Psalm 116

A brief exposition 

Psalm 116 is untitled in the Psalter but it seems apparent that its historical setting, i.e. the situation in which the Psalm was written, is the Psalmist giving thanks for healing from sickness. The seriousness of the malady is evidenced by reference to near death1 but the Lord heard the Psalmist’s petitions2 and he was saved3.

This Psalm, then, is an individual thanksgiving (declarative Psalm of praise) and thus, although it is in one sense very personal, its setting in life (Sitz in Lebem) may have been use in public worship (as well as in private devotion), particularly in worship giving thanks for salvation from dangerous situations9.

The main intent of the Psalm is thankfulness to God for personal deliverance and a public reaffirmation of praise and service to God.

Details perhaps worthy of greater consideration are the use of the expression “simple-hearted” 4 (depicted in the Good News Bible as “helpless”) and the controversial statement “All men are liars”5, although the latter appears to have been uttered during the time of the Psalmist’s afflictions.

There are interesting references to the “cup of salvation”6 and “your servant, the Son of your maidservant”7, possibly indicating a “type” of Christ.

Having given thanks for escaping death, it is noteworthy that the Psalmist then seems to cast death in a precious light for those who are Saints!7

In terms of application, Psalm 116 is allocated in the Book of Common Prayer for the Churching of Woman (i.e. thanksgiving after childbirth) and at a time when childbirth involved greater medical dangers than in this age, it seems quite appropriate. However, it is also entirely relevant for use today for anybody who has been healed from life-threatening sickness or injury or - if verse 3a and part of verse 8a are omitted - from any difficult situation.

Further, omitting the first 12 verses (and verse 15) the Psalm becomes one of true adoration and is applicable to anybody who seeks publicly to praise the Lord for his goodness and salvation.  

1 verses 3 and 8

2 verses 1, 2 and 4

3 verses 6 and 8

4 verse 6

5 verse11

6 verse 13

7 verse16

8 verse 15

9 Sotirios Christou states in “the Psalms” that this is a festival Psalm for corporate worship used at the Passover and in the Temple courts when a cup and sacrifice were part of the celebration rituals.

© Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire July 2016