Psalm 116

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Psalm 116 ESV
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 10 I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” 12 What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. 16 O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Personal Praise

One of the ways to keep your things separate from another person is to personalize them. Put your name on it, give it a nickname, or decorate it in some manner, and you can easily find your items. And when it comes to praising God, we can bring the same action of personalizing our praise. Psalm 116 contains a “hallelujah”, But this hallel has a very personal character. As we read this personal testimony of God’s gracious acts, consider how to make your praise personal to God because of the gracious acts in Jesus Christ.

Remembering Anguish

In general, we might find it a bit offensive for someone to command us to love them. But we often welcome love from family and those with whom we have a relationship. God commanded Israel to love Him with all their being as a reasonable response to God as Creator, Savior, and Faithful God.
The (Shema) This is a fundamental statement in the Old Testament concerning God. And it is followed by a command to love.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Why does the writer declare this love for God? It is because God has heard the prayer for salvation. The writer recalls when he spent time in deep and desperate prayer. He describes the dire situation as being close to death. From the context, it may be that this person was physically ill, but it may also include a painful situation in which things appeared like it was “the end”. The writer compares his situation to being trapped by death and sheol.
What is sheol? Sheol is the ancient Hebrew concept of death and the afterlife. It describes a situation of desolation, separation, and gathering place for the dead. It represents being cut off from life. The concept of the afterlife is fully represented in the New Testament as one of two options - united with God in Christ OR separated from God because of rejecting Christ.
When presented with this situation, the psalm writer knows to whom he should pray. He knew the name of the LORD (YHWH). He most likely knew the other options of the surrounding nations and religions, but he knew the shema. He understood that God was the only one to whom he should pray. When you face problems of any kind, do you go to God ?Do you give Him only the “big” things but not the “little” things ? Peter writes this about our cares. 1 Peter 5:6-7
1 Peter 5:6–7 ESV
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Jesus repeats this in Matthew 6:31-32
Matthew 6:31–32 ESV
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
If you don’t take your burdens to God, then you probably are still holding on to them. You were never meant to carry it all.

Recognizing Mercy

The writer recognizes that God is gracious, righteous, and merciful. All three attributes point to His generous attitude toward those who are in need. God knows, sees, and acts in a way to deliver us from those death experiences. His grace extends to the “simple”, those who cannot save themselves and are weak or without knowledge or strength. Because He is such a merciful God, the writer reminds himself to be at rest when God is on his side.
The writer declares the salvation of God from death, tears, and stumbling. We do not know the personal circumstances to which he speaks, but we should recognize the foreshadowing of salvation in Jesus Christ. As Savior, Christ delivers us from our dead state of sinfulness. Without Christ, we have no spiritual life. Some claim to be spiritually “awake” without Christ, but scripture reminds us that there is only one way to be made spiritually alive. It is through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:1-6
Ephesians 2:1–6 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
This psalm can become “their” psalm by recognizing the saving grace through Jesus Christ. But is Christ only good for salvation from sin and eternal life? What about this world and our present situation. Is Christ only good for the afterlife but not this present life? “Emmanuel,” the name given in Isaiah for the coming messiah, means “God with us”. We encounter Christ in tangible ways, through the comfort and guidance of His word, through peace, and through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. John 14:26-27
John 14:26–27 ESV
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
In the varying degrees of hardship, God is our refuge, strength, and present help in trouble. And here is where we see faith in God and an honest check on reality. The writer declares faith in the midst of affliction and recognition of the futility of human solutions. Some may see admitting one’s affliction as a lack of faith. It is never a lack of faith to admit one’s weakness and the tremendous pressure that accompanies affliction. It is honesty. It is, however, a lack of faith to admit the current circumstances and leave out God’s gracious, merciful, and righteous solutions. It is a lack of faith to assume that God does not care or has forgotten. Guard your heart against this thinking, for scripture reminds us that God’s steadfast love endures forever. People will fail us, lie to us, and leave us but our best and only option for hope rests in God.

Returning Personal Praise

The psalm ends with a resolute attitude. The proper response to the God who saves is to worship Him and give Him praise. The writer mentions two concepts. The first is the cup of salvation. In the ancient world, it was a common practice to offer deities drink offerings. God prescribed these poured-out offerings for Israel. Exodus 25:29 But the cup that the writer raises is a cup of salvation. It represents God’s saving action. It is not an offering of man to God but salvation from man to God. The worshipper praises God, who gives him salvation. Secondly, the writer mentions paying his vows to God. In the Old Testament, a vow was a voluntary offering, sacrifice, or dedicated thing in response to God’s goodness. There was no obligation to make a vow, but God condemned making a vow without intending to keep it. Numbers 30:2, Matthew 7:11. When one made a vow, it was to freely demonstrate one’s gratitude and devotion to God. It was to come from the heart without compulsion. The writer is overwhelmed with gratitude and desires to honor God with his vows. As believers, we can give to God all that we are and have in devotion to Him. Let your giving to God be from a devoted heart. Let your words be simple and keep your promises.
The writer comments about the death of saints. This is heavy concept to consider. Let’s begin with the term saint. Some churches have the tradition of naming saints, officially affirming and verifying performed miracles or martyrdom (dying for their faith). But scripture calls those who place their faith and confidence in God “saints”. It is the community of those called and gathered around Jesus Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, you have the privilege of being called a saint. 1 Corinthians 1:2
1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Joke about the saint funeral
The writer declares that God sees it as precious when it comes to the suffering and even the passing of those who are “saints”. The term means “weighty in value, costly”. This reminds us that God does not take our suffering or death lightly. We know that He has paid the price for our salvation. Isaiah reminds us of the great costly price that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would pay for us. Isaiah 53:5
Isaiah 53:5 ESV
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
For this reason, even the end of physical life is not the ultimate end. God promises life after this life is over. It is our blessed hope in Christ who conquered sin and death through the cross and rose from the grave. God amazingly gives this privilege to all who believe in Christ. And in response, the writer compares two kinds of bonds (chains or methods of bondage). He declares that he is freed from the bondage of affliction but willingly commits himself to the bonds of being a humble servant of God.
“The voluntary bonds of servanthood are greater than the strong bonds of death.” Derek Kidner

What is in your hallelujah?

The writer ends the psalm with a “hallel”. We know the journey of this worshipper. We know the reasons why he gives praise to God. But what about you? If you were given the task of composing a personal praise, would you have a difficult time doing it? Put aside your ability to write words and make a poem or melody. Do you have a reason to praise God? Do you have a testimony? Do you have a history with God that reveals His faithfulness? If you have a difficult time answering the question, then you need to consider the salvation provided and offered to you in Jesus Christ. You may not have the motivation to be thankful because you may not realize your debt of sin. Luke 7:44-50
Luke 7:44–50 ESV
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
All of us are that woman, whether our history was shameful or we lived a “decent” life.
As you grow in your prayer, learn to give personal praise by calling to memory all that God has done for you. Even when you have to admit that the present situation is painful and heavy, exercise your faith by trusting God and giving Him your personal praise.
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