O, the many benefits of God! King David, who penned Psalm 103, has inspired countless other writers to meditate on all the blessings of following God. The result is that hymn writers, contemporary writers, and even Broadway have found ways to “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” One gospel musician and pastor, however, wrote a favorite that is still enjoyed today by modern worshipers. What inspired Andraè Crouch to give us the hymn “Bless the Lord, O My Soul”?
When Was 'Bless the Lord O My Soul' Written?
In 1973, Andraè Crouch composed “Bless the Lord O My Soul,” and it became an instant classic. Andraè was a key musical force in the Christian/Gospel music of the 1960s-1970s. He grew up in the church founded by his parents and originally sang with the Church of God in Christ Singers.
Crouch went on to sing with The Disciples and recorded hymns sung by many today, including “The Blood Will Never Lose its Power,” “Bless His Holy Name,” “My Tribute,” and “Through It All.” Crouch also worked with popular mainstream singers such as Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, and Elton John. He served as senior pastor of the church founded by his parents and died in 2015 at age 72 following a heart attack.
Crouch was an incredible, well-recognized influence in gospel music. Among other honors, he won seven Grammy’s, six Dove Awards, an Oscar nomination, inclusion in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Crouch’s musical talent graced movies like The Color Purple and The Lion King. He was a musical channel for worship within the church and a bridge for Christ outside the church walls.
“Bless the Lord, O My Soul” is sung across denominations and unites people of all skin colors in its call to praise God for all He has done for us and how He, indeed, blesses our souls.
What Bible Verses Inspired 'Bless the Lord O My Soul'?
We don’t know what inspired David to write Psalm 103 but Charles Spurgeon believed it reflects the maturity David acquired later in life after years of following God and receiving forgiveness for his sins. As we read the psalm, we can readily see the reflections of a man in mid or later life, especially a man who has gained the humility of receiving God’s forgiveness.
Crouch based his song on the opening of the psalm:
“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” (Psalm 103:1-2 ESV).
David then lists many of those benefits, including forgiveness for sin, healing from disease, redemption from hell, love, mercy, goodness, and renewal of our youth “like the eagle’s.” David praises God for working righteousness and justice for all the oppressed, making Himself known, extending merciful grace, and remaining slow to anger and steadfast in love. From this psalm, we understand that God removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west and that God is compassionate to us as a Father shows compassion to his children.
David reflects on the fleeting nature of a single life. Our “days are like grass” compared to God’s steadfast love that endures from “everlasting to everlasting” and a righteousness that extends to the next generation.
The final verses of David’s Psalm are composed as if to be sung by a global choir. David has taken us from the joy of a single soul, to the joy experienced in the angelic realm and by every soul that experiences the benefits of our God. This effect can be felt in Crouch’s powerful modern rendition.
“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 103:19-22 ESV)
What Lessons Can We Learn from 'Bless the Lord O My Soul'?
It’s right and welcome that we bring all our needs to God and pour our hearts out to Him, but it’s also right to sing His praises. Too often, that’s a greater challenge, and we strive for the right words. David gives us a beautiful example of lavishing praise on God and remembering all that He has done. This psalm is perfect for moments when we’ve received a blessing and for those times when we’re still waiting for one to arrive. Just as the Israelites benefited from recalling their long history of being delivered by God, each of us benefits from remembering the long history of benefits we receive by knowing and following Him. This can strengthen hearts in the face of strife or the long stretches of quiet obedience.
David has followed God since his youth. It has not always been a straight line of obedience, but he has routinely returned to the God he knew as a young shepherd under the stars. He relied on God to give him the strength to protect his flock. He relied on God to give him the strength to destroy Goliath. He continued to rely on God to help him serve King Saul in battle and then to survive Saul’s attempts on his life. As king and leader, David relied on God to sustain him in politics and battle. As a father, he had to turn to God for help when his own sons tried to overthrow him or when they battled one another. Finally, David relied on God to forgive him for the adultery and murder committed in his later years. David was a shepherd, poet, warrior, husband, father, and king, but at heart, he was a lover of God. All that love is poured out in this psalm, and it can inspire us as it’s inspired many songwriters throughout the ages.
Hymns Similar to 'Bless the Lord O My Soul'
There are other hymns and songs inspired by Psalm 103.
“Praise My Soul the King of Heaven” by Henry Francis Lyte mirrors the stanzas of Psalm 103. It was included at the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
“Praise to the Lord, The Almighty” was originally composed by a German theologian, Joachim Neander. Like David, his four stanzas move us from praising God as individual souls to praising Him with all creation.
This pattern is particularly powerful because it reflects the pattern of our lives in Christ. We come to know Him as our individual Lord and Savior. We experience the benefits of forgiveness, healing, redemption, and provision in Christ. We recognize our fleeting lives against the eternity of the Savior, and then we see ourselves as just one of the multitudes who love and enjoy the riches of our God.
Of course, a more contemporary worship song based on Psalm 103 is the extremely popular “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O My Soul)” by Matt Redman. Matt’s song has led thousands of people in worship with the same exuberance David expressed in his psalm centuries ago.
Even Broadway has a song based on Psalm 103. Godspell featured a song by Stephen Schwartz based on a contemporary rendering of David’s Psalm. It’s energetic and spirited with a gospel feel but is true to many of David’s original words. The musical debuted off-Broadway in 1971 but exposed a generation of theater-goers to the gospel telling of Jesus and enjoyed a revival in 2011.
King David could never have envisioned Broadway or the myriad ways his words would resonate with coming generations, but God knew He was inspiring words that would ring in our hearts for eternity. Who will be the next composer to inspire a new generation to “Bless the Lord, O My Soul”?
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Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books including Running from a Crazy Man and The Art of Hard Conversations. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.