The Judeo-Christian Faith gives us reasons to sing. More than that, the songs sung have their origin in and direction in the Grace of the Almighty, Lord of lords and King of kings. The Psalms cover experiences from praise to pain, laughter to lament, from thanksgiving and testimony to tribulation’s testing times. There are Psalms expressing individual experiences to corporate worship. For this article I want to takes us through Psalm 116 using the Amplified Bible’s translation.
As we take a short stroll through it I have chosen to highlight an act of the will in our relationship with our Lord and Saviour. The psalmist uses ‘will’ 6 times. In itself that is of interest as six(6) is the number of ‘Man.’ Could we therefore assume that for Humanity as a whole, and a person as an individual it is the exercise of the ‘will’ rather than the emotions God seeks from us?
The psalm opens with an expression of love to the Lord Yahweh. Then comes the reason for why he, and perhaps we initially began to love the Lord. Why would we call upon the Lord? Because, His love frightened the life out of us, or at least me! For in love the Lord He made known the holiness of His character then I realised my degraded being. How could I or anyone else stand unscathed in His presence? Only by His love. For He heard my cry of despair and pointed my heart to the cross. There I found love’s grace and forgiveness.
Verse two is the motivation for why I continue to call upon Him? This goes way beyond sentimentality. It is rooted and grounded in the act of the will, the choice of commitment! There have been slip up along the way and only the Lord knows how many are yet to happen. However, His love paid the way back for me. It is paved with my tears of gratitude! Verses 3-8 are some of the psalmist’s reasons for being grateful. How close do they come to echoing yours and my reasons?
Verse nine tells how the psalmist would live out his discovery of love. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. As with any baby, walking requires growth and encouragement, perseverance and even role models. The love of God moves us to walk and live in a manner pleasing to Him. How do we know what pleases Him? That is one of the roles of the Bible. It points out the way as well as warning of detours and dangerous ‘potholes.’ Failure to read it and hear it explained has led many to moral and spiritual injuries and a damaged witness.
Verse thirteen shares with us the writer’s delight in the love of Yahweh! The cup of salvation may be likened to one of the four Passover cups. Within that celebration of national redemption is an individual’s discovery of grace. At the cross the fulfilment of the Passover Lamb became inextricably linked to Jesus. He is the Saviour. When a person share in the Lord’s Supper it is with the celebration of Christ’s Name and achievement. Have you or I recently listed the benefits we have entered into because of responding to the Love of Christ?
Verse fourteen takes us ever deeper into the motivation which stems from taking the cup of Salvation. It moves the will to refresh its vows. What a privilege the Communion offers. Though unseen, the Lord is there inviting you to take the bread and the wine (or juice) and to remember Him. As a person does this with sincerity it is similar to exchanging vows of love and trust. Verse eighteen repeats this desire to renew the vows. It is personal but it is also done in the presence of the congregation.
Verse seventeen actually concludes the emphasis of the psalm on his will. It is also a fitting climax to our own commitment. ‘I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving. From Leviticus 7 and elsewhere this offering was personal. It also had a cost which was voluntarily made. It harkens back to verse twelve where the writer acknowledges God’s benefits personally experienced. The sacrifice had to be made without yeast. That is always a symbol of sin. So before offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving ensure any residual sin is confessed, dealt with and cleansed though the blood of Christ. Then notice the verse concludes with how the psalm began. “I …will call upon the name of the Lord!”
As another psalm puts it “let us come before His presence with thanksgiving in our hearts!”
©Ray Hawkins April 3oth 2017.