Thursday, January 28, 2010

Psalm 116 – A Personal Plea in Desperation Answered with Thanks

Psalm 116 is a very special psalm. Not only was it most assuredly sung by Jesus and the disciples at the last supper as part of the Hallel chain during Passover, it reverently holds the unique name—the covenant title—of LORD (YHWH) high in almost every verse. But it’s the personal nature of this psalm that is most relevant to us.

Rather than spruik about the nature of the deliverance, the psalmist focuses on the very nature of God himself in verse 5 and those following. This seems their total outlook.

In reading verses 5-9 we get a really clear picture of what it means to be a true follower of God. It’s acknowledging, always, the truth of God—he is gracious, righteous, full of compassion—as well as knowing that the simple of heart are always most blessed. It’s recognising God’s goodness, in our patiently waiting, and his answering of our prayers. It’s being assured of his continual Presence with us (whether we feel this or not).

Without superscription the psalm is anonymous. We can’t be certain who wrote many of the psalms although at least we have a few clues as to who was involved when we read below the title, ‘of David,’ or ‘of Asaph’ etc. Still this psalm has an anointed history in association with Passover.

In comparison to God it is a great truth that “all men are liars.” (v. 11) We cannot and must not place our faith in people, but in God alone. Yet, when we do this a strange thing happens. God makes it possible for us to trust people more than ever, simply because with God—in his safety—we can no longer be so easily hurt. Like the Lord Jesus, crushed upon the tree of crucifixion, we’re rejected but the sting is no more. Instant resilience is known and experienced. God is strong in this ultimate healing of the soul and no one can harm us evermore (like they once could).

When we finally realise the fullness of God’s goodness to us (v. 12) we’re swept off our feet—abandoned to him, with fervour and finality. We reach this place—like the psalmist—and we can’t do enough for God. Tempted past a works righteousness, we fulfil our vows (v. 14, 18) with strident pleasure.

If reading this psalm could not fill you with hope for a God-reconciled future I don’t know what could. Reading it is rather like having warmed treacle running down our throats—marvellous.

Arriving at this psalm’s ending calls us back to the start, as we reflect over it. This riveting verse (v. 2) symbolises majestically the psalmist’s heavenly-bent gaze:

“Because he turned his ear to me,

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

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

No comments: