“Bless the LORD, O my soul:
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.”
~ Psalms 103:1
The one hundred and third Psalm is a blessed catalog of the mercies of God to His people. He “healeth all thy diseases” and “redeemeth thy life from destruction.” What wondrous mercy, that “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10)! The Psalmist has ascended to the heights of praise in extolling the mercy of God that is “so great … toward them that fear Him.”
However, before he entered into the inner court of worship, David did some real heart work in order to stir himself up to bless God. That is what we have in our text, David stirring himself up and preparing his heart to worship God. Let us turn our thoughts to the beginning of this magnificent Psalm and learn from David’s example.
In the first place, David rouses his soul, saying, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” It seems strange to hear one speaking of blessing God. We surely understand God blessing man but the converse is rarely heard. What does it mean to bless the Lord? The Hebrew word barak is here translated ‘bless.’ The word means literally to kneel. When God is the subject, it means to kneel to bless God as an act of adoration. To bless God is to worship Him and the Psalmist is preparing himself for that very purpose.
The very fact that David is endeavoring so to stir himself up to this blessed occupation teaches us that man is not naturally in the proper frame of mind and disposition of heart to worship God. Man cannot just enter casually and carelessly upon this business. It takes some real work to prepare oneself for worship. If this were more widely known and practiced, perhaps our worship services would not be so dull and drowsy.
Secondly, let us take notice of some of the particulars of the Psalmist’s work. David does not wish to worship God perfunctorily. He seeks to rouse his very soul. “Bless the LORD, O my soul,” yea, and more than that, he says, “And all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.” One as noble and august as God surely deserves the energies of the inmost soul. David is not content until he has marshaled all his faculties to concentrate on this one purpose.
It will not do for David to draw nigh merely with his lips. He seeks to worship God with all of his being. That was the problem with many in Christ’s day. Jesus said of them, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Their religion appeared pious and their worship serious, but the Lord reproved them as token worshippers and not true worshippers. They were much like Israel in Hosea’s day, whom the prophet rebuked declaring, “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty” (Hosea 10:2).
The problem with token worshippers is that they are not all in the business of worshipping God. Their hearts are divided, half with God and half with self, a part in the church and a part in the world. They spend more time fixing their hair than fixing their heart in preparation to meet God. They spend more time putting on their clothes than putting off the old man. Though I must confess, some need to spend more time putting their clothes on, for it seems that they are in such a hurry to get to church that they neglect to put on the rest of their clothes and come scantily clad. Others take great delight in putting on a new dress or new suit, or some other piece of the latest trendy garb, to come to church and be fashionable, when it were better that they would come to church to meet God and not Sis. Vanity-Fair who will complement them on their new clothes.
The Lord’s house is the place where His “honour dwelleth” (Psalm 26:8). The Lord is in the very midst of the assembly (Matthew 18:20). However, in this Laodicean age in the church, Christ seems to be the last thing on most people’s minds. They are there physically but their minds are on their business of the weekdays, out in their gardens, on the riverbank fishing, on the crock-pot at home, even at the ballgame, and endless other places. The lament of the prophet is applicable today. Isaiah said, “And there is none … that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee” (Isaiah 64:7). How few today really seek to awaken themselves to the worship and service of God. O to God, that men would stir themselves up to take hold of God, that men would rouse themselves and shake off indifferent slumber to truly praise and worship God!
Finally, David said, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.” He knew that he needed to prepare himself for such a great work as praising God. He did not take it lightly. Christian, do you take lightly the worship of God? We need our hearts prepared (Job 11:13) and strengthened (Psalm 27:14) in order to worship Him acceptably. Let us think on these things, give ourselves wholly to them, and then let us stir ourselves up to praise and worship Him whose mercy “is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).