Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeing Christ in the Psalms: Psalm 116

I am going through the Psalms, looking for Christ in them.  Psalm 116 is a psalm of 
thanksgiving for individual deliverance.  The speaker in this psalm does not appear to be Jesus, but so many of the words of this psalm remind us of his words and deliverance.  For example, verse 3 reminds us of our Lord's suffering:

The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.

Verse 4 and verse 10 remind us of his trust in the Father for deliverance, for Jesus went to the cross trusting that his Father would deliver him from death:

Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

I believed, even when I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;

In Psalm 22, Jesus gives praise and thanks for his deliverance from death by his resurrection from the dead in the midst of the church.  Listen to his words in verses 22 and 24:

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

This same thanks in the midst of the congregation is echoed in Psalm 116.  Note how both Jesus and the disciple in Psalm 116 promise obedience to the Lord. First, Jesus in Psalm 22, whose suffering enables the congregation to eat and worship:

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever! (v. 25-26)
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; (v. 29)

Here the "prosperous" are those who are spiritually prosperous or rich in Christ. Christ enables his people to eat and worship by his death and resurrection, and in Psalm 116, we see one of his people doing just that.  Again, notice the similarity between Christ's words and the words of one of his people:

What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people. (v. 12-14)

In summary, the reason the individual in Psalm 116 sounds so much like his Lord is that Christ's people become like the one they worship.  The previous psalm (115) has taught us the truth that we become like the "god" we worship, whether that be the true God or a false god. As the members of Christ's church trust and worship their Lord, they become like him in his suffering and in his deliverance.  As redeemed sinners, we have great reason to give thanks, and to joyfully drink the cup of salvation filled with the blood our sins caused our Lord to pour out at the cross.  In drinking that cup, we acknowledge our guilt, receive forgiveness and newness of life in thanksgiving and worship. (1)

(1)  Note, also, how worship is connected with eating and drinking in these two psalms!  Worship in the Bible follows the pattern of teaching and a meal, not singing and then a sermon!  Singing fits under the category of prayer.

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