A Psalm of Blessing!
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"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, 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. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For He knows how weak we are — He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone — as though we had never been here! But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear Him. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!"
The Psalmist begins and ends with the same words: "Bless the Lord, O my soul." His heart is full. He pours out his gratitude in words of praise, and can hardly find words to express all that he feels. Oh for a warmth of gratitude like his! Oh for a spirit of praise! Oh for a deeper sense of what God has done for us, and a more lively thankfulness!
It seems likely, from some of his words, that he had just been restored from sickness. "Who heals all your diseases." The first thing he does is to give thanks. Alas! Sometimes, though prayer has been made in sickness, no thanks are given when health is restored. It was not so with David. Doubtless he had prayed in his time of need, and now He calls on his soul to praise God, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" Whatever means he had used, whatever medicines he had taken — it was God who had heard his prayer and healed his disease; and His should be the praise. He was now in health again.
Often, all the serious thoughts of the sick-bed fly away with returning health. But David's did not. He had been brought face to face with death and had been deeply impressed with the shortness and frailty of life. His mind now went back to those sick-bed views and thoughts. "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 the place thereof shall know it no more."
Now that he was strong and well again, he would not forget what he had felt in his weakness and sickness. His life still hung by a thread; he was still but dust, and his flourishing was but like that of the flowers and the grass. It is well when the lessons learned on the sick-bed do thus remain in the mind afterwards, and make us for the rest of life more deeply thoughtful and serious. Surely it is for this that God sends sickness — to teach us, not only then but always, so "to number our days — that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
David calls upon his soul not to forget God's benefits — as if there were a danger of forgetting them. Alas, so there is — and even from their being so many and so constant. We should often remind ourselves therefore of God's blessings to us.
There is not a thing we enjoy — but comes from Him. He restores us from sickness; He continues our life; He feeds and clothes us.
Every comfort in our daily lot,
every deliverance from danger,
every day that is added to our life,
every moment's health and peace
— is God's gracious gift to us.
Yet how often are these things enjoyed with no thought of God! Let us say with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul — and do not forget all His benefits."
But there is another benefit, for which David calls upon his soul to bless God. He says more about it than about all the rest, as if it were the greatest and best. Grateful as he felt for all — he passes over in few words such blessings as life preserved and health restored. Not so with the blessing of sin forgiven. It is the first blessing he mentions, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
Oh! What would all outward comforts be to us, if God were angry with us still? His mercy and favor sweeten all His gifts. The thought that He has forgiven us, makes all bright. This is a blessing that doubles every other blessing and blunts the edge of the sharpest affliction.
"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." No, blessed be God! When we look back on our past life and think of what we have done and of what we have left undone; when conscience is faithful and shows us to ourselves as we really are — then how plainly do we see and how thankfully do we acknowledge that "He has not dealt with us after our sins!"
Where would our comforts and blessings be, where would we ourselves be, if He had dealt with us after our sins! When once we see what sin is, how evil and bitter a thing in itself, how hateful in the sight of God — then we are amazed at the way in which God has dealt with us. He has preserved us, when we might justly have expected to be cut off. He has supplied our needs — when we might have looked to be left destitute of all. He has blessed us — instead of punishing us. He has forgiven us — instead of condemning.
But has He indeed forgiven us? We must all own that He has not dealt with us as we have deserved — but has He forgiven us? If not, it is only because we have not sought forgiveness in His appointed way. For He is willing to forgive us. The blood of Jesus has been shed on our behalf, and through that precious blood there is mercy and pardon for all who seek it. Free mercy and full pardon!
"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!" His is not a half-forgiveness. His mercy is boundless. He pardons fully and forever. The blood of Jesus cleanses the conscience from every stain of guilt — and he who believes with the heart, is justified freely from all his offences.
Great is God's compassion. "Like as a father pities his children — so the Lord pities those who fear Him." Doubtless, even when far off from Him, like the prodigal in a far country — God looks with pity on the poor sinner; but when, through grace, he comes to himself and begins to seek God — then how graciously is he received, and how freely forgiven!
"For He knows how weak we are — He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone — as though we had never been here! But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear Him." Psalm 103:14-17
The shortness and uncertainty of our lives — our weakness, frailty, and sinfulness — God knows them all. Tenderly and graciously does He deal with us! In His great mercy and compassion, He . . .
bears with us;
raises us when we fall;
strengthens us when we are weak; and
helps, guides, sustains and comforts us.
He has . . .
a perfect knowledge of our needs,
an unspeakable compassion for them,
and full power to supply them all.
His mercy is everlasting. It will never wear out — and never come to an end.
As for us, we are frail and short-lived. Let but a few years pass, and . . .
the strongest will have fallen to the scythe of death,
the longest-lived will have all passed away, and
our own course here below will have come to a close.
"Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone — as though we had never been here!"
Not so is the mercy of the Lord, and the things which He has prepared for those who love Him. They are from everlasting to everlasting. His promises will never fail. Jesus is . . .
an all-sufficient Savior,
an unfailing Advocate,
an everlasting portion!
Well may every believer join with the Psalmist in rejoicing and praising God:
"Praise the LORD, O my soul — all my inmost being, praise His holy name!
Praise the LORD, O my soul — and do not forget all His benefits!" Psalm 103:1-2
"The Lord has prepared His throne in the Heavens, and His kingdom rules over all." Safe under His protection, we need fear no evil. The powers of darkness cannot prevail against us — if He is on our side. Sin and the world can never work our ruin — if only we cleave to our God and Savior. Already "His kingdom rules over all" — already there is not a thing that can happen except by His permission.
But hereafter He will reign yet more visibly and gloriously. All the powers of darkness will be subdued; sin and death will be no more; "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15). All who love Him shall be with Him in His glory — every humble believer shall have his portion there. Happy portion! Happy kingdom! Happy prospect! "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" For all His benefits, for life and health, for food and clothing, for comfort in trouble, for pardoning mercy, for the gift of a Savior, for the promise of the Spirit, for all present blessings, and for so happy a prospect beyond, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"