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Meditation Psalm 116

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    ‘Lord, save me!’

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    ‘I am greatly afflicted’;
in my alarm I said,
    ‘Everyone is a liar.’

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord –
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

(Ps. 116:1-19 NIV)

Psalm 116 was written in the aftermath of a crisis. With the emergency passed, the Psalmist pens a hymn of thanksgiving, expressing his great gratitude to God for his deliverance. In the Psalm he paints for us a very vivid picture of what the experience was like. So the Psalm is charged with an emotional intensity, and feelings are expressed in a very personal way.

Let me divide the Psalm into four:

  1. The danger of his situation.
  2. The anxious prayer.
  3. God’s response.
  4. The resulting dedicated life.

The Psalmist describes the danger of his situation in:

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

NIV Psalm 116:3

The phrase ‘cords of death’ has almost a nightmarish quality to it, straight from a horror movie. He felt the long fingers of death reaching out from the grave, grabbing him, clutching him, dragging him down into the embrace of the dead. Whether the Psalmist was exposed here to illness or whether it was the threat of the enemy, we can only guess. Either way, it was a dangerous situation which reduced the Psalmist to a state of near emotional collapse. ‘I was overcome by distress and sorrow’, he says. The kind of emotional crisis is a sustained anxiety, like the kind of suffering you find in soldiers who suffer from combat fatigue, or what they used to call shell shock. Such sustained stress slowly but surely pulverises the nervous system of even the strongest men and women. Perhaps those who have suffered a mental breakdown are likely to be in the best position to understand the hopelessness that the Psalmist expresses here:

• The cords of death entangling him.
• The anguish of the grave.
• Overcome by distress and sorrow.

The idea is the feeling of being dragged into a terrifying darkness. Someone has expressed it as ‘the walls of hell closed in on me’. Out of such fear and anxiety he prays.

His anxious prayer.

Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”

NIV Psalm 116:4

Notice how the reaction to this dangerous situation generates not only anxiety and terror, but also prayer. Some of us have to be driven to prayer. Self-confidence in our own experience, our own wisdom, sometimes has to be stripped away before we can learn to cast ourselves upon God. We could perhaps quite literally translate this verse as ‘Then I called and kept on calling and calling on the name of the Lord’. Not only did he feel completely unable to help himself, but there was nobody else around who was able to comfort and assist him.

You can see how discouraged he becomes with men and women around him.

In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

NIV Psalm 116:11

This verse could point to those who are bringing the threat to his life, or it could refer to those that he had turned to in his time of trouble but who had let him down. Either way the Psalmist was feeling bitter disillusionment with people. He speaks of loneliness and fear. Yet he surprises himself in these circumstances. He tells us in verse 10 that he believed. In his moment of crisis, he discovered what faith was. He was able to turn to God and tell God exactly how he felt, how miserable he was in his situation. In the midst of his distress he’s able to sense that he has at last been able to get through to God. He even begins the Psalm with a declaration of that devotion to God. But I think it is at this point, the point that v10 refers to, that those fires of devotion are set ablaze so that he can say:

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

NIV Psalm 116:1-2

Out of his weariness and need, he calls upon God and there is A Response from God.

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

NIV Psalm 116:5-6

A wave of relief and gratitude sweeps over the Psalmist as he recalls his escape. He realises it is not just a lucky break. This is no coincidence, but an answer to prayer. God had stepped into his life and answered his desperate cry. He relives the strong emotions of that event as he recalls the memory, because once more he seeks consolation for his soul.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

NIV Psalm 116:7

The experience of God in his deliverance has produced a great confidence in God.

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,

NIV Psalm 116:8

He had been delivered from death by the Lord, but the deliverance extended further than that – his eyes had been delivered from tears, his feet from stumbling. He wasn’t kept alive to exist in a living hell, God had spared his life but also had sustained him emotionally so that he could cope with the memory of the trauma. Quite often we blame ourselves for our problems. Perhaps we accuse ourselves of trusting and depending on others in a naïve way. If we had been more worldly wise, a bit smarter, we may not have been so easily duped. The Psalmist recognises that feeling:

The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

NIV Psalm 116:6

The Psalmist sees himself having been duped, he was gullible in believing what he believed. It was foolish of him to turn to anything other than the Lord. There may well be the suggestion here by the Psalmist that he takes part of the blame upon himself for the mess. What he is saying is that God has pitied his simplicity.

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

NIV Psalm 116:5

God is the God who delivers us out of our predicaments even when we, through our own stupidity, get ourselves into those predicaments. Every Christian must have some understanding of this emotion because everyone who is born again has some level of appreciation of the great predicament of sin that we have been delivered from:

(1) Failed relationships
(2) Lies
(3) Deceit
(4) Anger and bitterness
(5) Disappointment and depression.

In sober moments of honest reflection we are forced to admit that life has gone wrong. Our human lives were designed to be lived in friendship with God. God’s laws and rules were given not to make life miserable, but to show the sensible, happy, prosperous and rewarding way to live. But a kind of simple-mindedness that convinces us that there are kicks to be had in sin, fooled us into chasing after sinful ways. Somebody sold us the lie, that no rules, no restrictions meant freedom and liberty and ultimately happiness, but sin has proved to be a vicious form of self-abuse and the Bible tells me it is also God abuse. I never meant to abuse God, he was always there for weddings and funerals. Even at an early age you can sense that sin is like a rope that begins to coil itself around us. What will life in your future be like as you face it without God? – your further studies, your marriage, your career, your leisure, your children. Will they be taught anything about God, or will your stubborn resistance of Jesus Christ be imposed upon your children?

We have to admit that the results and consequences of sin fall upon our own heads because of the lies that we believe. Isn’t it good to know that:

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

NIV Psalm 116:5

But sadly, many people are stubborn. I don’t want your pity or anybody else’s. I have my pride; I don’t want charity. There is something about that kind of attitude that we can admire, somebody who is prepared to do something themselves rather than just depend on handouts from somebody else. But sometimes our situation becomes so desperate that we need a handout, and in the spiritual arena, we are at rock bottom and we need God’s pity, we need God’s compassion, we need His love. In love, God delivers. Salvation from sin, rescue from hell, obtaining eternal life is the greatest deliverance that any person can experience. The closer we come to God in this life, the more we appreciate just how much it has taken to save us. We consider it an act of great kindness when we have wronged someone and they’re prepared to say, let’s just forget it and move on. It’s nice when they genuinely do forget and don’t throw it in your face from time to time. But that’s not the kind of pity and love that God shows. God is prepared to bring us into a loving relationship with Himself, but in having pity upon us, God does not just forget about our offences, he deals with our offences. The punishment that we are due to suffer has been taken by Jesus Christ and when Christ was hanging upon the cross, the judgements against us were taken by Christ. That’s why the Christian says that through Christ they have been forgiven. God brings us deliverance, he saves our soul from eternal death. In the book of Revelation it talks about God wiping every tear away from the eye. God saves us in Christ, he has a plan for our lives, he is with us through life. The Psalmist appreciates how God values the life.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Truly I am your servant LORD; I serve you just as my mother did, you have freed me from
my chains.

NIV Psalm 116:15-16

The Psalmist’s enemies and perhaps even some of whom he considered friends, didn’t really seem to care whether he lived or died. The Psalmist appreciates that he is not unloved and unwanted. God would not lightly permit the death of one of his own; the Christian is precious to God. God saves us for a purpose.

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

NIV Psalm 116:8-9

As Christians, God wants us to walk before him in the land of the living that we might be his witnesses in the world. God takes delight to see this man coming into the house of God, joining with the company of the redeemed. In our self-centred world, it shouldn’t surprise us that Christians become preoccupied with their feelings about God. But here in this Psalm we see that the Psalmist is learning the lesson about how God feels about us. He wants us to walk before him in this life. I know at times we just want out of the hassle of life. The whole desperate predicament of this Psalmist’s experience seems worth it just for the experience of learning to live a dedicated life. The product of this experience is a life that is dedicated to God. Here is a person who has learned just how much he owes God.

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

NIV Psalm 116:13

He means he is going to take up this salvation. He accepts it gratefully and enthusiastically. That’s what you need to do. Whether you’re a Christian or not this message is to us all, to grasp with the firm hand of faith what God has done for us in Christ. This man is pledging himself to become a man of prayer. He’s pledging himself to be a church-man.

I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

NIV Psalm 116:14

Not just an individual in a private relationship, but a relationship that involves community and family.

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD–in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

NIV Psalm 116:17-19

His commitment to God meant going to gather with the people of God. Inspired by God this Psalm shows us how the individual experience of God brings us to celebrate with the people of God.

Prayer
Lord God we thank You that You have delivered us from sin and that we are free from Your great wrath. Lord help us to constantly be grateful and thankful and offer You the praise and honour that is due to Your name. We thank You for salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.