Psalm 116 - Our Story
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 upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
I believed; therefore I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”
And in my dismay I said, “All men are liars.”
How can I repay 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 saints.
O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; 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, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.
The Psalmist is generally thought to be David, and he had a close shave with death. He gained some insights from his experience and shared it in this psalm.
When the “cords of death” entangled him, “anguish of the grave” came upon him and he was “overcome by trouble and sorrow”, David called on the name of the Lord. The Lord heard his cry and saved him.
After God rescued him from his close shave with death, David declared, “I love the Lord”. We won’t experience God’s love if we don’t call out to Him in our trouble. Being religious won’t help us understand God’s love. We might thank God when our trouble is over, but to experience God’s love, we need to cry out to Him for mercy. It helps us experience God’s love as He saves us. I remember a time in 2011, during the financial crisis; I was so desperate that my wife and I prayed throughout the ordeal daily. God answered our prayers and literally saved me.
“Our God is full of compassion.” He will protect and save you too. Do you cry out to Him in your time of need?
When David said, “The Lord protects the simplehearted”, he was referring to himself. Why did he consider himself simplehearted? From God’s perspective, we are simplehearted because we do not know what we are doing. We are simplehearted when we think we know what to do and don’t need God’s guidance. How wrong we are! If we know so much, why are we given the Holy Spirit? We need to walk with the Spirit and let him be our guide for we are too simplehearted in spiritual warfare.
After his great ordeal, David needed to calm his soul. He assured himself, “Be at rest once more, O my soul”. This is one of David’s writing traits – referring to his soul as a third person.
After the Lord had delivered his “soul from death... eyes from tears... feet from stumbling”, David could walk in the land of the living before the Lord. We ought to take time to walk with God. We cannot keep running without God or we will burn out our own soul. If God has rescued us, shouldn’t we respond to God in gratitude? He watches over us everyday, and the best way to thank God is by walking with Him.
“I believed; therefore I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” Our faith is being tested, from the day we know Christ to the day that we die. Afflictions either destroy our faith or build our faith in God.
When we are afflicted, we may reason that there is no God or God doesn’t care. But haven’t we caused afflictions to others as well? We can call on God and ask Him to deliver us when we are afflicted. Watch where God brings us to, and let our faith be lifted as we see His plan unfold in our life. If we don’t put our trust in God, how can we see God’s marvellous deeds?
“And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars.’” We tend to do this when we are not spiritually sound! We start blaming and accusing everyone; “No one is good”, “No one can be trusted,” etc.
But aren’t we the same? Are we really good and can we be trusted? David realised that his rant was spoken out of haste and without understanding the grace of God. Thus he said to God, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” He thanked God for his salvation and called on the name of God. God saved him from his ordeal and troubles.
David wanted to fulfil his “vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.” Faith without deeds is dead. After his near death experience, David made a vow to God. We don’t know what the vow was but we know from this psalm that he wanted to make sure his repentance is visible.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”. We will all eventually die, and when that day comes, God will hold our death as a precious thing. It is through death that we are freed from the chains of our earthly body and finally reconciled with God. It is in death that we may have eternal life with Him.
The realisation of our mortality helps draw our attention to God too. Without death, we might perhaps not think about God. It is through challenging times that we can draw really near to God. It is the opportunity for us to call out to Him and see how He delivers us.
David reiterated his desire to fulfil his vow before God’s people. He also wanted to fulfil his vows “in the courts of the house of the Lord". He desired to be righteous in the midst of God’s presence.
What is our story? What is our turning point? All of us have a story to tell at some point in time. If we cry to God for mercy when we are afflicted, He will hear us and save us. How we fulfil our vow in response to God’s love, in the presence of God’s people and in the presence of God will be the conclusion of our story. God desires us to see us fulfilling our vow of gratitude.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.