For our worship preparation on this new Lord’s Day we consider our next psalm in the OT Psalter, Psalm 116, which also happens to be a personal favorite (See the Psalter versification below too.). The human instrument who penned this “exuberant thanksgiving to the Lord” (New Geneva Study Bible) is unknown, but that only serves to bring out that this psalm is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is word for word the Word of God. Out of the heart and mouth of one of His children the Lord wished to speak to us and for us a glad song of gratitude for deliverance from death. Here, then, is that grateful song:
I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
11I said in my haste, All men are liars.
12What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
13I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
14I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
15Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
18I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people,
19In the courts of the Lord’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.
While the entire psalm is beautiful and significant, there are a couple of things worth highlighting. For one thing, it is evident that the psalmist experienced the Lord’s merciful hand of deliverance from death. Whatever his particular circumstances were, he was clearly in the grip of death and its sorrows, body and soul. In the midst of this experience he believed in the Lord and cried out for help. He loved the Lord before his great affliction and he loved Him more deeply afterward. That love was rooted in God’s own love for him first, of course. But out of that love and with a true faith he ran to the Lord in his trouble and sorrow. And God out of His great love for His child heard his cry and rescued him from death. The psalmist had not earned that response from the Lord, nor did he deserve it, not even for his faith and love. God’s deliverance was an act of pure grace and mercy, as the psalmist himself declares (vss.5-7).
As such this deliverance is a powerful witness to our own deliverance from sin and its just reward, death. And yet, ours is even greater, for God loved us when we hated Him and were His enemies (Romans 5:6-11). He saved us from death when we didn’t want to be saved and didn’t believe in Him and didn’t seek His help (Romans 3:9-19). How much more then should we love the Lord and how much greater should our song of gratitude be! Do we sing this song with hearts that break with love for and gratitude to the Lord? If we know our deliverance from death’s grip, we cannot do otherwise.
For another thing, notice that the psalmist testifies to the fact that he will render his deep and devoted thanks to the Lord in public worship (vss.12-19). Asking himself what he could possibly give to the Lord in return for His gracious salvation (a good question for us to ask daily!), he determines to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord in the midst of corporate worship – “in the presence of all his people” (vss.14,18). That is significant. While this song of thanks in Ps.116 is intensely personal, the psalmist intended that it be used not merely for personal thanksgiving but also and especially for the united praise of God’s people. His vow would be paid and his praise would be heard in the company of his fellow saints. He would join them in magnifying the God of his salvation.
And so it is that our hearts are stirred on this day of rest and worship to give God thanks and lift up our exuberant song to Him. Personally and privately? O, yes, by all means. We may start right now. Read, pray, and sing Psalm 116 as your personal testimony of thanks to the Lord for what He has done for your soul in Jesus Christ! But then also go the house of the Lord, meet the Lord’s people there, and join with them in making corporate and public praise to the Lord! Take the cup of salvation and call upon your Savior with your fellow saints! Pay your vow of gratitude to the Lord “now in the presence of all his people.” For having experienced a common salvation, we have a common song to sing.
If you wish to mediate on Psalm 116 through music, may I suggest you visit the PRC Psalter page, where you will find several versifications of this psalm set to music (Scroll down to Ps.116). Below is my personal favorite, found in the Choral section of our Psalter.
426. I Love the Lord. Psalm 116. 10 11 11 10. (click on this title to hear piano accompaniment)
I love the Lord, the fount of life and grace;
He hears my voice, my cry and supplication,
Inclines His ear, gives strength and consolation;
In life, in death, my heart will seek His face.
The cords of death held me in deep despair;
The pangs of hell, like waves by tempest driven,
Rolled o’er my soul; by grief and sorrow riven,
I turned in my distress to God in prayer.
I cried, Deliver Thou my soul, O Lord!
Jehovah heard. I pledge Him my devotion.
The Lord is just, His grace wide as the ocean;
In boundless mercy He fulfills his word.
The Lord preserves the meek most tenderly;
Brought nigh to death, in Him I found salvation.
Come, thou my soul, relieved from agitation,
Turn to thy rest; the Lord has favored Thee.
Thou, O Jehovah, in Thy sovereign grace,
Hast saved my soul from death and woe appalling,
Dried all my tears, secured my feet from falling.
Lo, I shall live and walk before Thy face.
I have believed, and therefore I did speak
When I was made to suffer tribulation;
I said in haste and bitter desperation:
All men are false, ’tis nought but lies they speak.
What shall I render to Jehovah now
For all the riches of His consolation?
With joy I’ll take the cup of His salvation,
And call upon His Name with thankful vow.
Before His saints I’ll pay my vows to God;
E’en in death’s vale He keepeth me from evil;
How dear to God the dying of His people!
Praise Him, ye saints, and sound His Name abroad.
I am, O Lord, Thy servant, bound yet free,
Thy handmaid’s son, whose shackles Thou hast broken;
Redeemed by grace, I’ll render as a token
Of gratitude my constant praise to Thee.
Jerusalem! Within thy courts I’ll praise
Jehovah’s Name; and with a spirit lowly
Pay all my vows. O Zion fair and holy,
Come join with me and bless Him all thy days!