A new year begins. It stretches before us, 365 days of white canvas. Nothing painted upon it, no sketches or lines. Pristine. So how then shall we begin?
Thoughts, hopes and fears swirl in our minds as we consider the year ahead. I’m aware of a couple I know have finally been able to conceive their first child after years of trying. I’ve also been speaking with one of our Bishops who has recently returned to a place of incredible violence, where he is number one one the assassination target list. Within the bounds of hope for life and facing almost certain death lie all the other thoughts, hopes and fears.
So how then do we balance the load? Today’s verse provides us the answer:
BLESSED BE THE LORD! DAY AFTER DAY HE BEARS OUR BURDENS; GOD IS OUR SALVATION.
BLESSED BE THE LORD!
We bless the Lord because He is awesome in His power, resplendent in His majesty and excellent in His wisdom. God is all-knowing, present everywhere at all times, all-powerful, filled with compassion and incredibly gracious. As we choose to bless Him, it is we who benefit most from our decision to recognize His blessedness. When we choose to bless Him, we obtain the greatest benefit.
But the bible is full of tensions, things that appear to be at odds with one another. This command to “Bless the Lord” is one of them. We have received an invitation to give something to the One who created everything. I am reminded of a particular line in the Sunday morning liturgy, prayed as we are bringing our gifts to the altar. “All things come from You, O Lord, and of Your own have we given You.”
The psalmist tells himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.” And then he tells us a place where we can begin – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits.” When we stop to consider the many benefits God has given us and are thankful, we bless Him.
What benefits can you thank Him for?
Well, you could begin by blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Has life crushed you? He offers you mercy AND comfort.
You could bless God with your praise because He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. If you’re uncertain what these blessings in the heavenly places are, you could begin with His offer of salvation. Then, after you have placed your faith in Him, you will be able to bless the God who has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Then you can bless Him for hearing your prayers. You can bless Him corporately, by gathering together to offer Him praise. His word encourages us to lift up our hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord. As I read that verse I see in my mind’s eye an image of a young child standing before their loving father, arms uplifted and waiting to be picked up, held and loved. Oh yeah !!!! Cuddle time!!
God is so awesome that he deserves MORE BLESSING than we can give. The angels, who are mighty in strength and perform His bidding, are also called to bless Him. Yes, all the hosts of heaven are invited to join us in blessing God.
But guess what else is commanded to bless Him?? The bible actually commands all works of His to bless Him, and even specifically mentions the sun and moon; instructs all shining stars and the highest heavens to praise him. How do the heavens declare the praises of God? I can’t wait to find out all the ways!
But wait, there’s more!!!! (Now I sound like an infomercial.) All living creatures are commanded to bless the Lord. How does a cow or a camel do that??? Or great creatures within the sea? I can’t wait to learn THAT answer in its fullness. WOW!
The list goes on and on … wild animals and all cattle, crawling creatures and flying birds get the same instruction – Bless the LORD!
DAY AFTER DAY HE BEARS OUR BURDENS
In reading the past few paragraphs you’ve likely been impressed (if not amazed) with the diversity of things called to bless God.
AND — I’ll bet that, as you focused upon Him and His majesty, not one of your problems or concerns entered your mind. That, my friends, is the impact of God’s majesty. He commands us to bless Him so that we are blessed by the uplifting grace of His awe.
You cannot deeply focus upon multiple things at once. To give your utmost attention to one is to lay the others aside. But, when you choose to focus upon the majesty of Christ you receive a hidden blessing. Because when your mind returns to the burdens you bear, you find that you now see them in the light of Him who bears them for you. His hands strengthen yours. His peace pervades your heart. And thought you may not know HOW He will work things out, you know that however they do work out He will be there with you.
It is by OUR decision to bless His name that we receive the blessing of HIS decision to bear our burdens.
GOD IS OUR SALVATION
There you have just one of the many, many ways in which God is our salvation.
Does He offer to save us from our sins? Yes, of course. Is that all He offers? Absolutely not !!! But to encounter and enjoy the many blessings, you begin by bringing yours. Your choice to bless Him opens the door for His blessings to be poured out upon you.
The Beatles had it right.
Day by day three things I pray …
To see Thee more clearly
To love Thee more dearly
To follow Thee more nearly
DAY BY DAY
Your choice to BLESS THE LORD is the paintbrush that will add incredible color, vibrancy and beauty to the canvas of the year ahead. Day by day.