Bless The Lord

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Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord," is a Psalm of thanksgiving. Psalms of thanksgiving follow a pattern of reflection and response. In this particular Psalm, the Psalmist reflects on Yahweh's (Yahweh is the Hebrew name for Israel's God) compassion and the good things He does for those who trust Him. And then, following this reflection, the Psalmist responds with love and loyalty to Yahweh. 


Before we get too far into the Psalm, we must recognize the starting place for the Psalmist. The opening stanza, the Psalmist's introductory statement, is "Bless the Lord, oh my soul." The idea of "blessing" was common to the Hebrew people. Blessing was a familiar way of paying honor toward and extending thanksgiving to God or another person of faith. For the Psalmist to open with the words "Bless the Lord" immediately reveals his heart posture toward God. His heart posture is thanksgiving and is expressed through blessing towards the Lord.  


Heart posture is an important aspect of Christian worship and daily life for believers. Far too often, I begin my devotional life with the intention of learning more about God or rushing ahead to check a box on my to-do list. While quiet times and Bible study are critical, the Psalmist reveals, right out of the gate, the importance of heart posture and orienting one's soul toward God in worship. In fact, the Psalmist doesn't just suggest that his soul bless the Lord; he commands his soul to do so! The Psalmist effectively preaches to himself, "Wake up soul, bless the Lord!"  


One of my favorite authors, James Smith, shares this same idea when he says, "Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn't just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is, therefore, the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts." This "retraining of the heart" is precisely what the Psalmist is after as he begins writing this Psalm.  


However, blessing the Lord is not all the Psalmist does in this Psalm; it's just the beginning. The Psalmist then reflects on the Lord's character and actions toward those who love Him. The Psalmist is intentionally tying who God is to what God does. It is not enough to simply know factual details about God's character as if He is the main character in some fictional story. The Psalmist goes beyond that, tying the truth about God's character to the evidence of what He does for His people. This truth is profound: God's character is always made evident through His action in the world. In other words, there is no disparity between what God does and who He is. His actions are perfectly united with His nature.  


For those saved by God, professing followers of His Son Jesus, this should bring us immense security. We can find deep rest knowing that because God is loving, He will always only act in love. Because He is faithful, He will always only be faithful toward us. Because He is just, He will always only do what is right. Because of this reality, we can live our lives confidently, knowing that our God is dependable to be who He has said He will be. For the Psalmist in this particular Psalm, God is recognized as the One who:


  1. Forgives our sins.
  2. Heals our diseases.
  3. Redeems our lives from the pit.
  4. Crowns us with love and compassion.
  5. Satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles.


The good thing is that this list is not exhaustive by any means; if anything, it's just a starting place.  


I wonder, if you were to reflect today on God's character and action in your life, what would your list look like? How have you seen His activity in your life, and what parts of His character can you tie it to? Pause for a moment today and make your own list; write your own version of this Psalm as a way to worship the Lord. Reflect, recognize, and remember the specific things God has done in your life recently. But also, don't stop there! In this Psalm and many others, the Psalmist uses his reflection as the fuel for his response of worship. Once you've spent time reflecting on God's work, respond to Him. Command your soul to get up and praise the Lord! Allow yourself the space to bless, honor, and thank Him for the personal and specific ways He has revealed Himself to you recently. Our prayer as you listen to "Bless the Lord" is that you, like the Psalmist, will see God's work in your life and bring your offering of thanksgiving to Him.