The Chamber of Commerce invited a pastor to offer the blessing at a banquet honoring elected officials. The master of ceremonies forgot to call for the prayer and did not discover his mistake until the meal was nearly over. He was embarrassed of course but asked the preacher if he would pray anyhow. Unperturbed by the slight, the minister rose and said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me! Amen!”
For close to three thousand years God’s people have recited these beautiful lines yet seem never to have come to grips with a fundamental question. How can a person bless God? It is easy to see how Jesus blessed the little children who gathered around him but how could these children bless Jesus? It is easy to see how God blessed David but how could David bless God?
David answered the question in the next phrase: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and forget none of his benefits” (103:2). A person blesses God by remembering all that God has done and thanking him for it. If God blesses people with gifts, people bless God with gratitude. If God blesses people by giving them things, people bless God by giving him thanks.
Thanks that blesses God must be wholehearted. David called on “all” within him to remember “all” the Lord’s benefits. “God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, 2:276). Thanks that blesses God must also be specific. David listed some of the things God gave for which he was grateful.
This Thanksgiving why not join David and thank God for the blessing of …
David needed forgiveness. Sin stained his past. He committed adultery with a sweet young woman he saw running around topless and bottomless on a next-door rooftop. When she turned up pregnant, he connived to cover that sin by ordering her husband’s death so she could make her his wife. Adultery. Murder. Surely David’s cheeks burned with shame and he must have died a little inside each time he thought of what he had done. He could not take it back. He could not fix it. All he could do was to call on God and ask forgiveness. When he did, God gladly and generously forgave him. No wonder he offered thanks for forgiveness.
Think back to the day when sin weighed heavy on your soul and shame made you hope no one ever found out what you had done. Remember the hot tears that spilled down your cheeks as you begged God for forgiveness. Remember how swift his coming, how loving his touch, how clean your soul when he washed away your sin. Stand up with David and praise God for sin forgiven and gone.
Not long before she died, secular humanist Marghanita Laski said, “What I envy most about you Christians is forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me!” But you have someone to forgive you. You have someone who has forgiven you.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for forgiving!
The sweet singer of Israel declared that it was the Lord who healed all his diseases. The simple meaning of this is that whenever and wherever there had been healing, it was God who had done it (Morgan, Chapters, 79). David gave God credit for all healing and blessed the Lord by praising him.
If people ask whether I believe in divine healing, I confess that I do. There is no other kind. There is no healing that is not divine. God usually heals by means of doctors and medicines and hospitals. God sometimes heals without doctors and medicines and hospitals. God sometimes heals in spite of doctors and medicines and hospitals. But always, and only, it is God who heals. More than four hundred years ago a French doctor, Ambroise Pare, confessed, “I dress the wounds but God heals them” (Finegan, Clear of the Brooding Cloud, 27). If a person takes an aspirin and their head stops aching, God did that. Thank him for it.
Some are alive and here today because God healed them. When disease sapped their strength and robbed them of health or injury left them broken and dying, God touched their bodies and healed them. Some could have died from flu, measles, mumps, heart attack, cancer, polio, dengue fever, malaria, and embolism or one of a thousand other medical problems but you are alive for one reason and one reason only. God healed. Give him thanks today.
Do not limit this healing to physical healing alone. David said God heals all diseases, including those of mind and soul. At a meeting of Catholic charismatics at the University of San Francisco in November 1978, I heard a woman tell how God healed her of shame, shame that she had grown up poor, with fewer privileges than others seemed to have. Others testified that God healed them of temper, depression, memory, conscience, and hate.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for healing!
For David, the “pit” was the place of death and destruction, and “redeem” meant not so much bringing back his life from that realm as keeping him from it (Morgan, Chapters, 80). David praised the Lord for rescuing him from premature death (Kidner, 365). In dark moments when tragedy threatened and calamity confronted, God stepped in to save his life.
From David’s earliest days, he had been a child of providence. He had cliff-hangers and narrow escapes by the dozens, but he seemed to lead a charmed life. From the jaw of the lion and the paw of the bear; from the sword of Goliath and the javelin of Saul, from the armies of Absalom and the forces of the Philistines, God delivered him. Time and again, God stepped in to snatch David from the clutches of death. No wonder he sang a song of thanks: “He redeems my life from the pit!”
Every person alive is a child of providence. Every person here leads a “charmed” life. You are alive today because God has protected you from danger and death. All the way from your earliest days you have been a walking miracle. Often when you were least aware of it God preserved you from deadly accidents and lethal illnesses. Have you stopped to bless the Lord by thanking him for protecting you?
When I was five-years-old, my parents sent me to take a bath in a #2 washtub on the back porch. Instead I slipped off to play with a friend who lived just across the street—US Highway 84. When I heard my parents calling I knew I had better hurry home. I bailed out of the swing, sped across a short culvert, and without looking, darted out onto the highway, straight into the path of an oncoming truck. That was the biggest, blackest truck I have ever seen, and it was coming fast! The horn blared and the brakes squealed as I first froze and then fell in front of it on the highway. The truck slid to a stop with its right front tire a half foot from my head. I made it here today by six inches. How many other times God has saved my life I cannot count, because I do not know. He protected me.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for protecting!
The Hebrew word for “crown” comes from a root that means “to circle, to surround, or to hem in.” David blessed God by praising him for his all-encompassing love. Old-time gospel quartets used to sing of being “within the circle of his love!” Contemporary musicians sing about how God “rings my life with so much love.” Ah, that is the idea. God’s love and compassion are on every side. There is no way to turn without meeting his love.
A farmer once mounted a weathervane on his barn with the words “God is love” painted on it. “Do you mean that God’s love is as changeable as the wind?” asked one of his neighbors who did not go in much for religious stuff. “Oh, no,” said the farmer. “It means that God is love no matter which way the wind blows!” If the wind blows fair, God is love. If the wind blows foul, God is love. If the wind does not blow at all, God is love.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for loving!
“God satisfies my wants with good things,” cried David. David may have meant that God always provided food for him to eat. That in itself is ground enough for thanksgiving and praise. As Scotland’s pride, Robert Burns, once wrote:
Some has meat and cannot eat,
Some would eat that want it.
But we have meat and we can eat
And so the Lord be thankt (Religious Quotations 654).
But there are desires that groceries, even God-given groceries, cannot satisfy. What of those? God fills every longing and meets people’s deepest desires. Praise his name! This godless world runs here and there in search, moaning with Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Why? Because the emptiness inside is God-shaped and only God can fill it. As Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts find no rest until they rest in Thee!” Drugs, sex, and money cannot satisfy the deepest hungers of the heart. Only God can.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for satisfying!
David meant God gave him “buoyant, tireless strength” (Kidner, 365). When his vigor faded and his strength had almost gone, God gave David new vitality to go on going on.
There may have been times when you despaired of making it through, when you felt you had gone as far as you could, when it looked like you were about to go under, when your strength failed, but the Most High God lifted you up and gave you a new lease on life.
When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, thank God for strengthening!
Conclusion: ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow!’
David’s list is suggestive rather than exhaustive. These are not all the things for which he owed God thanks. These are only some of the most important things. Find time this Thanksgiving to get alone with God and think of all he has given and of all you owe him, then bless him by thanking him!