Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
We believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Yet, what that means is not clear in the text itself. For the Scriptures are made up of many kinds of literature – poetry, history, prophecy, wisdom, liturgical direction, narratives, fictional stories (parables for example), rules, regulations, stories of exemplary behavior and of sin. Some of the words of the Bible are directed to God, and some are from God directed to us. Some are prescriptive and some descriptive. The verse quoted above from Psalm 103 is the Psalmist talking to himself, and in turn when we appropriate the text, it is our own giving direction to our self, and is not directed to God.
In that Psalm, I am reminding and commanding myself to bless the Lord. And I am to do it “with all that is within me.” ALL that is within me – with my heart, soul, mind, body. With my lungs, brain, stomach, kidneys, muscles and joints. With my thoughts and yes with my temptations, my feelings, my pains, sorrows, drowsiness and my boredom. The cobwebs in my brain are to bless the Lord, so too my addictions, my doubts, my fears, my joys, my passions, my energies. Everything within me is called to bless the Lord.
And if we could direct everything within us to bless the Lord, our life indeed would be changed! Nothing then would separate us from God, for we would be directing everything within us toward the Lord God. We would become unified and whole, single-hearted, with our entire being directed toward our Creator, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Nothing would separate us from God and nothing would be moving us away from God.
I would indeed in that moment call to mind every blessing God had ever given me, and not only me but everyone I knew, and had given the entire creation. This complete change of heart, mind, direction, a true metanoia, all resulting from blessing the Lord, and simply doing what one verse of the Scriptures tells me to do.
And how long am I to continue this blessing God? For as long as I am alive.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
I am to bless the Lord with all that is within me, and to do it as long as I am still alive. The praising of God is not dependent on how I feel, or whether things are going well or badly, or whether I’m successful or failing, or whether I’m rich or poor, whether or not my prayers have been answered, whether things are happening as I believe they should or not. As long as I live I am to sing this praise to God, to bless God, and to think about things that are pleasing to Him.
And, I can also ask, and just where am I to bless the Lord?
Bless the Lord, all you His works,
in every place of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
I am to bless the Lord in every place of His dominion, which turns out to be everywhere and anywhere. I do not need to go to a special place to bless the Lord for the earth is the Lord’s, and everywhere I am is the place of His dominion, and so I should be blessing the Lord wherever I am. I don’t need to wait until I am in church, nor do I need to go to a monastery to bless the Lord. As St Nikitas Stethatos remarks:
“I have heard people say that one cannot achieve a persistent state of virtue without retreating far into the desert, and I was amazed that they should think that the unconfinable could be confined to a particular locality… the desert is in fact superfluous, since we can enter the kingdom simply through repentance and the strict keeping of God’s commandments. Entry into the kingdom can occur, as David states, in all places of His dominion, for he says, in all places of His dominion bless the Lord, O my soul (Psalm 103:22).” (quoted in PSALMS AND THE LIFE OF FAITH, p 293)
How different the world would be if we Christians blessed God with all that is within us, in every place and in each moment that we are alive. It would be as we pray: On earth as it is in heaven.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)