EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS FROM A SECTION OF PSALM 116
I love the lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined his ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon him as long as I live. The cords of death encompassed me, And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, Save my life! Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. Yes, our Lord is compassionate. The Lord preserves the simple. I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For Thou hast rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears. My feet from stumbling. (Psalm 116: 1-8)
I love the Lord: This is a great miracle in itself. The psalmist is expressing love toward a Person he cannot see. This is opposite to the natural order of things. We want to see the person we love, and appreciate their character and beauty. The psalmist cannot see any of these things. Therefore his love for the Lord is born from faith. This is extraordinary faith because the Law of Moses was in effect. Jesus hadnt come and died on the cross yet. It is also special, because the Lord accepts the Psalmists faith and love. The lesson for us is that if the Lord accepts the approaches of faith and love from a person who is subject to the Law, how much more readily will He accept our faith and love as His adopted sons and daughters who have been saved through the death of Christ?
because He hears my voice and my supplications. But at the same time, his love for God is not unrequited. There is a compelling reason for loving the Lord. True love is not one sided. Infatuation without an appropriate response is not true love. It remains infatuation. True love exists in a relationship between two people. If it is not returned by the other party, feelings and thoughts of love eventually die. Love does not exist in a vacuum. Talk to any young man or woman who has feelings of love toward someone who does not return it. The psalmist receives a response from God. He receives the assurance that God hears his voice and his prayers for help. We are not told how God made him know that. Perhaps it was shown in the answers to his prayers. It could have been an inner assurance put in his heart by the Holy Spirit. No matter how it happened; the fact remains that it did happen. He had the assurance that God hears his voice. Where does He hear his voice from? Astronomers are unable to penetrate the outer limits of our universe with their equipment. If God lives beyond our universe, millions of light years away, He must have some very advanced listening devices! We dont know about that, but what we do know is that God is within earshot of the psalmists voice.
If God actually hears the psalmists voice, and understands the supplication in order to answer it accurately and appropriately (which is implied), it means that we are dealing with an intelligent God who is sensitive to the needs of ordinary people.
Because He has inclined His ear to me, The Lord decided to listen to the psalmists prayer. There is a great difference between hearing and listening. Ask any eight year old in my class! The Lord not only heard the psalmist praying, but He turned Himself so he could listen to the prayer clearly. The prayer attracted the attention of the Lord. This meant that He was going to give time to actioning the request. If we want the Lord to respond to our needs, we need to put our desires into actual words and say them. While it is true that He knows our thoughts, and knows what we have need of before we even say it; God responds favourably when we put our faith into action and say our prayers out loud.
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. When God answers prayer, it causes a change in the persons life. Something happens which has never happened before. There is change of attitude toward God and others. In the case of the psalmist, the change is a lifelong change. He is going to keep praying for the rest of his natural life. But wait theres more. Life does not end at death for those who love the lord and believe in Him. So there can be an implication that when the psalmists enters into eternal life, He will keep calling upon God. How this is going to happen, we are not told, But this life is a preparation for the next. The lessons we learn here, will be used in eternity. They wont be forgotten.
The cords of death encompassed me, And the terrors of Sheol came upon me. The psalmist now describes the type of problem that caused him to call upon the Lord. It wasnt the normal, routine type of problem that one encounters. Perhaps he went into a clinical depression, Or that he had a life threatening experience. Whatever it was, it was out of the ordinary. Not something that happens every day. The problem could have crushed him destroyed his faith. He could have blamed God for his predicament. Many people do. How many priests and ministers have expressed that they have lost their faith through a traumatic experience?
I found distress and sorrow. This was the effect on him. Distress and sorrow. Just because the psalmist had a strong faith in God, it didnt mean that he was happy all the time. Nor did he always have joyful experiences. In this instance, he was experiencing anything but joy and happiness. This is a lesson for us. Sometimes we may think that becoming a Christian is when all our problems start. It seems like that until we start praying. Then some of the richest experiences we have with God happen when we use our faith to bring our needs before God in the midst of our distress and sorrow. Sometimes the negative experiences bring out the most positive prayers. And the most powerful answers. For many people, this is how strong faith grows in them.
Then I called upon the Name of the Lord. O Lord, I beseech Thee, save my life! His prayer was specific. He asked the Lord directly what he wanted done. He didnt beat around the bush. Some people are afraid to pray direct prayers to God. Perhaps they have a mistaken idea about of spirituality or humility. Perhaps they have never been desperate enough to pray a simple, direct prayer. But God answers simple, direct prayers when they are prayed by people in desperate situations with heart felt faith. But we dont have to wait for desperate situations before we can pray effective prayers. If we learn to prayer honestly and sincerely now, And build up a relationship with God through our everyday prayers, When desperate situations arise, we have a good foundation to work from.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. Yes, our Lord is compassionate. The psalmist describes his view of the character of God. This view arises out of his personal experience with Him. This is the best way to discover God. We can read a lot about Him in the Bible and other books; We can hear about him when we go to church; We can share the experiences of Christian friends; But there is nothing like experiencing the reality of God for yourself. Then you can speak about Him with conviction. It seems that there are some people who are very open about describing the goodness of God in their lives. Sometimes they can be embarrassing with their enthusiasm. Perhaps some who are embarrassed are responding that way because they are still to experience God for themselves?
He knows that God is gracious, because the Lord is extending grace to him. He has done nothing to deserve having his prayers answered. But the Lord answers them anyway. Thats grace. He describes the Lord as being righteous. The Lord has good standing with Himself. Anyone who has anything to do with Him has to have good standing with Him. Although the psalmist has never heard of the gospel of Christ, He has good standing with God through his faith. Thats why the Lord can answer his prayer. God is also compassionate. Compassion involves feeling helpfully sorry for someone. God does more than listen to the prayer and have mere sympathy for the psalmist He does something concrete, motivated by His feelings of sympathy. It is not enough to just feel sorry for someone. It has to be translated into action. The priest and the Levi who walked past the injured man lying in the road might have felt sorry, but they did not express compassion. The Good Samaritan likewise felt sorry for the man, and went on to do something about it. Jesus approved of the Samaritans action and set it up as an example for the way we should act in similar circumstances.
The Lord preserves the simple. This is not just talking about the simple minded a popular interpretation of the term. It is more of a child like simplicity that contains sincerity and integrity. It is the type of personality that results from obeying Jesus instruction to become as little children. It is more child like than childish. Often, it is the sinner who has a complicated personality and attitude to life. The truth is much easier to say than lies. We tend to suspect someone who tells a complicated story when having to explain themselves after some incident where they might have done wrong.
Faith is simple. All we have to do is to simply believe what the Bible says. Even if the wording and description of Biblical events seem unbelievable to experts in science and sociology, true faith accepts them. Even if it appears foolish to believe in them literally. The key here is that God will preserve those who exercise simple faith. For us, this means that we will be saved to eternal life through the death of Jesus on the Cross. Even though this is foolish to more sophisticated people in the world It is what God is looking for in people who profess to believe in Him. We are living in a time where science and philosophy is challenging the simple truths of the Gospel. Much of the opposition is compelling and convincing. Making it difficult to maintain faith without having doubts. But here is the promise. For the person who maintains a simple faith in God, and the gospel of Christ, there is total support from God.
I was brought low and He saved me. The Lord did not pass me by. Although I might be one of millions of people who have needs, The lord sees me Loves me And helps me. He does not see us a faceless people in the crowd. When the crowds came to Jesus, He saw each person individually. Most of us in the church can say that we were brought low and the Lord saved us. This shows the greatness and glory of God in the way He deals with His people. Each person who has been helped by God is a witness to His glory.
Return to your rest, O my soul. The word return suggests that the psalmists soul has been in a state of rest before. He identifies it as being his, and he has the freedom to return to it. He has undergone experiences which have distressed him, and now with a sense of answered prayer, he tells his soul to return to his rest. This is only possible when there is a sense of assurance that God has answered his prayer and acted on his behalf. But to experience answered prayer, You have to spend time in focussed, direct prayer. This opens the door for your soul to return to its state of peace and rest.
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. When we serve God, we are serving a generous master. Think of the times when someone has been really generous to us. It was a very pleasant feeling that someone thought so well of you that something was given through their generosity. It gives you nice thoughts and feelings about that person. How much more do we appreciate and worship God when He shows His generosity toward us? What limits the amount He can give is our underestimation of His love toward us. We have not because we ask not. He never deals with us in a miserly way. He gives liberally. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, of the things He has prepared for us.
For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. The deliverance here is three-fold: Our life has been spared from the grave Our heart has been uplifted from its grief Our course in life has been preserved from dishonour. What this means to us is that the grave holds no terrors for us any more, because its power over us has been broken through the resurrection of Christ. As we exercise faith by giving our lives to the Lord that faith identifies us with the death of Christ, and the raising of Him from the dead. Through baptism we go down into the grave with Him and then rise to new life with Him. Comfort from the Lord replaces our grief and unhappiness. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. God wont leave us in a distressed state for long before He does something to uplift us. Weeping may exist for a night, but joy comes in the morning. The great thing about conversion to Christ, is that the direction of life changes. It should change it cant be helped if a person repents of sin and changes inappropriate habits and attitudes. The persons life begins to give honour and glory to God.
This section of Psalm 116 gives us a set of powerful promises and clear directions. It is clearly linked to the gospel of Christ. We can see the power of Christ to forgive and reform in these verses, if we want to look for them. Anyone, anywhere, and in any condition can come to God under the terms of these verses, and expect a reunion with God, or a deepening of relationship and fellowship with Him. Have the faith to believe that God can meet your needs, heal you, or set you free from grief and despair, and give you a new lease of life in Christ.
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