PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

PSALM 116 TALK: HALLELUJAH – FOR GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND SAVES US

(A very personal Psalm written by a man who called out to God with a desperate prayer for help as he seemed to face certain death but who found that God hears his prayers and saved him. His testimony gives us hope and encouragement in our prayers that the same God the Psalmist prayed to also hears our prayers and helps and saves us).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

In my study of this Psalm, Psalm 116 I read and watched some other preachers seek to open up this Psalm and in that research I came across a sermon illustration for this Psalm that I want to borrow for my talk because it is so good.

The illustration comes from a popular black American preacher named Tony Evans from Texas USA who spoke of being in a elevator in a high rise building that one day got stuck between floors high up in the building. He was in the elevator with a number of people who reacted in all sorts of ways. Some, he said yelled out loudly and they hoped someone would hear them and do something to get the elevator going again.

Some of the people beat the walls of the elevator and a couple just fell to the floor weeping with fear. Then Evans just made his way to the front of the elevator and opened the door of a little box on the wall and calmly pulled out the phone in the box and spoke to the emergency operator and asked for help to be rescued from the elevator he was trapped in.

Evans then goes on to explain that we all will get stuck in difficult and even uncomfortable situations in life and what we know and believe will determine what we do in those situations. Some will kick and yell and even scream while others will fall in a crying heap on the floor paralysed by fear and despair.

The Christian however has a powerful God they can call upon and that God is non – other than the God who made this world and the universe who has unlimited power and resources to help us. I like the Australian hit song of the 1960’s by a an Australian aboriginal singer named Jimmy Little called “Telephone to Glory” which was written by a man named Fredrick . M. Lehman in 1919 here is the first verse and chorus of that song,

Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;
You may hear from heaven almost any time;
’Tis a royal service, free for one and all;
When you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.

Refrain:

Telephone to glory, oh, what joy divine!
I can feel the current moving on the line,
Built by God the Father for His loved and own,
We may talk to Jesus through this royal telephone.

Psalm 116 is according to another sermon I read on this Psalm is a personal testimony of a man
who for some reason came very close to death either through sickness or through the attacks of
his enemies and in that situation he used the Royal Telephone, prayer to the God of the bible to get
help and he got help in a wonderful way and that experience caused him to have greater
confidence in God which we read particularly in verse 1,

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to
me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

He tells us many things about prayer and the God who listens and answers it and he longs to also show his thanks to the God who listened to him and saved him and he tells us that he will publicly thank God through the required sacrifices laid down in the bible for this and he will use this to proclaim his God’s great name.

Another interesting aspect to this Psalm for me is that we know that this Psalm is part of the “Hallel” Psalms (113 – 1118) also called by the Jews, “The Egyptian Hallel Psalms” because these Psalms were used as part of the Passover celebrations where the Jews celebrated God saving his people out of the bondage of Egypt. Psalm 116 was and is used in Jewish worship after the passover meal has been eaten. This possed for me a very real question:

How does this deeply personal testimony Psalm relate to the Passover celebrations?

I like H.C. Leupold answer to this question:

“It is not inappropriate for the individual to think of the nations deliverance as being analogous to his own”.

So the answer to the Psalmist prayer for salvation or deliverance from certain death is an analogy of the Nations of Israel’s answered prayer for deliverance from death and bondage in Egypt.

Therefore as the Passover is an analogous event in history of the deliverance from the bondage of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus we to can study and learn from this Psalm that God hears us when we pray and is in fact the only one who can save us from the consequences of our sins which is eternal death.

We have no idea when this Psalm was written or what actual event led to the Psalmist writing it only to say two things:

It was placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the return from exile.
The writer was delivered or saved from certain death.

Why many Psalms are vague concerning the full details of what the writer is praying about I think is done on purpose so that the Psalm can relate to individuals going through similar but not the same kind of experiences and find the same help and encouragement from the Psalmist experience and words.

The Psalm also contains many bible references particularly from previous Psalms which means the writer of this Psalm knew his bible and used the words from it in his day to day walk with the Lord.

I find the words of the actual Psalm so powerful and personal that I have attempted to use them even as my headings in my outline of this Psalm which is based on the concept of this Psalm being a praise of the Lord for how the God of the bible hears our prayers and saves us:

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord
2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 14) I trusted the Lord
2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant
2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

(1 – 9) I LOVE THE LORD

1. (1 – 2) I love the Lord

This very personal Psalm commences with the intense and emotionally charged words of verse 1 that says,

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy”.

Many commentators who know the original Hebrew point out the unusual way the Hebrew actually goes here. Allan Harman says this,

“This translation of the NIV is possible, but the position of the word “Lord’ is debatable. The preferred and more literal rendering is, ‘I love, for the Lord heard the voice of my supplications”.

Harmon goes on to explain what this literal translation of the original Hebrew means,

“The unusual expression may well draw attention to the intensity of the love that he felt for the Lord”.

So the original writer really now loved the Lord far greater than he did before his recent experience of God answering his prayers. Harmon also quotes the words of the apostle John in 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he first loved us”.

Note the other word for love this Psalmist uses at the end of verse 1, “mercy” which is the Old Testament word for grace or love we do not deserve. It is this concept of grace or love we do not deserve that features in the presentation of God in the bible that separates it from all other concepts of God found in other religions.

The God of the bible helps us when we don’t deserve help as Paul makes it clear in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Also the God of the bible actually listens to us when we pray as we read in verse 2,

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live”.

The idea of God listening to us features all through the Psalms, 17: 6, 31: 2, 71: 2, 86: 1 and
102: 2 . As we learnt from Psalm 113: 5 – 6, the God of the bible is both great, mighty, powerful and lives enthroned in heaven but also chooses to stoop down to as it says here in Psalm 116 to,

“Turn his ear to me”.

I have already mentioned in my introduction some of the words of the song “Telephone to Glory” and I think the last two lines of the chorus says it all,

“Built by God the Father for his loved and own
We may talk to Jesus through his royal telephone”.

When we speak to God through the Lord Jesus we are not on a dead line with no one on the other end but God is listening and the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this confidence we can have when we pray in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

Paul tells us in Romans 8: 34 that Jesus established this “Royal Telephone” or communication with the Father in heaven, called prayer through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus,

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

So the writer of Psalm 116 says that he loves the Lord because the Lord showed him the love he did not deserve when he listened to his desperate prayer for help and finally this renewed experience of the love of God will lead him to,

“Call on him (the Lord) as long as I live”.

When we prove God in our lives though answered prayer our faith in God is given a boost and we learn afresh to trust in the Lord and love him more. This was the experience of this Psalm writer his actual personal experience of a remarkable answer to his prayer bolstered his faith and led him to look to God even more in prayer.

May we do the same and lean that God does love us because he not only sent Jesus to die for us but he listen to us and answer our prayers as John says in 1 John 5: 13 – 14,

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.

2. (3 – 9) I will call on him

In the first two verses we are not told what the writer of Psalm 116 cried out to the Lord about, what his prayer request was for but now we are told in both verses 3 and 8 that it was what seemed to be certain death that caused him to call out to the Lord.

In verse 3 this prayer request is expressed this way,

“The chords of death entangled me the anguish of the grave cam over me”.

And in verse 8 the prayer request is expressed this way,

“For the Lord has delivered me from death”.

Why the Psalmist was close to certain death we are not told. Could it have been like King Hezekiah recorded in Isaiah 38 sickness as verses 1 says,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Or could it been certain death that would come from some kind of enemy as David speaks of in Psalm 18: 3,

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies”.

I mention Psalm 18 because the writer of Psalm 116 lifts and steals the opening words of David’s next verse, verse 4 in the opening words of Psalm 116 verse 3 to describe his near death experience,

“The chords of death entangled me”

The next words of the writer of Psalm 116 in verse 3 are:

“The anguish of the grave came over me”

Which I think echo David’s words in Psalm 18 verse 5,

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me”.

Our death or facing what might seem certain death is probably one of the most confronting and difficult things we will ever experience as the mortality of our existence and the sheer hopelessness of our situation is never more real and terrifying.

So whether this writer faced death through sickness or death at the hands of his enemies is not clear but he did face what seemed to him to be certain death. The image for him and David as death being like cords pulling him into the grave is described this way by writers of the Pulpit commentary,

“Death is pictured as seizing his victim and binding him with cords”.

Leopold likens it to the actions of a ancient hunter who traps his animal pray in a net and the victim feels trapped in the mesh of the hunters net that is dragging it to its certain cruel and bloody end, death.

These are vivid images of a very real and frightening situation the writer of Psalm 116 prayed his prayer from.

So in verses 3 – 9 I see four other things that the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him and others like certain death and they are:

  1. How he felt when he faced certain death (verses 3b and 8b)
  2. What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)
  3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)
  4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

So lets have a closer look at each of these four things the writer of Psalm 116 wants to convey to us about his experience of a remarkable answer to the prayer he prayed when he faced what seemed to him was certain death.

How he felt when he faced certain death (verse 3b and 8b)

As I said this is a deeply personal testimony of the writers experience of his answer to prayer of deliverance from certain death and in the second half of verse 3 he tells us how he felt as he was being pulled very quickly to what seemed certain death, he writes,

“The anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow”

Then in verse 8b he writes,

“My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”

I have only personally witnessed the actual death of one person my own dear father who died ten years ago at the age of 80 and my wife and two sisters stood around his bed in hospital as he spent what was for me about half and hour of terrible suffering as he died of the effects of pneumonia on his already weakened aged body.

My dad gasped to breath and we stood around him weeping and seeking to somehow comfort him as his life seemed to be taken away from him. We all cried out with a loud wale of anguish and despair as he breathed his last breath. Death I thought later is not a pretty thing it is an awful unnatural and devastating experience to witness and I am sure go through.

My Dad was not a believer and he came from a long line of non – believing ancestors as his father and grand father were honest open atheists who hated believers and the churches they belonged to. I was often a great disappointment to my Dad and the family that both he and my mum came from. I dared to believe in God and at family gatherings I was often the but of many peoples jokes as the tea tottering foolish believer of fairy tales.
However when the chips are down and death is staring us all in the face then my so called foolish faith seems for a short while not so foolish and I have had some of my best opportunities to witness to my non believing families at funerals of family members over many years now.

Paul makes many startling claims about death and the Christian faith and I love his words about our victory over death in 1 Corinthians 15: 55 and 56,

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law”.

Note that Paul tells us death has a sting or it will be a painful and unpleasant experience but because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the pain or in Psalm 116 terms anguish and tears of death will turn into victory.

What he did when when he faced certain death (verse 4)

The writer of Psalm 116 unlike my Dad was a true believer and as he faced certain, painful and frightening death he did something that verse 4 now tells us,

“Then I called on the name of the Lord; ‘Lord save me’”

What the writer did has three parts:

  1. He called
  2. On the name of the Lord
  3. Save me

Lets have a closer look at each of these three parts of what the writer of Psalm 116 did as he faced certain death.

  1. He called

Spurgeon writes,

“Prayer is never out of season, he prayed then, when things were at their worst. When the good man could not run to God, he called to him. In his extremity his faith came to the front: it was useless to call on man, and it may have seemed almost as useless to appeal to the Lord; but yet he did with his whole soul”.

In my introduction I spoke of the sermon illustration Tony Evans gave of his experience in a high rise buildings lift when it stopped working and got stuck between floors and of how people in the lift reacted different ways. He said some called out loudly, while others thumped the walls of the lift all hoping some might hear they were in trouble and needed help. He even said some simply slumped to the floor and gave up in despair.

But Tony Evans alone knew what to do and he calmly stepped forward and opened a little box near the front of the lift and used the phone in that box to call for help.

Tony Evans lift illustration is an analogy of what people do when they face real problems and difficulties in their lives, they might call out in vain hope to others for help, or thrash around thumping walls in anger or despair or both or they might just slump to the floor and simply give up.

However the true believers of the God of the bible know where the real life line is found and it is through prayer which I alluded to in my introduction as God’s telephone to glory. When the chips are down or when death is staring us in the face what we do then really shows what we really believe.

For the writer of Psalm 116 he followed the example of David in Psalm 18 verse 6,

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help”.
Jesus wants us to turn and call to him when life gets hard and burdensome as he says to us in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Not that when we might face death in the future turning to Jesus will save us from it, he might if our time in this life is not over but rather even if it is our time to pass from this life to the next he will be with us helping us through the pain and burden of even our deaths.

I hope that when my time comes to die, and we all know we will, then my faith will cause me to call out to the Lord for comfort and help knowing that his promise is to give me rest.

2. On the name of the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 did not call out vainly in the air for help like the people in the lift did in Tony Evans stuck lift story he called on the name of of the Lord. Leopold explains well what calling on the name of the Lord really means when he writes,

“God’s name implies the fulness of revelation that the Lord has made concerning himself”.

In David’s Psalm 18 that the writer of Psalm 116 was obviously very familiar with David speaks this way about what he believed God had revealed himself to him in verse 2 of that Psalm,

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and deliverer; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

And remember David wrote these words when he himself seemed to face certain death and like the writer of Psalm 116, called out to this Lord he has just described.

People might even try and pray when they face death but who or what are they praying to, often simply is a vain hope of someone or something beyond themselves who they think might be there to help and deliver them.

However David and the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the God of the bible who as I said earlier is the creator of this world and the entire universe who has unlimited resources to draw upon to help us. I mentioned earlier the confidence the writer of the Hebrews spoke of in Hebrews 4: 16,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

And Paul spoke of in Romans 8: 34,

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

The writer of Psalm 116 will tell us a bit more about the kind of God he called upon in the next verse but for now I offer the verses that precede the Hebrews 4: 16 verse that tell us that when we pray to the revealed name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ we not only have a saviour who has access to unlimited resources but we are praying to someone who understands our needs and difficulties, Hebrews 4: 14 – 15,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin”.

3. Save me

The writer of Psalm 116 simple prayer request was,

“Lord save me”.

Sometimes the best prayers are the simple to the point prayers that do not prattle on but get straight to the point and sometimes the situation is so dangerous and great all we can do is pray something like, Lord save me or even Lord help me.

I call simple prayers like this arrow prayers, prayers spoken in the heat of a situation when time for longer more thought through prayer is simply not available. I seek to commence my day some time in the morning after breakfast with a time of prayer but I also seek to practice saying simple arrow prayers when needed during the day.

Some writers call prayer the Christians breathing and the writer of Psalm 116 when he was faced with certain death used some of what could have seemed like his final breath praying,

“Lord save me”.

This prayer request lies at the heart of all prayer requests as in a sense its what we all need in various ways.

We need to be saved because of our many sins and Paul says this in Roams 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Paul says in Romans 10: 9,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

We also need to be saved or helped in various ways throughout our Christian life as we face all kinds of trials and difficulties which again we can look to The Lord Jesus Christ as Peter encourages his readers to do in 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

3. What God did when he called out to him (verses 5 and 6)

The writer of Psalm 116 now tells us in verses 5 and 6 what God did when he called out on the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death and his answer tells us a little more about what he believed the God the bible is like as well.

He tells us two things the Lord did after he called out to him when he faced certain death:

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)
  2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two things the Lord did after the writer of Psalm 116 called out to the name of the Lord to save him when he faced certain death.

  1. The Lord was gracious (vs. 5)

The first thing the writer tells us the Lord did when he called pout to him to save him is what we read in verse 5,

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion”.

This description of God comes up all through the book of Psalms and all through the bible and first appears in the book of Exodus when God comes close to Moses and somehow passes by him we read in Exodus 34: 6,

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

David spoke about this quality of God a lot and it appears twice in his Psalm 57 like verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

David also speaks of God in the same way in verse 10 of that Psalm when he says,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”

The writer of Psalm 116 adds “righteous” to graciousness and later in the verse compassion and Albert Barnes explains and applies why “righteousness” is as important as graciousness or love,

“And righteous … – Just; true; faithful. This, too, is a proper foundation of appeal to God: not that we are righteous, and have a claim to his favour, but that he is a Being who will do what is right; that is, what is best to be done in the case. If he were an unjust Being; if he were one on whose stability of character, and whose regard for right, no reliance could be placed, we could never approach him with confidence or hope.”

So even the fact that God “turned his ear” as the writer of Psalm 116 to his prayer or call for help is only because the God of the bible is both gracious and righteous”.

2. The Lord saved him (vs. 6)

Then in verse 6 the writer tells us that this gracious and righteous God saved him from the certain death he faced but in telling us this he speaks of another great truth about the God of the bible for in verse 6 he writes,

“The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me”.

The unwary could be translated “simple minded” but Alan Harman says it should be translated,

“Those people who are resting on the Lord and his promises”.

Allan Harman points out that,

“The Psalmist was simple – hearted person when in humility he called on the Lord, and was saved”.

Jesus gives us the secret to God acting towards us in compassion and righteousness when he fleshes out what it means to be simple – hearted or people who are resting in the promises of God in the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3 – 10,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. 5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, or theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

James simply says, in James 4: 10,

‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

The writer of Psalm 116 was brought very low and as he humbled himself before the Lord and called out to him to be saved, we read at the end of verse 6,

“He saved me”.

4. What he did when his prayer was answered (verses 7 and 9)

The writer obviously wrote this Psalm after he had gone through his near death experience and was saved from it by God after he prayed to God or called on God to save him so we have two verses in the first half of the Psalm that the writer tells us his resolve as a result of Gods wonderful answer to his prayer. The second half of the Psalm deals much more with what the writer of Psalm 116 now intends to do as a result of God’s answer to his desperate prayer.

So we have two things the writer of Psalm 116 now resolves to do as a result of God’s answer to his prayer and they are in two verses. They are:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)
  2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

Lets have a closer look at each of this two resolves in the first half of this Psalm:

  1. Get back to being at rest with God (vs. 7)

I have met Christians in the past who have survived and come through difficult traumatic experiences and sadly have not moved on in peace and assurance with the Lord. Many years ago a good Christian friend of mine returned from a tour of Vietnam during the Vietnam war and he survived after we all at my church had prayed much for him but he was so shaken up by the experience of that war and could not let his memory of what he saw and maybe did go that he turned his back on his faith in God and even us as his friends. He kept saying to me, “but you weren’t there Jim I was and I cannot forget what I saw”. What my friend was suffering from now has a name, “Post Traumatic Stress”.

The writer of Psalm 116 had just experienced great trauma in his life and it could have been as a result of being threatened by a enemy like David alludes to in Psalm 18 the writer of Psalm 116 resolve is in verse 7,

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

I lost contact with my soldier friend as he moved away from his home town soon after returning from Vietnam. However a couple of years later I met another Christian young man who also had served in Vietnam and one night on a fellowship camp I went to he gave us a talk on his often terrifying experiences while he was in Vietnam. He spoke of terrible things that happened or that he witnessed but at the same time he spoke of how God had helped him not only to survive but helped him cope with the trauma he had and the memory of it since he returned to Australia.

He had the same resolve as the writer of Psalm 116, he wanted to find rest and peace for his soul as he looked to the Lord who had helped him through the dark and difficult time he had gone through in Vietnam.

The apostle Paul went through many difficult and traumatic experiences as he sought to proclaim the Gospel in his day but he tells us why he was able to cope and get through these traumas in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

We all have to come to the point in our lives when we answer the all important question,

What will define my life now, the problems, difficulties and even failures of my past or The Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for me and promises his help and strength me now and in the
future?

2. Continue to walk in faith with the Lord (vs. 9)

The second resolve of the writer of Psalm 116 now that God had saved his life after he prayed a desperate prayer to his is in verse 9, that says,

“That I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living”

My close Christian friend who returned from Vietnam many years ago obviously suffering from Post Traumatic Stress” obviously at the time I was speaking to him all those years ago chose to do the opposite thing to what this verse speaks of doing, he chose to not walk with the Lord in the land of the living.

Maybe God kept his hand on this young man and helped turn him around I do not know but it was very sad and even frustrating for me talking with my good friend as at the very point he needed God’s help in his life he seemed to be turning his back on the Lord.

I have sadly witnessed others doing the same thing for different reasons like the church warden of a church I attended years ago who after loosing his dear wife to cancer said, “well if that is what God can do to a person I want nothing to do with him anymore”. With that statement he stopped attending our church and cut off friendship and contact with all of his long standing Christian friends.

The minister of my church said to me in private that he felt to sad for that church warden because just when God and his church could offer so much help and assistance to him he simply refused to keep walking with the Lord and as a consequence now had no one to turn to that could help him.

Earlier in Philippians 4 chapter I recently quoted Paul gives us some further words of advice when he says this in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.

The other soldier friend I met a few years after my other friend had come back from Vietnam was obviously a man who practiced prayer and trust in the Lord and he seemed to have within him a quiet but sure confidence that only God can give, He had put the horrors of the war behind him and like the wrier of Psalm 116 was resolved to walking,

“Before the Lord in the land of the living”.

Again what are you going to do live in the past in the land of the dead or walk in the present with the Lord in the land of the living?

2. (10 – 14) I TRUST IN THE LORD

1. (10 – 11) I trusted the Lord

Verse 10 commences what many commentators call the second section of this Psalm and it is interesting to note that the original Greek version of the Old Testament called “”Septuagint” breaks the second half of this Psalm away from the first half as a seperate Psalm. However Leuopld points out that even though some of the logic between the two sections is a bit fuzzy the Psalm still can be seen unified and that it is the writers feeling of gratitude that moves him along and,

“The stricter concerns of logic may momentarily be disregarded”.

So in this first part of the second half of this Psalm we see how the Psalmist trusted in God when everyone said his situation was hopeless.

He states again clearly in verse 10 what he did when he realised he was facing what seemed to be certain death,

“I trusted in the Lord when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted”.

When it seemed as though there was no hope for our writer he exercises real faith in God which he calls trusting in the Lord. When all else fails in our lives then our faith is really proven. My young friend returning from Vietnam had his faith surely tested through the horrors of the Vietnam war and sadly his faith was found wanting as did the church warden a few years later when his dear wife died of cancer.

Peter speaks of the testing of our faith in God this way in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

My other friend who experienced the horrors of the Vietnam war had a different reaction to that time of grief and trial as he never gave up his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and he returned a chastened man but a man of faith who had a wonderful testimony to tell of how God sustained him and even saved him through the danger and calamities of that war.

Like the people in the lift that got stuck in my opening illustration some people in times of difficulty simply yell and scream and thrash about banging the walls so to speak but Tony Evans the minister who told this story simply went to the little box in the front of lift and opened it to use the emergency phone to call for help.

When I find myself in the midst of a trail I too have been able to turn to God in prayer and by doing so I proved again for myself God is not only there but as the writer of Psalm 116 says in verse 1,

“He turns his ear to me”.

Then in verse 11 the writer I believe reveals the very real desperate plight he faces with the words of verse 11,

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

Allan Harman suggests a very plausible explanation of these words when he writes,

“Men may have been giving him false advice, and he knew them well enough to declare them to be Lias”.

Not that they were dishonest but humanly speaking all they could see was that our writers predicament was so grave that only his death could be its outcome. Like a doctor treating a terminally ill cancer patient he must tell the patient his prognosis.

It is at this point of the Psalm that the story of the life threatening illness of King Hezekiah relates best as even the great true prophet of God Isaiah was forced to tell Hezekiah that his sickness would end in his death as Isaiah 38: 1 records,

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Then we read of Hezekiah’s desperate prayer of faith in verse 2,

“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly”.

So it seems that if the advice of great prophet is you are going to die then it would seem that humanly speaking you will die but Isaiah was seen to be kind if lying because after that God tells Isaiah something quite different and it is good news for king Hezekiah as we read in verses 4 – 6,

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city”.

God chose to work through the faith of King Hezekiah, making the sound human advice that he would surely die a lie as he worked a miracle and saved King Hezekiah’s life and through him his peoples lives from the powerful Assyrians.

2. (12 – 14) I will repay the Lord

Then in the second part of the second section of Psalm 116 the writer asks what he can do to repay the Lord for his miraculous loving deliverance or salvation with the words of verse 12,

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me”.

Of course the obvious answer is he could not repay the goodness of God for that price’s payment would be far greater than any man or women could ever come up with. His deliverance is therefore priceless as it comes from a God who love and power is limitless.

Our salvation in Christ is even more priceless than what the writer of Psalm 116 price would have been for his miraculous deliverance from certain death. As Paul states in Ephesians 1: 6 – 7,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

However even though we could never repay God for his amazing grace in saving us through the giving of his Son’s blood on the cross he still wants a response of gratitude from us for our realisation that he has saved us and the writer of Psalm 116 gives us two things he would do out of gratitude for what God so lovingly did for him and they are:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)
  2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

So lets have a closer look at each go these two things:

  1. Lift up the Lord in proclamation of his salvation (vs. 13)

I believe that the writer of Psalm 116 does not believe he can actually repay the Lord what he called the Lords gracious goodness to him but he must show in some way his gratitude to the Lord for his loving acts for him. So the writer speaks first of all lifting up the salvation he performed for him in a public proclamation of the Lord, he writes in verse 13,

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord”.

  1. The cup of salvation seems to be a poetic expression for one of two things which are:

A general expression of saying thanks to the Lord publicly like a kind of toast.

Or

2. A specific ceremonial offering like a drink offering (Numbers 28: 7) or the cup offered up as part of the Passover meal as Jesus used in his last approver meal in the last supper which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10: 16.

Many commentators lean towards the ceremonial interpretation owing to the reference in verse 17 of the offering of the sacrifice of a thank offering.

In any case both interpretations to me are a form of a public declaration of the Lords salvation. Jesus intended that lifting a cup and drinking out of it and the breaking of bread to represent the giving of his blood and body as a way of remembering his spilt blood and broken body for us in achieving our salvation as Jesus declares in Luke 22: 17 – 19,

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

So in the communion service, however your church might do it is a way of us lifting up the cup of salvation as a physical act of proclaiming our Salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ for us.

2. For-fill the promises he made to the Lord (vs. 14)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks of a way of showing genuine gratitude for God’s salvation for him in a very Old Testament way by the fulfilment of a vow in verse 14, he writes,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people”

Allan Harmon points out that,

“A vow was a verbal promise to God (Numbers 30: 1 – 4 and Deuteronomy 23: 21)

Which he goes on to point out that,

“It involved the offering of a promised gift for sacrifice”.

So it seems that the writer of Psalm 116 made some kind of vow to God as he prayed for the Lord to deliver him from what seemed to him to be certain death. The concept of offering vows features in the Psalms of David as well as we see in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

So again this offering of a vow was a form of public proclamation of the salvation of the Lord for a certain individual and in this case the writer of Psalm 116.

In the New Testament we have the concept of the sacrifice of praise as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

Note how this sacrifice of praise is offered by our lips as we profess or proclaim the name and I believe work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks in Romans 12: 1 that our worship now because of the mercies of God offered to us in Jesus Christ is a sacrifice of service to the Lord,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

This sacrifice of service is obviously form of public act of love to others that shows that we really do appreciate what God has so richly has done for us out of his love for us.

3. (15 – 19) I SERVE THE LORD

1. (15 – 16) I am your servant

The last section of this Psalm continues the writer of Psalm 116 resolve to praise and worship the Lord because of what he did for him in his merciful answer to his desperate prayer to save him from what seemed to him and even his close friends certain death.

However the first verse of this last section, verse 15 is probably the hardest verse in the Psalm to interpret, it says,

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants”.

It sounds looks like at first sight that the writer of Psalm 116 is saying God delights or takes pleasure in the death of his faithful servants. We know that this must not be the case for Ezekiel 18: 23 says,

 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

The faithful servant of God is a person who has truly turned from his wicked ways so God could not take pleasure or consider precious their deaths.

Allan Harmon answers this quandary for me with these words,

“This means God will never be uncaring when his people come near to death”.

Harmon then quotes Psalm 72: 14, which says,

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”

So the writer of Psalm 116 somehow learnt that God cares for his servants, those who have faith in God and seek to put that faith in action through service even when they come close to death or even die.

This is a comforting thought for all of us as we all will die one day and we of course take Jesus words in John 11: 25 – 26 seriously when they say,

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”.

Then in verse 16 the writer confirms that he is and has been a faithful servant of God when he says,

“Truly I am your servant Lord”

Then adds a personal testimonial fact,

“I serve you just as my mother did”,

Obviously the witness of his dear mother was a major factor in his own faith in God just as it was for Timothy as Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 5

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.

Finally in verse 16 he adds the recent testimony of God’s loving help with the words,

“You have freed me from my chains”.

He poetically pictures his recent illness or crisis with his enemies as being like locked in chains and having the Lord himself setting him free from the chains that bound him.

I read a very helpful little article on the Net by Jack Graham called “4 Steps to breaking free from the chains that bind you” and here is that short article for your edification.

“Do you feel like you’re living in hope and victory – or like you’re being held hostage by fear, worry, and other self-destructive thoughts and habits? The great news is Jesus is your bondage breaker. In His name, you can break free from any chains that bind you – whether they’re chains of anxiety and fear… or alcohol and drugs.

Here are four steps to help you fight the lies and break free:

1. Remember who you are in Jesus. If you’re a Christian, you’re a new person in Christ. You’re not a slave – you’ve been set free! (See Galatians 5:1.) You just need to learn to live in the victory that Christ has given you.

2. Rely on God’s strength, not your own. We’re all helpless in our own strength, but we’re not hopeless! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, as Philippians 4:13 promises. In His name, you can defeat any enemy and shake off any shackles.

3. Fight the lies by focusing on God’s life-changing truth. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Stop believing the lies you tell yourself or the enemy tells you. There’s no adversary or addiction that can’t go down in the name of Jesus. You just have to know God’s truth so you can fight the lies.

4. Be willing to be set free, healed, and made whole. Remember what Jesus said to the lame man at the Pool of Bethseda. He had been lying there for 38 years – nearly 4 decades! One day, Jesus came by, looked him in the eye, and said, “Do you want to be healed?” That’s the question Jesus is asking you today: “Are you willing? Do you want to let go of this and be set free?” Some people get comfortable in their behaviour – but sin is like a disease. If you’re willing to admit there’s a problem and let it go, Jesus will help you break every chain.

So reject the lies of Satan and start believing what Jesus says to you. Jesus says, “I love you and I have a plan for your life.” So trust Him. Yield your life completely to Him. Say, “I’m not going to live my life this way anymore. Lord Jesus, change me, cleanse me, and take control.” As you do that, Jesus will break the chains so you can live free in unbridled hope and victory in Him”.

2. (17 – 19) I will worship the Lord

The writer of Psalm 116 complete his Psalm with a final resolve to show gratitude for God’s amazing answer to his desperate prayer of deliverance from certain death and these last three verses contain a resolve to publicly worship God. He expresses his resolve to publicly worship God in Old Testament pre – coming of Jesus terms.

He actually expresses two Old Testament worship activities that could have been combined in one act of formal worship. The two Old Testament worship activities are:

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)
  2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Lets have a close look at these two Old Testament (v. 17)

  1. The sacrifice of a thank offering (vs. 17)

We have to remember that our writer of Psalm 116 is a Old testament believer who lived hundreds of years before the coming of Christ so he is referring to Old Testament sacrifices when he writes in verse 17,

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord”..

The thank offering is what is laid down through the Old Testament law in Leviticus 7: 12 – 15,

“‘If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. 13 Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. 14 They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. 15 The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning”.

One commentator pointed out that the thank offering was a very public form of sacrifice as it was a kind of meal involving a special kind of bread that was eaten by the giver and the priests or Levites in the Temple.

This is probably why he can speak of proclaiming or calling on the name of the Lord in the offering of this kind of sacrifice. He is actually saying he will use his thank offering as a opportunity to give a testimony to the grace and goodness of God in answering his recent prayer concerning his deliverance from what seemed certain death.

Paul makes it clear that because of what Christ has done for us we are now under a different pattern of teaching in Roams 6: 17 – 18,

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

Paul is saying we are no longer under law but grace and in Romans 12: 1 he speaks of how that works in way out for us in our acts of worship,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

As we serve God as our act of worship we should call on the name of the Lord or proclaim him to others and share our testimony of what the Lord has done for us like the writer of Psalm 116 obviously sought to do.

2. The fulfilment of a vow (vs. 18)

Then the writer of Psalm 116 speaks or another Old Testament worship requirement called the fulfilment of vows as he writes in verse 18,

“I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people”

The Leviticus 7 passage I quoted from in the first point speaks of the fulfilment of vows and the making of a thank offering in verse 16 – 17,

‘“If, however, their offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day they offer it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. 17 Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up”.

So the Old Testament worship requirements spoken about in verses 17 and 18 could be the one act of offering a thank offering in the connection of the keeping of a vow which I pointed out was a very public or social thing as the special bread used in the Thank Offering was eaten by the participant and the priests and Levites present in the Temple at the time of the offering.

So the words,

“In the presence of his people”.

Means again the writer of Psalm 116 wants to use this special religious ceremony as a form of public testimony to the grace and goodness of the Lord in answering his recent prayer of deliverance from what seemed certain death.

I mentioned in my comments of verse 14 that vow keeping was a serious matter for Old Testament believers who sought to obey the word of God and even David speaks of keeping his vows in Psalm 56: 12 – 13,

“I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have
delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life”.

Even David saw the short comings of the Old Testament sacrificial system when he says this in Psalm 51: 16,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”.

In the next verse David tells us what God actually delights in,

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God will not despise”.

The writer of Psalm 116 shows all the signs of a man who wants to show God his appreciation from his heart and his willingness to speak of God publicly and to perform worship publicly proclaiming the name of the Lord points to his obedient and contrite heart.

His final words of his Psalm speak of where he will publicly fulfil these acts of thankful worship,

“In the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst, Jerusalem”.

He is speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem that must have been there either before the Babylonian conquest or the re- built Temple after the return from Babylonian captivity. There in God’s appointed place he determines to publicly testify to God’s grace and goodness in delivering him from what seemed certain death when God answered his desperate prayer.

For us the Temple is long gone and Paul teaches that we are now little Temples of God or individual dwelling places of God on earth, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”.

And we are also members of the church which is now the household of God or God’s Temple on earth as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

So we should seek first to testify to the grace of God he has given us even in the answer to our prayers in the church where we meet publicly to worship the Lord with other believers.

Also we should be willing to testify to others outside of the church of how God has answered our prayers as this kind of thing does give glory to God and points others to the reality of his love and power.

The writer of Psalm 116 then ends his Psalm with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which we translate in English as “Praise the Lord”. This is a fitting end to this writers testimony of how it was God alone who pulled him through what seemed certain death after he called on him to be saved by him.

We are saved from eternal death through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and this should bring from our lips our “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” because our God through the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us not because of anything we have done but as Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

I close as usual with a new original poem and a prayer:

I LOVE THE LORD
(based on Psalm 116)

Chorus 1:

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
He turned his ear to me
For I called out to God above
And he answered me with love.

The chords of death entangled me
And deaths anguish filled my soul
I was overcome with distress
So I called on God to make me whole.
Our God is gracious and full of love
He saved me when I was so low.
So now I rest in his glorious Love
For he saved me and made me whole.

Chorus 2:

I trust in the Lord
For he delivered me from death
He saw my tears and stumbling feet
So he sent his Son to die for me
And his death has set me free.

What shall I give to God above
For his goodness to me?
I’ll lift the cup of his salvation
Remembering the blood he shed so free.
Precious is the blood he spilt
That he shed on the cross for me
So now I long to serve the Lord
And worship him eternally.

Chorus 3.

I love the Lord
For he heard my cry for love
And I’ll join God’s family
Who seek to praise the Lord above
Proclaiming the message of his Love.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

I give praise to you Father up above for you answered my cry for salvation by sending down your Son to shed his blood on the cross to forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I no longer fear death as I now see it as your doorway into your eternal dwelling place you call heaven. Help me to show that I really do believe in your love for me and help me to show my gratitude for it by the way I live my life in service for you and by the way I now seek to join your family in praise and worship of you and your amazing love for us, In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s