those who fear him. So the heavens here likely has reference to the sky and perhaps even the stars way up there in space and just like space is a great distance from the earth, so also is the greatness of God’s lovingkindness towards those who fear him. That word for lovingkindness, again, is that word that refers to the Lord’s kindness to us in his faithfulness to his promises. This lovingkindness for those who fear the Lord. That’s the first illustration.

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The second illustration, verse 12, orients us horizontally. Verse 11 gave us an illustration on how the Lord can be righteous and not deal with us according to our sins by describing how high the heavens are above the earth. The Lord is able not to deal with us according to our sins because God is faithful to his promises; he is abundantly kind to us. And if you need help trying to picture that, just picture how high the heavens are above the earth and that’s how great God’s lovingkindness is toward us. So it’s no wonder then that he is able not to deal with us according to our sin.

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Now, verse 12, just like the east is from the West…. Now we get a little bit more of an understanding on how God is able not to deal with us according to our sins. He has, verse 12, removed our transgressions from us. All of our sins he has removed and he has removed them from us. So since we no longer bear our own sins, he no longer has to deal with us according to our sins.

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Now, if you need an illustration in order to help you understand how far removed your transgressions are from you, all you have to do is contemplate the distance between the East from the West. Try to keep on going east. Would you ever change direction? After going east, and you can see off in the distance that that is east over there… what would the relationship be between the east and the west? Would that relationship ever change? No, it’s always the same distance away.

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But, try the North and the South. Keep on going North for a long time. Once you reach the North Pole, you would then begin to go south. So what is the relationship between the North and the South? Eventually they meet. Not so with the East and the West. So verse 12 describes an infinite distance between our transgressions and our own selves. Your transgressions, if you are a believer in the person and work of Jesus Christ and you have repented of your sins, your transgressions are infinitely removed from you. The East and the West will never meet; they have never met and they never will meet! Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist chose East and West and not North and South, even though he had no idea in his day and age that there was such a thing as a North Pole and South Pole. That’s just a little encouragement for the inspiration of the Bible.

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So why can the Lord not deal with us according to our sins? Illustration number two in verse 12 tells us it’s because he has infinitely removed our transgressions from us; he no longer takes them into account they are the furthest thing from his infinite perception of us.

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At this point you might think, “wow, I am so undeserving of any of this. How… What is it about God that makes him want to do this for me? The answer to that question is found in verse 13, the third illustration. Illustrations one and two found in verses 11 to 12 orient us geographically. However, the third illustration in verse 13 describes how the Lord is able not to deal with us according to our sins by bringing us into the home. Here we have the warmth of the father towards his children. Have you ever seen a father express compassion on his own children?

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Just as the father sees one of his children in a lowly position, full of inexperience, lacking in wisdom on how to do some the most basic tasks in life like feeding himself, sleeping… Okay, children when they’re born they do not even know how to sleep. Just ask any young mother in here or anybody who’s ever been a young mother. And as that child grows up, he is still unable to do that. He can’t do very basic tasks like tying his shoe or putting on his own clothes or…talk right! And a father has compassion on a child like that.

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And that is just like the Lord! He sees us in our humble estate, knowing all our sin. And you are incapable of doing anything about your own sin. You can’t get rid of your sin. It has its power over you. Nothing you can do will ever get rid of it. Everything that you think is your own righteousness is actually filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6.

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You need the Lord to be like a father and reach down with warm and tender compassion and pluck you up out of the pit of your own sin. And that’s what he has done. That describes how the Lord is able not to deal with you according to your sin. He has that compassion on you. And now, this compassion is for those who, in the verse 13, fear the Lord. This is for those who have come into a relationship with the Lord who now reverence him and are afraid of sinning against him. And verse 14 describes why he can have his compassion. He knows our estate he knows that we are incredibly frail.

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And it doesn’t stop with the Lord not dealing with us concerning our iniquity. If we don’t have our own iniquity, we are neutral. We don’t have a righteous standing with the Lord, we just are not sinful in his sight. But we need more than just not being sinful.

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That’s why we have verses 15-18. Verses 15-16 describe how man is temporary. Just like grass, and the flower of the field, we might live for a little while, but verse 16, the wind comes over and that grass is no more. And even the dirt where it was, end of verse 16, even the dirt does not even acknowledge that it was ever there. That’s how temporary we are.

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But that is not at all how it is with the Lord. His lovingkindness verse 17 lasts for ever! But, again, this lovingkindness is upon those who fear the Lord. This is the third time this phrase occurs. It also occurs in verse 13 and in verse 11. The psalmist wants us to understand that this is not just for anybody… this is for those people who have a relationship with the Lord; who have called upon him for salvation and who are now, because of the work of his Spirit, are fearful of sinning against him. Now, I want to focus in on the end of verse 17. Not only is lovingkindness of the Lord from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, but also his righteousness to children’s children is from everlasting to everlasting as well!

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So here we have the promise of the righteousness of the Lord, and notice the word here after righteousness, the righteousness of the Lord is “to” successive generations, to children’s children. This describes the imputation, that is, the crediting to our account the thing that gets us out of neutral with the Lord. He is able to the credit righteousness to us.

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And verse 18 further describes these children, it’s not just for anybody again, it’s to those who keep his covenant and remember his precepts. So because of a relationship with the Lord these people, these children have the Lord’s righteousness imputed to them if they will but keep his covenant. And for us, that’s found in the new covenant. So applying this to us who are in the new covenant, how can we keep the new covenant so that we get, not just any righteousness, but the Lord’s righteousness?

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And to answer that question, we need to turn to the new covenant. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 5. We will look at verses 17-21. In this passage Paul will explain in more detail how it is that we can get the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, credited to our account. Verse 17, therefore anyone is in Christ, that is if anyone is in union with Christ, he has believed into Jesus Christ and is now a Christian, he is a new creature old things passed away behold, new things have come. Now, verse 18, all of these things in verse 17 these things are from God. And God is the one who… keep going in verse 18… who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. What’s that? What is the ministry of reconciliation? It is a ministry that we need to be doing. What would we be doing? We would be saying what is in v. 19. The ministry of reconciliation is, verse 19, that God, through Christ, was reconciling the world to himself. What that means is that he was… keep reading verse 19…he was not counting their trespasses against them. Now how was he able to do this? Verse 21 has the answer. He made him… that is, God made Jesus Christ… Who knew no sin, that is, Jesus was not a sinner, he didn’t know any sin he was not born a sinner nor did he commit a single individual act or thought of sin. God made this perfect man, the God man, God made him it says in verse 21 to be sin on our behalf that is, God made Jesus to be sin for our benefit.

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In that phrase, “to be sin”we have the explanation as to how God can remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the West. He is able to do that because he made Jesus to be sin, that is, he credited your sin to Jesus’ account. And when he did that, Jesus was on the cross. All of God’s wrath against your sin was poured out on Jesus when he was on the cross.

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Jesus satisfied the wrath of God so that you do not have to satisfy the wrath of God on your own. Jesus did it for you. God made Jesus actually be your sin. He took your sin upon himself and this was all for your benefit. Not only so that you the Lord could remove your sin far away from you as the east is from the West… Which did happen, Jesus became sin for your benefit so that God’s wrath would be poured out on him and not you…

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But also for an additional purpose, end of verse 21, the Lord made Jesus to be sin for you so that you might become the righteousness of God in him! Not only do you have your sin credited to Jesus account, but also at the end of verse 21, you have the righteousness of God credited to your account. And the way it’s worded gives us the idea of this being powerfully the case. It’s living. This was so much the case that we could somehow say that Jesus actually was sin on the cross. God made Jesus actually to be sin. 5:21 again, “He made Him to be sin.” Jesus, on the cross, personified sin as it were that’s what he was, he was sin. And not only that, but because Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father in all of these things, living out a perfect life and living out a perfect death, because of that now, you become a the righteousness of God in him.

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It’s as if, you actually personify the righteousness of God as it was found perfectly to be in Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus personified sin on the cross, so you now in the sight of God personify the righteousness of God. It can’t be described any more highly… These words of being… That God made Jesus “to be” sin and that you now “become” the righteousness of God … These phrases are attempting to communicate the reality of God’s perspective concerning you. It’s not only that he no longer possess your sin in God’s sight… It’s that that sin is actually Jesus himself. And it’s not that you are merely dressed in God’s righteousness as it’s found in Christ, but that you actually now “are” the righteousness of God. You are living, breathing, walking….righteousness of God! You have become the righteousness of God as it’s found in Christ. How else can you more powerfully, more intimately describe this reality? Poetically, it’s like your sin is as far removed from you as the east is from the West… It’s infinite. Your sin was, as it were transformed into Christ and now he’s on the cross and that sin is dead on the cross.

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And it’s no wonder now in Psalm 103:20-22, that the psalmist can burst out into praise, knowing verse 19 that the Lord has established his throne in the heavens and his sovereignty rules over all. And we no longer have a say in the matter of how imputation works; he is the sovereign, he rules over all, so David makes a universal call to bless the Lord. He calls on the Angels to do this, and it says in Ephesians 3:10 that the wisdom of God is being made known through the church to the Angels because of the results of salvation. The Angels are looking at us and we are, as it were, on the theater playing on the stage, 1 Corinthians 4:9. And the actors on the stage are pointing back at the Angels and proclaiming to them, “Praise the Lord.” Verse 21 is the same call and verse 22 all the works of the Lord are called on to praise the Lord because of the mighty work that he has accomplished on our behalf as he is able to remove our sins infinitely far away from us and give us his very own righteousness.

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And none of this would make any difference at all unless he gave us the faith to believe it. Because it’s only by faith that we’re able to appropriate the benefits of these things to ourselves because the Bible says Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that… [That whole thing the grace, salvation, and the faith, all of that is] not of yourselves [it is not from your own selves or anything that you have done], it is [God’s grace, the salvation that he brings and the faith that I have is all] the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

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And even the kindness of God is leading you to repentance, which is also a requirement for salvation. God leads you to repent. Salvation is all the work of God! So if you’re here today and you do not know of the certainty of your salvation, call upon the Lord to be saved. Because the Bible says Romans 10:9-10 (NASB) 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Psalm 103

Praise the Lord for how he has made the way for salvation…praise the Lord for imputation! Praise him that he has made Christ to be our sin and he poured out his own wrath on him and praise the Lord he made us to be the very righteousness of Christ. Sing

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Go to Psalms Main Page

Go To Old Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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