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The Psalmist professeth his love and duty to God for his deliverance: he studieth to be thankful.
THIS psalm was probably written by David upon his deliverance from Absalom's rebellion; though some think that it was composed by Esdras at the return of the Jews from Babylon. The Jews were accustomed to sing this psalm with some others after their passover; for which, doubtless, they had the direction of some of their prophets, who saw that it represented Christ, the true paschal lamb, singing thus after his last passover, to preserve himself, as it were, for immediate sufferings and death; in full assurance of being heard in that he feared; and with the most affectionate praise and thanksgiving then devoutly offered, and promised also to be continually offered in the courts of the heavenly sanctuary, whither he was going to prepare a place for all his faithful servants: who, therefore, have here a most affecting example of offering praise even in a day of trouble, within the courts of the Lord's house, here on earth, till they come to do it in the Jerusalem above; in the courts of the heavenly sanctuary. See Fenwick and Houbigant.
Psalms 116:1. I love, &c.— Hebrew, I love; i.e. "I am full of love:—I love ardently and most affectionately,"—as commentators well explain it; "And that because the Lord accepts, or will hear my prayer; [ישׁמע ishmang,] helping me, in that I feared; so that in my days of distress or trouble [אקרא ekra]."
Ver. 2. I will preach, proclaim, or sing aloud of his goodness. This place, and also Psa 116:13-17 seem to require this sense of akra. Fenwick.
Psalms 116:3. The sorrows of death— The Hebrew signifies, The snares of death. See Psalms 18:4-19.18.5.
Psalms 116:6. The simple— i.e. Those who are upright and sincere, and who make use of no crafty arts, no indirect or unlawful means for their deliverance; or, as the original word likewise signifies, the little ones; i.e. those who wholly depend upon God, as little children do upon their parents.
Psalms 116:9. In the land of the living— In the Hebrew the lands; pointing at the lands or mansions whither Christ was to go, and prepare a place for all who truly follow him; in the view and full assurance of which, he is represented as saying in the former verse, Thou hast delivered my soul from death. See Fenwick.
Psalms 116:10-19.116.11. I believed, therefore have I spoken— I believed (for I will speak it; I was very low), I said in my haste, The whole race of man is a lie. These two verses express the low state of spirits to which he had been reduced. Thus Mudge. Green, referring the verses to David, translates them thus; I spoke, because I believed it: (I was in great affliction) and I said in my flight, [namely, from Absalom] All men are deceitful. Mr. Fenwick has it,
I now believe; but yet I own, So very low I once was brought, My hurried spirits made me almost say, Men are all lies;
That is mere vanity. This would have been the case, if Christ had not prevailed in those dreadful conflicts with the powers of darkness, to which for our redemption he submitted, and which seem to be here pointed at.
Psalms 116:13. I will take the cup of salvation— Or, of deliverances. The taking this cup was either more solemn in the temple, or more private in the family. The former was the drink-offering, or strong wine, poured out in the holy place; Numbers 28:7. This is what the Psalmist seems to speak of here, as may be gathered from the 14th, 17th, and 18th verses. Yet the Jews had also in their families a more private cup of thanksgiving, or commemoration of any deliverance received. The master of the family used to begin this, and he was followed by all his guests. The use of it was either daily, after each meal, or more solemnly at a festival. In the daily use of it they had this form: "Blessed be our God, the Lord of the world, who hath created the fruit of the vine." But on the festival day there was joined to it a hymn proper for the day. See Mat 26:30 where the paschal commemoration, or post-coenium, advanced by Christ into the sacrament of his blood, was, after the Jewish custom, concluded with a hymn; and so here with the cup of salvation is joined a calling upon the name of the Lord; and both the more private and the more solemn performance of this is called the paying of vows to the Lord; namely, that thanksgiving and acknowledgment, which men in distress may be supposed to promise upon condition of deliverance, or which, if they promise not, they are however bound to perform, as a due return for their deliverance.
Psalms 116:15. Precious in the sight of the Lord— The word precious is not here so to be understood as to signify that which is spoken of to be desireable to or in the sight of the Lord; for it is the life, and not the death of his servants, which is precious in that sense to God, the great preserver of their lives. But for their death to be precious, is, in effect, no more than that it is so considered, and rated at so high a price by God, that he will not easily grant it to the will of their enemies. Loosed my bonds, in the next verse, means, Rescued me from the power of death.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The Psalmist's warm profession of his love to God for the mercies he had tasted, and of his determined dependance upon him. I love the Lord, because, &c. or, as the words stand in the original, I love, because the Lord hath heard my voice, and my supplications; his gracious condescensions in opening his ear to his requests, and speedily answering his desires, affected his soul with deepest gratitude, and engaged him to make the warmest returns of affection, and to persevere in waiting still upon Jehovah; therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. Note; (1.) Every answer to our prayers is a fresh obligation and encouragement to pray without ceasing. (2.) That soul is happy which can with David truly say, I love the Lord. (3.) In prayer or praise should our very parting breath expire, and then we shall go where all will be praise.
2. He mentions the deep distress from which God had delivered him. The sorrows of death compassed me, such as dying men feel in their agony; the pains of hell, such as arise in the conscience from the sting of guilt, or of the grave, which brought me to its very gates, gat hold upon me, and seized me as their prey: I found trouble and sorrow; trouble which none but God could assuage, and sorrow which he alone could remove. Note; Death is terrible indeed, when accompanied with the fears and pains of hell: blessed be God for Jesus Christ, who hath given us the victory over both.
3. His recourse was to God, Then in the midst of the sorrows I had in my heart, called I upon the name of the Lord, the Saviour of the miserable and desperate; and with importunity pleaded, O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul, which must infallibly perish, unless thy power and grace rescue me from destruction. Whenever the sinner thus flies for refuge to the divine mercy in Christ, he will not be cast away, as,
4. David by blessed experience found. Gracious is the Lord, I have proved him so to my unspeakable comfort, pardoning my guilt, and delivering my helpless soul; and righteous, faithful to his promises, and just in all the dispensations of his providence and grace: yea, our God is merciful, infinite in compassions, as all his people must acknowledge. The Lord preserveth the simple; those, who without allowed guile, place on him their dependence: I was brought low, to the very brink of ruin; yet he magnified his grace the more in my deliverance, and he helped me: in consequence of which my soul was delivered from death, from temporal, from eternal death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling into sin, and the pit of death and hell. And cannot every believer witness this by his own blessed experience? but for these compassions of our God, our bodies, long since consigned to the grave, had seen corruption, and our souls had dropped into hell, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Well may we say, Our God is merciful.
5. He addresses his soul, and bids it now rest in peace, under the guardian care of this gracious God. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; whatever hath troubled thy repose, whether affliction, persecution, temptation, or corruption, since all thy burdens are now cast on the Lord, confidently expect, and quietly wait, to see the salvation of God; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee in all his past dispensations, and therefore deserved to be trusted for all that is to come. Learn, my soul, thus to reason, and trust still in God!
6. He resolves to devote to God's service the life preserved by his mercy. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living, seeking to glorify Jehovah upon earth, by letting his light shine before men, and telling of his salvation from day to day; in it is expressive of his faith, as looking to that better world where life eternal reigns, and in which he trusted to stand among the glorified throng, and join their everlasting songs of praise.
2nd, We see that,
1. He declares his unshaken confidence in God. I believed the promises of his grace, of protection here, and glory hereafter, to every faithful soul: therefore have I spoken, to God in prayer, assured of being heard; and to men with boldness, knowing the truth of what he declared. Note; Faith inspires the heart with freedom of speech; and no danger can discourage the genuine minister of Christ from proclaiming the gospel truths, nor the pious Christian from the profession of them. See 2 Corinthians 4:13.
2. He owns the discouragements that he was under. I was greatly afflicted; persecuted by Saul, reviled, and reduced to the greatest distress: and this is in a measure the lot of very many of the righteous. I said in my haste, rashly, through the provocation I had received, or in my flight, when pursued by Saul or Absalom, All men are liars, as having barely forsaken and betrayed him. Note; (1.) In sore provocations, and deep afflictions, the faith of God's strongest saints has been sometimes shaken, and some of them have spoken unadvisedly with their lips; but this demands repentance and a fresh application of the atoning blood. (2.) There is a great difference between a surprise of temptation, and wilful and premeditated sin.
3. Overwhelmed with the sense of the goodness of God, he seems at a loss how to express the infinite gratitude that he owes; and resolves with his lips and in his life for ever to proclaim and exalt the great and glorious name of Jehovah. I will take the cup of salvation; the drink-offerings which should attend his sacrifice of thanksgiving; and call upon the name of the Lord, praying to him, and praising him for all his mercies; in public, in the presence of all the people, and in the courts of the Lord's house, paying the vows he had made in trouble, glorying in the profession of his deep obligations to the God of his mercies, and encouraging others to the like open professions of devotion to Jehovah; nor should his lips only be employed in thanksgiving, his life should be for ever devoted to his service. O Lord, truly I am thy servant, in all fidelity and zeal; he repeats it to shew the heartiness of his surrender, I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid, born of pious parents, and from early youth brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: thou hast loosed my bonds; the bonds of sin, corruption, affliction, had bound him; but now, set free, he became the servant of God, whose service is the most perfect freedom. Note; (1.) The sacrifice of thanksgiving is the tribute that we are ever bound to pay. (2.) To be the servant of God is the most honourable of all titles; so thought Israel's king. (3.) When grace hath loosed the bands of sin, the powerful pleasing cords of love most pleasingly and divinely bind our hearts to God.
4. He can look forward without fear, or meet death with satisfaction. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; he will not suffer the wicked to destroy his faithful servants, but preserves them when there seems to be but a step between them and death; and when the hour arrives of their dissolution, their last moments shall tell how dear they are to him, who fall asleep in Jesus; yea, even in their graves they shall be remembered by him, and brought forth with glory at a resurrection-day.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 116". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany