Bible Commentaries
Psalms 116

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

1. A promise to praise God from a loving heart 116:1-2

The psalmist loved God because the Lord had granted his prayer request. Consequently he promised to continue praying to Him as long as he lived. This expression of love for God is unusual in the psalms. More often the psalmists spoke of their respect for Yahweh. This writer was uncommonly affectionate.

Verses 1-19

Psalms 116

An unnamed writer gave thanks to God for delivering him from imminent death and for lengthening his life. He promised to praise God in the temple for these blessings. This is a hymn of individual thanksgiving.

". . . if ever a psalm had the marks of spontaneity, this is surely such a one." [Note: Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 407.]

Verse 3

Evidently the writer had been very close to death. He pictured Death as reaching out to him with cords and almost trapping him, as a hunter snares an animal.

Imagine how the Lord Jesus must have felt as He sang these words during His last Passover in the Upper Room. He knew He was facing death.

Verses 3-11

2. The psalmist’s account of his deliverance 116:3-11

Verses 4-6

The psalmist cried out in prayer for physical deliverance from death, and the Lord granted his request. This led him to magnify God’s graciousness, righteousness, and compassion. Psalms 116:6 suggests that he may have been in danger of dying because he had been foolish or ignorant.

"The simple is a revealing description to use, for in the Old Testament it has no trace of merit. ’The silly’ would hardly be too strong a term for these gullible, feckless people who roam the pages of Proverbs drifting into trouble. It is humble of the psalmist to identify with them; it is humble of God to have time for them (if ’them’ is the right pronoun for us to use)." [Note: Ibid., p. 409.]

Verses 7-11

There are lessons people should learn from this deliverance. First, believers can rest because God delivers from death (Psalms 116:7-8). Second, people to whom God extends His grace should obey him the rest of their lives (Psalms 116:9). Third, only God is completely trustworthy (Psalms 116:10-11). The writer said he believed he would live, having requested deliverance of God (cf. Psalms 116:9). This was his confidence, even though other people told him he would die. They were lying to him.

Read Psalms 116:8-9 again from the viewpoint of the Savior in the Upper Room. He not only knew He was facing death, but He also knew He would live again. The Apostle Paul quoted Psalms 116:10 in 2 Corinthians 4:13-15. He used it to assure believers that we will live again too.

Verses 12-14

It is difficult to tell if the writer used "cup" in a literal or in a figurative sense. Perhaps it was a literal part of his thank offering to God. On the other hand, the cup may represent his reward in this life, which was physical salvation. Either way he would praise God. Israelites offered votive offerings when God answered their prayers regarding a vow they made. These were peace offerings (Leviticus 7:16; Leviticus 22:18-23) and public offerings that reminded other worshippers of God’s goodness. The NIV rendering of the end of Psalms 116:14 is probably best. It reads, ". . . in the presence of all his people."

Think again of Jesus singing Psalms 116:12-14 and raising the cup as He sang. The Jews traditionally sang Psalms 116 after the Passover meal. It is probable that when He sang these verses, He raised the third of four cups of wine the Jews drank at that meal. They called the third cup "the cup of salvation." He knew that that cup would only become a true cup of salvation if He paid His vows to the LORD and proceeded to the cross.

Verses 12-19

3. Another promise to praise God 116:12-19

Verses 15-19

The death of the godly is significant to God; it is costly to Him (cf. Matthew 10:29-31; John 10:28-29). [Note: Ibid., pp. 410-11.] He does not treat their dying as trivial. Consequently, the fact that He delivered the psalmist from dying meant that He had good reason for doing so. It is interesting that Psalms 116:15, which has brought so much comfort to believers who have lost loved ones through the centuries, rests in a context of deliverance. Again the writer promised to praise God publicly with the proper offering (Psalms 116:18, cf. Psalms 116:14). The psalm ends with an exhortation for all the living to praise the Lord.

How comforting Psalms 116:15-16 would have been to the Lord Jesus as He celebrated His last Passover meal on earth. He would have thought of His own mother when he sang "the son of Thy handmaid" in Psalms 116:16. In Psalms 116:17-19, Jesus vowed to praise God after He fulfilled God’s will by dying and after God had raised Him up. [Note: See Allen, Lord of . . ., pp. 89-95.]

Death is an enemy. Therefore, when God extends our lives, He is saving us from an enemy. The continuation of life is something we should never take for granted. God could take the life of any person at any time-and be perfectly righteous-since we are all sinners and deserve to die. However, He graciously extends life, and for this His people should give Him thanks publicly.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 116". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.