Psalm 116 is a psalm of thanksgiving. It expresses gratitude to God for deliverance from distress. The word Sheol is used to mean a place after death or a death-like power that invades life. This psalm becomes part of the readings for the Jewish Passover meal and eventually part of the readings for the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In both instances, God is the source of salvation.
In winter, the grass looks brown and dead. Most trees have a bare, skeletal appearance. However, beneath the cold earth of winter, roots sleep and wait for rebirth. Nature seems to flow with these cycles of barrenness and apparent death into new life. A human life is full of such cycles of death and renewal. However, we rarely sense the flow of it. Phases of barrenness and loss—common to every life—come with painful feelings of being abandoned or crushed, lost to Sheol.
The psalmist knows a truth: Distressing times are part of life, and God is with us.
Amid distress we have the privilege to call out to God, who loves us. This psalm reminds us that there is deliverance for us in times of distress. This psalm also encourages us to remember the times we have been delivered in the past. Giving thanks to God for sustaining us is like adding rocket fuel to our spiritual journey. Asking God for deliverance and giving thanks for deliverance help us to become part of the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. Call out to God for help with a grateful heart. Remember the times God has seen you through into new life.
I call out to you, O God. Deliver me. Thank you for bringing me this far. Help me to be aware of your loving hand at work so that your saving power in my life makes me an example of your salvation. Lord, even in distress, make my life luminous with evidence of resurrection. Amen.
As we consider further the power of Jesus’ resurrection, how should we respond? This is the question posed to Peter in the reading in Acts. Peter’s first instruction is to repent, to change course in our thinking and our living to align more with God’s way. The psalmist proclaims his gratitude to God because God has heard his cry, but the process began with the psalmist turning to the Lord. First Peter states that because we have turned and have faith and hope in God, we ought to love one another deeply from the heart. Luke tells the story of two men who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They recognize him only as he breaks the bread, symbolizing that Christian fellowship is also part of a changed life.
Read Acts 2:14a, 36-41. How might you allow Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection to disrupt your life or your faith? How would such a disruption change you?
Read Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19. When have you learned of God’s great joy for you? How do the Psalms remind you that you are beloved?
Read 1 Peter 1:17-23. How can you take the author’s advice to “act like someone who knows [you are] loved”?
Read Luke 24:13-35. Recall times throughout your life when Jesus has been revealed to you. Which of these encounters have been logical? Which have been supernatural?
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