Psalm 116:1-11

I love the Lord, because he has heard

my voice and my pleas for mercy.

   Because he inclined his ear to me,

therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

   The snares of death encompassed me;

the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;

I suffered distress and anguish.

   Then I called on the name of the Lord:

“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

   Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;

our God is merciful.

   The Lord preserves the simple;

when I was brought low, he saved me.

   Return, O my soul, to your rest;

for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

   For you have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling;

   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.” [1]

 

We tend to have expressions towards God that lack content. We start and end with what we will do for God. “I love you, God” “I will be this for you, God.” These expressions have their place, for sure. But, I fear that we miss significant realities when we get trapped in these phrases. Remember that this is kind of the language that Peter used in the New Testament. When he said in John 13:36-38, that he would lay down his life for Jesus, Jesus says, “calm down, bro, you’re crazy overestimating yourself. Here’s what’s gonna go down – you’re going to deny me three times”. Of course, that is my interpretation of what Jesus was getting at, but I wonder how many times we need to pump the brakes in our own Christian lives. I think this Psalm will help ground our love and obedience towards God in several ways. Let’s look at them together.

God Hearing Prayers Motivates Us To Love Him (vs. 1-2)

Listen to how the Psalmist starts, “I praise the Lord because he has heard my voice.” We are too prone to fly through life and never stop to reflect on what it means that the God of the universe listens to our prayers. That the God who made us turns his ear towards us. Of course, when it says that God inclines his ear towards us, it is just giving an illustration of God “hearing [our] voice.” This is called parallelism in poetry and is a big part of the Psalms. We must see how that is working so we don’t get a whacky idea that God has a physical body like we do or that he has physical ears. But even though God doesn’t have physical ears, he hears us. God listening to the Psalmist’s prayers results in them loving the Lord and “calling on the Lord as long as they live.” Calling doesn’t just mean praying here; in Exodus 34:5-7, this word is translated “proclaiming,” it relates to being a worshipper of God. God’s love for the Psalmist motivates the Psalmist to a life of loving and worshipping God. We see right here an example of what we have in the New Testament. In 1 John 4:19, the Bible says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Gods Presence When We Are In Anguish Motivates Us To Love Him (3-6)

The Psalmist reflects on how they felt when they cried out to God. The emotional state they were in, that they felt like there wasn’t any hope like they were caught, and there was no way out. Yet they called on the name of the Lord. They knew they could turn to God and specifically pray to Him in their time of need. Many times in our life, we do not know what to do, but we know who we can turn towards. This also speaks to the reality of suffering in this world. If we are too quick to dismiss suffering and pretend like it doesn’t exist, then we will be robbed of turning to the one who will one day wipe away every tear.

Contemplating Gods Greatness Helps us Understand Our Smallness and Motivates Us to Love Him.  (7-11)

Next, we see that God rescued the Psalmist. He preserved them even though they didn’t deserve it. Think about the language “God preserves the simple.” This comes after the Psalmist reflects on God’s attributes. “Gracious, merciful, and righteous is God – pretty puny am I.” We live in a culture that either cuts people down by using superficial categories or flatters them with the same categories. In the Christian life, we have something much more profound. When we look at who God is in His attributes and actually pause to think about it, it’s hard not to see our pitiful comparison to such wonder and beauty. But, we also can’t miss the fact that this amazing and awe-inspiring God loves us. He cares for us.  He watches out for us. If your heart is growing cold in your love for God, spend some time reflecting on His attributes. Pastor Nate Archer did a great job of illustrating what the Psalmist is getting at with His sermon “seeing stars” in a recent sermon series. I’d highly recommend checking it out on Vimeo. Also, Mark Jones’ book God Is reflects devotionally on God’s attributes, and Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him does that as well.

How are you spending this time? Are you taking advantage of opportunities to stir your love for God? Are you taking time to reflect on God’s love for you in Christ?

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 116:1–11.

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