>Blessing the Lord, Psalm 103

>The idea of blessing the Lord has always seemed a bit foreign to me. How can we, as mere human creatures, bless the almighty God who is the divine creator?
The strangeness of the concept comes, I think, from a skewed view. For most of my life, I’ve considered “blessing” as a thing that God gives or as the way he gives it. Every day I am blessed by God as I receive blessings from him, including innumerable gifts of which I am not even aware. But that’s only part of the biblical concept of blessing. Scripture makes clear that “blessing” also can be loving and praising God.

Psalm 103 is the world’s best primer on the concept of blessing the Lord.

Editors Leland Ryken and Philip Graham Ryken preface Psalm 103 in the ESV Literary Study Bible (© 2007 by Crossway Bibles) by writing that it is a “high point among the praise psalms” and add: “It is so exalted in scope and language that it ranks as an ode—the most elevated member of the lyric family.”

As I get older (and I hope a little wiser), I see less “coincidence” and more “providence” in the things and events of life. And I think it is hardly “coincidental” that Psalm 103’s lyrical song of praise immediately follows Psalm 102’s broken-hearted confession of penitence (see my blog post of 09 February 2011).

Psalm 103 was written by David in thankfulness for God’s forgiveness of his sin. It reflects the joy not only of David’s heart, but also of his soul. He begins in verse 1 by pouring every part of his being into praise:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!

He generates continued praise by reminding himself of God’s blessings.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
(2-5, ESV).

God grants forgiveness to the repentant sinner. He is the Great Physician who heals all our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual ills. God rescues us from many life-threatening dangers and redeems our souls from the pit of hell. As regents under the King of Kings, we wear fluid crowns daily jeweled with God’s faithfulness, love, and mercy. Our hungry hearts are satisfied with God’s good and perfect gifts, which equip us to persevere in his service.

Every evening I go to bed exhausted, unable to lift one more thing or write one more word, but by God’s grace I wake early each morning and rise to my work on eagle’s wings.

David continues this paean of praise by reflecting on God’s past, present, and future works of grace and mercy.

The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever
(6-9, ESV).

God revealed himself to Israel in the past, He patiently blesses his sinful people in the present, and he will turn present adversity to our good in the future.

The magnitude of God’s forgiveness nearly defies description:

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust
(10-14, ESV).

God’s marvelous compassion seems even more amazing as David compares the transience of man to the infinity of God.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all
(15-19, ESV).

In his great mercy, God extends compassion to believers and their children throughout all faithful generations. God’s covenantal love is sure because his throne is firmly established and his kingdom has no bounds.

The only possible result of reflecting in faith on God’s love is to join David in praise. And that is how it is possible for sinful humans to bless our holy God.

When we remember God’s faithful love to his people, when we reflect on the many gifts he daily gives us, and when we consider his sure guarantee for a sin-free future; then we, too, can bless the Lord!

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
(20-22, ESV).

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