Facing Death: Psalm 116

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Psalm 116 (NIV)

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

If you or a loved one has ever faced a life-threatening surgery or come close to death, then it will help you to enter into the journey of this psalm. At some point, most of us will face a situation in which there is no ready solution at hand. It could be a sense of despair over a diagnosis, or the loss of a job. It might be our feelings in the wake of a divorce, or the death of a child. At some point, we enter into the depths of agony, and we don’t know how we will ever come out on the other side. This is exactly the kind of experience Psalm 116 invites us into.

The psalmist is in deep despair: “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow” (v. 3). What do we do in these situations? The answer is to call “on the name of the Lord” (v. 4). God is greater than any situation we face. He is “gracious” and “full of compassion” (v. 5). The psalmist declares, even in the face of such anguish, “when I was in great need, he saved me” (v. 6). The Lord delivers “my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (v. 8). What a great comfort it is to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even death has been defeated by Jesus Christ. Death seems so ominous, so fear-producing. Yet, the psalmist says that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (v. 15). Even that final passage of death can be precious because it is the doorway into eternal life and everlasting fellowship with God and his saints.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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