Thanksgiving for Escaping Death
1 I love the Lord,
because he listens to my prayers for help.
2 He paid attention to me,
so I will call to him for help as long as I live.
3 The ropes of death bound me,
and the fear of the grave took hold of me.
I was troubled and sad.
4 Then I called out the name of the Lord.
I said, “Please, Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is kind and does what is right;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord watches over the foolish;
when I was helpless, he saved me.
7 I said to myself, “Relax,
because the Lord takes care of you.”
8 Lord, you saved me from death.
You stopped my eyes from crying;
you kept me from being defeated.
9 So I will walk with the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, so I said,
“I am completely ruined.”
11 In my distress I said,
“All people are liars.”
12 What can I give the Lord
for all the good things he has given to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation,
and I will pray to the Lord.
14 I will give the Lord what I promised
in front of all his people.
15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord
is precious in his sight.
16 Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant and the son of your female servant.
You have freed me from my chains.
17 I will give you an offering to show thanks to you,
and I will pray to the Lord.
18 I will give the Lord what I promised
in front of all his people,
19 in the Temple courtyards
Praise the Lord!
Really, no one knows for sure who the writer of Psalm 116 was. Some advance the idea that it was Hezekiah,and others firmly believe it was David. What I see that it was probably the former, but hey– all I know it was a godly man with a holy perspective regarding many things.
This Psalm is quite profound. It also has a deep awareness of things that are significant. We see that the writer has a discernment and awareness to see his heart and the things that are important. Psalm 116 is a masterpiece, the writer “shapes” things that are significant, and then he intends to let us know what he has been processing. And it’s a beauty!
Because of the length of this particular psalm I will simply attempt to think about it in a broader sense.
V.1 is a declaration to the world of his relationship to the Father. Things are quite obvious and exceptionally clear about things that really matter. The psalmist puts tremendous value on an attentive deity.
Vv. 2-4, comes directly at us, the writer seems to be terribly aware of two things. The first, is the Father’s awareness of his cry. He is sadly desperate and quite aware that everything he calls out for, hinges on the Father’s action on his behalf.
The Father builds within him a confidence and assurance. The writer fully understands the myriad of attack on his soul. He sees cords that are wrapped on him. These cords are quite problematic, and to emphasize this situation he develops a deep and sincere “fear of death and dying.” Many believers, who are aware and sure, “hiccup” at this point. Death can never be handled without faith. But there is a breakthrough of sorts. He pierces his own apathy and finds his voice. Quivering and quavering his voice is heard in the halls of heaven, “Please, Lord, save me!”
Vv. 5-7 creates an assurance of the character of God. All that he knows about Him is that He can be trusted, no matter what! The key words are “kind”, “right” and “merciful”. This knowledge does not come to us except by the dealings of God inside our hearts.
V. 8 illuminates the realization that God has intervened, “saved” and “stopped” and “kept”. These are not minor things. They all require an action of God. He is the only one who can intervene. All I can say, is that His active presence changes everything.
V. 9 is the quiet sense of a person who is trusting the Father to be the Father.
V. 10-11 are difficult. They don’t work out smoothly in our New Testament theology of faith. Today, when we read them they are chopped up and rather odd. I suppose we can try to milk “the old cow” but I don’t think we will get much.
V. 12-14 shouts “gratitude”. Somehow the work of the Holy Spirit has done something. The writer jumps into this place where he enters his gratitude and appreciation of everything that has been done for him. He seems eager to show the goodness that has now come his way. There is a sense here of declaring to others the work of God inside his heart. If necessary he will do this publicly.
V. 15, this is indeed a revelation. Many of us wrestle almost continually with the subject of “death.” In hard moments, we struggle quite deeply (and yet subliminally) with dying. It is the dog who can’t stop nibbling at our heels.
V. 16 is nothing less then a declaration. In the mind of the writer, he knows his place. He won’t reach for the “top shelf”. He absolutely understands who he is and isn’t. Such a work is being done that he would never ever dream of being someone he really isn’t.
V. 17 is his declaration that the Father has done an exceptional work inside. The writer knows this, and he just won’t let it slide away. His life becomes deeply saturated with “thanks” and “prayer.” And then I say “whoa!” My own life is quite shallow, and it comes no where close to the psalmist
V. 18, “I will give the Lord what I promised in front of all his people” Sometimes we , out of necessity, punch out the things which are not only important, but quite significant. “Giving” is a key word. And “promised” is another. (Strange, they are so close to each other, in this verse.) But the writer doesn’t process these issues, he only flows with them.
V. 19 focuses us at whatever might happen. The writer completely understands the importance and the significance of God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In a sense, he solidifies this particular place, as the accurate arena where all of the above is processed and configured. It all ends with a “praise to the Lord.” I suppose that ultimately this is the place we all end up. We are “praiser’s” or we are not.