Sunday, December 27, 2009

About being delivered - Psalm 116

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

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Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy. [The psalmist said he loved God. The reason being the Lord heard his voice and his cry for mercy.]
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live. [Because He hears, the psalmist said that he would call on God as long as he lived.]
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;

I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. [The psalmist explained his condition at the time of his cry - his life was threatened, and he was in distress, suffering, in pain, in trouble and was very sad.]
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, save me!"
[He asked God to save him]
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
[He declared that: God was gracious {granting unmerited favor} and righteous {full of justice}, He was full of compassion {deep awareness of suffering and strong desire to alleviate the same}.]
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
[That: God protects the simple-hearted {one who is free from deceit, sincere, even artless!}. The psalmist recounted that when he was in his great need, the Lord saved him.]
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
[The psalmist was telling himself, his soul, to be at rest once more. He was saying,”O my soul, the Lord has been good to us; He saved before, and he would save again.”]
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
[The psalmist declared that the Lord had delivered him from death, from sorrow and from falling over so that he might walk before the Lord.]
10 I believed; therefore I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."
[The psalmist said again, then, he was greatly afflicted. But he also said he believed God.]
11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."
[He was greatly perturbed because he had been deceived. {A wider interpretation is possible. On the other extreme, the psalmist might be exclaiming that all men were wicked, as Satan was the father of lies, and all men inclined to Satan were liars. Satan is nothing but wickedness, and all inclined to Satan are wicked. From the description of his predicament in verse 3, possibly it was not a simple scenario of him being lied to.}]
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
[“The Lord has delivered me, how can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” said the psalmist. By this verse, my interpretation is that once again the Lord had delivered the psalmist from his distress and affliction.]
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
[The psalmist said he could not just do nothing; rather he must thank God, honor Him, and give Him all the glory.]
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
[The psalmist said he would fulfill his vows to the Lord, before men.]
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
[The psalmist was stating that the lives of God’s saints were precious in God’s eyes. We all know subsequently, God sacrificed His one and only begotten Son, Jesus to redeem us from death – the eternal suffering in Lake of Fire in Hell. ]
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
[Recognizing God’s deliverance, very humbly the psalmist, instead of using the word “saint” on himself, said truly he was only a servant of God that God would deliver him. In fact, he was saying he was merely a servant by virtue of being the son of God’s lowly servant, yet God saved him.]
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
[As a repeat of verse 13, the psalmist said he would make a thank offering to the Lord.]
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
[As a repeat of verse 14, he would fulfill his vows to the Lord before men,]
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
[in the house of God.]

Psalms in the Bible, to me, in the early days, was the section of the Bible to be skipped because they were somewhat cryptic. Later, some of them became passages that I used to speak to my soul. I would speak them repeatedly to myself, to lift my soul. Now I find myself, dwelling into them. Interpretations of Psalms, of course, are more subjective because wordings in psalms are expressions of meditations of the heart. Often, while something was said, much did not come out in words, from the psalmist. Nevertheless, in these days, I feel adequate enough to comment on psalms when felt led.

I believe Psalm 116 was the result of meditations of the heart of the psalmist after experiencing God’s deliverance of him of a great affliction. What was the affliction, was not every clear, but from the psalm we can tell that it was serious, troubling, causing sorrow, and life threatening.

A couple of points to take note or learn:

1. God hears
The psalmist said God heard him. In fact, this is one of the more important things that the psalmist wanted to put across – God hears us, and our cry for mercy. The psalmist said he loved God because God turned his ears to him, and for that he would talk to God as long as he lived.

Some of us may say, “So what? So what God hears, a sound recorder can put pick up sounds of all sorts. What good is a sound recorder to me when I needed help?” Have you ever remarked to someone standing opposite you that he/she did not hear you, when you had clearly spoken to him/her? In such an instance, you were saying that the person did not catch what you meant? The psalmist was saying God is not like that. Of course, God can hear, and when he hears, he can catch what you are trying to say; if He wants to be doubly sure, he will check out what you say (remember what the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 19 concerning Sodom and Gomorrah? He told Abraham He was going to check out what people were saying {about what was going on in the twin cities}).

The thing is that God hears, and hears with understanding, his understanding. We have to be happy with that and love him for that. The trouble with many of us is that we want God to hear us with our understanding, not his understanding.

2. Love Him for hearing you
Do we love our fathers only when all our requests are answered to our liking? Of course, not. Don’t do that to God, either. Love Him for hearing you out, whether He answered all your prayers or not is a different matter. Although in this case, deliverance came to the psalmist, but the psalmist made it very clear, at the outset, that he loved God because God turned his ears to him.

3. We have a helpline, use it
Do cry out to God in our affliction. Pour out to him our grievances. He is not like men, that He cannot take all our out-pouring.

4. Our God is both righteous and compassionate
Many people only want God to be compassionate. They want God’s compassion for them in their situations. But we cannot just expect God to have compassion on us and takes side with us, anyhow. The psalmist knew well, that was why he declared that God was both righteous and compassionate. In fact, to God righteousness comes first. Be righteous, and our prayers for God’s compassion will less likely to fall through.

5. Be simple-hearted
The psalmist also declared the God protects the simple-hearted. What is simple-hearted? To be simple-hearted means to be free of deceit, sincere, and even artless! To deceive is wicked, and God does not favor wicked people. I will go as much as to say that if we remain stubbornly wicked, we may lose God’s hands of protection for us.

6. He who comes to me must know who I am
By this I mean we have to know about Him, and try to get to know Him. Imagine one coming before God and asking God to help him without knowing anything about Him and got his prayer answered. It is truly rare, though not impossible. God is not our genie that at our beck and call, He will have to do anything we ask of Him. I believe consistency in getting prayers answered necessitates knowing much about God and knowing Him. The psalmist said, “I believed (God); therefore I said,…” How could belief have come without knowledge? Starting today, do both, get to know more about Him, and get to know Him.

7. Keep our spirit up
Not completely apparent from the reading of the psalm, but gleaned from the psalmist words of “I believed; therefore I said,….”. In facing our affliction, we got to keep our spirit up. We can only keep our spirit up when we have at least some faith, and faith comes from the knowledge of God. And it always helps if we recount the past goodness of God in our lives. This is apparent from the psalmist’s verses 6 - 9.

8. Know that we who have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus are precious in the sight of God; but be humble
I am not saying pre-believers or non-believers are not previous to God, but I am saying those who have accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior (i.e. saints) are spiritual children of God. Also, the Apostle Paul said in Phil 3:20, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are precious in God’s eyes; do not think poorly of ourselves, but do not be proud either, for the Lord opposes the proud.

9. Please ascribe to Him the glory due His name
When we have experienced God’s deliverance, give Him thanks, ascribe to Him the glory due His name, and testify of His work for us. Praise Him, serve Him even. These are what the psalmist was trying to do.

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If you wish, you may read my article on Psalm 42, which speaks of what to do when one is discouraged.

Anthony Chia - The thing is that God hears, and hears with understanding, his understanding. We have to be happy with that and love him for that. The trouble with many of us is that we want God to hear us with our understanding, not his understanding.

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