The Septuagint and some other ancient versions make these verses a distinct psalm separate from the former; and some have called it the Martyr’s psalm, I suppose for the sake of Ps. 116:15. Three things David here makes confession of:—
I. His faith (Ps. 116:10): I believed, therefore have I spoken. This is quoted by the apostle (2 Cor. 4:13) with application to himself and his fellow-ministers, who, though they suffered for Christ, were not ashamed to own him. David believed the being, providence, and promise of God, particularly the assurance God had given him by Samuel that he should exchange his crook for a sceptre: a great deal of hardship he went through in the belief of this, and therefore he spoke, spoke to God by prayer (Ps. 116:4), by praise, Ps. 116:12. Those that believe in God will address themselves to him. He spoke to himself; because he believed, he said to his soul, Return to thy rest. He spoke to others, told his friends what his hope was, and what the ground of it, though it exasperated Saul against him and he was greatly afflicted for it. Note, Those that believe with the heart must confess with the mouth, for the glory of God, the encouragement of others, and to evidence their own sincerity, Rom. 10:10; Acts 9:19, 20. Those that live in hope of the kingdom of glory must neither be afraid nor ashamed to own their obligation to him that purchased it for them, Matt. 10:22.
II. His fear (Ps. 116:11): I was greatly afflicted, and then I said in my haste (somewhat rashly and inconsiderately—in my amazement (so some), when I was in a consternation—in my flight (so others), when Saul was in pursuit of me), All men are liars, all with whom he had to do, Saul and all his courtiers; his friends, who he thought would stand by him, deserted him and disowned him when he fell into disgrace at court. And some think it is especially a reflection on Samuel, who had promised him the kingdom, but deceived him; for, says he, I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul, 1 Sam. 27:1. Observe, 1. The faith of the best of saints is not perfect, nor always alike strong and active. David believed and spoke well (Ps. 116:10), but now, through unbelief, he spoke amiss. 2. When we are under great and sore afflictions, especially if they continue long, we are apt to grow weary, to despond, and almost to despair of a good issue. Let us not therefore be harsh in censuring others, but carefully watch over ourselves when we are in trouble, Ps. 39:1-3. 3. If good men speak amiss, it is in their haste, through the surprise of a temptation, not deliberately and with premeditation, as the wicked man, who sits in the seat of the scornful (Ps. 1:1), sits and speaks against his brother, Ps. 50:19, 20. 4. What we speak amiss, in haste, we must by repentance unsay again (as David, Ps. 31:22), and then it shall not be laid to our charge. Some make this to be no rash word of David’s. He was greatly afflicted and forced to fly, but he did not trust in man, nor make flesh his arm. No: he said, “All men are liars; as men of low degree are vanity, so men of high degree are a lie, and therefore my confidence was in God only, and in him I cannot be disappointed.” In this sense the apostle seems to take it. Rom. 3:4; Let God be true and every man a liar in comparison with God. All men are fickle and inconstant, and subject to change; and therefore let us cease from man and cleave to God.
III. His gratitude, Ps. 116:12 God had been better to him than his fears, and had graciously delivered him out of his distresses; and, in consideration hereof,
1. He enquires what returns he shall make (Ps. 116:12): What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? Here he speaks, (1.) As one sensible of many mercies received from God—all his benefits. This psalm seems to have been penned upon occasion of some one particular benefit (Ps. 116:6, 7), but in that one he saw many and that one brought many to mind, and therefore now he thinks of all God’s benefits towards him. Note, When we speak of God’s mercies we should magnify them and speak highly of them. (2.) As one solicitous and studious how to express his gratitude: What shall I render unto the Lord? Not as if he thought he could render any thing proportionable, or as a valuable consideration for what he had received; we can no more pretend to give a recompense to God than we can to merit any favour from him; but he desired to render something acceptable, something that God would be pleased with as the acknowledgment of a grateful mind. He asks God, What shall I render? Asks the priest, asks his friends, or rather asks himself, and communes with his own heart about it. Note, Having received many benefits from God, we are concerned to enquire, What shall we render?
2. He resolves what returns he will make.
(1.) He will in the most devout and solemn manner offer up his praises and prayers to God, Ps. 116:13, 17. [1.] “I will take the cup of salvation, that is, I will offer the drink-offerings appointed by the law, in token of my thankfulness to God, and rejoice with my friends in God’s goodness to me;” this is called the cup of deliverance because drunk in memory of his deliverance. The pious Jews had sometimes a cup of blessing, at their private meals, which the master of the family drank first of, with thanksgiving to God, and all at his table drank with him. But some understand it not of the cup that he would present to God, but of the cup that God would put into his hand. I will receive, First, The cup of affliction. Many good interpreters understand it of that cup, that bitter cup, which is yet sanctified to the saints, so that to them it is a cup of salvation. Phil. 1:19; This shall turn to my salvation; it is a means of spiritual health. David’s sufferings were typical of Christ’s, and we, in ours, have communion with his, and his cup was indeed a cup of salvation. “God, having bestowed so many benefits upon me, whatever cup he shall put into my hands I will readily take it, and not dispute it; welcome his holy will.” Herein David spoke the language of the Son of David. John 18:11; The cup that my Father has given me, shall I not take it and drink it? Secondly, The cup of consolation: “I will receive the benefits God bestows upon me as from his hand, and taste his love in them, as that which is the portion not only of my inheritance in the other world, but of my cup in this.” [2.] I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the thank-offerings which God required, Lev. 7:11, 12 Note, Those whose hearts are truly thankful will express their gratitude in thank-offerings. We must first give our ownselves to God as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:5), and then lay out of what we have for his honour in works of piety and charity. Doing good and communicating are sacrifices with which God is well pleased (Heb. 13:15, 16) and this must accompany our giving thanks to his name. If God has been bountiful to us, the least we can do in return is to be bountiful to the poor, Ps. 16:2, 3. Why should we offer that to God which costs us nothing? [3.] I will call upon the name of the Lord. This he had promised (Ps. 116:2) and here he repeats it, Ps. 116:13 and again Ps. 116:17. If we have received kindness from a man like ourselves, we tell him that we hope we shall never trouble him again; but God is pleased to reckon the prayers of his people an honour to him, and a delight, and no trouble; and therefore, in gratitude for former mercies, we must seek to him for further mercies, and continue to call upon him.
(2.) He will always entertain good thoughts of God, as very tender of the lives and comforts of his people (Ps. 116:15): Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, so precious that he will not gratify Saul, nor Absalom, nor any of David’s enemies, with his death, how earnestly soever they desire it. This truth David had comforted himself with in the depth of his distress and danger; and, the event having confirmed it, he comforts others with it who might be in like manner exposed. God has a people, even in this world, that are his saints, his merciful ones, or men of mercy, that have received mercy from him and show mercy for his sake. The saints of God are mortal and dying; nay, there are those that desire their death, and labour all they can to hasten it, and sometimes prevail to be the death of them; but it is precious in the sight of the Lord; their life is so (2 Kgs. 1:13); their blood is so, Ps. 72:14. God often wonderfully prevents the death of his saints when there is but a step between them and it; he takes special care about their death, to order it for the best in all the circumstances of it; and whoever kills them, how light soever they may make of it, they shall be made to pay dearly for it when inquisition is made for the blood of the saints, Matt. 23:35. Though no man lays it to heart when the righteous perish, God will make it to appear that he lays it to heart. This should make us willing to die, to die for Christ, if we are called to it, that our death shall be registered in heaven; and let that be precious to us which is so to God.
(3.) He will oblige himself to be God’s servant all his days. Having asked, What shall I render? here he surrenders himself, which was more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifice (Ps. 116:16): O Lord! truly I am thy servant. Here is, [1.] The relation in which David professes to stand to God: “I am thy servant; I choose to be so; I resolve to be so; I will live and die in thy service.” He had called God’s people, who are dear to him, his saints; but, when he comes to apply it to himself, he does not say, Truly I am thy saint (that looked too high a title for himself), but, I am thy servant. David was a king, and yet he glories in this, that he was God’s servant. It is no disparagement, but an honour, to the greatest kings on earth, to be the servants of the God of heaven. David does not here compliment God, as it is common among men to say, I am your servant, Sir. No; “Lord, I am truly thy servant; thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I am so.” And he repeats it, as that which he took pleasure in the thoughts of and which he was resolved to abide by: “I am thy servant, I am thy servant. Let others serve what master they will, truly I am they servant.” [2.] The ground of that relation. Two ways men came to be servants:—First, by birth. “Lord, I was born in thy house; I am the son of thy handmaid, and therefore thine.” It, is a great mercy to be the children of godly parents, as it obliges us to duty and is pleadable with God for mercy. Secondly, By redemption. He that procured the release of a captive took him for his servant. “Lord, thou hast loosed my bonds; those sorrows of death that compassed me, thou hast discharged me from them, and therefore I am thy servant, and entitled to thy protection as well as obliged to thy work.” The very bonds which thou hast loosed shall tie me faster unto thee. Patrick.
(4.) He will make conscience of paying his vows and making good what he had promised, not only that he would offer the sacrifices of praise, which he had vowed to bring, but perform all his other engagements to God, which he had laid himself under in the day of his affliction (Ps. 116:14): I will pay my vows; and again, (Ps. 116:18), now in the presence of all his people. Note, Vows are debts that must be paid, for it is better not to vow than to vow and not pay. He will pay his vows, [1.] Presently; he will not, like sorry debtors, delay the payment of them, or beg a day; but, “I will pay them now,” Eccl. 5:4. [2.] Publicly; he will not huddle up his praises in a corner, but what service he has to do for God he will do it in the presence of all his people; nor for ostentation, but to show that he was not ashamed of the service of God, and that others might be invited to join with him. He will pay his vows in the courts of the tabernacle, where there was a crowd of Israelites attending, in the midst of Jerusalem, that he might bring devotion into more reputation.