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! (Psalm 103:20–22)
I admire Eagle Scouts. It takes dedication, hard work, perseverance — exactly what I couldn’t see myself mustering up as a little kid Cub Scout. To be sure, I have great memories of the camp outs and toasted marshmallows, but then there’s that moment when I figured out that scouting wasn’t my thing. It was during a session on how to tie knots.
Our scout leader gathered a group of guys, grabbed a rope, and begin instructing us on a few different approaches to tying it. I was bored out of my mind. I already knew how to tie my shoes, and I never imagined myself having to tie anything else. Immature and juvenile as it was, I remember when the light bulb came on: I neither know how to do this nor care to learn. It was a deflating combination of ignorance and apathy.
It was precisely not what we see in Psalm 103.
Speaking to Angels
In this passage of Scripture, we see four intensive commands: Bless the Lord, bless the Lord, bless the Lord, bless the Lord. And they are spoken, first, by a man to angels.
It is astounding to consider this scene. David, a human being like you and me, gathers a group of angels, as it were, and begins to instruct them. Like us, he most likely had never seen these creatures before, and yet he starts instructing them. He starts telling them what to do. “Bless the Lord!” he tells them.
But here’s the thing (and why this is so different from knot-tying instructions) — David isn’t speaking to a group of novices. Praising God is what these angels do. There is no ignorance or apathy here. David is telling them to do something that they were created to do, something they have always done, something they understand better than anyone. So why?
Time to Awake
John Calvin, commenting on this passage, explains that David recognizes the angels’ leadership in the task of praising God. David knows they run swiftly before us in worship, and here he intends to convince us to join their song “that by their example he may awaken us from our drowsiness.” David is aiming at us here. He wants us to bless God. He wants us to participate in that endless chorus of praise.
We see that David merely starts with the angels, and then moves to all the works of God’s creation and the places of his dominion, and then finally he gets to the soul — to his own soul and ours.
All creation, everything that is not God, is meant to exalt God — to join God in delighting in himself, in his manifold perfections, his matchless beauty, his unending glory made known in Jesus Christ. Everything is meant to exalt God. All God’s works, like the way snow melts and stars burn, the way darkness looks in the depths of the ocean and the way cheeseburgers taste on a summer night. The way birds fly and caterpillars crawl, the way the sun looks at dusk when the sky is painted orange and pink. Everything is meant to exalt God. We are meant to exalt God. And so we will.
With the angels, with all of creation, we say: I will exalt you. You are my God. My hiding place, my refuge and place of safety. My treasure, Lord, you are. I will exalt you!