Second Sunday of Lent, March 1, 2015 - Psalm 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

A Personal Testimony
Mention to anyone that you would like to take a holiday or book a hotel and the first step suggested will be to do your due diligence and read the ratings on TripAdvisor. I just spent a few minutes learning about TripAdvisor. It operates 25 different travel brands such as Cruise Critic, Seat Guru, and the parent company is Expedia. It is the most widely recognized, used, and trusted travel website in the world. Travellers spend many hours reading reviews before making a decision, and I know people who will make a decision based on the rating of TripAdvisor rather than the personal testimony of someone who has been there.

During the Second Week of Lent, let us explore Psalm 116. First and foremost this psalm is one person’s testimony of why he loves Yahweh (1-2); verses 16 and 17 are the public declaration of his gratitude; verses 18 and 19 are the invitation for you and me to personally join in and share our own journey. The Psalmist will make over 35 personal references to himself in 19 verses. Note that in verses 3, 5,15, and 19 there are no personal pronouns used.

Psalm 116 is part of a collection of psalms from 113-118 that are sung, and continue to be sung, as part of the Passover Meal every year. These Psalms are known as the “Egyptian Hallel” (Egyptian praise) songs. They tell the story of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt during the Exodus. It is interesting to note that Psalm 113-114 are sung before the Passover Meal and Psalm 115-118 are sung after. This was probably one of the songs that Jesus sang after the Last Supper (see Matthew 26:30). Let’s stay with that thought for just a moment. In Psalm 116:10-11, we hear the Psalmist gasping for breath, and feeling greatly afflicted within. Can you see the humanity of Jesus as he is singing this song, feeling powerless and weak, without family or friends, pacing back and forth in the Garden that Maundy Thursday evening? What is he to do with his sleeping disciples? There is nothing else to do but yell out the words of the Psalmist,  “They are just a bunch of liars, everyone of them!”

Psalm 116:1-2: These verses are not a part of our reading, but I think they help us in understanding the psalm. The Psalmist opens by giving Yahweh a Five-Star rating! He is excited, positive and confident:  “I Love Yahweh!” This is not the same way that we use the word, “I love chocolates.” He clearly states that he is totally committed to a relationship with Yahweh. This is his personal testimony. TripAdvisor always wants to know, why you liked the holiday. Look out for the active words he uses: 

  • Yahweh heard someone crying and recognized that it was my voice
  • Yahweh turned his ear and Yahweh listened to my cry for help.
  • I can call out to Yahweh now and for the rest of my whole life, and Yahweh will hear me.

What do you think about this personal testimony? Would you like to know the Yahweh the Psalmist is talking about? I sense this person has had time to look back over his life and reflect on this near-death experience as he desperately yelled out for help. He is here to tell all of us that he stared death in the face and Yahweh saved him! Yahweh answers the prayers of desperate people today, just like he answered the prayers of the Children of Israel as they left Egypt that Passover night thousands of years ago. 

Now, let us look at the suggested text, Psalm 116:10: “I believe, therefore have I spoken.” The Psalmist declares that he has a belief system that sustained him even at his most difficult time. Here are the components of that belief system:

  • He believed that Yahweh listened to his prayers and so he was not afraid to call out to Yahweh. 
  • He believed that Yahweh not only listened, but Yahweh had the power to answer his prayers.
  • Yahweh promised to hear and answer prayer, so this gave him hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.
  • No one else offered help but Yahweh.

Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” To be human is to be born and to die. The Psalmist here does not use a personal pronoun, for he has no experience with death, but he is sure that whether in life or in death, we are precious to Yahweh. Just a week or so ago, a three-year old child wandered away from his grandmother’s apartment in the middle of the night with only a diaper, a t-shirt and boots. The next day he was found in a neighbours’ backyard. It was interesting to listen to his mother share how independent he was as a three-year old, wanting to dress himself. Even the policemen cried when they found his body. How precious he was to his mother and family. How precious he is to Yahweh.

Psalm 116:16-17: “Yahweh, truly I am your servant. I am your servant, the son of your servant. You have freed me from my chains. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call on Yahweh’s name.” Now the Psalmist is standing in front of the congregation sharing his testimony. He wants them to know that he is no fly-by-night servant, this relationship with Yahweh has been passed down to him from his mother. He saw her turn to Yahweh when she was in trouble, and now he has done the same thing. In his darkest hour, he made a vow to Yahweh that he would offer a personal testimony in the presence of others, once free. 

Psalm 116:18-19: “I will pay my vows to Yahweh. Yes, in the presence of all his people, in the courts of Yahweh’s house, in the middle of you, Jerusalem. Praise Yahweh! (Hallelujah)” This Psalm ends on a high note of exuberance. The Psalmist cannot contain his joy and wants everyone to know about Yahweh’s faithfulness. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!

You too can share your own personal testimony: 

  • During this Second Week of Lent why not take some time and write a personal testimony why you love Yahweh. Here is a start: Yahweh is forgiving, Yahweh hears my cry. 
  • The Psalmist spent time offering thanks for all that Yahweh had done for him. Can you make a thanksgiving list that you can share with your Lenten partner or on the Blog?
  • Do you have a Godly inheritance that was passed down to you by your mom and dad?
  • At the end of the week, write a personal prayer based on Psalm 116.

St. Ephrem’s Prayer
O Lord and Master of my life
remove from me the spirit of sadness, despair, 
thirst for power and vain talk.
Instead, grant me, Your servant,
the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love.
Indeed, O Lord and King,
grant that I see my own sins and not judge my sister and brother
for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Here are the four negative obstacles that can be removed with this Prayer:

  • Remove from me the spirit of sadness or laziness:
    We are convinced that change is not possible.
  • Remove from me the spirit of despair or faintheartedness:
    We see nothing that is good or positive.
  • Remove from me the spirit of thirst or lust for power:
    We want to become lord of our own lives.
  • Remove from me the spirit of vain or idle talk:
    Our words become the agent of sin.

Here are the four positive gifts this Prayer offers you:

  • Grant me the spirit of prudence or whole-mindedness:
    Restore the true scale of values that lead us back to God.
  • Grant me the spirit of humility:
    See God’s majesty and goodness and love in everything.
  • Grant me the spirit of patience:
    Reflect infinite respect for all things.
  • Grant me the spirit of love:
    The sum total of all our quests.