“Bless Jehovah, O My Soul”
“IN RECENT months my ministry has become dull and joyless,” says Nancy.a For some ten years, she has served as a pioneer, a full-time proclaimer of the good news. Yet, she adds: “I do not like what is happening to me. I seem to present the Kingdom message more in a matter-of-fact way and less from the heart. What should I do?”
Consider, too, the case of Keith, an elder in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How surprised he was to hear his wife say: “You must have something on your mind. In the prayer you just offered, you gave thanks for the food, even though this is not mealtime!” Keith admits: “I can see that my prayers have become mechanical.”
Undoubtedly, you do not want your expressions of praise to Jehovah God to be cold and perfunctory. On the contrary, you want them to be heartfelt, stemming from feelings of gratitude. However, a feeling cannot be put on or taken off like a garment. It must spring from within a person. How can one feel grateful at heart? The 103rd Psalm 103 provides us with insight in this regard.
King David of ancient Israel composed the 103rd Psalm 103. He opens with the words: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, even everything within me, his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1) “The word bless, as applied to God,” says one reference work, “means to praise, implying always a strong affection for him as well as a sense of gratitude.” Desiring to praise Jehovah with a heart full of love and appreciation, David exhorts his own soul—himself—to “bless Jehovah.” But what generates this warm feeling in David’s heart toward the God he worships?
David continues: “Do not forget all his [Jehovah’s] doings.” (Psalm 103:2) Feeling grateful to Jehovah is evidently connected with meditating appreciatively on “his doings.” Exactly what doings of Jehovah does David have in mind? Looking at Jehovah God’s creation, such as a star-studded sky on a clear night, can indeed fill the heart with gratitude for the Creator. The starry heavens touched David deeply. (Psalm 8:3, 4; 19:1) In the 103rd Psalm 103, though, David remembers Jehovah’s activity of another sort.
Jehovah “Is Forgiving All Your Error”
In this psalm, David recounts God’s acts of loving-kindness. Referring to the first and foremost among these, he sings: ‘Jehovah is forgiving all your error.’ (Psalm 103:3) David was certainly aware of his own sinful state. After Nathan the prophet confronted him about his adulterous relationship with Bath-sheba, David admitted: “Against you [Jehovah], you alone, I have sinned, and what is bad in your eyes I have done.” (Psalm 51:4) With a broken heart, he made the entreaty: “Show me favor, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1, 2) How grateful David must have felt to be forgiven! Being an imperfect human, he committed other sins in his life, but he never failed to repent, accept reproof, and correct his ways. Reflection on God’s marvelous acts of kindness toward him moved David to bless Jehovah.
Are we not also sinful? (Romans 5:12) Even the apostle Paul lamented: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” (Romans 7:22-24) How grateful we can be that Jehovah does not keep account of our transgressions! He gladly erases them when we repent and seek forgiveness.
David reminds himself: “[Jehovah] is healing all your maladies.” (Psalm 103:3) Since healing is an act of restoration, it entails more than forgiveness of wrongdoing. It involves the removal of “maladies”—the bad consequences of the error of our ways. In the new world of his making, Jehovah will indeed eradicate the physical consequences of sin, such as sickness and death. (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:1-4) Even today, however, God is healing us of spiritual maladies. For some, these include a bad conscience and a severed relationship with him. “Do not forget” what Jehovah has already done for each of us personally in this regard.
He “Is Reclaiming Your Life”
“[Jehovah] is reclaiming your life from the very pit,” sings David. (Psalm 103:4) “The very pit” is the common grave of mankind—Sheol, or Hades. Even before becoming a king over Israel, David found himself in the jaws of death. For example, Israel’s King Saul nurtured a murderous hatred toward David and attempted to kill him on various occasions. (1 Samuel 18:9-29; 19:10; 23:6-29) The Philistines also wanted David dead. (1 Samuel 21:10-15) But every time, Jehovah rescued him from “the very pit.” How grateful David must have felt when remembering these doings of Jehovah!
What about you? Has Jehovah sustained you through periods of depression or times of loss? Or have you come to know of instances when he has reclaimed the lives of his faithful Witnesses from the pit of Sheol in our times? Perhaps you have been touched by reading accounts of his acts of deliverance in the pages of this magazine. Why not take time to reflect appreciatively on these doings of the true God? And, of course, all of us have reason to be grateful to Jehovah for the resurrection hope.—John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.
Jehovah gives us both life and that which makes it enjoyable and worth living. The psalmist declares that God “is crowning you with loving-kindness and mercies.” (Psalm 103:4) In our hour of need, Jehovah does not abandon us but comes to our aid through his visible organization and the appointed elders, or shepherds, in the congregation. Such help enables us to deal with a trying situation without losing our self-respect and dignity. Christian shepherds care very much for the sheep. They encourage the sick and depressed and do all they can to restore those who have fallen. (Isaiah 32:1, 2; 1 Peter 5:2, 3; Jude 22, 23) Jehovah’s spirit motivates these shepherds to be compassionate and loving toward the flock. His “loving-kindness and mercies” are indeed like a crown that adorns us and gives us dignity! Never forgetting his doings, let us bless Jehovah and his holy name.
Continuing on with his self-admonition, the psalmist David sings: “[Jehovah] is satisfying your lifetime with what is good; your youth keeps renewing itself just like that of an eagle.” (Psalm 103:5) The life Jehovah gives is one of satisfaction and joy. Why, the very knowledge of the truth itself is a treasure beyond compare and a source of tremendous joy! And consider how deeply satisfying is the work Jehovah has given us, that of preaching and making disciples. What a delight it is to find someone interested in learning about the true God and to help that one come to know Jehovah and bless him! Yet, whether anyone in our locality listens or not, it is a grand privilege to have a share in a work connected with the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the vindication of his sovereignty.
While persisting in the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom, who does not become tired or grow weary? But Jehovah keeps renewing the strength of his servants, making them ‘like eagles’ that have powerful wings and soar to great heights in the sky. How grateful we can be that our loving heavenly Father provides such “dynamic energy” so that we can faithfully carry out our ministry day after day!—Isaiah 40:29-31.
To illustrate: Clara holds a full-time secular job and also spends about 50 hours every month in the field ministry. She says: “Sometimes I am tired, and I force myself to go out in the field service only because I have made an arrangement to work with someone. But once I am out, I always feel invigorated.” You too may have experienced the vigor that results from divine support in the Christian ministry. May you be moved to say, as did David in the opening words of this psalm: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, even everything within me, his holy name.”
Jehovah Delivers His People
The psalmist also sings: “Jehovah is executing acts of righteousness and judicial decisions for all those being defrauded. He made known his ways to Moses, his dealings even to the sons of Israel.” (Psalm 103:6, 7) Likely, David is thinking of the ‘defrauding’ of the Israelites under Egyptian oppressors in the days of Moses. Meditating on how Jehovah made known his ways of deliverance to Moses must have generated a feeling of gratitude in David’s heart.
We can be moved to similar gratitude by reflecting on God’s dealings with the Israelites. But we should not fail to ponder over the experiences of Jehovah’s modern-day servants, such as those mentioned in chapters 29 and 30 of the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. The accounts documented in it and in other publications of the Watch Tower Society enable us to see how Jehovah has helped his people in modern times to endure imprisonment, mob action, bans, concentration camps, and slave-labor camps. There have been trials in war-torn lands, such as Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia. Whenever persecution has occurred, Jehovah’s hand has always sustained his faithful servants. Contemplating these doings of our great God, Jehovah, can do for us what pondering over the account of deliverance from Egypt did for David.
Consider also how tenderly Jehovah delivers us from the burden of sin. He has provided “the blood of the Christ” to “cleanse our consciences from dead works.” (Hebrews 9:14) When we repent of our sins and seek forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s shed blood, God puts our transgressions far off from us—“as far off as the sunrise is from the sunset”—and restores us to his favor. And think of Jehovah’s provisions in the way of Christian meetings, upbuilding association, shepherds in the congregation, and Bible-based publications we receive through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) Do not all these doings of Jehovah help us strengthen our relationship with him? David proclaims: “Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. . . . He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve.” (Psalm 103:8-14) Meditating on Jehovah’s loving care can certainly move us to glorify him and magnify his holy name.
“Bless Jehovah, All You His Works”
In comparison with the immortality of Jehovah, the “God of eternity,” the “days” of “mortal man” are brief indeed—“like those of green grass.” But David appreciatively reflects: “The loving-kindness of Jehovah is from time indefinite even to time indefinite toward those fearing him, and his righteousness to the sons of sons, toward those keeping his covenant and toward those remembering his orders so as to carry them out.” (Genesis 21:33, footnote; Psalm 103:15-18) Jehovah does not forget those who fear him. In due time, he will give them everlasting life.—John 3:16; 17:3.
Expressing his appreciation for Jehovah’s kingship, David says: “Jehovah himself has firmly established his throne in the very heavens; and over everything his own kingship has held domination.” (Psalm 103:19) Although Jehovah’s kingship was visibly expressed for a time through the kingdom of Israel, his throne is actually in heaven. By reason of his Creatorship, Jehovah is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe and exercises his divine will in heaven and on earth according to his own purposes.
David even exhorts the heavenly angelic creatures. He sings: “Bless Jehovah, O you angels of his, mighty in power, carrying out his word, by listening to the voice of his word. Bless Jehovah, all you armies of his, you ministers of his, doing his will. Bless Jehovah, all you his works, in all places of his domination. Bless Jehovah, O my soul.” (Psalm 103:20-22) Should not our reflection on Jehovah’s acts of loving-kindness toward us move us also to bless him? By all means! And we can be sure that the sound of our voice in personal praise to God will not be lost among the mighty chorus of praisers that includes even the righteous angels. May we wholeheartedly praise our heavenly Father, always speaking well of him. Indeed, let us take to heart David’s words, “Bless Jehovah, O my soul.”
a Some of the names have been changed.
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David meditated on Jehovah’s acts of loving-kindness. Do you?