17But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
19The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:17-19)
Psalm 103 has consistently been a bookmarked passage for me during times of trouble and despair. It reminds me of all that my God is and has done for me. That it is He “who crowns [me] with steadfast love and mercy” (vs.4) even when I am unworthy of it. The verses provide comfort to me when I am found in the place of need waiting for the mercy of God to come and deliver me and challenges me to keep my focus set upon Him alone. As I read, the words trigger a mindful change of my attitudes and they stimulate the hope of glory that oftentimes lies dormant in my thoughts. David, here in this Psalm, restores my focus upon that which is true and trustworthy and repairs my vision to see that which is real and reliable. I love reading this Psalm in those dark seasons of my life as it strikes a chord with my spirit and speaks to me of His blessing, my duty, and our victory.
As an ordained minister of the Gospel, I often find myself in communication with people who are themselves gripped in a season of darkness and dismay. From sickness and pain, to unemployment and economic woes, to matters both natural and spiritual; there is a widespread season of darkness riveting the nations and believers all around are being affected. But the infection that is really troubling the church body is much more alarming and deadly than the costly healthcare or global economic meltdown of our communities. It is the words and attitudes of believers.
I am often amazed at how much negativity and disillusionment comes from Christians when they are discussing their present plight. You would not believe that God is able to do anything or that he even cares by the way that they carry on. Yet, the Bible speaks very differently; it states that God does indeed care and that He calls us to cast all of our cares upon Him. What then should we speak and how should we respond when we are in those times of struggle and darkness? David tells us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (vs. 1-2). Out of the fruit of our lips should come the sacrifice of praise and blessing for the things which the Lord has already wrought for us. Small things like blessing God simply because you are alive are far better than cursing the fact that you don’t have enough money for a hot pretzel while shopping in the mall. When all that is within us, every fiber of our being, blesses the name of Jesus, we actually enter into the holy presence of Christ. Jesus said of Israel that they will not see Him again until they cry out “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. When was the last time that you declared ‘blessed is the name of the Lord’? Being in Christ’s presence is ‘better than the gain from silver, profits better than gold and is more precious than jewels’ (prov. 3:14,15 paraphrased). Oh, how everything that we think matters so much simply fades away in the presence of Jesus.
As we bless the Lord in the midst of our darkness, His mercy will come pursuing after us and be made manifest in ways unimaginable “above all that we could ask or even think”. It was David who witnessed the truth of this when he found himself walking “in the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23). There, in the darkness of the shadows, came goodness and mercy following after. The word “follow” in the Hebrew denotes the military term for pursuing an enemy or group that has taken off on the run either in retreat or for regrouping and is a command that the commanding officer would give to the troop(s). When we begin to bless God He orders the pursuit. When mercy caught up to David there was found prepared a table before him even in the presence of his enemies with an overflowing cup of the blessings of the Lord. The blessing of mercy’s pursuit isn’t only seasonal, as is our troubles, but is generational (and his righteousness to children’s children 103:17). When you bless God in spite of the circumstances you invite His mercy to visit even your children and grandchildren.
So when we find ourselves surrounded by darkness, let us not get down, discouraged and depressed, and begin to talk and act like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel; let us instead trust in the faithfulness of our God and obey His every word. A very wise man once wrote “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl. 12:13) So, let us bless the Lord and forget not all that he has done for us and in so doing be reminded that He has gone to prepare a place for us and that where he is we cannot yet be. BUT THERE IS COMING A DAY as we are “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21) that the trumpet of God shall sound and we shall leave all the struggle and darkness and be found “in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1). For on that day we will abide in the Kingdom of our God “and his kingdom rules over all”!