What Does It Mean To “Bless The Lord”?

by Kevin Burton

   Our family Bible study took us through Psalm 103 recently, where we encountered no fewer than five admonitions to “bless the Lord.”

   I had read this before, but this time it stopped me short. This blessing business is supposed to go the other way, God blessing us.  When God blesses us we are helped and strengthened in some way. In that sense there is no way I can bless God.

   If I am “blessing” someone there is usually some sort of pejorative involved.  If I am late for a meeting for example, “Oh here’s Kevin blessing us with his presence.”

   This is different. Here are the verses I’m talking about in Psalm 103, in the KJV, written by King David of Israel.

   “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” verses 1-2.

   “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul” verses 20-22.

   What does David mean exactly?

   “To bless God means to praise Him or to honor His name,” is one answer from www.compellingtruth.org.

   “The Hebrew word translated ‘bless’ in the Old Testament literally means to kneel, indicating the idea of honoring the Lord. We do not add anything to Him when we bless Him, yet we worship Him as our appropriate response to His greatness and His love for us.”

   Here’s more help from John Piper, founder of www.desiringgod.org, who has published two articles on the subject.

   “Man’s blessing God is an expression of praising thankfulness…an exclamation of gratitude and admiration,” Piper wrote in 1978.

   We’re not too far removed from the Thanksgiving holiday to talk a little thankfulness are we?  But it’s actually the theme of Piper’s second article that got me thinking.

    “What David is doing in the first and last verses of this psalm, when he says ‘bless the Lord O my soul,’ is saying that authentic speaking about God’s goodness must come from the soul,” Piper writes.   

   Piper says praising or blessing God with the mouth without the soul would be hypocrisy.  “Lip service” is the term we use for what Jesus described in the book of Matthew.

   “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me,” (Matt. 15:8 NASB).

   Piper believes David, in repeating “bless the Lord” is preaching to others but also to himself, saying in effect, “let us bless the Lord with our whole being.”

   In other words, David didn’t have a compartment for God.  Not just on certain days, not just at certain venues, not just with certain people. He sought to bless God all the time.

   We all know David didn’t always live up to that. I don’t either.  

   It’s just not as easy as that is it?  Life pulls you in multiple directions. Life turns up and turns down the heat, but never turns it off. 

   Yet you and I know the difference don’t we, within ourselves? We know whether we are a flawed human falling short of God’s standards, our own standards for that matter, or a man or woman given to lip service.

    I will know in my own heart if I am merely constructing a plausible picture of righteousness as the image I want to be known by. 

   Well there are two known bys in this life. There is the known by of the person in the next cubicle, the nest pew on a Sunday morning, your neighbor, a grocery store clerk. Then there is the known by that God sees. He sees through that façade you and I have constructed.

  This you that He sees is the real you.

   Pastor Tony Evans is talking about faith. But his conclusion fits our discussion.

   “Faith is verifiable. You never have to guess if you have faith because it shows up in your walk, not just your talk,” Evans wrote.

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