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algoff1One of my favorite Bible passages during Thanksgiving is Psalm 103.  It is funny to walk through stores and pass people having a conversation with themselves.

Then, I notice the Bluetooth earpiece and realize that they are using their cell phone. They had no cell phones when this psalm was written, so there is only one conclusion. The psalmist’s spirit is speaking to his soul. “Hey, you, Soul! Yea, I’m talking to you. I know that you are busy thinking of many things, but let’s take a moment to praise God. Why? Let me remind you of a list of reasons.”

Roger Ellsworth says, “Praise requires preparation. Our hearts, ever inclined to deadness and coldness, must be stirred to properly take up praise.” When I awake in the morning, and before I think about the things I have to look forward to that day, I consciously take inventory. Am I awake? Is my mind ready for action? How about my arms and legs? If I roll out of bed, will I be ready to land on my feet?

I find it interesting that Simon Peter, one of the inner circle, was sleepy during key moments in history. When Jesus took him, with John and James, to the mount of transfiguration, Peter slept. When he finally woke up, there was Jesus glorified, speaking with Moses and Elijah. What a way to wake up! As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter slept. When he woke up, there were armed guards arresting Jesus.

small_cup_of_coffee267x200Like Peter, we become overwhelmed with circumstances that exhaust our strength. So, we are too sleepy to properly act at key moments. In this case, we need to hear the exhortation of Paul, “Wake up, sleeper. Rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:14). The same is true with praise. So, let’s drink our coffee and get all stirred up!

As Christians, we benefit in a unilateral covenant. God forgives our guilt and heals all our diseases (v.3). God redeems us from the pit, the place of ultimate destruction, and instead, makes us heaven-bound royalty because of his loving kindness and tender mercy (v.4). God satisfies us with good things, making us feel so young again that we feel like we could fly (v.5).

In verses 6 through 18, the psalmist shifts from singular to plural terminology. He does not want to enjoy God’s blessings alone, but wants it to be a shared experience. God’s grace, His righteousness and justice, are extended to all who suffer in a fallen world (v.6). How can we be sure of this? Because God’s collective grace is not new. He took an 80 year-old refugee, Moses, and gave him His Rhema word and shared with him divine authority to make a kingdom of slaves into a holy nation (v.7, Ex 19:6).

What is God’s love and grace like? It is high and wide and deep. It is as high as the heavens (v.11) and it removes our sins as far as the east is from the west (v.12). It is like a compassionate father, who sees his reflection of himself in the faces of his children (v.13). God knows how we are made. He knows that our bodies are fragile and can be blown away like dust in the wind, or bloom like a flower for only a season. Yet, he offers us to bask in His love for an eternity (vv.14-18). How could any sane person not appreciate that?

So, let us give Him praise and thanksgiving! Come on, Mayor Robinson and President Obama, praise him! Join us you heavenly angels. Come on, pastors! Praise Him! Wake up, my soul! Bless His holy name!

First published 2011-11-21. Al Goff.