Sometimes the words “Bless you” are said carelessly. When we sneeze, we sometimes hear, “Bless you,” and we say, “Thank you.” We acknowledge that it’s good to be blessed. Biblically speaking, however, the blessing of God is a much weightier matter than the “Bless you” so often heard after a sneeze. Jacob wanted to be blessed so badly that he wrestled God until he received a blessing (Gen. 32:22–32). Why did Jacob so want to be blessed? What does it mean for God to bless us?
To be blessed by God means for God to show us favor, especially in terms of our covenant relationship with Him. This favor is unmerited. That is, we don’t deserve it. As we read Genesis, we come to the call of Abraham (Abram, at the time) in Genesis 12. The narrative doesn’t give us any explanation as to why God chose Abraham. God simply chooses him, and as a result of His choosing him, He speaks to him and blesses him (vv. 1–2). We’re left wondering, Who is this Abram? Why did God call him? Why not someone else? It is all rather peculiar. We are forced to acknowledge that God chose Abraham out of the sheer pleasure of His mysterious will and for His name’s sake. That’s unmerited favor. Similarly, when God calls us, His Word and Spirit are at work in us to renew us after His image, not because of something we did to earn our salvation, but because God chose us. We are blessed by God, and He continues to bless us as He sanctifies us.
The Bible, however, also calls us to bless God. This idea is less familiar to us. If to receive blessing from the Lord is to receive His unmerited favor, then for us to bless the Lord would require that we show unmerited favor to Him. But that doesn’t make sense. God merits all the favor we can give Him. Yet the Bible nevertheless calls us to bless the Lord. So, the Bible must mean something slightly different here. God doesn’t depend on us, but we can show Him “favor” by honoring Him and esteeming Him in our hearts and lives. We can praise Him with all that we are.
Psalm 103 is a good example of what it means for us to bless the Lord. It starts by saying, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (v. 1). It is strange that David begins this psalm by talking to himself. It seems that David was intentionally reminding himself. We, like David, need to remind ourselves to bless the Lord; to honor and esteem Him in all things. David then explains to himself how to bless the Lord—“all that is within me, bless his holy name” (v. 1). Here, David summons his whole being to bless the Lord. He doesn’t just praise Him partially. We are also called to bless the Lord with our whole being. After all, we were created in His image. We are made to reflect Him. And, He has renewed us in His image. As Christians, it is our delight to bless Him. Augustine says in his commentary on this verse that we do not seek to reward the Lord but merely to give back to Him His own image. “He requires no more; He demands His own coin.” Let us, then, bless the Lord.