Theme: God’s Faithfulness in Life and in Death
In this week’s lessons, we see how we are to approach God when we are in need, and what our response ought to be to his help.
Scripture: Psalm 116:1-19
The experience of his having been sick, of having prayed and of having God answer him so clearly and powerfully left such an impression on the psalmist that he spent some time reflecting on it. In yesterday’s study, we looked at three reflections, which are presented in random order: 1) “The LORD is gracious and righteous …full of compassion” (v. 5); 2) “The LORD protects the simplehearted” (v. 6); and 3) “Be at rest once more, O my soul” (v. 7). Today we look at two more reflections from this second part of the psalm.
4. “You … have delivered my soul from death … that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (vv. 8, 9). The point here is that God delivers his people not only that they might have an appreciation of his grace and that they might rest in him, but also that they might get on with living for him, walking with him, and following after him. In other words, there is work to do. If they have been spared from death, it is so they might be useful to God by doing it. One commentator said that resting in God is a matter of our confidence in God; walking before him has to do with our obedience.
Further on in the psalm the writer spells this out a bit more, for he adds as if to explain what walking before the Lord means:
O LORD, truly I am your servant;I am your servant, the son of your maidservant (v. 16).
When we read that today we probably think of two things, both of them part of Jesus’ teaching about discipleship in the New Testament. First, we are called not only to be servants, but to follow Jesus as his disciples even to death. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Walking obediently before God really does mean being a servant. As Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
Second, we remember that notwithstanding the fact that we are called to be God’s servants, Jesus also said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). This means that although we are still called to serve God—Jesus is our Master, not we his—our service is nevertheless to be an informed service, so that we serve, not blindly but with understanding and love. Paul told the Ephesians, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:17).
If we are to make sense of this teaching by Paul and of the conclusion drawn by the psalmist in verse 9, we are going to have to study the Bible since there is nowhere else where the will of God is disclosed. Above all else, the Bible is an unfolding of the mind of God. It is where we find what God demands of us, how far short of those demands we have fallen, and of what God has done in Christ to return us to himself. We find that what God demands of us now is that we “believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
5. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (v. 15). The final lesson the psalmist learned as he reflected on God’s grace in his sickness is that God is particularly close to his people when they stand at death’s door. This seems to involve at least two things. One is that God watches over his people when they are sick or dying, coming close to them and making his presence known so that they have comfort in death’s hour. The second thing is that he frequently intervenes and does not allow them to perish. In either case, the Lord only does what is best.
Here is the way Paul spoke of death: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Phil. 1:22-24). One thing is certain: the people of God are immortal until their work is done.
What are two additional conclusions the psalmist draws from his experience?
What does it mean to be walking before the Lord?
Explain Jesus’ teaching about what it means to be a disciple.
Why does Jesus call us his friend? Why does it not negate our role as servant?
How can we have an informed service?
How can we approach death?
Prayer: Pray for those you know or hear about who are in their last days. Pray that God will give them comfort.
Key Point: The Bible is an unfolding of the mind of God.