In this part of the psalm we have,
I. A general account of David’s experience, and his pious resolutions (Ps. 116:1, 2), which are as the contents of the whole psalm, and give an idea of it. 1. He had experienced God’s goodness to him in answer to prayer: He has heard my voice and my supplications. David, in straits, had humbly and earnestly begged mercy of God, and God had heard him, that is, had graciously accepted his prayer, taken cognizance of his case, and granted him an answer of peace. He has inclined his ear to me. This intimates his readiness and willingness to hear prayer; he lays his ear, as it were, to the mouth of prayer, to hear it, though it be but whispered in groanings that cannot be uttered. He hearkens and hears, Jer. 8:6. Yet it implies, also, that it is wonderful condescension in God to hear prayer; it is bowing his ear. Lord, what is man, that God should thus stoop to him!-- 2. He resolved, in consideration thereof, to devote himself entirely to God and to his honour. (1.) He will love God the better. He begins the psalm somewhat abruptly with a profession of that which his heart was full of: I love the Lord (as Ps. 18:1); and fitly does he begin with this, in compliance with the first and great commandment and with God’s end in all the gifts of his bounty to us. “I love him only, and nothing besides him, but what I love for him.” God’s love of compassion towards us justly requires our love of complacency in him. (2.) He will love prayer the better: Therefore I will call upon him. The experiences we have had of God’s goodness to us, in answer to prayer, are great encouragements to us to continue praying; we have sped well, notwithstanding our unworthiness and our infirmities in prayer, and therefore why may we not? God answers prayer, to make us love it, and expects this from us, in return for his favour. Why should we glean in any other field when we have been so well treated in this? Nay, I will call upon him as long as I live (Heb., In my days), every day, to the last day. Note, As long as we continue living we must continue praying. This breath we must breathe till we breathe our last, because then we shall take our leave of it, and till then we have continual occasion for it.
II. A more particular narrative of God’s gracious dealings with him and the good impressions thereby made upon him.
1. God, in his dealings with him, showed himself a good God, and therefore he bears this testimony to him, and leaves it upon record (Ps. 116:5): “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. He is righteous, and did me no wrong in afflicting me; he is gracious, and was very kind in supporting and delivering me.” Let us all speak of God as we have found; and have we ever found him otherwise than just and good? No; our God is merciful, merciful to us, and it is of his mercies that we are not consumed.
(1.) Let us review David’s experiences. [1.] He was in great distress and trouble (Ps. 116:3): The sorrows of death compassed me, that is, such sorrows as were likely to be his death, such as were thought to be the very pangs of death. Perhaps the extremity of bodily pain, or trouble of mind, is called here the pains of hell, terror of conscience arising from sense of guilt. Note, The sorrows of death are great sorrows, and the pains of hell great pains. Let us therefore give diligence to prepare for the former, that we may escape the latter. These compassed him on every side; they arrested him, got hold upon him, so that he could not escape. Without were fightings, within were fears. “I found trouble and sorrow; not only they found me, but I found them.” Those that are melancholy have a great deal of sorrow of their own finding, a great deal of trouble which they create to themselves, by indulging fancy and passion; this has sometimes been the infirmity of good men. When God’s providence makes our condition bad let us not by our own imprudence make it worse. [2.] In his trouble he had recourse to God by faithful and fervent prayer, Ps. 116:4. He tells us that he prayed: Then called I upon the name of the Lord; then, when he was brought to the last extremity, then he made use of this, not as the last remedy, but as the old and only remedy, which he had found a salve for every sore. He tells us what his prayer was; it was short, but to the purpose: “O Lord! I beseech thee, deliver my soul; save me from death, and save me from sin, for that is it that is killing to the soul.” Both the humility and the fervency of his prayer are intimated in these words, O Lord! I beseech thee. When we come to the throne of grace we must come as beggars for an alms, for necessary food. The following words (Ps. 116:5), Gracious is the Lord, may be taken as part of his prayer, as a plea to enforce his request and encourage his faith and hope: “Lord deliver my soul, for thou art gracious and merciful, and that only I depend upon for relief.” [3.] God, in answer to his prayer, came in with seasonable and effectual relief. He found by experience that God is gracious and merciful, and in his compassion preserves the simple, Ps. 116:6. Because they are simple (that is, sincere, and upright, and without guile) therefore God preserves them, as he preserved Paul, who had his conversation in the world not with fleshly wisdom, but in simplicity and godly sincerity. Though they are simple (that is, weak, and helpless, and unable to shift for themselves, men of no depth, no design) yet God preserves them, because they commit themselves to him and have no confidence in their own sufficiency. Those who by faith put themselves under God’s protection shall be safe.
(2.) Let David speak his own experience. [1.] God supported him under his troubles: “I was brought low, was plunged into the depth of misery, and then he helped me, helped me both to bear the worst and to hope the best, helped me to pray, else desire had failed, helped me to wait, else faith had failed. I was one of the simple ones whom God preserved, the poor man who cried and the Lord heard him,” Ps. 34:6. Note, God’s people are never brought so low but that everlasting arms are under them, and those cannot sink who are thus sustained. Nay, it is in the time of need, at the dead lift, that God chooses to help, Deut. 32:36. [2.] God saved him out of his troubles (Ps. 116:8): Thou hast delivered, which means either the preventing of the distress he was ready to fall into or the recovering of him from the distress he was already in. God graciously delivered, First, His soul from death. Note, It is God’s great mercy to us that we are alive; and the mercy is the more sensible if we have been at death’s door and yet have been spared and raised up, just turned to destruction and yet ordered to return. That a life so often forfeited, and so often exposed, should yet be lengthened out, is a miracle of mercy. The deliverance of the soul from spiritual and eternal death is especially to be acknowledged by all those who are now sanctified and shall be shortly glorified. Secondly, His eyes from tears, that is, his heart from inordinate grief. It is a great mercy to be kept either from the occasions of sorrow, the evil that causes grief, or, at least, from being swallowed up with over-much sorrow. When God comforts those that are cast down, looses the mourners’ sackcloth and girds them with gladness, then he delivers their eyes from tears, which yet will not be perfectly done till we come to that world where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Thirdly, His feet from falling, from falling into sin and so into misery. It is a great mercy, when our feet are almost gone, to have God hold us by the right hand (Ps. 73:2, 23), so that though we enter into temptation we are not overcome and overthrown by the temptation. Or, “Thou hast delivered my feet from falling into the grave, when I had one foot there already.”
2. David, in his returns of gratitude to God, showed himself a good man. God had done all this for him, and therefore,
(1.) He will live a life of delight in God (Ps. 116:7): Return unto thy rest, O my soul! [1.] “Repose thyself and be easy, and do not agitate thyself with distrustful disquieting fears as thou hast sometimes done. Quiet thyself, and then enjoy thyself. God has dealt kindly with thee, and therefore thou needest not fear that ever he will deal hardly with thee.” [2.] “Repose thyself in God. Return to him as thy rest, and seek not for that rest in the creature which is to be had in him only.” God is the soul’s rest; in him only it can dwell at ease; to him therefore it must retire, and rejoice in him. He has dealt bountifully with us; he has provided sufficiently for our comfort and refreshment, and encouraged us to come to him for the benefit of it, at all times, upon all occasions; let us therefore be satisfied with that. Return to that rest which Christ gives to the weary and heavy-laden, Matt. 11:28. Return to thy Noah; his name signifies rest, as the dove, when she found no rest, returned to the ark. I know no word more proper to close our eyes with at night, when we go to sleep, nor to close them with at death, that long sleep, than this, Return to thy rest, O my soul!
(2.) He will live a life of devotedness to God (Ps. 116:9): I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living, that is, in this world, as long as I continue to live in it. Note, [1.] It is our great duty to walk before the Lord, to do all we do as becomes us in his presence and under his eye, to approve ourselves to him as a holy God by conformity to him as our sovereign Lord, by subjection to his will, and, as a God all-sufficient, by a cheerful confidence in him. I am the almighty God; walk before me, Gen. 17:1. We must walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing. [2.] The consideration of this, that we are in the land of the living, should engage and quicken us to do so. We are spared and continued in the land of the living by the power, and patience, and tender mercy of our God, and therefore must make conscience of our duty to him. The land of the living is a land of mercy, which we ought to be thankful for; it is a land of opportunity, which we should improve. Canaan is called the land of the living (Ezek. 26:20), and those whose lot is cast in such a valley of vision are in a special manner concerned to set the Lord always before them. If God has delivered our soul from death, we must walk before him. A new life must be a new life indeed.