In Psalm 103, David praises the Lord for His abundant mercies. He tells his soul to “bless the Lord” six times (verses 1, 2, 20, 21, 22) and to “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Then David lists several good things that God does for His people.
For more than half of the psalm, David stirs up his heart, soul, “and all that is within” him (Psalm 103:1) to “forget not His benefits.” The original Hebrew verb translated “forget” means “to lose memory or remembrance of,” but it can also mean “ignore” or “cease to care about.” The Lord’s “benefits” represent all the good things the Lord provides to aid or promote the well-being of His children.
We bless or praise the Lord by spending time in grateful remembrance of the mercies we have received from Him. Praise is similar to one aspect of the exercise of bodybuilding. If we regularly stretch, flex, and use our muscles, we won’t lose muscle tone. Instead, we gain definition and strength. And if we get in the regular habit of giving thanks to the Lord for His blessings, we won’t forget them. If we do not give thanks, if we fail to praise the Lord, if we ignore His benefits or, worse, cease to care about them, we are sure to forget them.
What are some of the Lord’s benefits we ought to remember? David enumerates: “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The LORD gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly” (Psalm 103:3–6, NLT). David goes on to praise the Lord’s compassion, mercy, and patience (Psalm 103:8). He recalls how God revealed His character to Moses and His mighty deeds to the children of Israel (Psalm 103:7).
In His mercy, the Lord holds back the punishment we deserve and pours out His unfailing love (Psalm 103:10–11). “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:13–14, NLT).
We have so much to be thankful for as God’s children. May we never forget His forgiveness: “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:13–14, NLT). May we always remember that He heals us from the sin that infects us: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).
May we forget not His benefits, including redemption from death: “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NLT).
May we never ignore or cease to care about His lovingkindness and tender mercy: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live” (Psalm 63:3–4, ESV).
A genuinely grateful heart remembers always to praise the Lord for His goodness. But forgetting His benefits—ignoring them, or ceasing to care about them—waters down our praise. In Deuteronomy, Moses warned the people that forgetting is the first step toward spiritual catastrophe: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. . . . Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you” (Deuteronomy 4:9, 23).
When we fail to praise the Lord and forget all the good things that He provides for our well-being, we reveal a deeper heart problem. Our neglect reflects apathy and indifference, which end in spiritual death (Hebrews 2:1–3). But when we forget not His benefits—when we remember His mercy, compassion, loyal love, forgiveness, and salvation—we can’t help but have our hearts renewed and our lives lifted as we praise and bless the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:8–13 24–29, 34–36)!