Psalm 116

Thanks At The End Of The Road

1 I love YHWH, because he listens to my voice,
and my cries for mercy.
2 Because he has turned his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death surrounded me,
the pains of Sheol got a hold of me.
I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of YHWH:
"YHWH, I beg you, deliver my soul."
5 YHWH is Gracious and righteous.
Yes, our God is merciful.
6 YHWH preserves the simple.
I was brought low, and he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for YHWH has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before YHWH in the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore I said,
"I was greatly afflicted."
11 I said in my haste,
"All men are liars."
12 What will I give to YHWH for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of YHWH.
14 I will pay my vows to YHWH,
yes, in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of YHWH is the death of his saints.
16 YHWH, truly I am your servant.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid.
You have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and will call on the name of YHWH.
18 I will pay my vows to YHWH,
yes, in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of YHWH,
in the midst of you, Jerusalem.


World English Bible

How does travel affect you? Do you experience discomfort from travel? Does the prospect of leaving home bring you joy or a sense of apprehension? Why?

Middle-class Americans enjoy a freedom of mobility and travel that the ultra-rich would have envied a few centuries ago. We can visit a distant land in a few hours by jet, enjoy a weekend, and return in relative ease. We cannot fully appreciate the struggle and hardships that travel brought our ancestors. Many times, migration and pilgrimage were dangerous undertakings.

Psalm 116 could have been chanted by a pilgrim who arrived at Jerusalem for Passover or one of the other great festivals. The song celebrated life saved and renewed. Clearly, the singer portrayed one at death's door (116:3, 10b-11). The one in danger made a vow to the Lord (116:14, 18). Whether the vow was a result of death's immanence or not, the person professed his faith in divine intervention when the danger passed (116:1-2, 5-8). The person celebrated a thanksgiving sacrifice. (The "cup of salvation" in 116:13 was wine offered at such a sacrifice; the vows paid in 116:14, 18 usually were donations made to the Temple.) In reality, this sacrifice was a communion meal where the worshiper ate from the meat offered to God. In the meal, the worshiper declared his allegiance to YHWH by "calling on the name of the Lord."

Psalm 107 gives us a clue why a thanksgiving sacrifice would be appropriate for one saved from a near death experience. The psalm detailed the four reasons for such a sacrifice: those who arrive safe from the dangers of travel by land (107:4-9) or sea (107:23-31), freedom from imprisonment (107:10-16), or overcoming sickness (107:17-22). A pilgrim could experience any or all of these; each one could put the pilgrim in danger.

Imagine the sacrifice of pilgrimage could bring. We moderns do not encounter such. (After all, tourism would collapse if the travel was portrayed as dangerous, or the possibilities of sickness and imprisonment were high.) Still, we can appreciate what the pilgrim risked along the way and his joy when he reached the goal of his travel. If we had to endure what they faced, we, too, would thank the Lord when we arrived at our destination.

What spiritual discomforts have you experienced so far along your spiritual journey? What challenges do you face as you make your way to God? How can you thank God for your safe arrival?