I love the “I love the Lord” beginning to Psalm 116:
I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclines his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live (1-2, ESV).
I do love the Lord. He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. When I walked through the dark, deep valleys of life, God heard and answered my pleading cries. Because I have seen his hand in the past, I know that he inclines his ear to me in the present. And I long to call on his name now and in the future.
The psalmist continues in verses 3-4 (ESV):
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
Most of us have experienced some kind of personal trial.
Perhaps an accident, illness, or disease caused you to feel your life seeping away. With what you were sure was your last thought, you committed your soul to God. You may have been amazed to wake up the next morning and see sunshine pouring through the hospital window and shining in a bright square on the white blanket over you. In the early morning silence, you marveled to hear your shallow breaths, and to feel your faint heartbeats.
Perhaps pain seared your body as you writhed through each excruciating minute during the lonely hours of a long night. Perhaps every molecule of your being seemed permeated with panic. Perhaps depression or grief numbed your mind and you stumbled through your day in a blank fog.
If you suffered through any of these or other afflictions and cried to the Lord in your distress, you know the sheer magnitude of gratitude for his deliverance.
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you (5-7, ESV).
God is gracious, righteous, and merciful. He preserves the simple ones like me. And when I was brought low, he saved me. Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with me, I can remind my soul to rest in him.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living (8-9, ESV).
As my soul rests in God, I can remember how God has rescued me, dried my tears, and kept me from falling. As long as I live, he will enable me to walk in paths of righteousness before him.
He will do this only for those who truly believe (10-11, ESV):
We can’t have the kind of fox-hole faith that calls on God only when the shells are bursting around us. We must have the kind of true faith generated by the Holy Spirit that guides all of our private and public actions according to God’s Word. True believers can know that God hears our cries when we are greatly afflicted or lose all faith in humanity.
God’s great deliverance will fill our hearts with overflowing thankfulness.
What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people 12-14, ESV).
The “cup of salvation” implies the sacramental cup of the Lord’s Supper. The rescued and thankful believer doesn’t sit in solitary confinement. The delivered believer communes with the Lord and the saints in corporate worship.
Verse 15 of Psalm 116 initially seems like a non sequitur (it doesn’t seem to follow).
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
Matthew Henry explains that this is a psalm of David and that his death is so precious that God will not gratify his enemies by allowing it. God views the death of all believers as precious. We can take comfort in knowing that he will never allow our deaths for mere gloating of our enemies or out of sheer arbitrariness or negligence. The days of our births and deaths are sovereignly ordained by God. He will take his precious children home at his divinely appointed time. Then we will discover a wonderful new dimension of our Father’s precious love.
Psalm 116 concludes with the psalmist’s prayer and promise (15-19, ESV):
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!
Once the shells stop dropping, we shouldn’t hop out of the fox-hole and run off to pursue enemies on our own strength. We need to remember our dependence on the Lord. We need to humble our hearts in genuine submission to God’s will. He isn’t our servant; we are his. We don’t have the exalted status of the master; we are only children of a servant. But God rescues the humble and believing servant. He unties the ropes and breaks the chains!
How can we not offer him the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on his name? How can we not pay our vows to God in the presence of his people? How can we not participate in corporate worship and pray for the peace of Jerusalem?
Believers are part of a local church, but also part of the church of Christ. The way we live impacts our local congregation as well as the universal witness of Christ’s church.
May all true believers love the Lord and praise him for his great deliverance with lives of thankful and humble service!