Category Archives: Christian Living

Forget Not

O Bless the Lord, My Soul[1]

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,
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.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
Psalm 103:1-5, 7 ESV

God is good! His blessings to his people are beyond counting. His faithfulness to his people is without lapse. God is aware of the smallest need of his people. Nothing is beyond his notice. Needless to say then, God is deserving of – and is owed – the loving adoration and praise of his people. 

In the psalms, another way of saying “praise the Lord” is “bless the Lord.” This is the call of the psalmist in Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV). Commentator J. A. Motyer writes that “when the Lord ‘blesses’ us, he reviews our needs and responds to them; when we ‘bless’ the Lord, we review his excellencies and respond to them.”[2]  Isaac Watts wrote a resounding call to praise – O Bless the Lord, My Soul – based on the “excellencies” of God mentioned in the first seven verses of Psalm 103.  Watts first joins with the psalmist in drawing on his mind and emotions to inform his speech in giving praise to God.

O bless the Lord, my soul; let all within me join
And aid my tongue to bless his name, whose favors are divine.

In view of the immeasurable nature of God’s favors toward his people, how terrible it is to forget; to fail to take notice or acknowledge or thank God for his blessings.  This was the great sin of Israel that led to all other sins: “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel” (Psalm 106:13 ESV). But let’s not be judgmental of others because we are guilty of doing the same thing. So, this admonition from Watts.

O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let his mercies lie
Forgotten in unthankfulness, and without praises die.

What are these blessings that the psalmist and Isaac Watts commend to our consideration? Well, can there be any greater blessing than the forgiveness of sin? Any greater healing than the cleansing of the soul? Dare we fail to give thanks to God for his concern for our bodies as our Great Physician?

‘Tis he forgives your sins, ‘tis he relieves your pain,
‘Tis he that heals your sicknesses and makes you young again.

The gifts and blessings of God are an expression of his great love for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Even the psalmist, centuries before Christ, knew that it is God alone who can deliver from the power of death and hell and the grave.

He crowns your life with love when ransomed from the grave;
He that redeemed my soul from hell has sovereign power to save.

God’s blessings are not just for our eternal welfare, but he also cares for our temporal needs. The psalmist writes that God “satisfies us with good” so that our “youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 5 ESV). The New Revised Standard Version translation of v. 5 adds “as long as you live,” and the New English Bible renders that phrase “in the prime of life.” An eagle in flight with its majestic plumage and vigorous appearance is a symbol of strength. God faithfully blesses his people all of their lives.  God’s blessing restores health and hope to his struggling saints.

He fills the poor with good; he gives the sufferers rest.
The Lord has judgments for the proud and just for the oppressed.

Rest. Justice. Protection. Forgiveness. Deliverance. Healing. Restoration. Divine providence. And these barely scratch the surface of the good blessings of God. God’s ancient people Israel saw God at work as they were led by Moses out of bondage in Egypt into the land God promised to them. Moses was the great deliverer and lawgiver of Israel, but all that he was and did pointed to the future when the True Deliverer and Fulfiller of the law would come. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).

His wondrous works and ways he made by Moses known,
But sent the world his truth and grace by his beloved Son.

Let us not be neglectful. Let us not forget “all his benefits.” Let us make the call of the psalmist our daily cry: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (v. 1 ESV).

[1] TEXT: Isaac Watts (1709), from Psalm 103. TUNE: ST. MICHAEL from Genevan Psalter (1543).

[2] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 552). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

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Faithfully Following Our King

Lead On, O King Eternal[1]

Dislike for authority is in the nature of every person. Ever since humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden, people have not wanted to be told what to do. A 1965 television commercial for a headache remedy called Anacin featured a younger woman (with a headache) saying irritably, “Mother, I’d rather do it myself.”  Sounds like the words – or at least the thoughts – we direct toward God. No advice needed. I know better than you what is best for me. The conclusion about ancient Israel that resounds through the Old Testament book of Judges is telling both as to the root problem and the crying need of people and societies then and now. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV).

Thankfully, God has not rejected mankind even though mankind rejects him. “Does their [our] faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV). “. . . If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). Instead of rejecting us, he chooses to help us love and reverence and obey him. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7 ESV). What God promised through Jeremiah is the lived-out experience of every person who has turned from their rebellious ways and yielded control of their lives to THE King of kings.

Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest thy tents shall be our home;
Through days of preparation thy grace has made us strong,
And now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.

The hymn Lead On, O King Eternal speaks to the omnipotence and eternality of God. It also pictures the Christian life as the spiritual battle that it indeed is. In living faithfully for God in this fallen world, our home becomes where God and his people are. Our ability and strength to live for him and serve him comes from his grace given freely to us. But the hymn also pictures the Christian’s “warfare” – and the way in which the Kingdom of God comes, grows, and expands – with language that does not sound like warfare.

Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
By deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes.

By deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”  One who vibrantly lived out the truth of those words was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She lifted people out of garbage dumps and sewer drains, affirming the inherent dignity of every human being because they were image bearers of God. By her humble service, she called the world’s attention to the poor and abandoned. She made significant personal sacrifices to follow her calling to the “poorest of the poor.” One of those sacrifices was her family. When she left her home in Albania to become a nun, she never saw her sister or mother again. According to David Aikman in his profile of Mother Teresa, her brother Lazar had been stunned by her decision to become a nun and wondered whether she was throwing her life away. He wrote to her, suggesting that his life as a military officer in the court of a European king was more exciting and rewarding than her life as a nun. Her reply? “To you it seems something very important to be an officer in the service of a king with two million subjects. Well, I’m an officer too, but I serve the King of the whole world. Which of us is in the better position?”[2]

Lead on, O King eternal, we follow not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning where’re thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.

Mother Teresa had no struggle with God’s authority in her life. When asked “Who is Jesus to you?” she replied, “Jesus is my God; Jesus is my spouse; Jesus is my Life; Jesus is my only Love; Jesus is my All in All; Jesus is my Everything.”[3]  Who is Jesus to you? To me? Who is the “king” that we serve each day? What “kingdom” does our life and labor help to advance? The “kingdom” of this world, or the “. . . Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ?” (Revelation 11:15 ESV). May today – and everyday – find us following as loyal subjects of the King of kings, serving loving and tirelessly as ambassadors of the Kingdom and the King who “. . . shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV).

[1] TEXT: Ernest W. Shurtleff (1888). TUNE: LANCASHIRE, Henry Smart (1836).

[2] Lush Gjergji, Mother Teresa: Her Life, Her Works (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1991). Quoted in David Aikman, GREAT SOULS: Six Who Changed the Century (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003), p. 209.

[3] Aikman, GREAT SOULS, p. 248.

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