‘Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done,’ are the words of a Christian song. How easily we forget to thank God for the countless good things he provides for us. We take it all for granted.
But there is something else we often forget: King David wrote about it in Psalm 103. It seems he wrote this for the great choir he established in Jerusalem, in the context of his personal growth in his understanding of God.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, David began. What is interesting for us is that he did not go on to list all the specific things God had done for him. Rather he focused on features of God’s character that I can only touch on here – God’s grace, his goodness and his greatness.
God’s grace: God will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever (v.9). Martin Luther once commented, ‘Wrath is God’s strange work.’ Anger is alien to God: it is his response to our failure to honor him and give him the thanks that is his due. There was a time when there was no anger in God; equally, there will come a time when there will be nothing further to rouse his anger.
God’s forgiveness: For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (v.11). Children sometimes ask their parents, ‘How much do you love me?’ and they open their arms saying, ‘This much, or this much?’ When David said this to God, he realized that not even the expanse of the universe can illustrate the vast dimensions of God’s love.
So he continues: As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us (v.12). We can’t watch the sun rise and set at the same time. We have to turn our back on one to see the other. Through the lens of the New Testament we see that through the cross of Christ, God found a way of detaching our sin from us, so he could condemn the one without condemning the other. The illustration means that when we ask God for mercy, he has to turn his back on our sin when he looks at us, because he puts us and our sin on two different horizons.
God’s goodness and awesome power: We have even more reason than David to bless the name of God, for we live on the other side of the cross that once stood on Calvary’s hill. That cross is a far, far greater measure of God’s love than the unfathomable depths of the universe about which David spoke. The arms of the cross show us the grief that tears the heart of God because of our sin. In Christ, God not only lifts us out of the pit, he lifts us from the depths of hell and raises us to new life forever.
Is there any real praise of God in our hearts? It’s easy to go to church, to sing songs, and say Amen to the prayers, but to have no real personal connection with him. It’s easy to hear sermons that move us, but we’re not really listening to God because we’re more impressed with the preacher than we are with relating to God.
True blessing. Do you have a sense of God’s blessing in your life, a sense of connectedness with him that comes through knowing Jesus Christ? If you do not, then do what Jesus said: Ask, seek and knock. God promises to open our eyes to the truth.