Bless the Lord, O my soul!
A Meditation of Psalm 103
One of the most beautiful psalms, psalm 103 is the psalm of choice
at special thanksgiving occasions. God blesses us, so we need to
bless God: this is the summary of the psalm.
The word "bless" is used with several different meanings.
1. To make holy by religious rite; sanctify.
2. To make the sign of the cross over so as to sanctify.
3. To invoke divine favor upon.
4. To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.
5. To confer well-being or prosperity on.
6. To endow, as with talent.
When we say, God blesses us, we mean the fifth one – God gives us
prosperity or well-being. When we say we bless God, we mean, the
fourth one – we honor or glorify God.
"Bless" in its fifth meaning may be considered the opposite
of "curse". To bless someone means to wish for his/her well-being.
To curse someone means to wish for his/her misfortune.
It is possible to bless God or curse God. Job's wife advised Job to
curse God and die (Job 2:9) in the midst of excruciating
afflictions. Her reasoning was this: God has cursed us, so let us
also curse God in return. But Job refused to accept her reasoning.
Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job1:21)
Instead of cursing God, he blessed God. He believed that whatever he
had really belonged to God. God took only what belonged to God, not
what belonged to Job. On the other hand, Job's wife believed that
God took way what belonged to them. Here curse means accuse for
wrongdoing, and bless means vindicate or justify. Job's wife
believed that God was wrong, so she blamed God, and cursed God. Job
believed that God was right, so he justified God, and blessed God.
It is not uncommon for us in our day to day life to be like Job's
wife, and curse God. In psalm 103, the psalmist lists a number of
reasons to justify God, and tries his best to clear any
misunderstanding we may have about God. It takes very strong faith
to justify God, and to bless God in the midst of afflictions. Only
God knows what He does, and why He does so. "Where was God when the
Tsunami hit?" people ask. We ask such questions from our
expectations of God as Job's wife had. Who are we to tell God what
to do and what not to do?
The psalmist affirms that God is like a father to us. God is kind to
us, and He forgives all our iniquities. At times He gets angry, but
he does not stay like that long. There is a reason for God to treat
us this way. God knows us in and out. God knows that we are just
like dust or like flowers. We are not God's match for God to hate us
or treat us as enemies.
At the beginning of the psalm (vs. 1-5) the psalmist tells himself
to bless the Lord. Then (vs.6-18), he tells all the people in the
world to bless the Lord. Finally (vs. 19-22), he tells all the
angels and everything else that exist everywhere else to bless the