Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1)
I’ve sung the song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman approximately 10,000 times. A friend of mine calls it the “Free Bird” of worship. Someone always wants you to play it.
And while I truly do love the song, I think I say the phrase, “Bless the Lord O my soul,” far too quickly. The words slip through my lips without much thought to exactly why I’m blessing the Lord.
It’s like when I talk about God’s love. I say, “God loves me,” without putting real flesh and bones on the phrase.
Now, this isn’t necessarily wrong. I mean, anytime I bless the Lord it’s a wonderful thing. But Psalm 103 is like a gold mine. Too often I scratch for gold dust on the surface when entire veins of spiritual gold lie beneath.
So what should be on my mind when I say, “Bless the Lord O my soul?”
Egypt. And bull sacrifices.
Bless The Lord and Forget Not The Old Covenant
It’s easy to forget when David was writing Psalm 103. When I read about God forgiving all my sins and taking my sins away as far as east from west, I almost immediately go to the forgiveness I have in Jesus.
That’s good, but there’s so much more to it.
David was blessing the Lord for all the glorious benefits he received…
…as part of the Mosaic Covenant.
When David said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,” he didn’t have the final, finished sacrifice of Christ in mind.
He was joyfully remembering how God had provided a sacrificial system of bulls and goats to temporarily take away the sins of the people of Israel. He was exulting in the fact that God had uniquely chosen Israel and created a system (the Mosaic Law) through which Israel could have a real, though limited, relationship with the living God.
When David said, “He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” he was calling to mind when God orchestrated a divine jailbreak and led the people out of Egypt.
When Israel jabbed their fingers in God’s face and accused him of leading them into the desert to die, God didn’t destroy them. When they worshiped the golden calf, God didn’t kill all of them, as he could have. Instead, he cared for them, gave them manna in the desert, and drove out their enemies. He poured out love that was as high as the heavens are above the earth.
David was overwhelmingly grateful for God’s redeeming, delivering love. He was astounded that God would provide any way of forgiveness, no matter how temporary or limited that was.
When he reflected on God’s covenant love, he knew that the only right response was gratefulness.
Bless The Lord O My Soul Because of Christ
Now here’s where things get really mindblowing.
The Mosaic Covenant was a temporary solution for a permanent problem. Bulls and goats couldn’t take away sin. The blood of an animal could never be sufficient repayment for the wreckage caused by sin.
The priests had to offer the same sacrifices again and again. The High Priest only had access to the Most Holy Place one time per year. The hearts of the people were still prone to wander into idolatry.
And yet when David gazed at all that God had done for Israel, he exploded in praise. He was astonished that God would make any way, no matter how limited or temporary, for Israel to be God’s chosen people.
What we have in Christ is infinitely greater than what David had under the Mosaic Law. Instead of bulls and goats, we have the final, finished, once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Our forgiveness is complete.
Instead of a single high priest entering the holy place once per year, we are all priests to God with access to his presence at all times. We have privileges that the priests could only dream of. We have the privilege of true, intimate communion with the living God.
Instead of deliverance from Egypt, we’ve been delivered from the dark filth of the kingdom of Satan. The disease of our soul, which causes us to be bent toward sin, has been cured.
For the tenth and final plague, God killed the firstborn sons of Egypt. For our salvation, God killed the firstborn of all creation.
In 2 Corinthians 3:10, Paul says:
Indeed, in this case, what once had glory [the Old Covenant] has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory [New Covenant] that surpasses it.
Did the Old Covenant have some glory? Yes, absolutely! But it was a pale, fading glory. And yet when David beheld the glory, he summoned all that was within him to exalt and praise God.
The glory of the New Covenant is like the light of the sun compared to a nightlight. There is no comparison!
Of course, this then presses a really important question on us: If David was overwhelmed with gratitude at the blessings he received, how much more grateful should we be for all that we have in Christ?
I confess, my gratefulness is so out of proportion to what I’ve been given. My thankfulness never rises to the level of riches I have in Christ. Too often I’m preoccupied with what I don’t have.
And so I’m challenged – challenged to reflect deeply on what I’ve been given so that I can respond by saying, “Bless the Lord O my soul.”