Psalm 103 is one of those that feels familiar because we have heard it’s language in our music and prayers Yet if we look at the wording and think about it, it is a bit strange. The first 5 verses are below (I couldn’t pick just one). The term soul at the time of the Psalms doesn’t mean what we think of now as an everlasting part of us. At that time the soul meant the complete us, like the next phrase says. Not just our physical life, or possessions but everything we are. I also read in my study Bible that life after death wasn’t a component of Judaism at the time of the Psalms either, although it is later. The “pit” is being cast off from God to despair and loss: being separated from God and thus all that is good. The very first word “Bless” is also strange as blessings are something we usually get or ask from God. We can also be a blessing to someone else, or be blessed by someone else. Some versions translate this as “praise” which is probably closer to the mark, but does that miss something? Can you bless the Lord? We can certainly praise God and see blessings we receive from God. We can say bless you meaning thank you- an honoring of gifts. That may be all the Psalmist meant. But can we mean more? In this day, can we do something for God that is a blessing for him too?
Reading Psalm 103:1-5 (Below)
As with many of the Psalms, you really should read this out loud. Imagine being so full of joy and connection that you shout it out. You can probably imagine pretty easily singing it as part of a powerful choir, or with your own limited voice in the privacy of your car. But also, it could be whispered quietly to yourself- so that just you and God hear those words. There is power in words to create feelings and touch the spirit, even if you were unsure the word to start with. Say this out loud and what do you hear?
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.