Continuing my translation with comment of Psalms 90-106
Bless Yahweh, my soul,
With all my heart bless now his holy name!
Bless Yahweh, my soul,
And do not forget all his good gifts!
Who pardons all your depravity
Who heals all your deadly diseases
Who liberates your life from the Pit
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender care
Who augments your age with a bonus:
that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Yahweh does just deeds
And makes impartial judgements for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses
His works to the children of Israel.
Yahweh is tender and merciful
Slow to anger and full of faithful love.
He will not always accuse us
Nor hold a fault forever.
He has not dealt with us by the measure of our misdeeds
Nor rewarded us for our wrongdoing.
As the heavens are high above the earth
So his love leans over those who fear him.
As far as the sunrise is from the sunset
So far does he remove our faults from us.
As a father is tender to his children
So Yahweh is tender to those who fear him
For he knows what we are made of,
He remembers that we are dust.
Human life is like grass
Like a flower of the field it flourishes
Then the wind passes over and it is gone
And its neighbourhood knows it no more.
But the loyal love of Yahweh is from of old to forever
Upon those who fear him,
And his justice to childrens’ children;
To those who keep his covenant
And remember to do as he directs.
Yahweh has set up his throne in the skies
And he rules over all things.
Bless Yahweh all you messengers of his
You mighty ones who do his bidding
Who hear and obey his orders.
Bless Yahweh all you his armies
His slaves who serve his will.
Bless Yahweh, all his creatures in every part of his kingdom
Bless Yahweh, my soul.
This is one of a small number of Psalms which are completely positive in their image of life and faith. Even where the writer reflects truthfully on the fragility of human existence, he balances it with an equal insistence on Yahweh’s overarching compassion and faithfulness. We should not underestimate this kind of faith. The writer has no belief in resurrection, and is clear-eyed about human suffering, but still blesses God. I often think that without faith in resurrection I couldn’t believe in God at all, so this writer has my admiration.
The psalm enumerates reasons for blessing God:
1. God forgives sins
2. God heals disease
3. God rescues from death
4. God surrounds you with love and care
5. God renews your youth.
Some of these I can imagine but some I can’t: how does God rescue from death, and how exactly does he renew my youth? The psalm does not tell me, but that’s is not its business. Rather it expresses the experience of the writer and his faith community. Israel may well say that it has been rescued from the pit and had its youth renewed in the return from exile in Babylon.
The characterisation of Yahweh as a forgiving God is very beautiful: lovingkindness, tenderness, faithfulness are qualities that arouse a desire to bless God. Yes, human life is frail but God understands that; indeed it arouses his compassion. Yahweh’s effortless rule of the world is benign, evoking blessings from all creatures. The psalm is a good advert for its author’s faith.