Summary: What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? (Psalm 116:12).
FROM CRUSHING CONSTRICTIONS TO NEWNESS OF LIFE
Have you ever had an experience where you felt as if the life was being crushed out of you, as surely as if a boa constrictor had its coils around you? This could be physical illness, or mental anguish; crushing circumstances, or financial restriction. All you can do at such times, or so it seems, is cry out to God!
If I was asked why I love the LORD, I might well answer: because He heard and answered my prayer (Psalm 116:1).
Yet this may, at first glance, appear self-serving: what would I have to say for myself if my prayers had not been answered in the way that I had hoped? Experience teaches us that there will be such times, but our love must rise above that: we should be like Job, who said, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’ (Job 13:15).
A testimony may well begin, “I love the Lord because…” (Psalm 116:1), or ‘Truly God is good to Israel’ (Psalm 73:1), but we must also colour in the circumstances which led to that conclusion. “He inclined His ear” (Psalm 116:2), yes: but how did that get to the point where I could pledge ever after that I “will call upon His name” (Psalm 116:17)?
For the Psalmist, death itself came knocking at the door, constricting him in its cords: and inflicting such pain as to leave him face to face with the prospect of Sheol. In this experience, there seemed no window of hope: he could see only trouble and sorrow (Psalm 116:3).
It was THEN that he called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I beseech You, deliver my soul” or “O LORD, I pray, save my life” (Psalm 116:4).
I see beyond these words of testimony the experience of Another, who made the impassioned plea: ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’. Yet to this there came no audible answer. He knew within His holy heart what He must do, and conceded: ‘Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done’ (Matthew 26:39).
JESUS experienced death itself, and felt the pains of Sheol (Psalm 116:3) but - as with the Psalmist - THAT WAS NOT THE END. He later testified that the LORD had “delivered His soul from death” (Psalm 116:8), and therefore that He would “walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).
When we come through an experience like this, and come out the other end, our heart inclines to praise and thanksgiving. Because of what Jesus has done for me, in dying and taking away my sins - and for all His other ‘gracious benefits’ (cf. Psalm 103:2) - “What shall I render to the LORD” (Psalm 116:12)?
I asked Him to save me (Psalm 116:4), and He saved me (Psalm 116:8). I must therefore grasp with both hands the salvation thus freely offered (Psalm 116:13). How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3)?
I must recall and repay all those vows that I made in the heat of the moment (Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18). He “loosed my bonds” (Psalm 116:16), and because of this I pledge myself to serve Him. He brought Israel out of Egypt for exactly this reason: ‘to serve Him in the wilderness’ (Exodus 10:24).
In order that I don’t go back on my promise, says the Psalmist, I declare my loyalty to Him anew, before the congregation of His people (Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18). This happens “In the courts of the LORD’s house: in your midst, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 116:19).
“Praise ye the LORD.”