In earlier psalms there was a bunch of pleas to the LORD for help and deliverance from enemies and persecutors. Today’s psalms are a comforting layer of reported rescue and deliverance — this is the sort of stuff that helps build our faith.
Delivered from death (Psalm 116) — There is only one clue in this psalm about the source of the threat of death, and it is found in vv. 10, 11, where the psalmist says he was tempted to say, “All men are liars.” Thus, it would seem that the psalmist was the target of some sort of plotted assassination, insinuating therefore that he was a person of importance, probably a king, maybe David. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the writer is jubilantly praising God for his deliverance. He had felt like the outcome of events were surely going to be his death. Maybe you’ve not been there exactly, but have you felt like failure was certain, loss was certain — and then after making your plea to the LORD, victory was snatched out of the jaws of defeat? That’s where this psalmist is. God does that; He’s done it before and He can do it anytime He chooses. Sometimes all we need do is ask.
But there’s one more thing in this psalm that I found interesting and instructive, verse 15. The NAS95 reads, “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones.” Psalms 116:15; but the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) version reads, “The death of His faithful ones is grievous in the LORD’s sight.” The reading of the Hebrew is a little difficult. And maybe it’s just me, but the NAS95’s translation is a little less comforting to me than the JPS translation. The NAS95 seems to be saying that God’s faithful people are precious to him after their deaths — and although this certainly is true, the Scripture tells us that we are precious to Him before our deaths, too. Some gain some comfort from this translation from the perspective that God will give special attention to His own after their deaths. Maybe so, but it doesn’t really fit the context well, in my humble opinion. The JPS translation, on the other hand, seems to be trying to offer comfort to the reader by saying that it is not God’s intention to give His faithful people over to death — the very thing that the psalmist is thanking God about.
Short and sweet (Psalm 117) — It’s kind of interesting that the shortest psalm (117) and the longest psalm (119) are only one psalm apart. But in spite of its brevity, this psalm has powerful things to say. It is not an exclusive sort of psalm, like many are that are concerned primarily or only about Israel or one lone person. Rather it is a call to all nations to put down their idols, their false religions, and their religious diversity; and praise the LORD (Yahweh, the one and only God in this and all other worlds seen and unseen)! Why? Because His lovingkindness (ḥesed — covenant love) is great toward us. Who is us? Anyone willing to believe in Him, not limited to just the Jews, and exclusively realized in faith and obedience to Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God! And the truth of the LORD endures forever, is everlasting — quite unlike modern fads and fashions of truth (including the infamous post-modern nonsense). If you aren’t already, you need to “Praise the LORD” — not Allah, not Krishna, not Moses, not Buddha, not yourself, not your money, or any other so-called god of this world.
The rejected stone is now the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-24) — Although this is a psalm about a person who is praising God for his personal deliverance from evil men, it serves as a double meaning, a Messianic meaning. It could have easily been something that Jesus could have said, or prayed, or thought on the cross. Of course, Jesus wasn’t delivered from death in the shallower, earthly sense (it was His deliberate intention to die in our place), but He was delivered from death in the deeper, spiritual, and eternal sense — His resurrection from the dead. He certainly did find out that it was better to trust in the LORD than in princes or other men. Nations (Romans, Greeks, and Jews) did surround Him, they did “push Him violently”, and although He was disciplined severely (“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:8, NAS95.), Jesus was not given over to death. And indeed, the stone that the builders (the Jewish leadership) rejected did become the cornerstone. Such a wonder-filled, unexpected turn of events could be nothing but the LORD’s doing; how could it be anything but marvelous in a believer’s eyes? It is a day (of deliverance, resurrection, and salvation) that only the LORD could have crafted — and one, most certainly, to rejoice over!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.