An Attitude of Gratitude
(14) May Yahweh make you increase, you and your children! (15) May you be blessed by Yahweh who made heaven and earth! (16) The heavens (are) Yahweh’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. (17) The dead do not praise Yahweh, nor do any who go down into silence, (18) but we will bless Yahweh now and forevermore. Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!)
Among the several repetitions in this closing segment, one in particular stands out as shaping its message, the use of “bless.” First, the psalmist prays for Yahweh’s blessing, that is, his doing good for those who worship him (vs. 15). Then, he turns this around to declare, “We will bless Yahweh,” that is, we will speak well of him for his doing us good (vs. 18).
Note also the fourfold use of the second person pronoun where the psalmist invokes Yahweh’s blessing on his people (vss. 14 & 15). Other repetitions include “heaven(s)” (three times in vss. 15 & 16), “earth” (also in vss. 15 & 16), “children” (vs. 14 & 16), and “praise” including the final exclamation of the psalm, “Hallelujah!” (vss. 17 & 18).
I. Calling for Yahweh to bless his chosen people (14 & 15)
II. Calling for all humanity to bless Yahweh forever (16-18)
Those blessed by Yahweh should respond by blessing him in return.
“Reciprocate” is a verb that means “to give back something in response.” In some cultures if someone were to offer us a gift, we would be expected to return the favor at some point. If reciprocating God for what he has done for us becomes our only motive for worship, then that which should be a spontaneous outpouring of praise and gratitude can easily become a stifling duty, a burdensome obligation, that must be fulfilled. In fact, some churches actually use the term, “obligation,” to describe certain aspects of worship.
Worship can also be motivated by the desire for gain. Occasionally, someone will say, “You cannot out-give God,” and then support that statement with a verse like, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Mal. 3:10). In such a scenario, we reason that if we give generously to God, he somehow becomes obligated to respond to us with appropriate bounty. In essence, we give in order to get. Somehow, this seems like a topsy-turvy way to glorify God.
What should ultimately motivate our worship for God? Should not our adoration emerge from our overwhelming sense of thanksgiving for all that God has undeservedly given us borne out of a realization that we can never pay him back for all he has done? This kind of gratitude should lead us to express our heartfelt thanks and praise not out of a sense of obligation, not out of a desire for a reward, but rather as a genuine response of love. When we come to God with such an attitude of heartfelt gratitude, he will surely be delighted with our worship.