10 May 2023

The Mini-Bible: The Bible in Five Psalms (Pss 103-107

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Christian hope, Exegesis, Grace, Hebrew Bible, Patternism, Precision Obedience, Psalms

These Psalms invite us to ponder, to dwell on, to “meditate” on the history of Yahweh with Israel and through Israel, the whole creation. This relationship can be summed up in a single word:


This is one of the most important words in the Bible itself. It is extremely rich. It is also very hard to translate because of that profundity. Entire books have been written on this this single word. It is a word that captures the heart of Bible. It means “steadfast love,” “everlasting love,” “grace,” “I will die before I give you up.” These are examples of its deep meaning which, again, cannot be expressed in any single word in English. It is a word you should know by heart. To our texts.

Outside of Psalm 119, this cluster of Psalms are the longest psalms in the Psalter. They are deeply meditative, historical and theological. Together they tell the Story of God. They are a sort of “mini” Bible.

If we take the time to read Psalms 103 to 107 over and over and over we will have the message of the Bible itself. They do not, of course, cover every detail but they do express the entire message. These Psalms boil it all down to what it is all “about.” They tell the story of who God is, what God has done, who we are (Israel), and what God has done despite of who we are. The word that all of those are wrapped in is: Hesed. Appropriately there are Five Psalms and Five Fingers.


Psalm 103, Hesed. Psalm 103 is the Preface and the Presupposition for every line that follows: God. Who is God? God is HESED. God is Yahweh who revealed his “ways” to Moses. This is a reference to Moses’s prayer on Mt. Sinai in the aftermath of the Golden Calf and asked God to reveal his “ways.” God did in Exodus 34.6 where “hesed” is found on Yahweh’s lips twice. Psalm 103 is a majestic meditation on the character of Yawheh. Yahweh is the God of Hesed. What a profound thing to say, God is the God OF Hesed. Yahweh removes our “transgressions as far as the east is from the west” (v.12). This is the PRESUPPOSITION and PREFACE to the “Story of God.” Psalm 103 tells us the basis of Israel’s existence.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us
(Psalm 103.6-12).


Psalm 104, Creation: What did the God of Hesed do? God created a world in which Yahweh lovingly cares for ALL creatures. God “dotes” upon this creation which is the expression of God’s HESED from Ps 103. Humans, all humans, along with all the world are bathed in the Creator’s Hesed. This is essentially Genesis 1-2. This is the longest mediation on Creation outside Genesis.


Psalm 105, Rescue: What did the God of Hesed Do? Yahweh created a people within the world. They were insignificant. The “least of these.” Abraham, essentially a refugee. Joseph “sold as a slave” (v.17). Jacob (does double duty as the Patriarch and the people of Israel) lived as an alien in Egypt only to be horrifically enslaved. Yahweh, the God of Psalm 103 and 104, did not abandon the nobodies in Egypt. God “remembered his holy promise” and redeemed Israel by the power of God’s Hesed. This is essentially Genesis to Exodus 15.


Psalm 106, Rebellion: What did the created by hesed, delivered by hesed, bathed in Hesed people do? This is the ugly side of the story that cannot be forgotten. They, like ‘adam in Genesis 3, they/WE rebelled. Psalm 106 tells the long sordid tale of human unfaithfulness. No sooner than we were delivered by Hesed, did we “forget the glory of God who saved” us (v.21). We did this by making another god, an idol, a golden calf. In fact “wickedness, rebellion and sin” (a line from Ex 34.6) became the NORM for us as the psalm makes clear. We LIVED IN SIN. But it was precisely here, at the Golden Calf, that Yahweh revealed God’s “way” to Moses that we began with in Psalm 103. Psalm 106 drives a stake deep into the ground of Exodus 34.6 which Psalm 103 is nothing but a long commentary on that phrase of “wickedness rebellion and sin.” That is the summary of Israel’s entire national story. But so great is Yahweh’s Hesed, that God even disposed the captors (the instrument of our punishment!) to be “merciful!!!” to us (v.46). This is basically the story of Israel from Exodus to the Exile. God created in Hesed, walked with Israel in her sin by Hesed. God went into “death” with Israel in Hesed.


Psalm 107: Resurrection by Hesed. Psalm 107 is the back end of Psalm 103. The God of Hesed refused to give up Israel despite the guilt. Israel, the people created by Hesed, had rebelled, rebelled, rebelled (Ps 106). But Yahweh is the God of Psalm 103! So Psalm 107 begins where Psalm 106 ends. Psalm 106 has the people calling, pleading, for grace despite the guilt they have. Guilt is not denied and cannot be denied. Israel has only one option: beg for mercy based upon Hesed Alone! Psalm 107 proves the truth of Psalm 103. It shows that Yahweh hears that prayer for Hesed and redeemed those in sin and death and brings them back to life by Hesed. Some wandered in deserts, some in darkness, some in prisons of their own making, all because of rebellion. The Psalm is driven by the refrain

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
HE sent out his word and HEALED them;
he RESCUED them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his HESED
and his wonderful deeds for mankind

The Psalm ends with a call to do what Psalm 103 does. Ponder, ruminate, MARINATE in the Hesed of God.

Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the HESED of the Lord.
” (v.43)

Final Thoughts

This story of Psalms 103 to Psalms 107 is not only the “end” of the Hebrew Bible (Yahweh does gather the people in Hesed). It is also the literal end of the “Story” of the whole Bible. The God who created in Hesed in Psalm 103-104 does not abandon that world and its rebellious inhabitants but redeems them with the same Hesed they were created in. God fills the Creation with Hesed Incarnate as the Resurrected Son of Man, Jesus the King of Israel, resides with those redeemed from death in the New Heavens and New Earth. Revelation declares this explicitly.

Here is the Story of Bible. Rabbi Paul knew these Psalms quite well. When he said “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5.21) this was no new revelation. It is the literal history of Israel. This theology was sung and inculcated through the Psalms, every festival of worship, every Sabbath. These five psalms bring it all together.

Who is God?

What did God do?

Who are we and what have we done?

What God does to us in our “wickedness, rebellion and sin?”

The answer:

Hesed in the Beginning.

Hesed in the Middle.

Hesed in the End.

Those who believe the Story will “camp” right here. As the Spirit said,

Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the HESED of the Lord.
” (v.43).

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