Psalm 103 starts with “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name,” and is used a total of six times in this chapter. For me to think of blessing the Lord is awkward, because I equate blessing from Him. What do I possess that I could bless Him? I do not think I have anything He needs. He blesses our world in a myriad of ways, He blesses His followers and the non believers as well (for reasons only known to Him, but based upon His love for all souls). So what then?
One theologian describes the word “bless,” as applied to God, “means to praise, implying always a strong affection for him as well as a sense of gratitude.” As used with reference to people, the word implies, “ a “wish” that they may be blessed or happy, accompanied often with a prayer that they may be so.”According to this definition, we do have something to offer God-our praise. I think I speak for most folk that if someone does something for me, I would like to be able to return the favor. We have to be very careful here that we do not think our works are worthy of repaying a Holy God. We are reminded in Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses(our “good” works) are as filthy rags;…” As Christians we should perform good works for others to demonstrate God’s love through us, but it is in no way working our way to Heaven; otherwise, Jesus died in vain (Mt. 5:16).
So, all we have to offer God is our praise and it is the thing He most desires of us. Should we take a day off from work to search for the great things He has done for us? Sorry, no need for that. Just take a second and read Ps. 103:3-4, “ Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Now that is “amazing grace”! But, why stop here. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
Many of the redeemed have a past they cannot forget. For the most part, we fight the good fight and not dwell on what was done “BC” (before Christ), but Ol Slew-foot never gives up (1 Pet. 5:8). But God has removed our sin. It is gone, out of here, never to return, departed, forgotten as if it never happened-not guilty! Bless the Lord, O my soul! Now that is something to bless God about! Jesus died for all of mankind’s sin and made these truths possible.
C.H. Spurgeon said, “…discontent and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil.” As I grew up, I was able to help my parents with their garden. Every year, we would till up the soil and put our seeds into the rows we had created. We would make sure that the patch of ground had enough sunlight and sufficient water for the plants. There was much work that went into the planting of a garden. However, with as much work as we had to put in to make sure our plants grew, there was one thing we never had to cultivate- weeds. Rather, these came up naturally. And just as weeds are natural to the soil, so complaining is natural to the heart of man.
Throughout the book of Numbers, we see the children of Israel complaining. In spite of all the good things God had done for them, complaining was still the natural response of the people. In Numbers 11:1 the Bible says, “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord.” The Lord responded to the complaints of the people in righteous anger by consuming those that complained. This first group of complainers was in “the uttermost parts of the camp.” However, there was a second group of complainers in chapter 11, verses 4-9. This second group was in the midst of the camp. The Bible refers to this second group as “the mixt multitude.” This group was made up of unbelievers that had come out of Egypt with the Israelites. During the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, this group proved to be a continual source of grief to the Israelites. This group was discontent. They longed for the food of Egypt while despising the manna that God had provided. This group of complainers displeased God and brought God’s wrath upon themselves. Their complaining was so prevalent that it eventually began to infect the Israelites around them. Their complaining was like a contagious disease that spread rapidly through the camp. Before long, the children of Israel were longing for Egypt once again.
It is easy for us to look at the Israelites and to shake our heads in utter disbelief at how ungrateful and discontent the people of God were. But do we not fall into the same pattern of complaining so easily? Unless the grace of contentment is cultivated in our heart, complaining will only come naturally from our lips. Complaining is like a contagious disease that can infect homes and churches. One person begins, and then another, and before long everyone is complaining. God tells us in 1 Corinthians that the judgments that fell upon the complaining Israelites were “written for our admonition.” They provide us examples that we can learn from. May we put off the sin of complaining and put on the grace of contentment before God. For in so doing, we glorify God and bring peace to our homes and churches.
Probably one of the more popular phrases in reference to a passage of Scripture is the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20. Those of us who have been around the church for any length of time can probably quote at least a part of it. There are several action verbs in that passage; however, only one is used twice. Can you think of it? It’s the verb “teach”.
Our passage today also includes a passage that includes this idea of teaching. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”. Here we see Paul’s admonishing Timothy to take the things that Paul had taught him and then to turn around and teach others the same things. This is exactly the idea spelled out in the Great Commission. Jesus commissioned the apostles to teach unbelievers the way of salvation, baptize them, and then continue teaching those new believers the things they had learned from Christ Himself.
This begs the question of the role of preaching versus teaching. What is the difference between those two words? Certainly there is a place for preaching. Paul himself tells Timothy in just a couple of more chapters to “preach the word”. J.I Packer wrote that “preaching appears in the Bible as a relaying of what God has said about Himself and His doings, and about men in relation to Him, plus a pressing of His commands, promises warnings and assurances.” It carries with it the idea of the town herald who would blow a horn to get everyone’s attention and then once the crowd was quiet, proceed to relay a message from the king or another dignitary.
So while preaching certainly has its place and time and is often the thing God uses to wake people up spiritually, the value of teaching cannot be minimized. Teaching carries with it the diligent, methodical, line-by-line, precept-by-precept relaying of truth. It involves taking the time ourselves to understand a passage or truth and then carefully teaching that to others. That teaching may take the form of a Sunday School or small group class, discipleship class, family devotions or just taking advantage of moments of opportunity to impart God’s truth to others. For those of us who have been Christians for awhile, what are we doing to “teach others also?”