“Let’s start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start,” sings Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. The start of reading is A, B, C. The start of singing is do, re, mi. And the start of you and me is the pursuing, faithful love of God. In Psalm 103, King David meditates on God’s love and His actions of love toward us. In the context of all God has done for us, David exclaims, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
Often a psalm will begin with an idea or truth in the first verse or two and then restate this same idea at the end of the psalm. This gives a structure to the teaching, similar to bookends holding works of literature on a bookshelf. When reading a psalm, I often read the beginning and the end to see the main point that the psalmist is teaching. Then I read the whole chapter. Psalm 103 begins
“Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me,
bless His holy name!”
“Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
In common usage, the word, “bless,” means to benefit another person, to bring about good in their life. How can I, a human, bless God, who is my creator, the One who has given me everything?
In the Old Testament, the word bless comes from a word meaning “to kneel.” To bless is to kneel as an act of adoration or praise, to celebrate on bended knee. Though the psalm begins with a command, it is not a command without context. In these moments of meditation on the great love of God, David concludes that the only proper response is to bless the Lord with all of his being. Instead of my benefitting God, I am responding to God who has benefited me!
As taught in the verses of this psalm, He is the Lord, Yahweh, from whom my very existence comes. He is the One who has forgiven my sins; the One who gives me life for eternity; the One who draws near to me in lovingkindness. Because of all of His benefits toward me (v. 2), I respond by kneeling before Him, recognizing His goodness and love, and responding in praise to my wonderful God!
And who is commanded to bless the Lord? My soul and “all that is within me.”
Could you take a minute and list all that is within you? Your “soul,” as mentioned in the psalm, includes your emotions, will, and mind. What else could you list?* Would you take a moment in prayer and surrender these to God, listing them one by one?
Once, the Lord showed me my heart with an illustration. When an x-ray is taken of an internal organ, the trouble spots are the ones that show up as dark in the picture. The Lord asked me, “If I were to x-ray your heart, would it clearly be all mine? Or would there be dark spots that you withhold from me?”