<<A Psalm of David.>> Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Verse 1. - Bless the Lord, O my soul. Repeated in ver. 2; also at the end of the psalm; and again in Psalm 104:1, 35. To "bless" is more than to praise; it is to praise with affection and gratitude. The psalmist calls upon his own soul, and so on each individual soul, to begin the song of praise, which is to terminate in a general chorus of blessing from all creation (vers. 20-22). And all that is within me. "All my whole nature - intellect, emotion, feeling, sentiment - brain, heart, lungs, tongue," etc. Bless his holy Name; i.e. his manifested Personality, which is almost the same thing as himself.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Verse 2. - Bless the Lord, O my soul. Repetition, in Holy Scripture, is almost always for the sake of emphasis. It is not "vain repetition." Our Lord often uses it: "Verily, verily, I say unto you;" "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? .... Feed my sheep... Feed my sheep." And forget not all his benefits (comp. Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, etc.). Man is so apt to "forget," that he requires continual exhortation not to do so.
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Verse 3. - Who forgiveth all thine iniquities. This is the first and greatest of "benefits," and is therefore placed first, as that for which we ought, above all else, to bless God. God's forgiveness of sin is a frequent topic with the psalmists (see Psalm 25:11, 18; Psalm 32:1; Psalm 51:9; Psalm 85:2; Psalm 86:5, etc.). Who healeth all thy diseases. This is best understood literally - not as mere "parallelism." Among the greatest blessings which we receive of God is recovery from sickness.
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Verse 4. - Who redeemeth thy life from destruction. When sickness seems about to be mortal, or when danger threatens from foes, God often steps in and "redeems" men - i.e, saves them, rescues them (see Psalm 56:13; Psalm 116:8; Isaiah 38:16, 20). Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies (comp. Psalm 8:5; Psalm 18:50; Psalm 23:6, etc.).
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Verse 5. - Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things. So Dean Johnson and our Revisers. But the rendering of עדי by "mouth" is very doubtful. The original meaning of the word seems to have been "gay ornament," whence it passed to "gaiety," "desire of enjoyment," "desire" generally (τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν σου, LXX.). Dr. Kay translates, "thy gay heart;" Professor Cheyne, "thy desire." God satisfies the reasonable desires of his servants, giving them "all things richly to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17), and "satisfying the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16). So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's; rather, like an eagle (comp. Isaiah 40:31). The meaning is, not "thy youth is renewed as an eagle's youth is," for an eagle's youth is not renewed; but "thy youth is renewed, and is become in its strength like an eagle."
The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
Verse 6. - The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment; literally, righteousnesses and judgments; i.e. "acts of righteousness and acts of judgment." For all that are oppressed. The care of God for the "oppressed" is a marked feature of Holy Scripture (see Exodus 2:23-25; Exodus 3:9; Judges 2:18; Judges 6:9; Job 35:9-14; Psalm 9:9; Psalm 10:18; 79:21; 146:7; Isaiah 1:17, etc.).
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
Verse 7. - He made known his ways unto Moses. God's ways are "past finding out" by man (Romans 11:33); they must be "made known" to him. God made them known to Moses by the revelations which he gave him, especially those of Sinai. His acts unto the children of Israel. The rest of the Israelites were taught mainly by God's "acts" - not that his words were concealed from them, but because
"Segnius irritant animum demissa per aures,
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus."
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Verse 8. - The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. This was a part of the revelation made to Moses (Exodus 34:6), whose words the psalmist closely echoes, both here and in Psalm 86:15 (comp. also Psalm 111:4; Psalm 112:4; Psalm 145:8).
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
Verse 9. - He will not always chide; or, contend (see Isaiah 57:16; and comp. Jeremiah 3:5, 12). God will relent from his anger and forgive men, after a while. He will not be "extreme to mark what is done amiss." Neither will he keep his anger forever. He is not implacable. He will accept repentance and amendment (Ezekiel 18:27) He will accept atonement (1 John 2:2).
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
Verse 10. - He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us (rather, requited us) according to our iniquities. God never punishes men so much as they deserve to be punished; "in his wrath he" always "thinketh upon mercy."
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
Verse 11. - For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him (comp. Psalm 36:5, "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds"). The metaphor is bold, yet inadequate; for God's mercy is infinite.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Verse 12. - As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. God's mercy is the cause, the removal of sin the result. The two are commensurate, and are "described by the largest measures which the earth can afford."
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
Verse 13. - Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him (comp. Deuteronomy 32:6; Job 10:8; Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8, etc.). (For the nature of the "fear" spoken of, both here and in ver. 11, see the description in vers. 17, 18.) It must be a fear that produces obedience, or, in New Testament phrase, that is a "godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
Verse 14. - For he knoweth our frame; or, our formation (Kay) - the manner in which we were formed (see Genesis 2:7). He remembereth that we are dust (comp. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19; Genesis 19:27; Job 34:15, etc.).
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
Verse 15. - As for man, his days are as grass. Here is a new departure. From the loving kindness and mercy of God the psalmist passes to the weakness and helplessness of man. Man is like grass (Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:5, 6; Psalm 102:11; Isaiah 40:6-8, etc.). His days fleet and fade. He never "continueth in one stay." As a flower of the field (comp. Job 14:2; Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 40:6; James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24, etc.). He flourisheth; i.e. he cometh up in full vigour, glorious to look upon, rejoicing in his youth and strength, but within a little time he fadeth, falleth away, or is "cut down, dried up, and withered." There is no strength or stability in him.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
Verse 16. - For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; literally, it is not. The burning sirocco, the wind of the desert, variously named in various places, blows upon the flower, and almost immediately scorches it up. So man, when he flourishes most, is for the most part brought low by the wind of suffering, trouble, sickness, calamity, and sinks out of sight. And the place thereof shall know it no more; rather, knows it no more. Seeing it not, forgets it, as if it had never been. So with the greatest men - they pass away and are forgotten (comp. Job 7:10).
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
Verse 17. - But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him (comp. vers. 11, 13). Through this "everlasting mercy" of God, man, though so feeble and fragile, does not wholly pass away, but continues to be the recipient of God's bounty. And his righteousness unto children's children. God's "righteousness" is his everlasting justice, by which he gives to men according to their deserts.
To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
Verse 18. - To such as keep his covenant; i.e. "to the faithful" - to those who, notwithstanding many lapses and many shortcomings, are yet sincere in heart, and seek to do his will. Such persons remember his commandments to do them.
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
Verse 19. - The Lord hath prepared (or, established) his throne in the heavens. In conclusion, the incomparable majesty of God is set before us, in contrast with the feebleness of man, and he is put forward as the one and only fit Object of worship, alike to the spiritual (vers. 20, 21) and the material creation (ver. 22a), as well as to the psalmist himself (ver. 22b). Seated on his everlasting throne, he challenges the adoration of the whole universe. And his kingdom ruleth over all (comp. Psalm 47:2; Daniel 4:34, 35).
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
Verse 20. - Bless the Lord, ye his angels (comp. Psalm 148:2). That excel in strength. The angels that "excel in strength" - literally, are mighty in strength - may best be understood as those called in the New Testament "archangels" (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9), the highest of the glorious beings that stand around the throne of God (Revelation 8:2, 6; Revelation 10:1) and execute his behests. These are they that, in an especial sense, do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
Verse 21. - Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts. Here the inferior angels seem to be meant - that "multitude of the host of heaven" which appeared to the shepherds on Christ's natal day (Luke 2:13), and which is elsewhere often referred to in Holy Scripture (see Psalm 24:10; Psalm 148:2; Isaiah 40:26; Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Hebrews 12:22; Jude 1:14). Ye ministers of his (comp. Psalm 104:4) that do his pleasure. The inferior, no less than the superior, ranks of angels continually carry out the will of God, being "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).
Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.
Verse 22. - Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion (comp. Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 145:10; Psalm 148:7-13). The "works of God" - i.e. his material universe - cannot, of course, he said to "bless" God in the same sense that men and angels do; but, in a language of their own, they set forth his glory, and to the poetic mind seem truly to sing his praise. The "Song of the Three Children" is a natural outburst from devout hearts. Bless the Lord, O my soul (comp. ver. 1, and the comment ad loc.).