How do we respond to God’s goodness and greatness, to his utter commitment to seek and accomplish our welfare, forever?
Our response should be automatic, immediate, and immense.
We should be grateful.
We should all be grateful.
David makes that point with a crescendo of praise:
20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
I teach systematic theology, with its 10 traditional doctrinal units. The unit on salvation—soteriology—is a lot longer than the unit on angels, for a simple reason: we don’t know much about angels, because we’re not told much.
We do know that we humans are “a little lower than the angels” (Ps 8.5), and that they serve both God (our verse here) and God’s people (He 1.14); that they have considerable, but not infinite, power (Da 10.13); and that some of them, at least, enter God’s throne room (Is 6.2). These are not personages to be trifled with.
But David calls them to praise God. And then he escalates.
21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
God often refers to himself as “the LORD of hosts,” a title we take to speak of his power to enforce his will, backed as he is by heavenly armies. (Of course, as omnipotent, he doesn’t need the backing, but it makes for powerful imagery [2K 6.17].)
All those hosts? The ones with the chariots of fire? They bow in humble corporate gratitude before him who is good, who is great.
22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion.
Remember how, during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees told him to hush the exuberant crowd? Do you remember what Jesus said to them?
“If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Lk 19.40).
The inanimate creation itself knows its creator, and David calls it to do the obvious thing—to call out in praise to him.
Which, come to think of it, creation does, every day, and every night (Ps 19.1-6).
I’ve heard that song on the beach at 6.30 am, when I stand with a small band of strangers to watch the glowing orb first peek its beams over the clear horizon.
I’ve heard it while viewing the butterfly display at Chicago’s Field Museum, each creature a different color, some even changing colors as you walk by—even though they’re dead—and meditating on the size of heaven’s graphic design department, all their energies expended on creatures that are made of paper and live for just a week.
I’ve heard it while meditating on flagellates, those tiny creatures that inhabit the digestive tract of termites and break down the indigestible cellulose—which is the only thing that termites eat—into substances that the termite can digest, all the while being protected by the termite from the surrounding oxygen, which is toxic to flagellates. (Which do you suppose evolved first—termites? or flagellates?)
I’ve heard it while threading between thunderheads while negotiating Bozeman Pass in a Cherokee Six.
I’ve heard it in the immense darkness of night in Death Valley or a Nebraska ranch or a Pacific or Caribbean island when I tip my head back toward the sky and stand awash in the light of millions of stars.
Creation’s praise continues all around us, 24 hours a day, despite the brokenness of the planet.
And so I conclude as David does—
Bless the LORD, O my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
I note that there’s more to come.
One day, soon enough in God’s eternal timetable, we all—all God’s people, all his servants, human and otherwise—will surround his throne and sing his praises, millions of voices, including my currently feeble one, raised in perfect praise to the one who is worthy, because he is good, and because he is great, and because he has loved and rescued us.