Ep.223: Psalm 103: Bless the Lord, O My Soul.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 103 opens with a well-known call to worship:
    Bless the Lord, O my soul,
        and all that is within me
        bless his holy name (v. 1). 

Some modern translations say “Praise the Lord” instead of “Bless the Lord”, but I prefer the word bless. I like the reciprocity, the relationship implied by mutual blessing: God blesses us, and we bless him back. When we feel God’s goodness in our lives, we respond by speaking blessing to others and back to God. Bless the Lord, O my soul. 

The poet blesses God for the good things he gives. God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns us with love and compassion, satisfies our desires with good things, and renews our life like the eagle’s (vv. 3-5). God’s blessings move us toward  lives of wholeness, health, and meaning. 

The poet, who has faced God’s anger and displeasure, does not give way to fear, but asserts positively:
  He will not always accuse,
      nor will he harbour his anger forever;
  he does not treat us as our sins deserve,
      or repay us according to our iniquities.
  For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
      so great is his love for those who fear him;
  as far as the east is from the west,
      so far has he removed our transgressions from us (vv. 9-12). 

Author Walter Brueggemann says, “Psalm 103 stuns those in the chaos of the exile with the proclamation that YHWH [God] acts out of compassion rather than a precise moral calculus. Divine generosity far outlasts the encounter with divine wrath” (Psalms, by Walter Brueggemann and William H. Bellinger, Cambridge University Press, 2018, Kindle, chapter “Psalm 103”). God doesn’t crunch the numbers, weighing our bad deeds against our good. He  forgoes punishing sin, he discards the memory of it, and acts with infinite love. 

Let’s pray to this generous God. 

   As a father has compassion on his children,
    so you have compassion on us, Lord.
  You know how we are formed,
    you remember that we are dust (vv. 13-14). 

Our father, where we have castigated ourselves for broken relationships, failed resolutions, and endless sin, we come to you for forgiveness, healing, and redemption. Where we have lived with long regret for things done and said, and for things not done and not said, we come to you. We remember your promise to satisfy our desires with good things and to renew our life like the eagles (v. 5). Satisfy us, Lord, with the healing of our bodies and minds, with the restoration of relationships, with growing character, and hearts at rest. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Ps 90:14). 

The poet says,
    The life of mortals is like grass,
        they flourish like a flower of the field;
    the wind blows over it and it is gone,
        and it’s place remembers it no more.
    But from everlasting to everlasting
        your love is with those who fear you,
        and your righteousness with their children’s children (vv. 15-17). 

Yes Lord, we feel our lives and our world passing away like grass. The great American democracy drifts toward chaos, Russian politics revert to brutal dictatorship, and the Chinese empire assets its power in a violent world. Our bodies age, our loved ones decline, we attend more funerals than weddings. But your love, O Lord, is from everlasting to everlasting, and your righteousness with our children’s children. 

With poet John G. Whittier, we respond to your love, as he says:
    Yet, in this maddening maze of things,
        And tossed by storm and flood,
    To one fixed hope my spirit clings,
        I know that God is good.
    I dimly guess from blessings known,
        Of greater out of sight,
    And with the chastened psalmist own,
        His judgments too are right (The Eternal Goodness, lines 41-44, 53-56).. 

Judge us, O Lord, as you must, but in mercy and love, in kindness and gentleness. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.