Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place,
and bless the Lord.
May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion. (NRSV)
Psalms 120-134 comprise a collection of short songs of ascent meant to guide Jewish pilgrims in their communal trek up to the city of Jerusalem, and ultimately to the temple mount. The rhythm of the pious ancient Israelites centered round particular festivals, seasons, and Sabbath. Taking the annual pilgrimage to the Holy City was an especially anticipated time of year. This yearly cycle brought both increased faith and needed spiritual stability to the people. It reminded them of the sound theology that God cannot be moved, and he will always be there.
This, psalm, as the last in these songs of ascent, is something of a benediction. It is a blessing – for both God and the worshiper. To “bless” is to express approval. When God blesses people, it is a divine endorsement upon their lives. In other words, God’s blessing is an encouraging sanction that the worshiper is authentic – she is the real deal. In the context of this psalm, the worshiper is anticipating that God will approve of the praise, adoration, and sacrifice given when they reach the temple mount.
Conversely, when people bless God, they are expressing confirmation that God is who he says he is – he keeps his promises and his divine character is always just, good, and loving. We tend to not be in the habit of offering blessings, that is, unless someone sneezes in the room. Yet, blessing is an important and integral dimension to spirituality.
At the end of the age, there will be unceasing blessing pouring forth from all God’s creatures:
Then I [the Apostle John] looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. (Revelation 5:11-14, NKJV)
This all causes me to wonder what our daily lives would be like if they were shaped with rhythms of blessing God. The psalmist knew something about this:
“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119:164)
Here are a few ideas for you to take or leave:
- Today, set seven alarms and space them throughout the day (i.e. every 2 ½ hours). When the alarm goes off, stop what you are doing and take a minute to say today’s psalm aloud and/or other Scripture. At the end of the day, count your blessings from this activity and express them to God.
- If you have stairs in your home, keep a small Bible next to the bottom of the staircase. Every time you go up, take the Bible in hand, and read one of the psalms of ascent as you walk up. Many of them (like today’s) are short enough to say at least once before you reach the top of the stairs. After a few days or a week of doing this, count your blessings and share with another about your experience.
- In this time of virtual communication and reliance on the phone, call or connect with a few friends and together read aloud some or all the psalms of ascent. Then, share your blessings and bless God with one another.
The big idea here is that the biblical psalter is a book of poems, songs, and prayers which are meant to have liberal use. They were designed for worship. How will you worship God today?
Click 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) sung by Chris Tomlin as we are mindful of God’s goodness.