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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Who is this Lord?

Bless the Lord, O my soul: God is for us!

Last month Psalm 8 revealed how God sees us. But the psalms most often speak of who God is. No two psalms highlight God's character more eloquently than Psalms 103 and 104, joined by their unique opening and closing refrains, Bless the Lord, O my soul. These glorious psalms teach us precisely why God is so worthy of our praise.

Psalm 103 virtually shouts the good news about God. God forgives iniquities and heals diseases (103:3), redeems lives (103:4), renews life (103:5), works justice (103:6), forgives sins (103:9-12), meets us in all our mortality (103:14-17) and, most centrally, is characterized by mercy and steadfast love (103:4, 8, 11, 13, 17).

Each verse resonates: God is for us. Of special note is verse 8. It's a version of the most often repeated credal statement about God in the Old Testament. Moses first hears this in the wilderness after the people worshiped the golden calf: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). These words are used in prayers: for forgiveness (Numbers 14:18), grace (Psalm 86:5, 15) and understanding (Jeremiah 32:18). They also proclaim God's nature (Psalm 103:8; 145:8), are used in calls for repentance (Joel 2:13), for vengeance (Nahum 1:3) and as an excuse for recalcitrant behavior (Jonah 4:2).


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