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Words: by an anonymous author, based on Psalm 103:1-4, 12-13, 17-18, 21-22, from the United Presbyterian Book of Psalms, 1871
Music: Donizetti, adapted from music by Gaetano Donizetti (b. Nov. 29, 1797; d. Apr. 8, 1848)
Note: This is a fine metrical version of parts of Psalm 103. The Cyber Hymnal uses the tune Autumn, by François Hippolyte Barthélémon (1741-1808), but I’m more familiar with the tune by Donizetti, an Italian operatic composer (of nearly 70 operas). You can find books that use the Donizetti tune in the Hymnary.org link. But why they credit Harper Smyth (1873-1945) with the words there is beyond me, since they were published two years before his birth!
Did you ever stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself? It’s not likely a sign of insanity, unless you believe you’re Napoleon, or Elvis, or Jesus. Standing there, you might make a new year’s resolution to get in better shape. Or you might say to yourself, “I’ve got to phone Aunt Sarah, to see how she made out at the doctor’s.”
Almost as problematic as a Napoleonic delusion, however, can be the extremes of self-love, or self-loathing in self-talk. If we praise ourselves with arrogant pride, or reject ourselves with venomous hate, that can get us into trouble. As can the habit of comparing ourselves with others, saying we’re better or worse than someone else. The Bible says that’s not a wise thing to do (II Cor. 10:12).
Of course, what is sometimes called self-talk doesn’t need to take place out loud, when we’re gazing at our reflection. It can be a kind of running commentary that continues silently through the day, an inner voice commenting on what we do and say.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a sermon by King Solomon (Ecc. 1:1). In it he shows how futile life is if we do not factor in God and eternity. It’s clear, as we read the book, that he’s speaking, in part, of his own failures. Listen to some of his self-talk.
“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure;’ but surely, this also was vanity” (2:1). “I said in my heart, ‘As it happens to the fool, it also happens to me” (2:15).
These are statements of regret. The book of Psalms is quite different. It is the most personal book in the Bible, and might seem the most self-centred, since it uses the words “I” and “my” over a thousand times. However, these words are found most often in the course of personal meditation and prayer, and in the psalmist’s vows to the Lord.
It is a book of self-examination in the presence of God, and of promises made to Him. Most frequently, this involves a resolve to praise and glorify God. (Note the repeated “I will…” in the following.)
“I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Ps. 7:17).
Sometimes the author speaks of his determination to “bless” the Lord. The Hebrew word (barak) means to kneel before, as to a sovereign, and to praise Him.
“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel” (Ps. 16:7). “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever” (Ps. 145:1).
If we’re going to talk to ourselves about something we ought to be doing, and share our determination to do it with the Lord, that’s surely a worthwhile exercise. It becomes a resolution, whether at the turning of the year, or some other time, to praise and honour the Lord, both in what we say and what we do. David does that in Psalm 103, saying to himself:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2).
In the United Presbyterian Book of Psalms, published in 1871, there is an excellent metrical version of this psalm, which begins as follows:
CH-1) O my soul, bless thou Jehovah,
All within me, bless His name;
Bless Jehovah and forget not
All His mercies to proclaim.
He forgives all thy transgressions,
Heals thy sicknesses and pains;
He redeems thee from destruction,
And His love thy life sustains.
CH-2) He with tender mercies crowns thee,
Satisfies thy full request,
So that, like the tireless eagle,
Thou with youth renewed art blessed.
Righteous is the Lord in judgment
Unto all that are oppressed;
To His people He has ever
Made His goodness manifest.
1) What blessings of the Lord are you particularly thanking Him for today?
2) What blessings can you think of that you have forgotten to thank the Lord for recently?