This psalm of praise, this psalm of thanksgiving for the goodness of God, is one that finds its way into many of our worship services. I use it most often in the Assurance of Pardon, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” (NIV) Personally, I find the closing two verses the most instructive, “Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will. Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!” (RSV)
This psalm is a song of ascents (of Solomon) and speaks about the futility of laboring outside of the will of God. It also gives us some rather pragmatic reasons to strive to be within the will of God, “It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest.” (LB)
The question that comes to mind concerning this psalm has to do with the last half of the psalm. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord” and happy is the man who has many of them. What interests me here is the lack of qualifiers. It appears that regardless of their moral (or any other) condition, a man is happy if he just has lots of sons. What if they are criminals or just unpleasant? What about daughters? Of course, part of the disconnect many of us have with this psalm has to do with the culture, and economic structure of time in which the psalm was written. It is not the same as today’s time.
The NIV translation of this psalm gives us a unique look at some of the attributes of pride (sin), “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” Here, we get the picture of someone who compliments him or herself so much that they can’t see their own sin (self-delusion). It makes me wonder whether or not we err as a society with some of our efforts at esteem building.
This psalm is a call for the servants of the Lord to lift up their hands and to bless the Lord. It is also a benediction asking the Lord to bless these same servants. So, this evening as you lift up your voices in praise of God, may God bless you.