The unknown writer of Psalm 116 opens with an arresting confession, "I love the Lord!" Nor does he stop there for he continues by saying "I love the Lord because..." Now that he has our attention, let us take a closer look at this song to see if we can penetrate the passion of this praising man and see the reasons for his outburst of affections.
"I love the Lord because..." This is what is called consequent love. (1 John 4:19) It is in contrast to Godís causeless love for He requires no merit in the one He loves. He loves because He is Love. His love does not require a reason in contrast to ours and to that of the psalmist.
Love is always active in the Bible. From John 3:16 we see that when God loved, He gave His only begotten Son. "Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). So we can prove that love will not be passive; it will always move the lover to an action in favour of the recipient of that love. Thank God for His causeless, active love!
When Peter made his confession of love with the words, "...thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:15-17), he was told, "Give food to my lambs...Shepherd my sheep. ...Give food to my sheep," so we conclude that if we love Him, then we will labour for Him. Similarly, the disciple who called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was leaning on Jesusí breast and so we learn that if we love Him then we will lean (John 13:23). This beloved disciple later wrote that if we love Him that begat, we will also love those that are begotten of Him, giving us the lesson that if we love Him then we will love His own. (1 John 5:1). We could perhaps add the words of Paul that if we love Him, then we will look for Him, for he wrote of a crown of righteousness which is laid up for all those who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).
Why did the Psalmist love the Lord? He gives us a number of reasons, the first being that "He has heard me." There were others who were heard, such as the penitent publican, who stood beside the proud Pharisee and prayed, "God be merciful to me the sinner" (Luke 18:13). Not only did the Lord hear the Psalmist, but in the words, "I was brought low" he is essentially saying that he loves the Lord "because He has humbled me." The Lord Jesus used similar words when He stated that the only way into the kingdom of heaven was by one humbling himself and becoming like a little child (Matt. 18:1-4).
The Psalmist adds another reason for his love in the words, ...and He helped me." Would this not remind us of the word succor" that is used in 2 Corinthians 6:2 and means to run in response to a call for help? This is what He did on conversionís day, He succored us. But this succoring does not end at conversion for indeed the word is used three times in the Hebrew epistle reminding us of the fact that the One who saved us is now the Great High Priest of Whom it is written that because He has suffered experientially He is now able to succor His suffering people (2:17-18). The word is used in 4:14-16 where literally we are invited to come with freedom of speech to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace for seasonable, timely succor. Again in Heb.13:5-6 we find the confidence and comfort of the writer who has stated, based on the promises he has just quoted, "The Lord -My Succorer!"
I love Him because He has heard me, because He has humbled me, and because He has helped me. Can we not see in these expressions that which relates to our personal experience when we, like the Psalmist, were passing through the sorrows of death and the pains of hell?
We have already overlapped with our second thought, the conviction of sin, but let us notice what the psalmist says in this section, verses 3-9. The cords of death and the pains of hell had gripped him as he struggled with the reality of the need that had been brought before him. His cry was, "Deliver my soul," and the Lord answered for he thanks God for delivering his soul, drying his tears, and directing his steps.
We believe the statement is true that there can be no conversion without conviction. He has passed through the throes of conviction and now states the great experience of justification by faith in the words, "I believed." This is not unlike the experience of Saul on the Damascus road when he asks the question, "Who art thou Lord?" and the Lord answered, "I am Jesus." What a discovery that the One whom he hoped was dead, was alive. We could say that Saul was saved through the truth of Romans 10:9, couldnít we?
Would not the words of Stephen concerning Jesus, Who was alive, come flashing into his soul? When the Psalmist states, "I believed," he came to know the truth of justification by faith on the same basis as did Abraham and David (Rom. 4:1-8). Indeed no person has ever been justified on any ground in any dispensation other than on the ground of faith
We mentioned earlier that love is never passive; it is always active and it is so with the Psalmist for he who has said, "I love the Lord," and who has given to us the reasons for that love, now asks the question of the consecrated believer, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" Are you not reminded of Saul again on the way to Damascus when, upon believing, he cries out, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). If Acts 9:10-30 contains the answer to Saulís question, then surely in our Psalm we will find the answer to that of the Psalmist. Letís look at what he says that he will do?"
I WILL REJOICE
"I will take the cup of salvation..." Can we refer this to the wells of salvation that the prophet said that he would draw water from with joy (Isa 12:1-3) and thus see in the words of the writer that he has vowed to rejoice before God? He was not going to let circumstances interfere with his joy for he had been greatly blessed of God and was going to return to Him the calves of his lips (Hosea 14:2).
I WILL REQUEST
"I will call upon the name of the Lord." God had heard him in his original cry and he is confident that He will continue to hear him. "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe" (Prov. 18:10). There was safety when we ran there for salvation. Let us continue to run.
I WILL REPAY
"I will pay my vows..." We all have a great debt to pay back- a debt that can never be fully paid when we consider the cost of our redemption. Think of Paul again as he realized the magnitude of the sins of his past and contemplated the magnificence of the grace that had arrested him. Little wonder that he molded his life around the cry, "What wilt thou have me to do?"
I WILL REDEEM THE TIME
"I will pay my vows now...." So often we have plans and spiritual desires of what we should do and we hope to get started on them some day. The Psalmist did not live on ĎSomeday Isleí for, like Paul, he realized that we are now to buy up the opportunities for the days are evil (Eph. 5:15 ). The depressed preacher of the Book of Ecclesiastes stated that "...there is no work, nor plan.. .in Sheol (the abode of departed spirits), whither thou goest." Therefore he exhorts, "...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (9:10). He might have said, "Only one life; twill soon be past; only whatís done for Christ will last."
Are we wasting time by saying, "...there are yet four months and then cometh harvest," while the Lord is saying "Lift up your eyes now...?" Procrastination is the great sin in the sins of omission. Paul said, "I am ready."
I WILL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
"I will serve..." We are paraphrasing as we try to give the sense that he sees himself here in the role of the bondservant. Like the Hebrew servant who went to the door willingly and out of love for his master had his ear bored through with an awl as he sounded out the confession, "I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out free" so here we have a confession that brings consecration (Ex. 21:1-5). It is written concerning the bondservant that he will serve his master forever but his service would be a joyful one for it sprang from the confession," I love...". Could it be that the Psalmist had read the Exodus passage before penning this song?
It is also interesting to note that he says he is "the son of thine handmaid;" that is to say he was born into slavery. This is so with us at the new birth for when our bonds were loosed, new bonds were entered into and this new bondage is the liberty of a joyful service.
I WILL RETURN THANKS
"I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." This is the final part of his answer to his own question, "What shall I render unto the Lord?" What does the Father want from us? The Lord Jesus said, "The Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4:23). The question will ever be asked, "Where are the nine?" (Luke 17:11-19). The Psalmist was one who returned to give Him thanks.
He reviews his commitment by adding that he will pay the vows in the courts of the Lordís house. He has told us what he will do and when he will do it. Now he is telling us where he was going to do it. No isolated unit was this man. Like him, let us not forsake the House of God today, the local church, (1 Tim. 3:14-16) as we seek to repay our debt. His words are a great test of our affections, arenít they?