A tiny preposition can make a huge difference.
I was reading Psalm 135 the other day. Hurried, my eyes passed over the verses the way I skim an Instagram account. "Careful scrutiny" was not high on my priority list. On this morning I was more intent on getting through the Psalm than I was having the Psalm get through me.
Then I came to verse nineteen:
I've got a problem with the word, "bless." It is nebulous, overused, and under-understood (yes, I just made up that word). Still, we unload "bless" like a pocketful of pennies:
- Bless your heart!
- Bless you!
- God bless you!
- Have a blessed day!
- Bless the Lord!
- Blessing in disguise.
- Count your blessings.
- Bless my lucky stars.
- God bless America.
Do we really know what the word means?
"Bless" means "to favor" when we use it in reference to what God does for us, or in reference for what we ask God to do for others. What we are saying is, "God has favored me" or "Lord, please favor them." But how about those times when "bless" is used in reference to God?
What does it mean to "bless God."
At the moment of my reading I was stumped. Sure, I have studied this before, but like I noted the word "bless" trips me up. So I did a little excavation in the Hebrew.
"Bless" is derived from the Hebrew BARAK (baw-rak'), meaning "to kneel." Hmmmmmm. Pushing a little further in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon I saw this:
When we bless God, we adore God. One way we do that is to fall to our knees. No words are necessary, only actions, and the chief action is to stop and drop! To cease my activity, my babbling, my whirling mind -- even my singing -- and simply adore God WITH bended knees.
Psalm 135 provides a list of reasons we should kneel before God:
- God is good.
- God has uniquely singled out Israel among the nations (he's in control).
- God is great.
- God is sovereign (he does what he pleases)
- God is in charge of the clouds, the lighting, the wind (all of which were in abundance yesterday in Boca Raton).
- God is active in history.
- God protects his people.
- God is real, not a figment of one's imagination.
- God speaks.
- God listens.
- God is trustworthy.
Interestingly, Psalm 135 is not particularly original. It is made up from texts of other Psalms. Commenting on this unique feature, Charles Spurgeon writes:
The Holy Spirit occasionally repeats himself; not because he has any lack of thoughts or words, but because it is expedient for us that we hear the same things in the same form. Yet, when our great Teacher uses repetition, it is usually with instructive variations, which deserve our careful attention.
On that morning I needed such careful attention. I need it this morning too! I need to stop and drop. I need to kneel before my Maker, my Savior, my Protector, my Life. I need to express my adoration for His greatness, not so much with my words, but simply WITH my knees.
How about you?
- "The Holy Spirit occasionally repeats himself . . ." from Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. Volume 3: Psalm 111-119 & 120-150. Page 182. You can also access The Treasury of David online by clicking here.