Amazing Grace - The Original Version



That possibly most famous of hymns, "Amazing Grace" has another song that is a type of predecessor. I call it, "Amazing Grace - The Original Version". We carry that original version around with us in our Bibles. Psalm 103 is the song I am referring to. We recite the 23rd Psalm to comfort us in times of trouble, but there is more than one Psalm that has that same gracious power in its verses. Psalm 103 is another one we can read over and over to remind us of Godís compassion and mercy He bestows on them that fear Him.

Psalm 103
1 A Psalm of David. 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 not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagleís.
6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto childrenís children;
18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

1 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
This psalm begins and ends with the same refrain, "Bless the LORD, O my soul". This starts and ends as a personal psalm. David is not talking a corporate gratitude, this is the utmost of personal business with him. This gratitude comes from the core of his being and it totally encompasses him. The first thing David sees is the particular God. The God of covenant. The name of Yahweh. That very name speaks of God being all that we need. In that name, He says, "I AM". In that, He is all we need. We see our need: our need of salvation, restoration, upholding, consoling, cleansing. If we look to Him and cry to God, "What help is there to all our needs of despair!" His answer is "I AM". This is the God David is addressing on a personal level. The next thing he sees is that He is holy. That holiness is a blinding light we must bow before. If we do not, His holiness will respond to that unholiness in us.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagleís.

He continues with the next important point: remembrance. We need to constantly remember His graciousness to us. In one way, we do this whenever we partake of communion. The first benefit that comes to Davidís heart is Godís forgiveness of all his sins. If it was not for that, we would have nothing but a certain destruction waiting ahead. This speaks of life here and now, but especially in view of the Day of Judgment and facing a holy God. Without knowing this, we are utterly undone. The second benefit that David lists is the blessing in the flesh that we encounter throughout life. He says, "healeth all thy diseases". There are those who would take this to mean God is promising to not allow us to catch a cold. In that consideration, remember Elishaís last days. He was sick with the sickness wherewith he died. Elisha was a man who knew Godís miracles more than any. He certainly wasnít weak in faith and was walking with God. No, the "God must heal all" is a stretch in the meaning of this passage. So what is the meaning? God is who we should look to for our hope and help in our diseases. We take it and leave it peacefully in His hands. When we are panicked, we should know it is not out of His control, and we should also know He cares. What GRACE! He may restore to health, he may choose otherwise or some other means. Whatever He decides, He is the head doctor in the case and is aware of many more details than we can ever know. One example I would like to list here. There was a man who knew the LORD wanted him to minister in a leper colony. He broke out with leprosy and went to that leper colony. He worked, spreading the Gospel there for ten years and then he was miraculously healed of leprosy. All in Godís ways and wisdom. We must bow before Him and acknowledge His glory. The third benefit listed is Godís carrying him through all the dangerís of life. David was constantly on the edge of death. How easily he could have died at any time in war. David knew that God was constantly at work preserving him. We too can live with that peace that God will carry us through, and protect us from, the tragedies we see befalling the ungodly around us. The fourth benefit is a two-starred crown. This is the peak of that Amazing Grace. We, who are so unworthy, are actually crowned with the greatest of treasures we could desire. What more could man possibly desire than to see Godís lovingkindness and tender mercies placed upon him. Instead of His holy wrath against our crimes, we see the face of the Judge turn to joy and clothe us with the best robe and put the ring upon our finger, like that Prodigal Son of old. The fifth personal benefit seems rather insignificant after beholding the fourth point, but it is this fifth one that shows us Godís acceptance before Him now. There were those of Israel in the wilderness whose souls lusted after flesh. God granted them their desire, but sent leanness into their souls. The worst were slain and the rest suffered a wasting. This verse tells us He gives us the food which satisfies our cravings and rather than wasting, we see renewal.

6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
We see David turn corporate here. He starts talking about Godís blessings to His people, as a whole. It is an interesting and powerful verse. God looks down on man and takes note of the poor who are oppressed by wicked judges. The corrupt judges are observed by God and He will execute righteousness and judgment upon them and all involved in the oppression. When the oppressed call upon God, He gives ear. The wicked judges donít behold the grace of God, but His wrath. If only they had feared God, and rendered just judgment, they wouldnít face His righteous wrath in time to come.

7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The significance of this, is its comfort. We are not ignorant of God. The remembrance of His mighty deliverance of Israel out of oppressive bondage reminds us of Godís looking and judging. We also know what He is like and what He requires of us. It is this remembrance that sets the tone for gratitude for Godís grace to us.

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

These five verses are such a comfort. In verse 8 we see the refrain of the thought we found in verse 4 of that excellent crown of Godís mercy and lovingkindness. The portions that follow take on the tone of "us" and "them", corporate in tone, whereas the previous section was the singular "my", "thy" and "thine". Earlier this crown was personally applied, now it is applied in Godís grace to us as a body. This list has a slightly different tone. It speaks of undeserved grace, but it is not unconditional. The first item brought forth in this category is the comfort in facing discipline. The nation has walked in sin and turned to God with fear. They know there will be consequences of Godís chiding and anger, but they also know He has extended a certain amount of undeserved mercy. He didnít just strike them down the moment they sinned. He gave them a chance to repent and began a chiding process to increase the pressure. This is mercy! Verses 11 and 12 match for style of comparison. Verse 11 speaks of height and verse 12 of width. Both speak of distances that are so great, we canít fathom their end. I said the grace was not unconditional. We find that shown in verse 11 and again a little later. Godís mercy is Godís grace toward us, but who does this verse tell us this mercy goes to? "Them that fear him". To not fear God is to say, "Tough, I am going to do what I like." To fear God is to say, "No way, God said we are not to do that and Iím not going to make Him angry. Count me out!" This verse shows us that mercy is to those who walk in the fear of God. It doesnít say they never sin. In fact it is the opposite. Those who donít commit a crime donít need mercy from a judge. It is the criminal, who has turned, who needs the mercy. PRAISE GOD! THAT IS THE AMAZING GRACE! That is what verse 12 tells us!

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Verse 13 shows another wonderful comparison. We are taken up by God as a father does his children. We become sons and daughters of God when we are born again, and we can see that comparison implied here. Note here again that important fear of God. This pity is only to those who "fear him". Verses 14-16 shows us why the LORD pities us. We pity something because we see it is weak and helpless. We also have it in our power to destroy it in a moment. We make a judgment of compassion, considering the helpless state of that object of pity. If we see reason, we show pity, if there is no reason for showing pity, we say, "Away with it!". In another comparison, letís take an old dilapidated building. It has a lot of fond history in its background. It is about to be torn down and we stand up to say, "No, donít, I will buy it and restore it." We are asked, "Why?". We answer that it is a treasure for what has gone on there. To us, it is worth the investment to restore it and preserve it. We had our reason for pitying and acting for its preservation. Now, in these verses, we see God puts great value in those who fear him. He has hope for them. Their heart is of such that there is value there in Godís eyes. He knows we are of fleeting material. He knows we will be here but a short time and perish from the face of the earth. With this in mind, God in effect says, "Enough, my wrath will be held back, preserve this dilapidated building and fix it back up. It will shine for my glory and mercy. Others will see and perhaps learn." With that in mind, read the following verses:

17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto childrenís children;
18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

Before, we had the comparison of unfathomable height and width, now we see that unfathomable stretch of time. That endless time is attached to the descendants of those who fear him. Since we are but a fleeting vapor on this earth, and we do have that special pity for our children, so God shows His special grace to the treasures of our hearts if we will walk in the fear of the LORD. Verse 18 expounds on the path of those who fear God. Consider:


29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. 1 John 3:22-24

14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14

18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, sayeth the Lord Almighty. 1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. II Corinthians 6:18-7:1


It is interesting it specifically says, "to those that remember his commandments to do them". This tells us that the old excuse of, "oh, I forgot" wonít cut it with God. We need to make it our business to remember. Do whatever it takes to remember! Burn the candle in the night hours in meditating on Godís Word, if that is what it takes. Above all else, we must learn it, remember it and do it. The fear of the LORD demands this of us.



19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

Verse 19 takes us to that peak of Godís holiness again. We see God enthroned in the heavens and ruling over all. Not just one little kingdom on the coasts of the Mediterranean, and not just in the future in the New Jerusalem that will be on this earth. It doesnít say, "God will rule over all" either. This shows us the active grace God bestows upon those who fear him now, wherever we are. If that were not so, verses 2-6 on the personal level, would mean nothing to us. They would be more of a taunting than a comfort, and verse 6, of all things, would be in error. It would have to be changed from "all that are oppressed" to "some that are oppressed". Praise God we do not have a God who cannot see and who cannot hear. We can also see that David is clearly describing a powerfully joyful devoted walk with God. His walk was not one of terror at every turn, lest he break any of the commandments. We see joy, gratitude, commitment and praise.
This last section reminds me of that final verse in the famous hymn, "Amazing Grace":
When weíve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, weíve no less days to sing Godís praise than when we first begun.
Verses 20-22 take us through Godís great praise chorus that rings out strong, and ends with that last, but not least, of praises on that personal level from the soul of David.

Bless the God of Amazing Grace!

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible


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