A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)
This wonderful psalm reminds us to give grateful praise to God for all His goodness and love that He continually demonstrates for His children. When we think of blessing someone, we often think of doing something good for that person. When we think of God blessing us, we might think of having good health, a nice home, a wonderful family and friends or any number of things – good things. But is that really what it means to be blessed? And if that is so, how can we possibly bless God? I mean, what can we give to God that He does not already have? (Besides your heart)
Perhaps “blessing” is not what we think it is. As translated in this psalm (and many other places in the Old Testament) the Hebrew word is bârak, and according to the Strong’s Dictionary, it means: “to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or the king, as treason): – X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank.” I don’t know about you, but that definition is certainly confusing. In reading the context of the psalm, we gather that cannot mean to curse God, so by the general tone of the psalm we can infer “an act of adoration.” The Greek translation in the Septuagint (LXX) of this psalm uses the word eulόgei, which means “to speak well of,” and from which we get our English word “eulogy.” I have never been to a funeral where an ill word was spoken of the dearly departed; only good is spoken of the dead in a eulogy.
So this psalm encourages us to “eulogize” God from the very core of our being. We are to “speak well of” His holy name. Why should we do this? The next four verses instruct us. We “eulogize” Him because of how He treats us, i.e., “His benefits.” He forgives our perversities (“iniquities”) which is a disease that only He can heal. He “redeems” our lives, i.e., He “buys us back” from destruction, i.e., eternity in hell. Not only that, but He elevates us to royal status by awarding us a crown, and all of this is because of His “loving-kindness” and “tender mercies.” This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) who spurned his father’s love and wasted all that his father gave to him. Then, while in the filthy, smelly pigsty, having hit absolute bottom, the son remembered all that the father’s house had to offer, and leaving his pride in the mud pit, he determined to return to his father’s house as a lowly servant. But rather than chastise him for his ingratitude and cast him out as a worthless vagrant, the father welcomed him with open arms and elevated him to his former status of the master’s son and heir to the father’s wealth. Then the father threw a huge party with lots of wonderful food – he killed the “fatted calf” that was reserved for special occasions – to celebrate his boy’s return. The fifth verse tells us that He “satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Imagine how the son felt after a long season of hunger, shame, and disgrace! That is what God offers us, and we should speak well of Him for that.
We eulogize the Lord because He carries out righteous judgment on behalf of all who are oppressed. He is merciful – He withholds the punishment we deserve; He is slow to anger. He is gracious – granting us what we do not deserve; He is abounding in mercy. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (v. 10). As great as His mercy is – greater than the heights of heaven – it is there for those “that fear Him.” Do not think for one moment that you can live like the devil and obtain His mercy; but His mercy is there when you recognize Him for Who He is – the great Creator God, Who is to be feared, and whose name is holy and deserves to be “well-spoken of.” When we understand that, He will remove our transgressions, “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (v. 12).
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (v. 13). “Pity” is an unfortunate translation here. The Hebrew word is râcham, and it means to fondle, love, show compassion. Picture a father or mother cuddling an infant child – that’s the picture; and again it is qualified by “them that fear Him.” His love and compassion stem from the fact that He knows our “frame.” That Hebrew noun is yêtser, whose verb form is yâtsar, which means to “mold” or “form” as a potter fashions a clay vessel. God knows how we were made because He made us out of the dust of the earth, and He cherishes us. This should cause us to “bless” His name!
Our life on earth is brief. Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This psalm reminds us of that truth. When compared to eternity, our life is like grass or a Texas wild flower; when the hot winds of summer blow in, they dry up and their beauty is forgotten. But God’s mercy is not like that. This psalm says that His mercy “is from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). Once again, the promise is to “them that fear Him,” i.e., “To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (v. 18). For these “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (v. 19).
In light of all that God has done, all of His creation – the hosts of angels that do His bidding and all of His “works” over which He has dominion (that includes everything and excludes nothing) – can do no less than “speak highly, reverently, and fearfully of the Lord.” And if we fail to do so, Jesus says that the very “stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). Let not the stones do what we were created to do. “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”