A devotional on Psalm 116
This is a song that Jesus and his disciples sang on the night of his betrayal “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Mt. 26:30. Read it with him in mind on that dreadful night.
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!”
This section discloses relational reciprocity between us and God. We call, he answers. We cry out and he inclines his ears to us. This experience repeatedly becomes embedded in our brain, and we learn to love him because of his predictable faithfulness. No matter what ensnares you; no matter what grabs you; no matter the torment, call on his name and he will deliver your soul. Jesus had learned this in his life on earth and well before.
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.
The simple – pethiy pethiy – are the naïve, open-minded, the seducible. Its root word means to be wide open, easy to lure, persuade, or deceive. To God we are as children. We are gullible to things that attract us. We have little knowledge and experience and fall into traps set to entice us. Thank him for his graciousness, his righteousness, and his mercy with which he preserves us. To preserve – shamar – is to guard, to observe, to watch for and save life. It is to hedge about as with thorns; to attend to, to be aware, to watch with eyes narrowed.
If you fear him, as we read yesterday, that is his stance toward you. This is the stance of Jesus on the cross over you, guarding you, observing you; with a crown of thorns around his swollen head; eyes narrowed at you, aware of you to save you.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
Oh how I love this soul talk. Sometimes we just need to hold our soul by the face, lean in and tell it how it’s going to be. If you are anxious, fussing and fretting, learn to shush your soul. Tell it to dock. Don’t let it keep thrashing and flailing. It will drown itself in that frenzy. Speak words to it and point it back to its Maker. God is your rest – manoach – your resting place. Your condition of rest. A dog circles before it settles into its manoach for a snooze. Train your soul to do that.
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.
Despite my folly; despite my poor decisions; despite my gullibility and places I took myself that I had no business being in, God maintained his narrowed-eyes stance over me and plucked me just in time. No matter how close I came to death; no matter how hard I cried or how surely my feet stumbled, I was safe in his arms. Therefore “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD,” Ps 118:17. Heaven knows I should have, but I shall not. Halal Yah!
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.
Remember how we were to command our soul to return to its rest? The Hebrew word is shub. In verse 12 the psalmist asks what he can shub to Yah for dealing bountifully him. Now that his soul is docked, he can see clearly what he needs to do. Psalm 116 is a hymn that Jesus sang on the night of his betrayal. Commentator Morgan says, ““Within a very little while after this singing, He, in Gethsemane, spoke of a cup, and in complete surrender to His Father’s will, consented to drink it. That was the cup of sorrows, of bitterness, of cursing. Having emptied it, He filled it with joy, with sweetness, with blessing. When we take that cup let us never forget the cost at which He so filled it for us.”
And what can we offer him for filling that amazing cup with his all for us? We can lift up the same cup and call upon him in acceptance of the salvation he wrought for us. We can consistently affirm our belief in him and thank him without ceasing for paying the price we couldn’t pay to give us a life we couldn’t afford.
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.
NIV Truly I am your servant, LORD I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.
When we think of Jesus signing this song before his death and invoking his mother’s name, we remember young Mary being thrust into the limelight and a life she did not want. Yet she surrendered and said, “I am maidservant of Jehovah, be it done to me according to your word,” Lk 1:38. In that precious tone of heart, her son Jesus would say, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done.” Lk 22:42. Truly he could say, “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.” Verse 16.
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!
After all he has done for us, the only fitting response to God is thanks. Verse 17 speaks of a sacrifice of Thanksgiving – todah. Todah is praise to God in song. It is primarily rendered in a group setting as a choir or processional. Its root word yada has to do with extending the hand in adoration. Visualize a room full of singing people with hands raised. If individual singing to God is bombastic in power, group singing is atomic.