Psalm 116 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
If you are reading this Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (what many early Christian teachers used and probably what most Greek speakers used) or if you read from the Vulgate, the Roman Catholic church’s official translation, you would see that this Psalm is divided into two Psalms after verse 10. But for the rest of us, 1-19 is one Psalm. How to outline it is much harder. The Hebrew Bible (BHS) divides this into vs. 1-4, 5-14, 15-19. But the division of this Psalm are generally not agreed upon.
We cannot make out what the Psalmist event the Psalmist is referring to, but we have a bit more certainty of how to use it. It seems that this Psalm was meant to take place in a more public setting (vs. 17-19). The original incident had to be excruciating. See his description in v. 3-4, 6, and v. 8. Verses 10-11 indicate personal betray or some harm that brought him to a point of wondering if he would make it out alive. Whether the original author is David or not, it is not uncommon for David or almost anyone to have real flesh and blood enemies.
What a great start to the Psalm. “I love the Lord” which is obeying the greatest commandment. I hope this is how you feel about God. Why does the author love God? “Because He heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” I wonder if we realize what a mercy it is for God to hear us. If you think about God listening to you, it can baffle the mind. How many people are crying out to God as you read this? How many languages are being used to address God at one time? How could God understand them all, know where they are coming from, remember them, and answer them that is best for His glory and His people? I can’t even understand the complexity of God listening to everything directed to Him. So maybe that God has “inclined his ear to me,” bending down as it were ought to humble us more than it does. This should remind us that for God to hear is no small thing that I should not take for granted.
Verse 3 is vague which means people all over the world, at different times of human history, and in a variety of situation can identify. Then in verse 4, “I called on the name of the Lord” which is a theme in vs. 13, 14, 17, and 18. This is what godly people do who are in covenant with God and know God . They know they need God’s help. Notice in verse 4, the Psalmist cries out and, at least, in the Psalm’s chronology, praise to God before the answer is given. Then in verse 6, the Psalmist calls himself “simple” and in his low estate, God saves him. To be lowly and/or to be brought low is a good position to be in for God’s help,
God gives our souls the rest only He can provide. In fact, the word rest is in plural suggesting the rest of rest. “Return, O my soul, to your rest” reminds us of Augustine’s statement in Confessions, “Our souls are restless until they find rest in Thee.” God has changed this person’s life: delivered his soul from death, eyes from tears, and feet from stumbling. Now he is among the living when he thought he might die.
In vs. 12, he asks, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?” In verse 13, the answer is not what we might expect. He lifts up the cup of salvation. He offers His dependency. He offers His absolute reliance on God. I will “repay” God by accepting what He has offered in salvation. I respond by believing in Him, calling on the name of the Lord. We can never repay God. To try is to insult Him.
Verse 15 is so significant. God holds dear the death of any of His people. One person’s death in never lost on God. Allen’s commentary on this Psalm in the Word commentary renders v. 15 as “Yahweh counts too costly . . .” The Psalmist continues praising God by saying I am Your servant (repeating it twice) and you have released me from my bonds. There is a slavery to sin and a slavery to God. One promises freedom and brings bondage, and one promises bondage and give joy and freedom and eternal life of unending joy.
Kidner comments on v. 19, “We may note finally that the intensely personal faith and love which mark this psalm are not in competition with the public, formal and localized expressions of godliness. This flame in not withdrawn, to burn alone. Placed in the “midst,” it will kindle others, and blaze all the longer and better for it.” (Kidner, p. 411).
Lord, we do love You. We love You for knowing us and hearing us. We are insignificant people and yet You listen to us and save us. At times, we find ourselves despairing of life and feeling lost. But you release us from bondage by giving us freedom from our sin and the sin of others. No one can compare to You and so our praise begins in an intensely personal fashion but expresses itself publicly. We are not ashamed of our love for You. We are Your people, and we will always praise You as long as we live and then into the bliss of eternity. In Christ’s name. Amen.