Good Grief: Relief (Psalm 116)

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Don’t bury the lead.

I remember baseball playing days fondly.

  • I was above average… but not great.
  • Played 1st Base, Pitcher, and later years moved into OF and P.
  • Younger days in lineup batted around 3 or 4 as I was a fairly solid hitter. When I got older and was able to be on a team with more established players, I was positioned as the lead off hitter.
    • The lead off hitter isn’t necessarily your power hitter. It’s not often your lead off will have the most homeruns. However, your lead will likely have high on base percentage. They hit the ball well to get on base. If your lead gets on base and perhaps maybe another base hit with runner, then those heavy hitters can gain some RBI through sacrifice fly or even a homerun.
    • Baseball teams don’t bury the lead.

Good stories/speeches gain your attention from the beginning.

  • Motto: Hook connected to Book (content), Look (relevance), Took (application).
  • Relate your hook to the book.

Modern conversations

  • Start with small talk and work up to deeper information.
  • But the biblical pattern is not to bury the lead. The biblical writers, Psalms included, state their intent from the outset.

 

Psalm 116

  • Modern day: Hope you’ve had a great week. My week started regular but eventually led to some challenges. Challenges weren’t too bad at first but eventually became a crisis. I felt so overwhelmed. I tried variety of ways to solve the issue and get help… eventually, I cried out to God. God is faithful to listen to my voice and I’m learning He is always at work in my life. I love the Lord.
  • Biblical verse 1 “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice.”

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Series

  • Some things in life you cannot go around them, but you must go through them. If we don’t process grief in healthy ways, then our emotions will be expressed in unhealthy ways. This series is about getting through what you’re going through with God as our hope. Our grief can be good if it’s drawing us closer to God.

 

EXAMINE           Psalm 116      Good Grief: Relief – When God Grows Our Perspective

  • No inscription but is known as part of the “Hallel Psalms” or Psalms of Praise (Psalms 113-118). Each psalm ends with “Hallelujah!” These psalms express gratitude to God for His work in creation, in the exodus, in salvation, and God’s overall steadfast love that endures forever.
  • These psalms were sung during Passover and other Jewish festivals. Undoubtedly, this psalm would have been sung by Jesus. It kinda gives me chills and awe to read a text that Jesus would have sung.
  • Specifically, we see how this psalm has experienced hardship but also the grace of God to help them persevere. So, today we’re talking about finding relief and acceptance in our grief process.
  • SHOCKED (denial) / SADNESS (depression) / RAGE (anger) / RELIEF (bargaining-acceptance) / RESTORATION (growth)

 

Relief in grief begins when we recognize God answers prayer (116:1-4).

Undoubtedly, the psalmist has had a difficult, seemingly even dangerous life season. The descriptions of his despairing experiences are many:

  • V 3 “snares of death encompassed me”: The phrase recalls rope cords, as if death were setting a trap.
  • V 3 “pangs of Sheol laid hold on me”: Sheol means “grave,” a place of place of silence and stench from death where the wicked lay; the opposite of having hope or heaven.
  • V 3 “distress and anguish”: Sorrow/Grief and trouble
  • V 4 [needing] deliverance
  • V 8 “delivered my soul from death”
  • V 8 “tears”
  • V 8 “stumbling”
  • 10 “greatly afflicted”: mistreated, harsh and unjust force, oppressed
  • V 11 “alarm”: Can mean haste or panic
  • V 16 “loosed my bonds [of slavery]”

These descriptions help us understand the psalmist’s circumstances were wearisome. Likewise, they remind us we don’t have to sanitize our circumstances; just be real in our prayers.

The opening reason the psalmist expresses love for the Lord is God answering prayers. He says, “I love the Lord” (116:1) How often do we lead our conversations with stating our love for someone – much more, the Lord? Yet, love is immediate result of faith. Faith is a response to God’s love reflected in gratitude, praise, service, and hope. The idea throughout the psalm is, “Where would I be without God in my life?”

God “heard my voice and my pleas” (116:1). The God who conceived the heavens, generated galaxies, created the earth, molded molecules to produce melanin in our skin, fashioned our hair and eye color, and extends to us life and breath – this same God who sculpted mountains and names stars one-by-one and carefully places peanut-butter inside a wrapped chocolate cup – this God knows our name and hears our voice.  “He inclined his ear to me” (116:1) has the connotation of a loving father beckoning a child to sit on his lap and tell him all about our day – even the boring stuff and things that were bothersome.

God answers prayer.

  • Not like a slot machine that you yank the lever and statistically never win, or if you do it’s just enough to create an unhealthy addiction that you waste far more than you’ll ever gain.
  • Not an “if” but a definite – “He hears my voice and pleas for mercy”
    • Prayer is vocal. It’s not just God reading our mind, but us speaking to God. God should hear our voice.
      • When one of my children speaks and if I cannot hear them, I bend down to listen because I love them and want to hear and help them. If necessary, I ask them to repeat their words and perhaps speak a little louder or clearer.
      • When my older family relatives (parents, aunts/uncles) relate to my children they go the next level for listening. They entice (bribe?!?) my kids with m&m’s and reeses pieces. They know if they give the children a fun blessing then they’re more likely to speak and share more confidently.
      • God doesn’t want to miss a single word we say. God loves us. He’s listening to us. He is interceding for us and working on our behalf in dozens and hundreds of ways we cannot always discern.
      • God is not indifferent; He’s intimately involved in caring for our life.
      • “I will call on him as long as I live” Prayer begets prayer. God always answers prayer, and if we are praying according to His will then we can be certain God will grant us many things.
        – Unfortunately, some people treat prayer like an experimental drug w/o proven results. We say, “I guess all I can do is pray.” Maybe you don’t know what prayer can really do! God always answers prayer!
    • Prayer is for vulnerable. Prayer is for relationship building but it’s also for rescue. God embraces our praises, but He also inclines to our pleas. God loves us when we are at our weakest and while we are still sinners; that’s the gospel!–> Write down your prayers this week. Line them up with a Scripture to evaluate self-centered vs others-oriented and God-focused.

      –> Pray through church prayer list and church directory. This is a way to unify and love church family, but also see God at work in our church.

      –> Spend time in prayer in a unique way this week – prayer walk, different setting (beach, woods, park), church campus, etc.

For the grieving person, God’s answering our prayers reminds us we can get through whatever we’re going through. Specifically, when we ask “Why, O Lord?” God answers our why with a who. “Then I called on the name of the Lord: O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul” (116:4). God shows us He is always present and more than enough. He holds us through deep waters, shelters us through fire, and loves us through dark nights of the soul (cf Isa 43:1-2).

Relief in grief begins when we recognize God surpasses our perceptions (116:5-12). 

The psalmist is captivated by the Lord. He lists several qualities and reasons why he loves the Lord. These can be described as textual truths, which is a simple and helpful way to learn about the character of God.

If you grew up in church learning more about what you’re supposed to do/don’t and how to live moral but not as much about why we live differently and how that flows from the character of God, then this is important for you.

If you had a negative experience in church, whether strict legalism or perhaps even a spiritual abusive situation, then listing truths about God will be important to know the fatherhood and faithfulness of God and not some distorted religious format.

If you’ve been a Christian for a long time but spiritual life has tended to drift or church life is prone to casually coast, then reviewing the truths of God’s character can help refresh your soul and reignite passion for service.

Me with Dr. Gary Galeotti[1] – there’s always one more glorious truth about God.

  • Truths about God in Psalm 116… I’m just scratching the surface.
  • God is able to be loved (116:1)
  • God is prayer-hearing (116:1)
  • God lives eternally to hear prayers (116:1)
  • God is faithful in our life anytime we call. (116:1)
  • God observes our grief/tragedy and is able to deliver (116:3-4). He’s reachable during these moments of our greatest need.
  • God is gracious (116:5). He blesses even when we do not deserve it.
  • God righteous (116:5). He is always perfect and wise.
  • God is merciful (116:5). He forgives punishments that are deserved.
  • God preserves the simple (116:6). IOW, even when we are unknowingly foolish or stubbornly unfaithful, God doesn’t give up on us.
    • God who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ (Php 1:6)
    • God is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me (2Tim 1:12)
  • God saves those in low (difficult) experiences (116:6).
  • God gives our soul rest (116:7). True rest… doesn’t mean w/o work, but replacement strength to persevere.
  • God deals bountifully with us (116:7). He is an endless reservoir.
  • God delivers soul from death, eyes from tears, feet from stumbling. {this is 3 together} (116:8)
  • God exists in the land of the living (He’s alive!) and invites others to join Him (116:9).
  • God receives our praise, our pursuit, and our worship (116:12).
  • God views the death of saints as precious, as it brings them into the fullness of His presence (116:15).
    • Saint = Christian. Let Scripture define words for us not man-made systems.
    • When a believer closes eyes and breathes last on earth, immediately they open eyes and breathe in the presence of God. And that is life’s most precious joy.
    • Your life is precious – don’t sell yourself short or less of God’s designation.
  • God is our master and we are His servants (116:16). Why do we operate as one in control?
  • God loosens our bonds [of slavery] (116:16). He is and gives freedom, whatever holds you down.
  • God is worthy of continual thanksgiving, zealous worship, and extravagant service (116:17-19).

 

Life’s grief and struggles have the potential to cause doubt over God’s love for us and diagnose us with gospel amnesia. But, reviewing these divine truths and spiritual realities help us to remember who we are in Christ. This is why the book of Psalms is so important. Reading Psalms are like receipts to affirm we belong to God when we second-guess from our circumstances or are questioned/accused by the adversary that we are not loved by God.

–> Why do you love Jesus – what are your listed truths?

–> One simple commitment for you could be to read Psalms – 5/day = month or 2-3/day = summer.

Relief in grief begins when we recognize God rewards our faith (116:13-19)

The last portion of this psalm is responding in faith with a call to action in expressing love for the Lord. You see, proclaiming love with our lips must also be evidenced with our life and deeds (cf. James 2). Yes, our faith is deeply personal but should also be explicitly public; if not then we haven’t grasped Jesus’s call for baptism and living for Him (Lk 9:23-26; Mt 28:19-20).

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” (116:12) Here the psalmist knows he can never repay what he has been given by God. His question is more reflecting unstoppable gratitude – he couldn’t help but respond to such remarkable and profound love. “We love because he first loved us” (1John 4:19). When we experience the love of God, we cannot help but love others (1J 4:20) and serve others.

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (116:13)

The “cup of salvation/yeshua” related to both God’s judgment (cf. Jer 25:15; Mt 20:17-19; 26:39; 1Cor 10:16) and God’s means of atonement. In the Passover, they would celebrate with 5 cups of wine to remind Israelites of God’s promises in Exodus 6:6-8 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and [1] I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and [2] I will deliver you from slavery to them, and [3] I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.7  [4] I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  [5] 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”
[5] The fifth cup represents future redemption and is left out for Elijah (Mal 4:5). It’s left unconsumed until Elijah (God’s Deliverer) comes to restore families and fortunes for God’s people. Jesus says Elijah has come (Mt 17:9-13) and the kingdom is upon us – drink of His lifeblood for eternal life (Jn 6:53-56).

  • Trust in Jesus.

“I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people… I am your servant” (116:14, 16, 18 repeated)

Vows would be life commitments and dedications to God. As Jesus vowed, “Not my will but Thy will” so is our vow.

  • Where are you working on your will but not God’s?

 

APPLY/THINK

Jesus called upon God for rescue in the Garden and at the cross…

  • He felt forsaken.
  • He was gripped by the grave and the snares of death
  • He was buried with His bones to rot in Sheol.
  • It looked as if God was silent, but He was not. God delivered His soul and He walks in the land of the living (116:9).
  • God loosed the shackles of death and saves us from sin and satan.
  • The resurrection of Jesus ensures us that God will always hear our prayers and we have nothing to fear in our days on earth. Take heart, whatever you are facing is temporary and has an expiration date. There’s coming a new season in a different life where all the sad and bad are transformed into better. Keep walking and know the Lord is with you.
  • Jesus is mighty to save…

We have 1 more message in Good Grief series. One takeaway reminder is that the church is a safe place for those struggling. We can admit weakness. We can confess that waiting for our Day of redemption brings about pain, depression, anger, and heartache. But waiting on the Lord is never wasted because we weep and wait together, acknowledging that no one is alone. The church loves one another and we point each other to the love of God that saves and sustains us. Be the church… look around you for the hurting and hopeless.

 

[1] In search for how to spell his name I found this video of his retirement sermon at SEBTS. To God be the glory for this man’s brief inspiration in my seminary studies.

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