A Song of Thanksgiving | Psalm 116
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 116
PSALMS – Soundtrack for our Souls
PSALM 116 – A Song of Thanksgiving
Randy Loveless, August 12, 2018
Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church this morning! My name is Randy, and I’m one of the pastors here… and it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to preach on a Sunday morning, but I’m excited to preach this morning, especially since that means Pastor Chris can have a well-deserved break as he “vacations” with his family in Eastern Washington.
This morning we will go through Psalm 116 together. This Psalm is dripping with Gospel language. It’s really just saturated with good news about a God who comes to deliver his people at great cost to himself. We could take any section of 2 or 3 verses and see how Jesus just explodes out of these words…
Psalms 116:1-19 ESV I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. -2- Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. -3- The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. -4- Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” -5- Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. -6- The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. -7- Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. -8- For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; -9- I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. -10- I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”; -11- I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” -12- What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? -13- I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, -14- I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. -15- Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. -16- O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. -17- I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. -18- I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, -19- in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
THE SOURCE OF LOVE (v1-2)
This Psalm starts with the most simple, uncomplex, clear, and unmistakeable statement: I love the Lord. Would it surprise you to know that this is one of only 2 places in all of the bible where this simple phrase is uttered? It’s an interesting thought… there are many times where authors of the bible say things like, I love your precepts, or I love your laws, or commandments. We are promised that if we delight in the Lord that he will grant us the desires of our hearts. But nowhere, other than in this place and in the beginning of Psalm 18 do we see the concept stated so simply and yet so personally and intimately as we do here… I love the Lord. Do you see the vulnerable intimacy of that statement?
My wife, Kari, and I started dating when she was just 15 ½ . As a father of a 14 ½ year old girl, that extra half a year is very important to me. I can remember after we had been dating for a while – probably a couple of years into our relationship – I mustered the courage to vulnerably express my feelings for this incredible girl who seemed to be the very center of the universe at the time. My heart was pounding, and I’m sure I was nervously sweating as I whispered into her ear as we were watching a movie with friends, “I love you.” You can imagine how my heart just soared with excitement as she replied, “I know.”
We eventually got there – not only does she love me back, but I actually know what love really is – more than a feeling. More than my ego being satisfied that some pretty girl would think I’m worth being in a relationship with. But in that moment, even though it was funny, and even though neither of us would have understood what was going on in our hearts – she was completely justified in not reciprocating. I had not demonstrated that I was someone who would protect her heart, who would keep her safe. Someone who she could trust to share an intimate heart-level connection with. Someone who she can be vulnerable with.
And so it is with God. Do you trust God like the Psalmist trusts him? Do you love him? If you struggle with this, and even if you don’t, we’ll see in this Psalm that that this simple, intimate, vulnerable love doesn’t just materialize out of nothing. No, it has a foundation that is massively deep and lasting – totally unshakeable.
Psalms 116:1-19 ESV I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. -2- Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
So why is it that the Psalmist loves God? Here’s what we see here… He says he loves God because God hears his voice and his pleas for mercy. We know that God works that way… many times in the bible God inclines his ear to his people. One example would be when God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush in Exodus 3.
Exodus 3:7-8 ESV Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…
Or the prayer of Hannah in 1Samuel 1. It says that she prays without even making a sound, but yet we see that God heard her prayer.
Theses sorts of examples are everywhere. Now here’s the question: how does the Psalmist know that God hears?
He knew that God hears his prayers, that he inclines his ear to him, that he listens to his pleas for mercy because he sees God act.
PSALM 116:3 ESV The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
He found himself at a place of hopelessness and despair – in a place where it seemed that death had come to life and was actively seeking to put an end to him. Literally, he says, “It’s like the ground was trying to swallow me up…”
PSALM 116:4-6 ESV Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” -5- Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. -6- The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Perhaps you have been in this place. When the only recourse you had was to cry out, “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” I’ve been there a few times. Some of you know my wife and I have been foster parents for a while. A little more than 6 years ago we had to say goodbye to a little girl who we loved with every fiber of our being – a girl who we expected we’d be able to adopt – a girl who we had the joy and privilege of parenting through the first year of her precious life. A girl who I am certain I would recognize today, but am equally certain she would not recognize me. There was such heartache, such pain, seemingly unbearable sadness and despair, and I remember finally giving up on trying to convince God to keep her in our home and relinquished my will to his and simply said, “deliver my soul from this anguish.” And he did.
Here’s what I’m trying to help us see and remember this morning:
- If you believe in the God of the Bible, you believe in a God who hears you. When it feels that all hope is lost. He hears you.
- He doesn’t just hear you from afar like some cosmic judge who exists without connection to us, he engages personally in our lives in powerful ways.
- When we count on this truth, it soothes our pain, eases anxiety, and gives us thankful hearts.
REST FOR THE ANXIOUS SOUL
PSALM 116:7-11 ESV Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. -8- For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; -9- I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. -10- I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”; -11- I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”
Chris preached an excellent sermon a few weeks ago on anxiety, so this point will be treated briefly…
In the same way that remembering God’s acts of mercy in answering his prayers produced love in the heart of the Psalmist, In verse 7 we see that for the Psalmist, remembering God’s faithfulness to deliver him causes his soul to find rest. So in verse 1, remembering produces love, and in verse 7, remembering produces rest.
One simple takeaway for us is to be in the practice of recording the ways that we see God answer prayers or deliver us from trouble. If you never give any thought to the ways that God has brought joy and blessing to your life, you deny yourself the ability to be anchored by the reality of who God really is. Because what happens when the storms of life come, is that we have the tendency to react badly to the pain. We don’t like it. We want it to stop. What we need in these situations is not to be strong or to put on a brave face and ignore the pain, we need to remember who God is. Remembering produces rest for our souls.
Our D-Groups are studying the attributes or characteristics of God. In our study, we’re working through a series of sermons by the well-known pastor, Tim Keller. In the beginning of the series, here’s what he said:
“Whenever you are inordinately anxious, inordinately angry, inordinately proud, or inordinately deflated, it’s because at that moment you are forgetting who the God of the Bible is, or you never knew who He was to begin with.” Tim Keller
We need to remember who the God of the Bible is. Just like the Palmist does…
- Verse 5: Gracious is the Lord (he gives us good things we don’t deserve), and righteous (everything I experience is at the hands of a perfectly good and right God); our God is merciful (he spares us from destruction).
- Verse 6: The LORD preserves the simple, when I was brought low he saved me. God isn’t waiting for you to earn his favor or help. This is very much like the picture of a shepherd pursuing the stupid foolish sheep.
- Verse 7: The LORD has dealt bountifully with you – he’s so generous and kind
- Verse 8: For you have delivered my soul from death; my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. God provides deliverance for his beloved… this deliverance is all-encompassing (spiritual, emotional, moral)
- Verse9: I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. God gives us the gift of life. Every breath we have is a gift from God that we have because he causes it to be. God sustains us.
Remember who God is… and your soul will find rest.
Even though all of what I’ve just said is true and right, if that were the extent of the truth we would still have one glaring problem staring us in the face. What I mean is, if we’ve just covered all there is to cover, we really don’t have any hope. So what’s the problem that staring us in the face?
Death. Death is a reality that all humans face. In this Psalm, God’s goodness is shown in how he delivers the Psalmist from his trouble, and it’s quite possible this Psalm was written after its author had a serious illness or injury that nearly resulted in death. So, if God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, his dependability is shown to us in how he has saved us from peril or has blessed us with something… how do we reconcile that with the fact we will all face a peril one day that we will succumb to?
Okay class – how do we reconcile these things? JESUS! Jesus is really what makes this Psalm come to life, isn’t he? In verse 7, when he says “you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” this speaks to promises that are fully realized in Jesus. Without Jesus coming to the earth to live a perfect life we could not live and dying to pay a price we couldn’t pay, we really would not have any real hope. God could deliver our bodies from trouble for a time. He could spare us from difficulty. But in the end, we’d just die anyway… but Jesus bring real hope.
So with the rest of our time here this morning, I want us to take a close look at how two verses in particular point us to the gospel… to the good news of Jesus Christ. We’re going to look at verse 12 and verse 15…. But I’m going to look at verse 15 first.
PRECIOUS IS THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS (v15)
Verse 15 seemed odd to me at first. Maybe it seems odd to you too… maybe you’re squirming in your seat a little bit. But let’s take a look at it together…
PSALM 116:15 ESV Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
The question that I wrestled with, in case it’s not obvious to you, is this: How is it possible for death to be something that is “precious” to God. From our perspective, death is something we avoid at all costs. One of the most difficult things – possibly even the single most difficult thing – we experience in our lives is the death of people we love dearly. And I know that there are several families in this room who are grieving the loss of a loved one – and still others who know a loved one is near to death.
To think that God would regard death as something that is precious seems to be at odds with the way in which he – earlier in this same Psalm – seems to be preserving the life of the Psalmist.
First, let’s look at the word precious. My 5-year old daughter Hannah is missing her two front teeth. I would say that it’s precious to see her laugh and smile right now. That’s not how God sees death – “Oooh, I just love it when they die – it’s so adorable.” No, the word precious in this case means valuable, significant, or costly. Like a precious gem, or silver.
Ezekiel 33:11 ESV …As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways…
Even in the case of the wicked, God does not delight in their death, but desires repentance and life.
Matthew 10:29-31 ESV Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.”
John 10:27-28 ESV My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My father who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Not only are we valuable, but God desires for us to escape death as the ultimate judgment for our sin. You see, the death of the wicked is a tragedy that breaks God’s heart. It is not so for one who trusts in Jesus – which is why it’s the death of his saints that is precious. Saint doesn’t mean perfect. It’s not talking about Catholic saints. He’s talking about you if your trust is in Jesus.
For one who trusts in Jesus, death is the beginning of eternal life. That’s when our souls are delivered, when our eyes have no more tears, when we no longer stumble. Everything will be perfect. So there is a sweetness in death for those who trust Jesus. But make no mistake that for all who die without Jesus, they die in judgment for sin. For them, death is also the beginning of an eternal state – eternal torment.
There is so much at stake for us. We have friends and family who are facing the judgment of God. Maybe you’re here this morning and you are facing this judgement. Will you stop and consider that God has done what is required to save you? Trust in Jesus. Today. Friends, talk to others about Jesus, that they might experience the sweetness, the preciousness of death as a saint.
Paul actually quotes the Greek version of Psalm 116 in 2Corinthians 4:13, when he says …
2Corinthians 4:13 ESV Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed and so I spoke,” we also believe and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
WHAT SHALL I RENDER TO THE LORD?
Finally, let’s take a close look at verse 12 to close it out.
PSALM 116:12-13 ESV What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? -13- I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
At this point, the Psalmist is saying – how should I repay God for all of these ways that he blesses me and helps me? This question should make us feel a little nervous. And it seems that it’s a similar nervousness that actually led to the question being asked in the first place. God is so incredible, so generous, so gracious, so loving, so perfect in his love for me – how could I ever repay that?
It’s a rhetorical question, because the answer is NOTHING. There is nothing that can be done to repay God. And we should understand that none of our good works could be effective in paying back God (1Cor 15:10)… and we should never do something to please God in hoping that it will incur favor or pay him back for his benevolence.
In fact, the way the Psalmist answers his own question is really interesting. Here’s his answer to “What shall I render (or pay back to) God…?”
- Lift up the cup of salvation
- Call on the name of the LORD
Speaking of these verses, John Piper said,
“Lifting up the cup of salvation signifies taking the Lord’s satisfying salvation in hand and drinking it and expecting more… I will render to God the praise and the tribute that he is never in need of me, but is always overflowing with benefits when I need him (which I always do).” John Piper
That’s what we do when we take communion together. In a moment, the band will come up and will play quietly for a few minutes. That’s a time for you to reflect and to consider your relationship with God. Ask him to show you what to do with his week’s Psalm.
And then we’ll sing and take communion together. Communion is what we do every week – as the pinnacle of our time together – to remember the body of Jesus broken for us, and his blood shed for us. We lift up the cup of salvation – remembering how he has saved us – and we call on him again to be gracious and merciful.