Bless the Lord O my soul!

When we speak of God, often we seem to think of Him as the “good guy in heaven” but we don’t seem to think about who it is that we worship.  Oh yes, we call upon Him when there is trouble or when something doesn’t go our way, but we don’t recognize His hand in the blessings that we receive.

It is rather like the children at Christmas time.  We know their lists of toys that they just have to have this year, primarily because the advertisements tell us that they want these things.  When one or two of the “must have” toys are presented, after a perfunctory “oh yes!”, they settle back into the whining that comes from materialism. 

When we receive blessings from God, too often we think that we, somehow, are responsible for the receipt of those blessings.  Our financial status gives us our home and food.  Our educational status provides the work that brings riches to our account.  We take credit and forget that God is the Person who is responsible for all good things that come to us.

David knew this, and he expressed the goodness of God like this in Psalm 103:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psaalm 103:1-5

I dare say that on an average, normal day, we don’t think about God forgiving our iniquity or redeeming our life from the pit.  I expect we do seek healing from Him if the need arises, but the rest is nowhere near the radar of our life.  It should be!  Forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love and mercy … these things are worth so much more than presents around the tree.  These are the things that count eternally.  Oh that we would have an eternal perspective on our life, not a temporal one.

David continues:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Psalm 103:11-13

God is shown by David as a loving Father, a Father who shows compassion to His children.  A Father who has steadfast love for His children and who removes our transgressions, not because we are worthy of such action and not because we could do anything to remove them by our own actions, but because of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Again, David continues:

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,  to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:17-18

Steadfast love – do we really know what that looks like?  In our culture, where divorce is so incredibly easy to obtain, simply by saying there are “irreconcilable differences”, where is steadfast love exhibited?  It is not on any of the television programs that I have seen.  It is not paraded in social media.

Steadfast love is shown by God to His children.  It is from everlasting to everlasting.  It is not transient or illusory.  It is not here today and gone tomorrow. It will not be extinguished because of something that we do. It is steady, like a rock, it is not going to go away simply because life got a bit messy and illness interfered with our plans.

Look around.  Bill and I have been married 34 years.  A number of couples in our church have been married in excess of 60 years and some are well into the upper 70-year range.  As long and meritorious as that is, it is just a tiny little amount when viewed from an eternal perspective.

David continues:

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!  Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22

I believe that we would be included in the last group mentioned – all His works in all places of His dominion. 

Beloved, don’t relegate God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Author of our salvation, and the Lover of your soul to the top shelf of the closet.  Don’t neglect Him this year.  God, through His Word, the Bible, is calling you to bless the Lord. 

Blessing God and declaring His wondrous works toward us is something that should come naturally to the Christian.  We have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who took our place on the cross so that we could be with Him in heaven, forever.  Praising God should be something that we do with heartfelt gratitude for God’s mercy and love to us. 

Beloved, praise the Lord.  You will receive a blessing when you do, and you will want to continue to do it all day long!   Say it with David:

Bless the LORD O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Father, forgive me when I have been too caught up on events and situations in my own life and I fail to Bless You as You deserve.  Forgive me when I attribute good things to actions that I have taken rather than recognizing that those things have come because of Your providence toward me.  Forgive me when I respond to illness with griping and complaining, rather than blessing Your name even for illness, knowing that Your will for me will prevail. Enable me to remember David’s pronouncement:  “Bless the LORD O my soul!”

The Speck and the Log

One of the television shows that I have watched, even in reruns during the many years after initial airing of the episodes, is The Andy Griffith Show.  The characters are memorable and the stories all had strong character-building messages.  If you are not familiar with the characters, Andy was the sheriff of Mayberry, a small fictional town in North Carolina, USA, and Barney was his deputy sheriff.  Barney was a man with a good heart, but he had the ability to routinely put his foot in his mouth, and he often made situations far worse because of his misguided actions and his insistence on strict interpretation of the law. 

In an episode entitled “Citizen’s Arrest”, Barney and Gomer, the town’s gas station attendant, came into conflict over a traffic ticket, notwithstanding the fact that they were best friends.  

Barney wrote Gomer a traffic ticket for making an unauthorized U-turn in downtown Mayberry.  After issuing the citation, Barney returned to the squad car and, immediately, made the same U-turn that earned Gomer a ticket.  Gomer stood in the middle of the street and yelled “citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest” resulting in a crowd surrounding him with Gomer shouting that Barney should receive the same fine as imposed on him. 

To defuse the situation and avoid further harsh words, Andy suggested that Barney simply write himself a ticket, pay the $5 fine and get along with his life.  After much cajoling by Andy, Barney wrote the ticket but then announced that he would not pay the $5 fine. Instead he would take the alternative punishment of 5 days in the jail cell, which happened to be in the same room as the Sheriff’s office.

Barney’s problem was that he could not see his own wrongdoing when he was so focused on Gomer’s infraction.

How often we are in the same situation.  Something is alright for me to do but I will criticize you for doing the same thing.  It is human nature, we want to be better than others; even if it means that we ignore our own errors, which often are the more egregious. 

Jesus told a parable about judging others in Matthew 7:1-5.  The parable is likely one that you have heard before.

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5

Interestingly, there are various words for what is in the eye of the accuser: specifically, it is called a beam, a plank, a board, and a log.  Whatever translation you may be using, the truth is the same.  Before advising someone of their own misbehavior, the speck, the accuser must take note of and remove the beam/plank/board/log from their own life.

The parable teaches us how to conduct ourselves with reference to our perceived faults of others.  The story was spoken to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus encountered during His ministry.  But the lesson taught applies to us as well – to those who are rigid and severe, who condemn people around them and who are proud and conceited in justifying their own actions.

Jesus cautions us against judging others.  We are to judge ourselves, our own acts, but we must not judge others.  And, we must not speak evil of others.

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. “

James 4:11

We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions – that is God’s prerogative. 

“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.”

Psalm 44:20-21

Only God knows what is in the heart of man.  Remember, the thieves on the cross were suffering the same punishment as our Lord Jesus Christ.  While on the cross, one received Jesus through faith in Him and the other rejected Him.  God knows who His children are, and He knows when any person will be brought into His family.  We do not have such knowledge.

Why follow Jesus command not to judge?  So that we will not be judged.  In other words, if we presume to judge others, we may expect to be ourselves judged. If we are modest and charitable in our censures of others, and decline judging them, and judge ourselves rather, we shall not be judged.  As God will forgive those that forgive their brothers, the merciful shall find mercy.  Our refusal to judge others is an evidence of humility, charity and deference to God and shall be noted and rewarded by God accordingly.  Romans 14:10

Don’t focus on correcting someone over a small fault while you have a big fault that you are ignoring.  Have you ever noticed that it is common for those who are most sinful themselves, and least sensitive to it, to be the most forward and free in judging and censuring others?

For example, read 2 Samuel 12:1-7 and see the story of the prophet of God, Nathan, confronting King David over his sin with Bathsheba.  David “burned with anger” at the man in Nathan’s story who had taken another man’s little lamb.  It was then that Nathan pointed his finger at the King and said: “You are the man!”. 

Jesus said the right way to interact with others is for me to take the beam out of my eye first.  I must repent and correct my sin first and then I can help my brother or sister. 

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Luke 6:37

This is a short part of the episode described above.  To see the entire sequence of events, you can view the longer 5 minute segment of the television show by clicking on the top left box, after this 20 second segment is completed.  Note that viewing the longer segment will take you out of The Ruminant Scribe website.

Father, I pray that I would have the wisdom to see the log in my own eye rather than focusing on the speck in my neighbor’s eye.  Heal me and let me lead a life that is in conformance with the commands of my Lord and Savior, in the Name of Jesus I pray.