The Meaning of "All that is Within Me" (Psalm 103:1)

Question

In Psalm 103:1 it uses the phrase "all that is within me." What does this mean?

Answer

Psalm 103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

I believe Psalm 103 was written in the later years of David’s life when he had a keener sense of his own personal sin and God’s precious pardon. At this stage of life he was more in touch with both his personal weaknesses and the richness of God’s grace. He had a lot to be grateful for.

The phrase "all that is within me" speaks of every part of our life. This includes the union of our thoughts, emotions, words, sentiments and physical being — every one of our affections (cf. Deut. 6:5). Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible puts it well:

And all that is within me ... — All my powers and faculties; all that can be employed in his praise: the heart, the will, the affections, the emotions. The idea is, that God is worthy of all the praise and adoration which the entire man can render. No one of his faculties or powers should be exempt from the duty and the privilege of praise.

Like a finely tuned instrument, our entire being should bless the LORD. But shouldn’t even our untuned parts praise the LORD as well? Surely those especially!

But, as your question may imply, have we really thought this through? I think it includes much more than we may initially think. An example may help.

I recently had what some called a cardiac event. My heart began to beat erratically and my lungs would no longer take in air as deeply as they once did. All I could do was take thin, shallow breaths. I used to be a long-distance runner, biker and swimmer, so having an immediate reduced lung capacity was quite the surprise — scary, in fact! For more than a moment, I thought I was on my way to glory right then. When the crisis ended after a few days and my breathing returned back to normal, I realized that for years I had taken the air that I breathe for granted. Sports, the Army, law enforcement and SWAT all had required me to be in top physical condition. I’d accomplished so much but had pretty much failed to appreciate my ability to breathe. I had failed to bless the LORD with all that is within me. I hadn't been thankful for every breath he gave me to bless him with! How had I missed that? But now I’m thankful for my cardiac event.

While blessing the LORD with all our being seems rather simple to generally understand, I think we may take far too much for granted at times (cf. Jas. 4:15). We need to be careful to continuously examine our entire being and be thankful to God for each and every aspect of it — the good things, the bad things, the hard things, the scary things, the things we don't like about ourselves. (cf. 1 Thess. 5:18; Psa. 34:1; Eph. 5:20). I think only then can we begin to comprehend and experience what it means to bless the LORD with all that is within us, and more fully bless his name.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).