As in the firmament one star differs from another star in
glory, so this hymn shines with surpassing luster. Through a long course of
years it has been especial comfort to the Church. May it be especial comfort
to our hearts!
1-2. "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is
within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget
all His benefits."
Praise is a plant of heavenly growth. It is the saint's
choice garden of delights. Drowsy souls should be stirred up, and every
faculty quickened to expend its language. Heaven is opened wide to pour down
benefits. Every benefit should be received with adoration. Abundant crops of
praise should spring from this abundant seed.
3-5. "Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all
your diseases. Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with
loving-kindness and tender mercies. Who satisfies your mouth with good
things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
A throng of mercies crowd upon our view. Each presents
large themes of praise. Who can bless God enough that He is ever ready to
pardon—that He has provided a fountain in His dear Son's blood to wash out
every iniquity. It is a soul-transporting truth that those who hide in the
Savior's wounds are screened forever from His wrath. But the believer,
though heir of forgiveness, is ever prone to fall into unhealthy malady. It
is a true description, The whole head is sick—and the whole heart faint—from
the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there is nothing in us but
wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. Can these diseases be all healed?
Jesus is full remedy. He gives health and a cure. He is Jehovah-Rophi. To
Him, also, we may bring every malady of our sickly frames. During His
earthly ministry diseases fled before Him. As many as touched Him were made
perfectly whole. What an encouragement to bring all sickness to Him! He is
Jesus still. Who can give thanks enough for redemption's wonders! It rescues
us from destruction's grasp. It cries, Deliver him from going down to the
pit; I have found a ransom. Lovingkindness, also, and tender mercies exalt
the believer to grand eminence. A crown is set upon his head, sparkling with
glory. Rich supplies too of sustenance are abundantly provided. All things
necessary to cheer and to invigorate enrich his board. Thus, though at times
he may appear to droop, he revives, as an eagle, rising from its languishing
to the freshness and vigor of its youth.
6-7. "The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for
all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the
children of Israel."
He especially befriends His children, when oppressed by
cruel foes. He stretches forth His hand to vindicate their cause. In His
dealings with Moses and the children of Israel, He draws a chart in which
His watchful guidance may be ever traced.
8-10. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to
anger, and plentiful in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He
keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor
rewarded us according to our iniquities."
The Lord's tender dealings are here portrayed. It is
Scripture's frequent testimony that He is rich in mercy, and that His mercy
endures forever. Mercy looks upon our misery and flies to give alleviation.
Grace, also, is its close comrade. It compassionates demerits. It brings the
robe of Christ's righteousness to cover our unworthiness. We are quick to
sin. But our God is long-suffering. He pauses and restrains due vengeance.
The plenitude of His goodness outweighs the plenitude of our guilt. When He
chides it is His strange work. The scourge is soon checked, and smiles of
love dispel the frowns of wrath. Who can regard our mountains of mountains
of iniquity, and not confess, We are undone. If God should dispense strict
justice to our sins, we perish. But in Christ Jesus free grace triumphs.
11-12. "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so
great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the
west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Infinitude is borrowed to exemplify God's mercy.
Immeasurable distance parts the heaven from earth, so God's mercy exceeds
all bounds. Thought cannot conceive it. Words cannot express it. Ransomed
souls are its main recipients. They are aptly described as filled with the
reverential grace of fear. Infinite space again expresses the removal of our
sins. No traversing steps can join the east to west. As we advance from the
one the other constantly recedes. Let us bless the Holy Spirit for employing
this image to teach how utterly the guilt of sin is cancelled.
13-14. "As a father pities his children, so the Lord
pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are
Sweet is the picture of paternal love. Compassion melts a
father's breast. He speaks and acts in constant tenderness. But what is
earthly feeling compared to the benevolence of a heavenly Father's heart! He
knows, also, our every infirmity. By fellow-feeling Jesus sympathizes with
15-18. "As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower
of the field, so he flourishes; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone;
and its place shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from
everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him, and His righteousness
unto children's children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that
remember His commandments to do them."
This picture shows the frailty and instability of man.
Enduring strength is not his property. Behold the grass of the meadow! The
Word cries, "All flesh is grass." For a little moment it is green and
vigorous. But in a speck of time it is dried up and withered. Behold, also,
the flower of the field! It presents a lovely form. But evanescent is its
beauty! A biting wind arises. Its bright hues all fade. It disappears and
leaves no trace. Its place is vacant. We may search, but it is gone. View
now in contrast the mercy of our God! It is from everlasting to everlasting.
It endures forever. No age can change its loveliness, or dim its beautiful
smiles. So, also, His righteousness beams from generation to generation.
Covenant love blesses His faithful people, whose delight is to be steadfast
in His ways, and in whose thoughts His commandments have perpetual sway.
19. "The Lord has prepared His throne in the heavens;
and His kingdom rules over all."
Faith is invigorated by contemplating the sovereignty of
God. In heaven He sits as King. His rule is unbounded over all the
inhabitants of earth. What thought can be more cheering! What truth can give
more solid support! How safe are they who shelter beneath His wings. They
are kept as the very apple of His eye. Who can harm them? His sheep shall
never perish, for who can pluck them out of His hands?
20-22. "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in
strength, who do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all His hosts; you ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion; bless the
Lord, O my soul."
Let universal praise pervade all heaven and earth. Let
all the angelic hosts, whose life is uninterrupted service, shout aloud.
Marvelous powers are their inheritance. Let all be consecrated to one work.
Theirs is the joy of hearkening to His voice. Let theirs be the joy of
rendering blessing. Let all creation swell the strain. Throughout His realm
let silence be unknown. O my soul, let noblest rapture emanate from you. Let
loudest notes attest your love.