Psalms Chapter 116:1-19 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, November 22, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

The books referenced in these notes are:

1. Psalms vol 3: Psalms 90-150, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, Baker Academic, 2008 by John Goldingay

2. Psalms: Revised Expositor’s Commentary by Willem Van Gemeren

Ps 116: The fourth of the Egyptian Hallel songs, and part of the collection of songs sung during annual feasts, in particular Passover. Ps 113-114 before the meal and 115-118 after it.(Van Gemeren)

This psalm is an individual’s thanksgiving or testimony of being afflicted in the past, praying, and God responding by delivering him.(Goldingay)

Ps 116:1-2
“I love”: Hebrew ahabti, this starts the pslam, the LORD the implied object. The psalmist’s reason for emotion is in the second part, “he heard my voice”, the “appeal for mercy”. A similar relationship is found in 1Jn 4:19 NET. We love because he loved us first. (Van Gemeren)

Goldingay translates the Hebrew aheb (“love” in most versions) as “dedicate”, based on the word’s usage as an act of will in places like Ps 122:6(Goldingay)

Appeal: Hebrew tepilla. Palil is “judge” in Hebrew, thus tepilla here speaks of someone throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. (Goldingay)

In v.2 God’s attentiveness is restated. This attentiveness encourages the psalmist to call out to/upon God for the rest of his life, because God leaned down to hear him, figuratively. (Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Ps 116:3
The reason for gratitude is more colorfully explained here, with language of death and the grave/Sheol used, personified as hunters using ropes or chains or nets to ensnare people. Torments/pains Hebrew mesare “straits, distress, anguish”. The KJV’s “sorrows of death” come from the Greek OT, which read the consonantal Hebrew text differently than the later Masoretic scribes who gave us our standard Hebrew text of today. (Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Ps 116:4
In the awful situation the psalmist used his final hope, to call upon the very name of the LORD. A name can be simply an ID, but it also often indicates character, and has a secondary sense of reputation. Thus to call upon the name of God is not merely a summons, but an invocation of His character, “God save me because of who You are”.(Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Ps 116:5
The psalmist knows God is the one to call upon in distress, for God is gracious, righteous, and compassionate. Gracious in forgiving and sustaining His people, righteous in keeping His covenant even when Israel and individuals break it, which shows His compassion, allowing for the frailties of mankind. Righteous, Hebrew saddiq, sedeq, sedaqa is doing the right thing, but in service of a relationship, not merely a standard of morality.(Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Ps 116:6
Here the psalmist returns to the horrible situation of v.3-4. The LORD promises to be with His people, but even so the psalmist shows wonder at God’s salvation.(Van Gemeren)

“Simple” or “child” is not just a reference to age or quality of intellect. It can also be a character trait, as in “simple faith”, “straightforward belief”. (Goldingay)

Ps 116:7
Because he has known God’s goodness, His capacity to save, the psalmist can tell himself to be calm, because God has already shown His goodness to him personally.(Van Gemeren)

Ps 116:8-9
Only God can change death, tears, and stumbling to a “walk before the LORD”.

“Walk before”: Proceed in normal life.(Goldingay)

“before the LORD”:Literally, to God’s face, a face turned toward one showing the other person’s interest in you. To be before God is to live, as He is the giver of life, and it is also to be under His care. Land of the lviing is likely a green, summery contrast to the dark, dusty and desolate land of the dead, Sheol.(Goldingay)

Ps. 116:10-11
The psalmist knows the true lesson of faith: maintaining belief even in difficulty, which the HCSB brings out:
Psa 116:10 HCSB I believed, even when I said, “I am severely afflicted.”

Afflicted is the Hebrew ani, anaw. Not so much sick as weak, powerless, without family or friends. Helpless, lacking influence.(Goldingay)

The psalmist learned human limitations in his crisis which lead him to say “all men are liars”, Hebrew kozeb “lying” or perhaps “unreliable”. A comparison of human frailty to God’s character, in which humans come out short, being inconsistent, undependable. (Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Ps 116:12-19
A final section concerning the proper response to God’s act of salvation. The question of v.12 leads to a statement of intent in v.13-14. Verses 15-17 are almost the speech the psalmist plans to make at the temple. Verses 18-19 repeat the psalmist’ intent, and and a final note of praise.(Goldingay)

Ps 116:12
This is a rhetorical question really, for what can one pay God, who is all sufficient in Himself?(van Gemeren)

Ps 116:13-14
What is left to the psalmist is to publicly acknowledge his debt to God, by bringing a thanks offering.(116:17) and the drink offering he calls the “cup of salvation”. He calls on the name of God again, but this time to thank and praise Him for his rescue. The public offering is in fulfillment of vows made while in distress. OT saints often made such vows, esp. in difficult times.(Van Gemeren)

The “cup of slavation” is the liquid offering made in several worship occasions, or perhaps the cup passed around during festive meals, such as Passover. If a thanks offering, it is only properly made with two actions, the pouring of the liquid and the public proclamation of thanks and/or praise of God for His action on the sacrificer’s behalf.(Goldingay)

Some question the genuiness of v. 14 because it is not in the Greek OT and repeats v. 18. More likely than being illegitimate is that it was deleted from some family of the text (The OT having multiple versions coming down to us, thanks to, among other things, simple errors of hand copying.)behind the Greek OT while retained in the family behind our Masoretic Hebrew text that lies behind most English bible OT.(Van Gemeren)

Ps 116:15-16
These verses may be seen as the psalmist’s public confession of his salvation by God. The psalmist notes God doesn’t entertain the death of His saints lightly, and what is true for them is true for the psalmist, who in v. 16 establishes that he is a servant of God from a family of servants of God “son of your handmaid”. God has freed him from his difficulty (loosened my bonds).(Van Gemeren)

“Precious” might not be the best translation here. “Heavy, grievous, burdensome” might convey the sense better. The idea in any case is that God values his faithful too highly to allow them to die, as the psalmist’s experience has shown.(Goldingay)

V. 16 shows that the psalmist is not only not a recent believer who turned to God in desperation, but a child of a beleiving family, the son of a servant. In this servanthood is both the servant’s commitment to the master, but also the master’s protection and provision for the servant. (Goldingay)

Ps 116:17-19
Verse 17 is a variation of v. 13, a repetition for effect, as v. 18 is a repeat of v. 14. V. 19’s addition ties the promised offering in with the priestly law for such things.(Van Gemeren)

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