Thursday, August 04, 2016
I had a great view from my hospital bed last week. The sky was a gorgeous bright blue with big, fluffy white clouds. The tops of the tree tops were a full of different shades of green. Breathtaking! I made several comments about it throughout the afternoon. Later that evening, the clouds had dissipated, the bright blue was starting to dull, and the sun started to appear in the corner of the window. The sun made its way across the sky, and my window, and I was reminded of the many California sunsets I enjoyed on the west coast as the giant ball of fire slowly falls to below the earth’s edge. As I soaked up the sun shining in my eyes, God brought Psalm 103 to mind. There were only about three verses of the psalm I could remember, and my cell phone was almost dead. Fortunately it wasn’t long before Jeremiah returned with my Bible. I didn't even have to ask him to bring it; he knew I would want it.
I wanted to share one of my favorite Hebrew words from this psalm with you. Barak. It means to bless or to kneel. You have probably heard me say before the Hebrew is a very picturesque language. This means that the word pictures created in the Hebrew can help us better understand what the author is saying to us. When we bless someone, it is as if we are bending our knee toward them. This picture gets lost a little bit in our culture. We don’t bow before kings or queens. Kneeling is an act that recognizes you are submitting yourself to, honoring, or at the service of the one you are kneeling before. A man kneels before his girlfriend with a marriage proposal to serve and honor her.
If you are reading the NIV, it will translate barak as praise. This isn’t a bad translation, I simply think bless is a better translation. Take that for what it is worth. A vast majority of the time in Scripture, “bless” is used to talk about us blessing God. That is exactly what is happening in Psalm 103. However, we love to use the word “bless” to ask God to give us something. Remember the word picture, blessing someone is as if we are bending a knee to them. We are asking God to bend His knee toward us to serve us. I hope that makes you as uneasy as it does me. Is there anything wrong with asking God to be with us or help us? Absolutely not! He says he will do those things. Will God bless us? Absolutely! There are uncountable ways that he has.
Psalm 103 always reminds me who is on the throne and that regardless of circumstance, I bless God and God alone. It causes me to ask myself if I’m asking God to bless me more than I am blessing God. My challenge to you is to let Psalm 103 speak to you. Perhaps you could even literally bend your knees and make this psalm your prayer.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all you sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great isis love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Bless the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Bless the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Bless the LORD, o my soul.”