The Expository Files.

 Something in Return

Psalm 116 


This is one of those passages in Psalms where the writer has enjoyed deliverance from peril by the hand of Jehovah. In the Psalm, he is expressing his gratitude and praise.

This is Psalm 116:
"I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the LORD'S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD."
(Psalms 116:1-19, KJV).

Here is a man who knew what it really meant to be saved; to be delivered from peril by the hand of God. Here he expresses his praise and gratitude to God.

While there is much here to digest, let's focus on a question raised in verse 12. "What shall I render unto Jehovah for all His benefits toward me?"

First, consider these observations about the question:

This is about OUR RESPONSE TO THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE HAVE ENJOYED. We will observe, in a few moments, some of the vast benefits we enjoy from the hand of God. As we enumerate those blessings and as we enjoy good things from God, we must personally deal with the matter of how we will respond. How have we responded. How are we responding to God, for all His benefits toward us? This is relevant for us, in this dispensation. For the New Testament is about heaven's grace manifested in Christ, and man's response. That's what this is about in Psalms 116! This question in verse twelve is about our response to the goodness of God we have enjoyed.

But, in our response to God's goodness, whatever we do, we never repay Him equally or in full! We have to bear in mind, we are imperfect responders to a perfect Giver! There are at least two ways we come to this awareness: (1) Learning of God's majesty; holiness and perfection .. this happens when we engage in a careful, thoughtful reading of His Word. (2) Learning of our sin, as we do in passages like Romans 1-3. As we learn of God's goodness and our imperfection, we become more and more aware that we are imperfect responders to a perfect God. We ought to respond to God's goodness; it is imperative to listen to Him and obey Him and trust His Son who died for us. But when we have done all we can do; even when we excel and perform very well in serving the Lord -- we never repay Him equally on in full. (see Luke 17:10).

Concerning the benefits of God enjoyed by His people, notice four things in this text:

Verse 1 -- "I love Jehovah, because he heareth my voice and my supplications." It is clear from this, the writer knew prayer as a benefit from God. Through knowledge and experience, he knew God had heard his voice and had considered his supplications. So in verse1, there is mention of the blessing, the privilege of prayer. In our thinking about prayer, it may help us to regard prayer as a privilege ... not a demand; not even a right; not a matter of telling God what to do but A PRIVILEGE. Even Jesus maintained this attitude; in Jno. 11:41, in the raising of Lazarus, he said after that miracle: "Father, I thank you that you have heard Me." How much more should we have this attitude.

The blessing of preservation is suggested in verse 6 -- it says: "Jehovah preserveth the simple." The "simple" are those without guile; those who are sincere and honest and genuine in their dedication to God. The word is "simplehearted" in the New International Version. Even if you interpret "the simple" to mean those who are gullible and immature, God cares for them. This is further testimony of His goodness. And in the New Testament, 1 Peter 1:5 testifies that we are "kept by the power of God." There is the benefit of salvation; notice this in the last part of verse 6 -- the writer says, "I was brought low, and he saved me."

Some believe this Psalm was written by David; others argue in favor of King Hezekiah as the writer. In either case - those men were "brought low," and Jehovah did save them. But we can apply & echo the same confession; we were brought low by our practice of sin - then, when we responded to the Good News, Jehovah saved us.

Fourth, notice in verse 7 -- "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; For Jehovah hath dealt bountifully with thee." This is a more general statement of God's bountiful providential dealings toward us. These are benefits of God toward man; here in the context of Psalm 116: God hearing our supplications, in verse 1. The preservation of the "simple," in verse 6 and the blessing of salvation. Then in verse 7, God's bountiful dealings with the soul of man. Now - let these thoughts, in Psalms 116, lead us further into a study of God's benefits and there are two broad categories:

There is an early example of this, in Genesis 9:3 when Noah and his family came out of the ark, God said: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you." One of Job's friends said: "God giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields," (Job 5:10). Psalms 136:25 -- God "giveth food to all flesh." And at Lystra, Paul testified: "And yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness," (Acts 14:17). Therefore, when we breathe, eat, relax, drink water and enjoy things here on earth, we ought to acknowledge God as the origin of it all.

Jesus Christ - the salvation which is now available in Him - is the greatest benefit God has ever given to man; the supreme example of God's love for man, and His determination that sinners must have a way to be saved. In the first chapter of Ephesians, we are impressed by how great a gift this is. Verse 3 affirms that "every spiritual blessing" is located IN CHRIST, then Paul gives us a list:

Verse 4 - "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world."
Verse 5 - He "foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ."
Verse 6 - The grace of God is freely bestowed on us.
Verse 7 - "we have our redemption through his blood."
Verse 8 - wisdom and prudence.

All through this passage; all through Ephesians; and all through the New Testament we see the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ as something we need and something we can have! It can do us a great deal of good to spend some time reading and thinking about THE BENEFITS OF GOD TOWARD US, physical and spiritual. (See also, Acts 17:25; Jas. 1:17).

Look again, at verse 12 in Psalm 116 ---> "What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?"

I would like to identify EIGHT THINGS we should render unto God ...

-- Remember, this is about responding to the goodness of God.

-- We can never repay Him fully ... but there is the imposing reality of God's goodness toward us....

-- What should we render unto Him?

Notice verse 1 again: "I love Jehovah, because he heareth my voice and my supplications." This is written as CAUSE and EFFECT. The writer's supplications were heard (this was the cause); he loved Jehovah (this was the effect). "I love Jehovah, because he heareth my voice and my supplications." You know, there is another statement, much like this - where God causes us to love Him; He does something, and what He does and who He is motivates us or causes us to love Him. I'm think of 1 Jno. 4:19 - where the apostle John said, "We love, because He first loved us." Now, this is not about God forcing us to love Him; this is about God giving us reason to love Him by His majesty bounty toward us, attending by amazing grace. "I love Jehovah, because he heareth my voice and my supplications... We love, because He first loved us..."

God has so manifested Himself to us, and so loved us and provided for us, there is every reason for me to love Him, and to love Him fully. Jesus said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." And John said: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments," (Matt. 22:37;1 Jno. 5:3). Real obedience is based on real love - and that brings about a real relationship with God!!

In the religious world today the word "praise" has become popular. What does it mean? According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "The word comes from the Latin PRETIUM, 'price,' or 'value,' and may be defined generally as an ascription of value or worth ... true praise consists in a sincere acknowledgment of a real conviction of worth." (Vol. IV, p.#2429). In other words - you are convinced that something has worth or value; the expression of that conviction is PRAISE.

You begin with a knowledge of God; knowing Him, you are impressed by His power, His worthiness and love; you develop convictions about God, AND AS THOSE CONVICTIONS FIND EXPRESSION, in words, deeds, songs and behavior - - that's praise. The more acquainted we are with God, the more inclined we are to praise Him; to express our convictions of His worth. Notice in verse 19 of our text: "In the courts of Jehovah's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise Ye Jehovah!" (See the last five chapters of Psalms.)

And did you know that Acts 2:46 & 47 says: WHEN THE GOSPEL WAS FIRST PROCLAIMED AND OBEYED, those disciples praised God. Many are the benefits we have from God - what will our response be? It should be, to love Him and praise Him ... and

Worship, of course, is a form of praise but is considered separately. Listen to this appeal, made in the 95th Psalm: "Oh, come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker: For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand ...," (vss.6,7a).

In the 96th Psalm, a similar appeal: "Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. Oh worship Jehovah in holy array ...," (vss. 8,9a).

In Revelation 14 there is the admonition to worship God and give Him glory (verse 7). In Rev. 4:11, the 24 elders fall down before Him, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created." John 4:24 exhorts us to worship Him "in spirit and in truth." Worship - in all these passages - is the response from the heart touched by the goodness of God. And, in view of all His benefits to us, how can we claim to be too tired, or too busy to worship Him, as He has directed?

When we consider who God is we should be prompted to love Him; to praise Him and worship Him, but also, there is FEAR. And this is not just sheer terror. This is, basically, respect; holding God in the highest esteem; along with this - dreading any thought of displeasing Him.

Here's the idea:

Psa. 33:8,9 -- "Let all the earth fear Jehovah: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast."

Prov. 8:13 -- "The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil; pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the perverse mouth, do I hate."

Psa. 4:4 -- "Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still."

Ezra 10:3 -- "those that tremble at the commandment of God."

In the New Testament ...

Heb. 12:28 -- "Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe."

1 Pet. 2:17 -- "Fear God."

Remember what our study is about: "What shall we render unto God?" We should love Him. We should praise Him. We should worship Him. We should fear Him. He has dealt with us bountifully!

There may be - in many - this kind of attitude: "My body is mine ... I'll use my body as I want ... I'll do whatever I want with my body." {In Tampa, "Gasparilla;" In New Orleans, "Mardi Grai;" Here in South Texas and in Florida, "Spring Break!"}

So there are people abusing their bodies; neglecting their bodies. Using their bodies to fulfill unholy purposes because "it feels good."

The right attitude is reflected in this famous statement: "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service." (Rom.12:1).

Now don't forget our question, raised by the writer: "What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward me?" And one answer is OBEDIENT SERVICE. No human being can escape service of some sort, either you are serving God or you're serving sin. You certainly are not doing both at the same time. Either I am serving God, or I am serving sin. All right, when I consider all the vast blessings of God, both physical and spiritual - IT OUGHT TO BE OBVIOUS TO ME, I SHOULD BE SERVING HIM.

Sin has nothing to offer me. Satan promises what he cannot give, and he gives what he never promised. So it says in verse 16 -- "O Jehovah, truly I am thy servant: I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid ..." In gratitude for what God has done for us - there should be this interests in obedient service.

As we meditate on all the good things we have from God -- our hearts should swell in gratitude; so verse 17 says: "I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving..."  The NT epistle to the Colossians is a rather brief document -- but it contains five different references to gratitude:

"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you," (Colossians 1:3, KJV).

"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:" (Colossians 1:12, KJV).

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:6,7, KJV).

"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." (Colossians 3:17, KJV).

"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2, KJV).

Under Old Testament law, Jews could participate in certain vows, indicating penitence or renewed dedication to God; and the law was very emphatic in stating THAT THOSE VOWS HAD TO BE KEPT. Num. 30:2 said, "When a man voweth a vow unto Jehovah, or sweareth an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." (See also, Eccl. 5:4,5).

"When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. " So the law was - if you decided to make a vow, you were bound to pay or keep it. (Eccl. 5:4,5). (There is an example of an informal vow in verse 2 of Psalms 116 -- "I will call on him as long as I live.")

Now notice - in our text, in Psalms 116, THESE STATEMENTS. In verse 14 -- "I will pay my vows unto Jehovah." Verse 18 -- "I will pay my vows unto Jehovah." How does that relate to us? It means that every good commitment we've made to God, we must keep; TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! When we obeyed the gospel that was a commitment, a promise! In view of all the benefits we have from Him - how should we live after that initial response of obedience? This is about true covenant fidelity - based on love, respect and fear.

The benefits of God are impressive: "He himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." The question raised in our text is: "What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits toward me?"

By Warren E. Berkley 
 From Expository Files 3.10; October 1996