Psalm 103

Note to my readers: One of the advantages of reading the Bible according to the plan we are following this year is that we get to sample the varied styles and genres of the different books. In contrast to the “historical narrative” style of Acts we have enjoyed for the past 19 days, today we will turn to the poetic style of the Psalms. Wile Acts was written to tell a story and to relate events and conversations and personalities, the Psalms were written to make us feel something and to affect our mindset and perspective. Enjoy!

When David was inspired to write Psalm 103, he employed a literary technique known as “inclusio”, the placing of similar words or phrases at the beginning and end of a section. The bookend “blessing” (or “praise”) sections in verses 1-2 and 20-22 (in particular the line “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”) give meaning to the verses in between. “Bless”, the operative word in the psalm, is one of those picture words in Scripture: it paints a picture that helps us to understand the meaning. It literally means to kneel, to get down on one’s knees. David calls on us to picture ourselves as undeserving recipients of God’s grace who come to Him so full of gratitude and love that we fall on our knees at His feet to thank Him and to praise Him “with all that is within us” (v.1).

What has the Lord done for us that would evoke such a reaction of grateful praise? The list of “benefits” (v.2, things freely given) is impressive and inspiring. In verses 3-5 David lists forgiveness of sins, healings, redemption, steadfast love, mercy, and soul-satisfaction. Verses 6-13 continues with a description of how the Lord deals with those whom He loves, and it reveals what He is really like: mercy, grace, steadfast love, removing sins, and showing compassion.

For all these reasons and many more, my soul should join the angels of heaven and all of creation in falling down and praising the the one who has been so good to me (v.20-22). “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”

Before you complete your time with the Lord today, make your own list of blessings. Write down in your Bible or your journal some ways He has blessed you. Think in terms of past, present, and future (promised) blessings. In a prayer of praise, thank Him for each one specifically. Try it on your knees, Old Testament style!