Saturday, 25 December 2021

Bless the Lord, O my soul

We should have a conversation with our soul and determine to praise the Lord in spite of our emotions or our circumstances
I pray you are all having a lovely Christmas. When you read this, Christmas day will be over and hopefully you will still have a few more days to relax. I don’t know about you but for me this time between Christmas and New Year is often a time of reflection. I think about next year and how I can do things better. I am not going to call this ‘making new year’s resolutions’ because I am notoriously bad at keeping them for more than a week or two!!  I am just going to call it reflection.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a bible teaching and the speaker said something that I had never really thought of before. He said that David often gave himself a good talking to. He said that in his psalms, he spoke to his soul and told it to do certain things. So, I looked into this a bit more deeply and found he was, of course, completely correct. 

Psalm 103 begins and ends with David’s command to his own soul to bless the Lord, Verse 1 says "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"

The commentator Matthew Henry wrote about this verse, “David is here communing with his own heart, and he is no fool that thus talks to himself and excites his own soul to that which is good. Observe how he stirs up himself to the duty of praise.” 

In verse 2 he tells his soul not to forget the good things the Lord does and is. It says: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."

In this wonderful psalm David then goes on to list the amazing qualities of God that should always be brought to mind. He recalls that the Lord forgives, he heals, has mercy, redeems, crowns us with steadfast love and much more. David lifts his gaze up from his own circumstances and fixes he eyes upon the Lord’s acts of provision. David is moved. A heart that was struggling to cope is now soaring. An overwhelming gratitude, that he can’t keep in, wells up inside him, and at the end he ends with talking to his soul again. He says in verse 22 "Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

So, I ask myself, do I speak to my soul and tell it to bless the Lord? Am I reminding myself of what God has done for me in Christ Jesus? Or when I don’t feel like praising God, do I let my soul take command and persuade me not to bother?
Next, I want to turn to Psalm 42. There is some discrepancy about who wrote Psalm 42 Some say that David probably wrote these words when he was in exile after the betrayal of his son Absalom. Others disagree. But whoever wrote it, that person was obviously in a desperate situation. The writer says to himself: 5. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. He is asking himself the reason for the despair he feels in his soul. At the end of the psalm, in verse 11 he repeats the same words. He tells himself to put his hope in God with the result that his soul will give praise to God because He can always be counted on to help. He looks at his situation and makes an honest assessment. He doesn’t come to self-centred conclusions, and he doesn’t feel sorry for himself, he doesn’t get deeper into agitation and anguish and have a pity party. No, he asks his soul why he feels like that and then proceeds to change his outlook by talking to his soul for God’s glory. It seems clear that we should have a conversation with our soul and determine to praise the Lord in spite of our emotions or our circumstances. We need to talk to our souls, regardless of how we feel and bring ourselves into line with God and His will. 

Lastly, I turn to Psalm 131, a Psalm of David and only three verses long.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

In this psalm David says that he does not rush at power and grandeur, or aim at that which is beyond his reach, as many men in his position might do. Instead, he calmed and quieted his soul. He has again spoken to his soul and brought it under control. He has a stillness of soul that is not rooted in circumstances but in the Lord. Our Lord never changes, and we can trust in His unfailing love for us. If we take this truth on board then we can tell our soul to be at rest in His presence and find a deep contentment in the Lord.

I was listening to someone speaking on this psalm the other day and he said that it was necessary to get our soul to be calm and quiet if we want to pray and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. He said the soul is like a petulant child, constantly pulling on his mother’s skirt to get attention, when she was trying to talk seriously with someone else. That resonates with how I feel sometimes when I try to pray or worship the Lord. My soul has its own agenda. The soul wants its own way and if we want to live in harmony with God, we need to give our souls a good talking to at times. There are many other examples in the bible of people giving orders to their souls, so I am going to give it a try this coming year. If it’s good enough for the man after God’s own heart, it’s good enough for me!!

Author: Thelma Cameron

May God bless and enrich your life

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