Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 22 2019 - Psalm 116 – I love the Lord

One of the distinctives of the Christian is that we love the Lord. We love God because he first loved us and sent his Son into the world to be our Saviour. We love the Lord Jesus because he "loved me and gave himself for me", as the Apostle Paul says (Galatians 2:20). Or to quote another statement from the apostle, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). So we warm to the opening phrase of this psalm, "I love the Lord". This also is the testimony of a man who has known the love and saving goodness of God even though he lived long before the coming of the Lord Jesus.

We do not know what problems the psalmist had been facing. He clearly felt that his life was in danger (v. 3), though whether through the threats of enemies, through sickness, or even the trauma of mental illness and despair we don't know. But in his distress he called upon the Lord to help him and to save him (v. 4). He discovered that the Lord was gracious and full of compassion (v. 5), for the Lord did save him. He describes God's salvation in verses 8-9:

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
    in the land of the living.

The Lord rescued him from death. He may have been physically rescued from death by being saved from those who were out to take his life or perhaps he was healed from a serious illness. Or he may have been rescued from the pathway that leads to death by the Lord placing his feet back on the path of life and keeping him from stumbling. Two things, however, are clear: firstly, the psalmist's sadness and despair had been turned to joy – the Lord has dried his tears. Secondly, having been rescued by the Lord he is now determined to, "walk before the LORD In the land of the living" – to devote whatever days God now grants him to walking with God and seeking to please him.

Paul writes something similar of us as Christians. He says that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). We have been saved through Christ that we might walk with him and live for him.

The psalmist encourages himself saying, "Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you" (v. 7). He knows that he can rest in the knowledge of God's goodness and love. Do you need to encourage yourself, or another Christian, to bask in the warmth of God's love in Christ – to enjoy God's salvation?

He also considers how he should respond to God's goodness (v. 12), and answers, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" (v. 13). Commentators try to identify what is meant here by "the cup of salvation", but it is perhaps best to see it as a metaphor: the psalmist is filled with gratitude that he has been spared the cup of God's wrath and has been granted to drink deeply of God's saving mercy. So he takes this cup with both hands and lifts up his voice in praise of God. We rightly read this in the light of Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "take this cup…", and in terms of our regular celebration of our salvation as we break bread and drink wine together. We too celebrate what God has done for us as we remember Christ's death and resurrection until he comes. Because of his resurrection we know that our lives of service are not in vain and that our death, when it comes, will be precious to God and will bring us into the presence of our Saviour.

Gracious Lord, we praise you that you have rescued us from death and disaster and have set our feet upon the path of life marked out by Christ. We love you because you have first loved us and we rejoice in your salvation; you have turned our tears of sadness and despair into cries of joy. Help us to tell others of what you have done for us, assuring them that you can do the same for them.

Peter Misselbrook