The Redeemer’s Resurrection Song of Thanksgiving 

a brief study of Psalm 116, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 7 Jan 2011

Psalm 116 is one of the most famous psalms which forms part of what is called by the Jews, the “Egyptian Hallel.” The “Egyptian Hallel” is so-called because of it allusions and references to the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt. It was during the Exodus that God instituted the Passover. Therefore, these psalms were commonly sung by God’s people in olden days whenever they observed the Passover. They would be the hymns that the Lord sang with His disciples in the upper room when He instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night He was betrayed.

The content of the psalm suggests that it is a song of thanksgiving and resolution for deliverance from a great trial. We don’t really know who wrote it, or what was the trial that occasioned the deliverance. What we do know is that our Jewish fathers found it most suitable for use in meditating on God’s work of redeeming His people from Egypt. We also know that the apostle Paul apparently understood this psalm as containing the words of Christ as He anticipated His death and resurrection.

Paul is quoting verse 10 of Psalm 116, when he says in 2 Corinthians 4:13-14—

13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”

Although he does not say explicitly, it is apparent that he is saying: “As Christ believed and He spoke (in the words of Psalm 116), and His faith was vindicated; so we believe and we speak, knowing that we shall be raised in union with Christ.”

Indeed, if you study this psalm judiciously, you will see that although it can be applied to all the saints of God who are going through life-threatening trials, including David and Hezekiah, yet no one would fit most closely to the experience expressed in it than the Lord Jesus Christ himself! It is no wonder that most of the church fathers, including Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine, think that this psalm relates wholly to the passion, death and triumph of Christ. And so this psalm may indeed be entitled, in the words of Andrew Bonar as: “The Redeemer’s Resurrection-Song of Thanksgiving.”

This psalm has a rather complex structure known by scholars as “Overlapping Concentric Symmetries.” But we can look at it simply as having four parts, each beginning with a resolution of gratitude.

·   The first part, verses 1-8, may be subtitled, “I love because He has delivered.”

·   The second part, verses 9-12 is: “I believe because He is trustworthy.”

·   The third part, verses 13-16, may be subtitled, “I give my life for He is Worthy.”

·   Finally, verses 17-19 may be subtitled, “I worship because He is LORD.”



1. I Love Because He has Delivered

The psalm begins with the famous words:

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

Some commentators believe that what is being expressed is: “I know I love the LORD because He answered my prayers.” But really a plain reading of the text suggests the idea that our love for the LORD is deepened when we experience the Lord’s answer to our prayers.

Remember the unnamed woman who washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. The Lord said concerning her:

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Lk 7:47).

The Lord is saying: “She was so sinful, she needed much forgiveness, and so when she knew she was forgiven, her love for the LORD was so much deepened.”

So too beloved brethren, let us love the LORD who has delivered us with so great a salvation, for our Lord Jesus rose for our justification in answer to His supplications.

As the “sorrows of death compassed [Him], and the pains of hell gat hold upon [Him]” (v. 3), our Lord Jesus  “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death” (Heb 5:7a).

What was His prayer? His prayer was, verse 4—“O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.” He “was heard in that he feared” (Heb 5:7b). For that, our Lord resolved to call upon the Father as long as He lives (v. 2). He will call upon the Father in love for all eternity. He will lead His people to trust the Father by reminding us of how He was delivered from death:

5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. 6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. 7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. 8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

Notice the plural first person pronoun in verse 5. The Lord is speaking to us as a people united to Him. Our God is merciful indeed.

Therefore in times of trials, let us learn to look to the Father and to the Son, knowing how our Lord suffered while bearing our sin and was preserved and helped.

And when we are beset by anxieties, let us exhort ourselves by talking to our soul and reminding ourselves to return unto rest to wait upon the Father (v. 7).

And let us learn to pray with gratitude and hope founded upon how the Father has answered the prayers of our Lord and of ourselves (v. 8). Yes, let us pray with hope and faith, for we must have the same attitude of the Lord, who essentially teaches in the second part of this psalm…


2. I Believe Because He is Trustworthy

Our Lord spoke about His resurrection throughout His earthly ministry: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” He said very early on (Jn 2:19).

Now, this agrees with the words of our Lord recorded in v. 9-12—

9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: 11 I said in my haste, All men are liars. 12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

The Lord spoke because He believed. As fully man He needed faith, and He had faith. He believed. And so He spoke. His faith was well-founded because it was founded on God.

Experience teaches us, on the other hand, that we cannot put our trust fully in men. As Hengstenberg puts it in his comment on verse 11—“All men disappoint the trust placed in them, leave in the lurch those who hope in them.” Our Lord experienced that when his disciples fled from Him.

But the Father proves faithful. He would never leave Him nor forsake Him. He would not suffer His body to be left in the grave. Therefore, He would confidently render His all unto the Father.

Let us, beloved brethren and youths, learn from our Lord’s example to speak with faith and confidence when we go through the most difficult trials. The apostle Paul found strength to imitate the Lord Jesus and was able speak with confidence in regard to the trials and sufferings he was going through. Shall we not seek the Lord’s grace to have the same confidence?

But consider how the Lord asserts His resolve to do what He was appointed to do as the Lamb of God.


3. I Give my Life for He is Worthy

This whole section should really be read together. But let us consider it verse by verse as it is so rich. First, the Lord says, v. 13—

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

The Lord Jesus came to die on behalf of His people. He came to drink the bitter cup of God’s wrath for the salvation of His people. Remember how He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

He came to do what is written of Him in the Old Testament. He came to keep the covenant promise He made on behalf of His people. So, He resolved—

14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

Our Lord paid His vows on the Cross, in full view of all the people. As the wages of sin is death, so He died for His people that they might have life. His vows involve the ultimate sacrifice: death. Though man may not take notice, God will take careful notice, for…

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

Indeed, how much more precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His Son?

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

The handmaid is no doubt referring to the virgin Mary. Remember how she called herself “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).

The Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God, could die because He took on human flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary.

His death and suffering was, therefore, real. But thanks be to the Father, He did not leave Him in the grave. He loosed His bond (v. 16b) three days later. He rose for our justification!

For that reason, the church today can worship the Father in gratitude and love in union with His Son, who declares in the final section of this psalm…


4. I Worship Because He is the LORD

 17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

Now, verse 18 is word for word the same as in verse 14, but I believe they refer to a different aspect of the same vow. In verse 14, the Lord paid His vow by dying for us. In verse 18, the Lord pays His vow by worshipping the Father in union with His redeemed people.

The worship of the Church, we must remember, is not just a worship of a people. It is the worship of Christ and His redeemed people.

Our worship is essentially an expression of thanksgiving unto the Father for salvation so rich and free in Christ. May the Lord grant us that we may have the mind of Christ to seek to express our gratitude often in worship, especially, in the congregation of God’s people.


Conclusion

Psalm 116 is a beloved psalm. But as you can see, it is actually not an easy psalm to grasp in its fullness. Nevertheless, I trust that we can see how our Lord is teaching us by example and exhortation, how we must always worship the Lord in gratitude and love for all that He has done for us.

We will, of course, never be able to pay the debt we owe to God. But shall we not diligently remember our obligation and seek to give expression of our gratitude and love at every opportunity. Only in this way can we be said to be imitators of Christ as those who are truly united to Him. Amen. Ω