Psalm 116 Reflection
Rachel Bray, Local Missional Leader at St Philip & St Paul with Wesley, Southport, responds to Psalm 116
Welcome to this next reflection in our Summer reading challenge on the Psalms.
When the team producing the reflections met together for the first time over zoom at the beginning of the summer, Archdeacon Simon asked each of us which Psalms we might like to focus on. If you were asked to choose a psalm or two that were especially important to you, I wonder which ones you would have chosen and why?
Maybe it would have been one of the more well-known psalms, like Psalm 23, or Psalm 139. Or maybe there is another psalm that has a particular significance for you and your faith journey.
The Psalm I chose for today’s reflection was Psalm 116 which I hope you have had the opportunity to read or to listen to already. I’ve been journeying with this Psalm since the Summer of 2014 and come back to it regularly, each time seeing or hearing something different. Isn’t it amazing how, we can come to verses we have read or listened to many times before, but all of a sudden, a particular word, or a particular verse jumps out at us and speaks to our heart and soul and we know God’s word to be alive and active. As you read, I wonder which verse or verses stood out for you.
Psalm 116 has been so significant in my recent vocational journey, first towards becoming a Local Missional Leader in 2016 and now as an ordinand. God has continued to speak to me through this Psalm, to encourage me, to lift my head in darker times, and to fill me with hope and expectation at others, as I follow his call on my life.
Psalm 116 is part of a group of six praise songs, Psalms 113-118, which are known as the Egyptian Hallel ( Hallel meaning praise), songs used for corporate worship. They were traditionally sung at major festivals, particularly at Passover. It’s a psalm full of the thoughts and emotions of the Psalmist, as well as an eclectic mix of statements and questions and ponderings and can at times feel like a series of somewhat unconnected reflections.
But although used in corporate worship, the Psalm itself has lots of individual and personal tones. The words I, me and my, appear in almost every verse. It’s full of testimony about relationship with and experience of God. The opening verses express this beautifully: ‘I love the Lord, for he has heard my voice; he has heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live’. He commits himself to the worship and service of God for the rest of his life.
This isn’t a momentary whim – this is a statement of someone who has endured many things: he talks about being delivered from death, his eyes from tears, his feet from stumbling’….being overcome by anguish, trouble, sorrow, affliction and of being in great need of being in chains….He has cried out to God in the middle of the storm ‘O Lord, save me’…..
How God answered or how long the crisis lasted we don’t know, but we know he believed that God heard him and responded to his cry of desperation. He knows the Lord to be gracious and righteous and full of compassion. It’s not just theory – it is borne of experience.
And what is his response? How can he repay the Lord for all his goodness? He commits to a life of commitment expressed publicly in the presence of the worshipping community.
What about you? How does this Psalm speak to you. Are you in a place of darkness and need to cry out to God like the Psalmist?
Or do you need to hear the words “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you’ – the verse that began my ongoing journey with this Psalm.
Or maybe it’s a time to reflect on knowing the goodness of God. How have you responded? What steps do you need to take to follow his call to live as a disciple? Maybe, as I have experienced, God will start to speak to you in a still small voice about a specific call on your life that you are not expecting.
Why not read it once more, and just see….
Psalms Summer Reading Challenge
Join Archdeacon Simon in this year’s Summer Challenge reading the book of Psalms together. Sign up to this course and you will receive weekly emails encouraging you in your reading. The Psalms are the hymnbook and the prayerbook of the Temple, and of the Church. In these 150 songs the Psalmist explores the whole range of human experience, with all its highs and lows, of human life lived in the presence of God, and sometimes the experience of the apparent absence of God too. Find out more about the challenge and how you can get involved.Course 19 PartsTotal current bookmarks 12