Praise the Lord, My Soul, and Forget Not All His Benefits

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LAMENTATIONS 4:1-5:22 | HEBREWS 2:1-18 | PSALM 103:1-22 | PROVERBS 26:23

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The lamentations of Jeremiah continue. 

Jeremiah gives voice to the misery that is upon his people in this way:

15 Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 Because of this our hearts are faint,
because of these things our eyes grow dim
18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.

And yet, there is a spark of hope in his cries.  Jeremiah says:

19 You, LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.

Turning next to our reading of the book of Hebrews, we find the author speaking to an audience, most likely of Jewish origin—perhaps new believers to the Christian faith—who are evidently experiencing some conflict with this new concept of salvation.  But the writer of this letter is determined to persuade his readers to the grand virtues of this free gift. 

Salvation, as it is referred to here, is the simple act of belief in acknowledging Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah, who came into this world in order to fulfill the establishment of a brand-new covenant between God and man. 

Gone was the Mosaic Law that came with requirements and stipulations; here was a new Law based on the pure and simple act of faith in acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice having been made on the cross by Jesus Christ, i.e., God incarnate. 

Belief in the power of this act that pays the price for every earthly sin, and assures the believer of life eternal is the salvation that this author is referring to when he says

3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The writer continues with his argument to consider this exceptional gift to mankind which includes everyone, even the Jewish people.  The concept of God incarnate is a difficult one to fathom, but the writer continues to explain it in this way: 

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Turning next to our reading of the Psalms, we find in Psalm 103, some of the most beautiful verses of praise and thanksgiving.  The first five verses, in particular, are ones that would behoove us to commit to memory:

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

He continues to acknowledge the great compassions of the Almighty in these verses:

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Finally, a verse from Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, is offering an analogy to insincere speech.  He says:

23 Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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