Elizabeth Barret Browning wrote a poem that stated, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the fepth and breadth and height my soul can reach.” A declaration of love gives us joy, whether it is the spoken love of a beloved child or when the wondering of our hearts is satisfied by the person we have come to love. And a declaration of love that relates why we are loved, listing our qualities and virtues, validates our sense of value and worth.
The psalm for today, Psalm 116, is a declaration of love for the Lord by an unknown author, one delivered from death only through the unique ability of God to conquer the mighty for called death. In 2 Chronicles 14:11, King Asa prayed to the Lord, “O LORD, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in you alone…” This psalm demonstrates a great sensitivity to the goodness of God in the life of the author. I like that the author is not listed, for it could be any one of us who have looked death in the face and lived to tell about it.
Psalm 116:1-4 I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Please, Lord, save me!”
The author unashamedly declared his love for God, telling us why he does. I use male pronouns because no psalm is attributed to a woman, but love for God isn’t a solely male attribute nor is thanksgiving. This is someone who had an encounter with God and learned of the Lord’s mercy, faithfulness, and salvation, and, therefore, could be either male or female.
He glorified God for listening, and attested to the effectiveness of prayer. The problem faced is unknown, but, it was a life or death situation, meaning a real crisis for the author. To his credit, he knew where his help came from. Often in crises, we call on everyone at first and God as a last resort. Let us learn from the psalmist!
Psalm 116:5-9 How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!
Love is the most misunderstood of words, such as when we tell a stranger that we “love” their outfit. True love is felt more solidly, and it is a powerful bonding agent in our relationships with others. It is the same with our relationship with God, for He requires relationship, not religious rituals.
A childlike faith is required, for Jesus stated in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This type of faith can save us from tears and stumbling. Staying in the Lord’s presence keeps us under His protection and care. That does not mean that we will not have trials and crises in our lives, for it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil (Matthew 5:45).
Psalm 116: 10-14 I believed in you, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you, “These people are all liars!” What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Vanessa Bell Armstrong wrote a beautiful song that states, “What shall I render unto God for all His blessings? What shall I render, what shall I give? All I can render is my body and my soul. That’s all I can render, that’s all I can give. God has everything.
everything belongs to Him. What shall I render?” Indeed, that is a great question, and it is one that is very important to me, for I have been so fortunate to experience his salvation and love firsthand.
The author offered up the cup of salvation, praised the Lord’s name for saving him, and promised to keep the vows in the presence of others. To me, that means remaining honest, obeying God’s commands, and maintaining integrity and Christ-likeness in all my encounters and transactions. Indeed, Romans 12: 1 requires us to offer our bodies to God as a “living sacrifice” to God, being holy and pleasing to God, which represents true and proper worship.
Psalm 116: 15-19 The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people–in the house of the Lord in the heart of Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
The author comprehended the need to stay in the presence of the Lord, to worship in the house of the Lord in the place where God resides. This psalm also underscores the need for prayers in which we not only ask or demand God’s blessings, but express our gratitude for His goodness to us in the land of the living.
It calls for us to recognize that all that is good in our lives comes from God, and that we cannot be shallow, lacking in knowledge or feelings, in our dealings with God. Moreover, we are reminded to declare our love for God, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We should know why we love the Lord our God, and we should be able relate those reasons to others, in hopes that they, too, will want to experience and acknowledge His love for them. Let us remember today to declare our sincere love for God, for He alone is worthy.