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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Psalms 116

 

 

Verses 1-6

Psalms 116:1. I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

You cannot help loving God if he has heard your prayers. Have you tried him? If you have, you can join with David and thousands of others in confessing that he is a prayer-hearing God, and therefore you love him. I find the verse might be read, “I love the Lord, because he hears.” He is always hearing. I am always speaking to him, and he is always hearing me, and therefore I love him. Can you imagine a better reason for love?

Psalms 116:2. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

“He hath inclined his ear” — stooped down, as it were, as you do to a sick person to catch his faintest word. “He hath inclined his ear.” He has heard my prayer, when I could hardly hear it myself. When it was such a broken prayer, such a feeble prayer, that I was afraid I had not prayed, yet he heard me. He inclined his ear, and “therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” That is, I will never leave off praying, and I will never leave off praising.This is the best gratitude we can show to God. Now, if a beggar were to say to us, “If you will help me today, I will beg of you as long as ever I live,” we should not be very thankful to him; but when we say this to God, he is glad, for he wants us to be thus continually calling upon him.

Psalms 116:3-4. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

He felt as if he had been hunted. As in hunting, they sometimes surround the stag with dogs as with a cordon, so he says, “the sorrows of death compassed me. There was no getting away. I was in a circle of sorrow.” Worse than that, his pains of conscience and heart were so great that he says, “The pains of hell gat hold upon me” — got the grip of him, as though he were arrested by them — as though those dogs had come so close as to seize and grasp him. “Then,” says he, “I called.” At the worst extremity he prayed. There is no time too bad to pray in. When it is all over with you, still pray. Often the end of yourself is the beginning of your God. He means to get you away from every other confidence, that you may fling yourself upon him. “Then called I upon the name of the Lord.” And what was the prayer? A very short one: “O Lord, I beseech thee deliver my soul.” God does not measure prayers by the yard. It is not by the length but by the weight. If there is life, earnestness, heart in your prayer, it is all the better for being short. Read the Bible through, and you will scarcely find a long prayer. Prayers that come from the soul are often like arrows shot from the bow — quick, short, sharp; and God hears such prayers as these — “O Lord, I beseech thee deliver my soul.”

Psalms 116:5. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;

Wonderful combination — gracious and yet righteous. And if you want to know how this can be, look at Calvary, where Jesus dies that we may live. “Oh! the sweet wonders of that cross, where God the Saviour loved and died” — where there was the justice of God to the full, and the mercy of God without bound. “Gracious is the Lord and righteous.”

Psalms 116:5-6. Yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple:

Those that have such a deal of wit may take care of themselves, but “the Lord preserveth the simple,” the straightforward, the plain-minded — those who believe his word without raising questions. “The Lord preserveth the simple.”

Psalms 116:6. I was brought low and he helped me.

Oh! many of you can say this, I trust, and if you cannot I hope you will before long — “I was brought low, and he helped me.”


Verses 1-11

It begins well.

Psalms 116:1. I love the Lord,

Can you say that? “Yea, Lord, thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love thee.” “I love the Lord.” Love is said to be blind, but not love to God. Love to God can see, and it can give a reason for its own existence, and a good substantial reason too. “I love the Lord.”

Psalms 116:1. Because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. A good reason for love will be found in the closet where prayer is answered. If you have ever been in trouble, and that Divine friend has listened to your feeble cries, you do love him, and you cannot help loving.

You wonder why others do not love him too.

Psalms 116:2. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

“Because.” He harps on that string. It is so sweet a note that he touches it again: “Because he hath inclined his ear unto me”: stooped out of heaven. He has laid his ear down to my lips. He has caught my wandering utterances. He hath inclined his ear. My sin had pushed his ear away, but he has brought his head back again, and inclined his ear unto me. “Therefore.” You see this was given as a reason, but the Psalmist is so full that what was a reason for love now becomes a reason for something else. The flowers in the garden of believers bloom double. Here is a second flower on this stalk. I love him because he hath inclined his ear unto me.

“Therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” I speed so well in prayer that I will keep on in that blessed business. God heard me once. He shall hear me again.

“Long as we live should Christians pray,

For only while we pray we live.”

And as long as we live we shall find out the best way of living — to live from hand to mouth — from God’s hand to our mouth — by continual prayer. Now the Psalmist tells about this wonderful instance in which God heard his cry.

Psalms 116:3. The sorrows of death compassed me,

They were all round me. They made a circle. I could not find a break. They compassed me. Sorrows, deadly sorrows, the very sorrows of death.

Psalms 116:3. And the pains of hell gat hold upon me:

They came inside the circle and they gripped me. I was like one that did lie under the lion. He seemed to bite and tear me. “The pains of hell gat hold upon me.” Did you ever know that? I did. Oh! I can never forget, for the scars are in my mind to this day when the pains of hell gat hold upon me. They say that there is no hell. He will never say that who has ever felt the pains of a guilty conscience — the pangs of unforgiven sin to a soul that is made alive by the Spirit of God. “The pains of hell gat hold upon me.”

Psalms 116:3. I found trouble and sorrow.

An unexpected find. They were hidden away — these double enemies — hidden away beneath my pleasures, beneath my sins, beneath my self-righteousness. “I found trouble and sorrow.”

Psalms 116:4. Then called I upon the name of the LORD

The most canonical hour for prayer is the time of our greatest distress. When you can do nothing else but pray, then is the very best time to pray. When you seem shut up to prayer, what a blessed shutting up it is! “Then called I upon the name of the Lord.” And what was his prayer? Very short: very full: a sort of soldier’s prayer.

Psalms 116:4. O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

There, dear hearer, if you want to begin to pray to God, there is a good beginning for you. “Oh! Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”

Psalms 116:5. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;

A curious mixture. You will never understand it until you stand at the foot of the cross.

Psalms 116:5. Yea, our God is merciful.

That is the practical outcome of the holy conjunction of grace and righteousness in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. “Our God is merciful.” Sometimes when people cannot read well, they spell the words, and one, I remember, spelt God in this way — “Yea, our God is merciful.” That will do — full of mercy — merciful.

Psalms 116:6. The LORD preserveth the simple:

You clever men take heed of this. “The Lord preserveth the simple” — the plain, hearty, honest, sincere, sometimes ridiculed for their want of cunning. God takes care of them.

Psalms 116:6. I was brought low, and he helped me.

What a sweet thing it is when you have studied a general doctrine to be able to give yourself as a particular instance of it. “The Lord preserveth the simple.” That is a grand truth. “But I was brought low, and he helped me.” That is an emphatic proof. That is the enjoyable illustration of the grand truth. Can you say that, dear friends? Can you put that in your diary? “I was brought low, and he helped me.”

Psalms 116:7. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

Come back. He is a good God. Why wander? Return unto thy first husband, for it was better with thee than now. He has been bountiful. My soul lives on his bounty again.

Psalms 116:8. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

As I read these words, they seem as if they were written for me. Do they seem, dear hearer, as if they were written for you? Have you undergone this trinity of salvation — your soul from death, your eyes from tears, your feet from falling? If so, then make this resolve tonight.

Psalms 116:9. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

That is to say, as he has dealt so well with me, I will always deal well with him. I will not care to look to men — to their hope, to their help, to their judgment, to their censure, but I will set the Lord always before me. He shall be everything to me. Beloved, it is one of the best days work a man ever does, when he turns clean away from everything but God. Oh! when you have given up all reliance upon the creature, and throw yourself upon the bare arm of the Creator, now you have got at it, man; now you have come to real life. All the rest is mere play-acting, but this is reality, for God alone is, And all else is but a dream.

Psalms 116:10-11. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars.

And uncommonly near the truth he came, even though he was in a hurry in saying it, for if you trust in any men, they must be liars to you. They will fail you either from want of faithfulness, or else from want of power. There are pinches where the kindest hand cannot succor. There are times of sorrow when she who is the partner of your bosom cannot find you alleviation. Then you will have to come to God, and God alone, and you will never find him fail you. The brooks of the earth are dry in summer, and frozen in winter. All my fresh springs are in thee, my God, and there neither frost nor drought can come. Happy man who has got right away from everything to his God.


Verses 1-19

We have read this Psalm many times, let us read it now, not regarding it so much as the language of the psalmist uttered thousands of years ago, as our own language at this moment.

Psalms 116:1. I love the LORD,

Let us go as far as that if we can; let us each one say, “I love the Lord.”

Psalms 116:1. Because —

There is a reason for this love. People say that love is blind, but love to God uses her eyes, and can justify herself: “I love the Lord, because” —

Psalms 116:1. He hath heard my voice and my supplications.

Can you go as far as that? Do you recollect answers to prayer, when you cried to God with your voice, or when your voice failed you, but supplication rose to God from your heart? Surely there is not a man, whose prayers have been answered, who does not love God. He must love the Lord when he recollects what poor prayers his were, what great blessings came in answer to them, and how speedily and how often God has heard his prayers, and granted his requests.

Psalms 116:2. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

That is a vow which we may well make, and hope for grace to keep it. It means that, as we have succeeded so well in begging at God’s door, we will keep on begging of him as long as we live. I suppose the psalmist meant that, because Jehovah had heard him, therefore he would never call upon any false god; but, as long as he lived, he would resort to the one living and true God. I hope that you and I can say the same. We have tried the fountain of living waters, why should we go to broken cisterns that can hold no water? Prayer to God has always succeeded, why should we not continue it? All you who have plied the trade of mendicants at the mercy-seat must have been so enriched by it in your souls that you are determined to stand there as long as you live.” Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” This is sound reasoning, for even the emotions of believers, when they are most fervent, are based upon solid reasons. We can defend ourselves even when we grow warmest in love to God and most earnest in prayer. Now the psalmist tells one of his many experiences in prayer: —

Psalms 116:3-4. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD

Dark days are good days for praying; when your eyes cannot see, you pray all the better; when there is no earthly prop to lean upon you are all the more ready to lean upon God alone. The psalmist was like a poor worm in a ring of fire: “the sorrows of death compassed me.” The sheriff’s officer seemed to hold him in his grip: “the pains of hell got hold upon me.” As for his inner experience, he found nothing there but “trouble and sorrow.” When the town of Mansoul was besieged, every way of escape was closed except the way upwards, and it was so with the psalmist, and therefore he made use of that way. “Then called I upon the name of the Lord.” His prayer was short, earnest, and full of meaning: —

Psalms 116:4. O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

He did not have to search for a form of prayer, his words were such as came naturally to his mind; and that is the best sort of prayer which arises out of the heart’s sincere desire.

Psalms 116:5. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

The psalmist was delivered by an act of grace, yet it was an act of righteousness, for God is not unrighteous to break his own promise, and he has promised to help his people. Grace and righteousness both guarantee answers to believing prayers, and mercy comes in to make assurance doubly sure: “Yea, our God is merciful.”

Psalms 116:6. The LORD preserveth the simple:

Straightforward men, those who cannot play a double part, those simpletons whom others take in and laugh at because they are honest, true, genuine, — the Lord preserveth such people.

Psalms 116:6. I was brought low, and he helped me.

Oh, these blessed personal pronouns, are you laying hold of them as I read them? Are you speaking them out of your own soul?

Psalms 116:7. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

Come home to him, for you have no other friend like him in earth or heaven; come back to him, my soul, and rest where you have often rested before.

Psalms 116:8. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

An eternity of mercies from the Eternal himself.

Psalms 116:9. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

The best style of living is walking before God, so living in his sight as to be indifferent to the opinions and judgments of our fellow men and only caring to know that God is looking upon us with approval. This is the way to live; and if we have tried it, we have found it to be so pleasant that we are resolved to continue in it.

Psalms 116:10-11. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars.

They have all failed me; some of them could but would not help me, so they were as liars to me; others would but could not, and as I have trusted them, they were as liars to me; but thou, my God, art no liar, thou art the truth itself! I ask those of you who have had a very long and varied experience to look back, and tell me whether you can recollect even once when your God has broken his promise. You have sometimes been afraid that he would forget it, but has he ever done so? If you speak as you have found him, you must praise and adore the faithful, immutable, all-sufficient Jehovah, who has made your strength to be as your days even to this very hour.

Psalms 116:12. What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

That question contains the essence of true religion. This should be the one object of our lives if we have been redeemed by Christ, and are his servants. Whatever we have done for God, we should endeavor to do much more, and to do it much better.

Psalms 116:13. I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

This is a curious way of rendering anything, yet you know that John Newton’s hymn says, —

“The best return for one like me

So wretched and so poor,

Is from his gifts to draw a plea,

And ask him still for more.”

Psalms 116:14-16. I will say my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.

It is a great blessing if we are able to say, as David did, that we are born into God’s house. Some of us had gracious mothers who brought us to the Lord in earnest prayer long ere we knew anything. I can say to the Lord, “I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid;” and I have no greater wish than that all my descendants may be the Lord’s.

Psalms 116:17-18. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people,

Do it, beloved, let your hearts now pour themselves out in silence, and afterwards in grateful song before the Lord. Praise him, magnify him, bless his name, “in the presence of all his people.” It is inspiring to be with your brethren and sisters in Christ. Perhaps the devotion which burns low when there is only one brand on the hearth will burn all the better and brighter when we add many blazing brands to it.

Psalms 116:19. In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.


Verses 10-19

The whole Psalm is one of joyous thanksgiving because of God’s mercy to the singer. He had been in deep waters of trial and affliction, but had not been suffered to sink. He had known fierce assaults of sin that threatened tearful eyes and falling, stumbling stops, but God had upheld and strengthened. As he recalls all this, he longs to make some return by way of praise, and witness to others. Hence he now inquires.

Psalms 116:10-11. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars.

And uncommonly near the truth he came, even though he was in a hurry in saying it, for if you trust in any men they must be liars to you. They will fail you, either from want of faithfulness, or else from want of power. There are pinches where the kindest hand cannot succor. There are times of sorrow when she who is the partner of your bosom cannot find you alleviation. Then you will have to come to God, and God alone, and you will never find him fail you. The brooks of the earth are dry in summer, and frozen in winter. All my fresh springs are in thee, my God, and there neither frost nor drought can come. Happy man who has got right away from everything to his God.

Psalms 116:12. What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits towards me?

Here we see gratitude is springing up in this man’s breast. He lives upon God, and he loves God, and now the question comes, “What shall I do for God?” Service is not first. We make a mistake when we begin with that. No: we begin as he did, with “I love the Lord.” Tell what the Lord has done for you, and then go on to, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”

Psalms 116:13-15. I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

We do well to notice those deaths, for God notices them. They are among his precious things. And if God thinks so much of dying saints, depend upon it he will not forget the living ones. He will help us. He will help us to the end.

Psalms 116:16. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast loosed my bonds.

What a sweet thing to be the servant of God. Well does David say it twice over. Well does he delight to look upon himself as a slave that was born in his Master’s house. “My mother,” says he, “was one of thy servants. I am the son of thy handmaid.” Oh! It is a blessed thing to be able to be God’s every way — to feel in looking back, “I am not only his by redemption and by the new birth, but I seem as if I was bound to be his by a long ancestry of men and women, whom his sovereign grace called to himself.” Grace does not run in the blood, but it is a great mercy when it runs side by side with it; and when the handmaiden of the Lord is mother of a man who is a child of God as well as her child. “Thou hast loosed my bonds.” You are never quite free, you have never got your bonds all loosed — till you can doubly feel the bonds of God. Read that: “I am thy servant. I am thy servant.” That is two blows. “Thou hast loosed my bonds.” There is no freedom except in perfect subjection to the will of God. When every thought is brought into captivity to the mind of God, then every thought is free. You have heard much of the freedom of the will. There is no freedom of the will till grace has bound the will in fetters of divine affection. Then is it free, and not till then. “I am thy servant — thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds.”

Psalms 116:17. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

He has been doing it. What a man has done he will do. Oh! it is a blessed thing that the children of God at last catch a habit of devotion. Just as the sinner continues in his sin, so may I venture to say, “Shall the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, then he that has once heartily learnt to praise his God may begin to forget to do so. Use is second nature, and the holy use to which God has put us by his grace shall be our nature for ever.

Psalms 116:18-19. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

I see that David liked company. He would have been happy here, though we meet under conditions not wholly pleasant. He would have been glad to be in the midst of a smiling company of grateful saints, who could all say, “That is true, David. What you have written of yourself, you might have written of each one of us, and we can each one say, ‘I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.’”

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 116:10-19; Song of Solomon 2:1-7.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 116:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/psalms-116.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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