I love the Psalms. They minister to me in so many ways. There's a unique group of fifteen Psalms (or songs) called the Songs of Ascent. Many scholars believe the title indicates that these songs were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Psalm 134 has taken on new meaning to me lately.
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 bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!
When it comes to blessing, I naturally think of God as the "Blessor" and me as the "Blessee". After all, when God blesses us, He adds something to us. He bestows gifts like grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, kindness. That's God's job, after all isn't it, to bless us?
Psalm 134, however, continually talks about us blessing the Lord. This concept is a little harder for me to get my mind around. What does it mean to "bless the Lord"? After all, God is totally complete unto Himself. There is nothing we can add to Him or detract from Him. Nothing we can give Him that He doesn't already have. In essence, He really doesn't "need" us, but He chose to create us anyway.
I believe that by blessing the Lord, it means to constantly keep His name in the conversation. By blessing or praising the Lord, we enhance His reputation here on earth. One might say, "We give God props!" Not to go all Southern on you, but when good things happen here in the South, there is always someone who will shout with gladness, "Praise the Lord!!" They are giving credit where credit is due. Our job is to bring glory unto Him. How good it is to bless His holy name!
I recently received a short email from a friend, and at the end she signed it, "I'm grateful for you, Bev." Those words of gratitude and blessing brought a smile to my face. I believe that when we bless the Lord - lift Him up and glorify Him - there has to be a smile on His face.
Recently, here in the Carolinas, we lived through a devastating hurricane. Slow moving Florence dumped record levels of rain on us, sweeping peoples' homes away in floods and toppling trees on others with her wind gusts. She even closed down I 95 which is a major north/south interstate.
I distinctly remember standing by the window, watching the rain pelt against it and watching the huge trees in our back yard bending, almost parallel, to the ground. I pleaded with God to place a hedge of protection around us...to hold those trees by their roots, to not let the rains flood us. I cried out to Him.
Our small slice of NC was relatively spared, but 40 miles to the east, people lost everything in the flood waters. Entire homes were consumed. To the west, trees were toppled on houses and roads flooded out. If there was ever a time to shout, "Praise the Lord!" this was it. Sometimes we won't be spared the crucible, but when we are...what is our/my response? Do my words and my actions bless the Lord? Do they enhance His reputation? Do they let others know that I firmly believe God is at work? Even in the disasters?
I'm good at pleading, but am I good at blessing?
And what about "lifting up holy hands"? You have to understand that I grew up in a staunch Presbyterian church. If anyone raised their hands in church...well, they were just plain crazy. Boy have I changed. This girl's hands just automatically raise when the Holy Spirit moves in me. We all worship differently, but for all the goodness God has given me, I can't help but raise my hands and bless Him. I can just picture the sojourners to Jerusalem, singing songs of praise and lifting their hands to bless God on the way to His temple. Might we learn something from them?
I did see a very humorous Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, who does a hilarious routine on hand-raisers in church. "First," he says, "you have those who 'carry the t.v' - that's when your elbows are at your sides and your hands are held out like you're helping someone carry the t.v. into the house. Then you have 'wash the window'," he goes on, "those are the ones with one arm up, palm flat and forward, and they sway and swoosh their hand back and forth as if washing that window clean. Ultimately," he concludes, "you have 'touch down'. That's both arms up high like the ref signaling six points." Cracks me up....Yes, I digress...but I do believe that hands raised in praise do bless the Lord.
Finally, I love the progression of this Psalm:
1. First WE come and Bless the Lord.
2. We lift up our hands to the Holy Place.
3. We THEN call upon the Lord's blessing from on high - the maker of heaven
I admit that I often have it in reverse: God, you bless me first and THEN I'll bless you. I also know that exclamation marks are not often used in the Bible. Look at how many in this short Psalm....three! These folks are SERIOUS!
And so I wonder....how serious am I about blessing the Lord? How often do I keep His awesome name in the conversation? How often do I give Him credit where credit is due and speak of His lovingkindness? How often do I give Him props?
Coming through this hurricane has given me time to pause and reflect. I believe this sister needs to get her southern on and shout, "Praise the Lord" and lift my hands to the holy place! Can I get an Amen?
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for ALL the blessings you have bestowed upon me. Help me to not take them for granted. Please be with those who have had devastating losses in this latest storm. May you give them peace that passes understanding and may those of us who were spared reach out to help. Lord, let me continually bless YOU by keeping your name on my lips and in the conversation. Let me lift up my hands in praise to You for you are more than worthy. Let me come into your presence with singing for you are truly good, Lord...oh so good to me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
What about you? When was the last time you blessed the Lord? Take inventory...what in your life makes you want to raise your hands to Him in praise? What have you experienced when you bless the Lord? Are you waiting for His blessings first? With what have you already been blessed? Do share...