Psalm 103 Pentecost Commentary.

At every celebration of Pentecost the church selects 6 of the 35 verses in Psalm 103. The complete psalm begins and ends with the cry: “Bless the Lord my soul!”

Only twice in the psalms are we called to bless God: once, in the previous psalm, where we bless God for his compassion. Now, in this psalm, we bless God for his greatness in creation. 

The singer starts by exclaiming personally: “My God, how great you are!”  This greatness is spelled out in verses 2-23 which give a kaleidoscope of these gifts in creation, echoing the creation hymn of Genesis 2. This list is sandwiched between verses 1 and 24 which stress that this world belongs to God. But, more than this, the psalmist is smitten with the beauty and awe of God as the creator who is “clothed in majesty, wrapped in light as in a robe”.  The psalmist wishes for God to rejoice in his works. ”God saw that is was good” was how the creation story put it in the creation hymn of Genesis. In verse 15 in the middle of this list of gifts we find new gifts of wine, oil and bread, food that will enrich the sacramental life of the church.

Verse 29 reminds us again of the Genesis 2 hymn: “You send forth your spirit, we are created”. In Genesis, God breathes his Spirit into the dust (the “adamah” in Hebrew) and thereby into the human (“Adam” in Hebrew); the humus or earth becomes human earthlings, through the enlivening breath or spirit, without which we die. With the Spirit we live for ever.

This psalm is perfect for our Pentecost liturgy where God sends the Spirit through Jesus to the infant church described in Acts 2 and John 20.

This Pentecost may God’s creative spirit continue to give us renewed energy and creativity to renew the face of the earth, in our church, in our homes and reaching out to our neighbourhood and beyond … to the very ends of the earth!

Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly

Ps 103: words and music Noel Donnelly (c) Kevin Mayhew.