Smart Praise

A Psalm of David. [Psalm 103]

As we read through this psalm in our Bibles before we even begin our study, we want to note that this psalm, as are some others, is both a wisdom psalm and a praise psalm. It is personal, written by David, and corporate, in other words, intended for worship among the people. No explanation or title is given in the opening. It’s merely referred to as “A Psalm of David.” David opens the psalm by speaking for himself, blessing the Lord, in verses one and two, and then he includes his readers from that point.

I love the way that David speaks of the Lord, blessing Him as he writes. It’s similar to Psalm 16:7-9: “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” Note David’s statement: I WILL BLESS THE LORD. And as we think on that, our response might well be, “Am a blessing to the Lord?”

The word “bless” in Hebrew literally means to kneel (implying submission) in adoration. But it can also mean “to curse,” and “treason”! It may also mean “to blaspheme,” or it can mean “to praise.” Obviously, David is speaking of adoration here, but isn’t it interesting that the word can mean things that are polar opposites?

In the book of James, we find that this is indeed possible, “For every kind of beast and bird, or reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh” (James 3:7-12).

Have you ever heard the old adage warning of the danger in being quick to speak because you often say things you haven’t thought of yet? Have you ever said something you hadn’t thought through before saying it out loud, but then, there it hung in the air, never to be reeled back in? Do you ever regret those words that somehow escaped your lips and hurt someone whom you love?

We can see that the concept of the same thing being the source of good or evil is not that abstract. David had done wrong in his own life, and he was not always a “blessing” to the Lord, even though the Lord remained faithful to David even in his faithlessness.

Most scholars believe that David was an old man when he wrote this psalm and is looking back over his life, remembering those times when he didn’t “bless the Lord with all that is within” him. Those are hard things for all of us to look back upon, wishing that we could take those times back and have a “do over.” But that isn’t to be. What we can do is to remember that God is always worthy of our highest praise, and we are to bless Him with all that is within us, no matter what our circumstances are. And David, who knew what it was like to truly bless the Lord and also what it was like to enter into serious, deadly sin, will help us to understand applying wisdom in our praises to the Lord. Smart praise will be thought out and purposeful, not mindless repetitions or vague, dreamy descriptions. Are you ready to find out more about how to do that? David, the man after God’s own heart, but also the man who knew what it was like to be overcome by his own evil heart, is going to teach us.

Excerpt from “Beside Still Waters” now available on Amazon.

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