Text: Psalm 103
David begins Psalm 103 with an exhortation, directed to himself, to “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” Though we regularly read this in most translations as “bless,” the word can also be translated equally well as either “praise” or “worship.” David is telling himself here to be sure to praise and worship God.
There is no particular occasion or reason that sparks this worship. There is no clear indication that this was to be particularly used at a certain feast or festival, or some other regular occasion at the temple. Rather, David begins this psalm by urging himself to worship right now, in this moment, whatever that moment happens to be. Worship is not a Sabbath-only event. It is an “as often as we think of it” event. We should be continually worshipping God.
But David goes further. He is not just interested in worshipping God as often as he thinks of it. He also wants everything that he is – all of his parts, everything that makes him up – to be engaged in this worship. Did you know that your toes can worship God? Did you know that your stomach can worship God? Did you know that your eyes and your hair can worship God? David wants to bring along his whole body, his whole soul, “all that is within” him so that he altogether can bring to God the blessings, praises, and worship that He is due.
This is the point of Psalm 103. Stop, right now, whatever right now is, and praise God. For God is worthy to be praised. And don’t just give God a head nod or a thumbs up. Let all of you come together to bring God the full praise and honor and glory and blessing that He so truly deserves. We imagine worship wrongly as being as solemn as a funeral: calm, quiet, and reflective. There’s nothing wrong with a pensive worship. God wants to be and needs to be worshipped at times when life is calm and we are reflective.
But God also wants to be the one worshipped when a baby is born. When you get promoted at work. When you complete a hard-fought accomplishment. When your team scores the winning play. When you hit a hole in one. When the music is peppy and loud. He wants those moments, too. After all, He created them.
So bring your whole body and engage your whole self in worship. Sometimes that will be quiet. Sometimes it will be standing. Sometimes it will be sitting. Sometimes it will be kneeling. Sometimes it will be as you recline on your bed. But just as often as these, worship comes in the leaps and shouts of triumph and joy. Sometimes worship looks like dancing. Sometimes worship looks like wild and rowdy celebration. God wants all of it. Bring ALL that you are to worship God. And worship God ALL the time.
And just in case he needs to, David offers himself – and us – the reasons why we should worship God. Verses 2 through 10 of the psalm are a litany of the “benefits” with which we have been blessed by God. They are just a small sampling of the reasons we have for blessing God with our worship and our praise. Listen to the reasons David offers:
God forgives our iniquities. If you have ever done anything wrong against God, and Paul makes clear that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, if you are part of that “all,” then God forgives you. However large or small your shortcomings are, God forgives.
God also heals. When diseases strike, God heals. Of course we all know many times when God has not healed. Cancer has claimed its victims, the fever proved too overwhelming for the body, the pneumonia did not abate. But just remember how many MORE times God has intervened and healed. Something is going to kill each one of us unless we are alive when Christ comes back. God does not always heal so that we become immortal in this world. We lost that in the fall. But think of how often you have overcome a cold or the flu. Think of how many survivors walk the laps at Relay for Life. Think of all the ways that medicine has saved lives. God is the provider of those medicines. God heals our diseases, whatever they may be.
He redeems our life, just as Boaz redeemed Ruth so that the inheritance of Elimelech would not be lost. God redeems our lives so that our inheritance in His Kingdom might not be lost. He restores in us that which was broken. And He crowns us instead with his steadfast love and mercy that will not fail to see us through.
Beyond these things, God satisfies us. We are a hungry world, seeking many ways to fill the void within. Some seek it in money, some in career, some in fame, some in possessions, some in relationships, some in food, some in drugs, some in sex. We’re all hungry. It is God who satisfies. It is God who finally completes that which we find is missing in our lives. I think of a child who can find utter joy in staying up late at night and watching the lightning bugs flutter around their yard. In that moment, life is complete and full and happy. They are content. God makes us satisfied. He makes us content.
God pursues righteousness and justice for those who are oppressed. We read back in Exodus about how God heard the groanings of His people in Egypt, and then how He worked to deliver them. God reveals Himself to us. He revealed Himself to Moses. He revealed Himself in the plagues and miracles of the exodus to the people of Israel. He revealed Himself most fully in the life of Jesus. And He continues to reveal Himself to us today by His Word through the Holy Spirit. God blesses us by making Himself known.
And then there are the things about God that we discover the more He reveals Himself to us. God blesses us by His very attributes – the very things that make Him God. David lists some of these in verses 8, 9,and 10. He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, quick to move past his anger, just and righteous without demanding an eye for an eye.
If you need to be reminded of why we should worship God, and why every fiber of who we are should take part in that worship, David gives us here just a few of the reasons to remind us.
But not everyone knows God this way. Not everyone looks to God and sees a God worthy of praise and honor because of these great blessings. As verses 11 through 13 say, God truly is steadfast in His love. His love does not and will never fail. God completely removes our transgressions from His people, utterly forgetting them. He is compassionate and concerned for His people. But it is for His people that He is these things.
So who are God’s people? God’s people are the ones who fear Him. Fear here is not the fear one might have of heights or the dark. It is not the fear we feel in the face of tragedy. It is fear in the sense of respect and awe. It is fear because we know what God is capable of. It is fear because we know what it is that God would be justified in doing. It is the fear one has in the presence of great power, but a benevolent power, a power that seeks our good rather than our harm. Power that could snuff us out, that has every right and reason to do just that, but has no desire to do so.
Those who fear God demonstrate their respect and awe of Him. Not by trembling, hidden away in caves. Those who fear God demonstrate their fear by keeping God’s covenant and by remembering to obey his commands. It is the faithful, obedient, covenant-keeping people of God who are the recipients of the many blessings of God. It is on these whom God lavishes all of the great benefits David lists, and so many more.
As David closes his Psalm, he reminds us of the truth of God. God is God. And He is the God of all. As David says in verse 19, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” Whether or not someone (or something) fears God and worships Him does not change the truth that God is God and that God’s kingdom extends over all of the universe. God is God over those who do not fear Him just as much as He is God over those who do fear Him.
So David reaches out to all of creation at the end of the psalm, from the angels of heaven to all of the works of God’s creation everywhere. David invites and exhorts everything to bless this God of blessings by bringing our praise and worship to Him.
But it starts with just one.
Are you part of God’s people? Are you one who obeys, who keeps God’s covenant? Are you one who has experienced God’s lavish blessings? Blessing the God who blesses us starts with each us, individually. With you and with me. Are you going to worship God, or are you going to deny God? God is ready to lavish His blessings on you. Lavish does not begin to describe it, really. Are you willing to let all that is within you, from your very soul out, praise this God who so readily and richly blesses His people?
God is a God of blessings. And this God of blessings desires to bless you. Will you let Him?