His faithfulness to his people is without lapse. God is aware of the smallest need of his people. Nothing is beyond his notice. Needless to say then, God is deserving of – and is owed – the loving adoration and praise of his people.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
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.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
Psalm 103:1-5, 7 ESV
In the psalms, another way of saying “praise the Lord” is “bless the Lord.” This is the call of the psalmist in Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV). Commentator J. A. Motyer writes that “when the Lord ‘blesses’ us, he reviews our needs and responds to them; when we ‘bless’ the Lord, we review his excellencies and respond to them.” Isaac Watts wrote a resounding call to praise – O Bless the Lord, My Soul – based on the “excellencies” of God mentioned in the first seven verses of Psalm 103. Watts first joins with the psalmist in drawing on his mind and emotions to inform his speech in giving praise to God.
O bless the Lord, my soul; let all within me join
And aid my tongue to bless his name, whose favors are divine.
In view of the immeasurable nature of God’s favors toward his people, how terrible it is to forget; to fail to take notice or acknowledge or thank God for his blessings. This was the great sin of Israel that led to all other sins: “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel” (Psalm 106:13 ESV). But let’s not be judgmental of others because we are guilty of doing the same thing. So, this admonition from Watts.
O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let his mercies lie
Forgotten in unthankfulness, and without praises die.
What are these blessings that the psalmist and Isaac Watts commend to our consideration? Well, can there be any greater blessing than the forgiveness of sin? Any greater healing than the cleansing of the soul? Dare we fail to give thanks to God for his concern for our bodies as our Great Physician?
‘Tis he forgives your sins, ‘tis he relieves your pain,
‘Tis he that heals your sicknesses and makes you young again.
The gifts and blessings of God are an expression of his great love for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Even the psalmist, centuries before Christ, knew that it is God alone who can deliver from the power of death and hell and the grave.
He crowns your life with love when ransomed from the grave;
He that redeemed my soul from hell has sovereign power to save.
God’s blessings are not just for our eternal welfare, but he also cares for our temporal needs. The psalmist writes that God “satisfies us with good” so that our “youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 5 ESV). The New Revised Standard Version translation of v. 5 adds “as long as you live,” and the New English Bible renders that phrase “in the prime of life.” An eagle in flight with its majestic plumage and vigorous appearance is a symbol of strength. God faithfully blesses his people all of their lives. God’s blessing restores health and hope to his struggling saints.
He fills the poor with good; he gives the sufferers rest.
The Lord has judgments for the proud and just for the oppressed.
Rest. Justice. Protection. Forgiveness. Deliverance. Healing. Restoration. Divine providence. And these barely scratch the surface of the good blessings of God. God’s ancient people Israel saw God at work as they were led by Moses out of bondage in Egypt into the land God promised to them. Moses was the great deliverer and lawgiver of Israel, but all that he was and did pointed to the future when the True Deliverer and Fulfiller of the law would come. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).
His wondrous works and ways he made by Moses known,
But sent the world his truth and grace by his beloved Son.
Let us not be neglectful. Let us not forget “all his benefits.” Let us make the call of the psalmist our daily cry: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV).
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