Psalm 116 in Context of Psalm 118

A Presbyterian Call to Christ

See also this site, for a more extensive approach,
especially the Epilogue



In these two psalms, we see in the first,  the deliverance of David, from a riot of pangs to the relish of rest, and then the cost of production of such rest, in the second.

In view of this, what is the need ? It is to follow the prescription laid down in Psalm 116, and receiving rest, likewise to be filled with thanksgiving and praise, while from Psalm 118,  realising the cost to Christ: the gallows for God,  to deliver sin from its sod. God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation ... for He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:19,21).

Our main course is to feed on Psalm 116, while the desert is delightful: it is part of Psalm 118, which fits like a door handle in the door, to open up the depths of the interior for us.


 I    Psalm 116 - RESTORING TO REST

A. The Love that Stirs Faithfulness - vv. 1-4

David is surrounded by trials so severe that it is the "pangs of death". Mortality shuddered, and life was under severe threat. As a dog loves his faithfully kind master, so David, but with conceptual consciousness, spiritual dynamic and personal delight, loves the Lord, for He has heard the cry. Hell seemed to open with its yawning depths exposed; but its severities were not able to prevail, and the constant companionship of the Lord secured and showed its elimination as irrelevant to the Psalmist!

B. The Rest that the Lord's Kindness Conveys - vv. 5-7

His very life has been delivered and He is urgent to  relate and relay this; for it shows that the Lord is gracious, and does not disregard the appeal of His saints (cf. Psalm 145). Covered in this irremovable robe of divine righteousness (as in Psalm 71), the Lord's OWN righteousness in which alone does he work and move, He is kept; for by simple faith he has opened his heart in the very midst of tribulation, received his answer;  and he now returns to his restful content, and assured peace in the presence of the Lord (cf. Hebrews 4).

Christians should BE at rest in the Lord, not without trial or pain, anguish or agony of prayer, but without an underlying torment, disquietude or troubled heart. Rest is apt and appropriate after exertion, as you find in Him those heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), where all is seen from His presence, as when one is at some great height, and looks to see the contours and configurations of the land, knowing the way. The one who is at peace with the Lord, who has HIS righteousness, who is not seeking to obtain by thrust and force, what is a grant, and comes only as a grant of God (cf. Romans 5:17, 3:23ff., 6:23, Psalm 71:14-16), who has learned wisdom from the Lord, who IS his wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30): he understands his way (cf. Proverbs 14:8).


C. The Walk that does not Wander - vv. 8-11

Eyes no more have tears, feet no longer slide to peril, the life has surmounted death, and now at large, he thrills at his re-opened voyage of pilgrimage. In his perils, apparently appalled at horrid behaviour, letting him down, he had surged into near cynicism TOWARD HIS FELLOW MAN. Liars! that's what they are! had seemingly become his disgusted reaction. It can almost seem so when a whole series of parties fails, falling into amoral lapses, unreliable, faithless, all words without deeds, let alone when pride adorns the failure!

But the Psalmist realises that the Lord whose goodness is his life, indeed His lovingkindness is better than life, we read (and find - Psalm 63:3), is not so mean in His gifts to man: far from it. Instead, he will do his own duty, fulfil his own responsibilities toward God, and participate with the saints in His service.


D. The Threefold Resolution - vv. 12-14: 
                                                  Embrace the Divine Salvation
                                                  Call on the Lord's own name
                                                  Fulfil Spiritual Dues and Duties:

                                                  because it is all now done,
                                                  Rest replacing Restlessness in a Surge of Peace

Seized with desire to reciprocate in some way, toward the marvellous lovingkindness of the Lord, he asks: "What shall I render to the Lord ?" He will rejoice and be replete with the salvation of God, realising its vast areas of commerce and compassion, provision and peace; he will call on the name of the Lord, making himself available for commission, intermission, direction, command, duty or whatever else may be His own good pleasure (cf. Romans 12:1); for this is the very least that one can do.

He will not hide himself away, but "pay my vows to the LORD now IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS PEOPLE!"

(emphasis added).


E. Cut Bonds and Open Thanks - vv. 15-19

                                                 Now:  Thanksgiving is the personal sacrifice the heart makes
                                                            Spiritual Commerce, in the Lord,  is the Strength
                                                             Praise is the Song.

This leads to the reflection that death, from which he had so narrowly escaped, in the midst of perils and betrayals or default on the part of others, is no small thing before God, when it comes to HIS children. On the contrary, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"  (cf. Psalm 1:6). None should hold cheap the completion to the uttermost part, of the duties assigned and the commission conferred on one's life by the Lord. As one put it, "I am immortal to my task is done."

After that comes the endless immortality as in I Cor. 15, when a new life and a new body will continue in a new heavens, neither perishing nor able to perish (II Cor. 5), and in the very presence of God, whose face will be seen (Revelation 22). Meanwhile, thanksgiving will be an outpouring like a sacrifice, a comprehensive awareness of the blessings of so faithful a Royal Master as the Lord of glory, the Creator of the universe, the solace of the saints, their comfort and their joy (I Peter 1:5ff.).

What has been the stay and security, the power  and the provision for the afflicted and delivered Psalmist in all of this ? It has been the Lord.

On what basis however has this been provided ? It is on the basis of the REDEMPTION (as in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 49-55), which God is to provide. To this we turn in the Messianic Psalm 118, nearby to this one.


                             II  Psalm 118: THE GATE AND THE GALLOWS

                                  A. Death has no Hold - vv. 10-18

                                  B. The Gate that Led to life - vv. 19-21                   


The fascinating development in Psalm 118, a Messianic song, is first the resolute determination to deal with the evil, with the concentration on divine faithfulness. Suddenly we see a figure surrounded by evil stings and assault, as if a hive of bees had been recently released and surged to the attack. 

Yet "in the name of the Lord, I will destroy them," comes the utterance in response to this challenge, to these evil intruders. This reminds one of Psalm 2, where the peoples are warned to avoid the folly of rebellion that ignores the Son of God, and His work as Messiah, for His rule is to come despite the menace of those forces which loathe God, His love and His redemption. This will succeed, and then comes their judgment, for God’s provision in Christ may appear weak, but is strategic; and then the judgment.

While this determination to destroy the power of sin is present, we now find a focus on the parallel determination of the evil (v. 13), but there is no triumph for them, but for the One sent.

The "right hand of the Lord does valiantly" (vv. 15-16), and we find that this central figure in focus "shall not die but live" (v. 17), and “declare the works of the Lord,” even though the cost has been a fierce encounter. The "gates of righteousness" are for this conquering victor, for His righteousness holds no sin, and perfected righteousness is for Him an avenue, a door and an entry, confirming His triumph.


“Open to Me the gates of righteousness!” He exclaims with authority.

It is indeed He who becomes the gateway for the people who are the Lord's, for He has made it His own. “This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous may enter.” It is, as always HE who conferring righteousness, when the temple is past and the realities apply, Himself is the gate as in John 10:9. His sheep go in and out!

How did He achieve such a post, such an entry for His people ? It is because "The stone which the builders rejected has become the headstone of the corner". Instead of death, life flourishes in Him, and He becomes the centre of the universe as its salvation, the divine and eternal focus on the Cross of Christ, the Messiah: for GOD ONLY is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and as Christ only, has He paid the price. The rejection is depicted in depth in Psalm  22, and the resurrection in Psalm 16: here, the results!

In other words, in the war we saw that He was fighting, assailed and assaulted; and though death came to Him, graphic in Psalm 22,  it could not keep Him,  as Peter declared in Acts 2:24 (bold added):

"Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God,
you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death,
because it was not possible that He should be held by it."

The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, says the Psalm, for on the third day, He raised Him from the dead, and "This was the Lord's doing: it is marvellous in our eyes" (118:24). Small wonder that

¨  “this is the day which the Lord has made”, and no marvel that “we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

It is then that the words come, famed for being included in the praise offered to the Saviour, on

Palm Sunday

(Mark 11:8ff.), children adding the lustre of praise (Matthew 21:13-16), so that it is also


when Jesus was rightly hailed as Messiah, a week before they in inane blindness, killed Him, by judicial murder.

"Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in he name of the LORD!

Blessed is  the kingdom of our father David,

That comes in the name of the LORD!!

Hosanna in he highest!"

The term 'Hosanna' meant from the Hebrew, 'Save now!' and through it they evidently sought in expectation that the Lord should incline in grace to them. Simeon from the first (Luke 2:29-32), as also John the Baptist (John 1:29), had left no doubt that here was IN HIMSELF, the Saviour, and John had made even the mode of salvation abundantly clear (as well he might, in view of Isaiah 53, for example), as in John 1:29.

Here indeed was THE Saviour as in Isaiah 53, and although some would not at that point realise the full import of it all as the need for teaching showed, in Luke 24, yet the power to perform this salvation was clearly vested in the One sent. If you do not believe that I am He, Christ had declared, you will die in your sins (John 8:24), while it was, and is no less true that he who sees the Son (with faith, as in John 5:24, 6:40) already HAS eternal life, and does not pass into condemnation, having passed from a state of death to one of life itself (cf. I John 5:11ff.).

On Palm Sunday, the appearance of greatness was before them: the wonder of instant fulfilment of prophecy as He came on the ass, was self-declarative; His preceding works attested His culmination of all that had gone before, and the sense of wonder was vast.

So then sang the people, many evidently recognising that at last, the Messiah in focus in the Psalm was right before their very eyes, the gate into which and through which His people obtain salvation (as in Ezekiel 34, Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 53, Psalm 40). That point was in effect the one for which Stephen died (Acts 7), for it was the LORD whom the State rejected, who Himself was the criterion of  salvation, the Temple the symbol which He fulfilled. Even His conveyance on that day, the colt of an ass,  was fulfilment of a scripture obvious enough for the blind to see (Zechariah 9:9). But this, it is a sort of blindness where facts do not avail, for the eyes are shut voluntarily.

When even children gave a chant of recognition with the adults, it was too much for some of the staid ceremonialists, in such a spiritual shadow of symbolism that they did not see the One who cast it. Stop them!

"Have you never read," responded the Lord Jesus,
" ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, you have perfected praise!’ "

The word of God incarnate, like the word written, always has the answer.

It was indeed this undeterrable triumph which tended to make them the more furious (Luke 11:52-54), for truth which is not desired can become obstructive to those who prefer its absence. When Truth is found to be a Person, then the nails can hammer the matter out. It is relatively easy; but then, this murderous step was meant to be available, since the sacrifice of Christ was the only way for man to come back, and the God of love was willing not only to show it, but to do it, to lay the pavement which allowed the access once again, in Himself! (Acts 4:11-12, Hosea 13:14).

The resurrection, in turn,  meant that "I shall not die but live" (despite the lethal efforts to cast Him away as foretold in Psalm 2, and 22).

It is best to watch before our very eyes the parallel phrasing and attitude in Psalm 22, where the Saviur is watched dying, for death being a project, eternal life His very Being (I John 1:1-4), the victory is what for some would be like that over an illness. God, who in Christ raised the dead before Calvary, in various cases culminating in the resurrection of Lazarus, looks past this temporary terminus to the victory of life over death, through man (though He was God incarnate, definitively - Hebrews 1), and having done this, declares it, an opportunity for participation for all time, till at least this Age ends, for all who receive Him whose it is, and in whose gift eternal life lies.

Listen then to the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 22 (colour change added to assist recognition)
before we proceed with Psalm 118:

"I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint:
My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels.

"My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaves to My jaws;
and You hast brought Me into the dust of death.

"For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me:
they pierced My hands and My feet. I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me.

"They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My clothing.

"But You, O Lord, be not far from Me, O LORD:
O My strength, hasten to help Me.

"Deliver My soul from the sword; My precious life from the power of the dog.
Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for You have heard Me from the horns of the wild oxen.

"I will declare Your name to my brethren:
in the midst of the congregation will I praise You.

"You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him;
and fear Him,
all you, the offspring of Israel.

"For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
neither has He hidden his face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.

"My praise shall be of You in the great congregation:
I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
The meek will eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD who seek Him:
your heart shall live for ever.

"All the ends of the world will remember and turn to the LORD: and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S:
and He is the governor among the nations.

"The prosperous of the earth will eat and worship:
all those who go down to the dust will bow before Him:
and none can keep alive his own soul.

"A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people who will be born,
that He has done this." 
At this point, consult I Peter 2:9!

There you see in broader perspective in that harrowing Psalm 22, depicting the reconciling sacrifice of Christ to cover sin for those who receive Him as the Lamb of God, God manifest in the flesh: the perfect atonement, complete and consummate, once for all, for all time (Hebrews 9-10). This is what it was to be, what it is, and only this saves, and produces that holy generation, that special people of which Peter speaks: not that He should suffer often, but ONCE, and as to that, ONLY the blood covers (Hebrews 9). By ONE offering He has perfected for ever those who are sanctified, and by one offering given ETERNAL REDEMPTION, as Hebrews 9-10 declares. Such is the declaration in the Psalm, in the apostolic word, from the mouth of the Saviour, to the zones of eternity! THIS Gospel is more changeless than the atom which will pass with the material universe; and this God is our God, for us who believe Christ, for ever.

As it was to be, so it is, and in Psalm 118 you see the triumphant CONSEQUENCES, just as in Psalm 22 you see the galling method! Both cost and consequence were great, for by His knowledge, His suffering, His death, His taking and breaking of mortality, He shall justify many (Isaiah 53:10-11).


Thus in Psalm 118: it is that though victimised and slain, He yet responds,  

"I will ... declare the works of the Lord",

as in Psalm 22:22-26, and reflected in Psalm 16, where we find that so vast is the divine interposition, that His very flesh WILL NOT ROT! (Acts 2:35-37).

Death is overcome here by the unique method of breaking its hold, redeeming its charge and restoring for life, the One whose life could not be broken, because it is eternal by nature, just as His love remains, for as Paul declares, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ...!"

 Nothing! (Romans 8:33-39).

"Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

"Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen,
who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

"As it is written:

'For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'

"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that

neither death nor life,

nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come,

nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,

shall be able to separate us from the love of God

which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


He who healed others could indeed have covered the case of His own body, but was willing for this deliverance, only after its death gave atonement for sin; for as to this, justice required it for the sinners who constitute the human race,  and He only was free of it (I Peter 2:22ff., Hebrews 7:26), being as God capacious enough to bear it for many; and love provided it! Hence the arising in the resurrection was the demonstration of power, not the avoidance of death. Hence NOTHING can separate, for the love remains and the impediment does not, slain with Him in His death.

Thus delivered, and Deliverer alike, He declares the works of God.

Assuredly it is so, for when He was near the day of the Cross,

He gave the word, and when He arose from the tomb,

He gave the works.  

It is this which made it, as Psalm 118:23-24 foretold, a day of REJOICING. Sin’s companion, death, is overcome. The gate is open, and HE is the gate! as indeed He expressly announced in fulfilment, in John 10:9.

Once entered BY HIM, we have access to the divine mercy (Hebrews 4:16), covenant, the promises (Ephesians 3:14-21, Mark 11:23ff.); and the answer is PERSONAL, as is the Saviour, who personally paid. Once entered, it is as His own sheep that entrants remain, and never perish with the triumphant source of created life, their Guide and Guarantee (John 10:2-28).

We should indeed give thanks to the Lord for He IS good! (Psalm 118:29), so good, that any failure to act out with David the heart of His praise, in duty, responsibility, primacy to Him in life, deeds of testimony and godly living is as unthinkable by omission, as any atomic bomb would be by COMMISSION!  

Indeed, the current enlargement of the jaws of death in atomic and other bombs and scourges, is man’s own penalty from man, as the divine judgment awaits the day of its sitting; for without the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:7), peace is outlawed and war rages, as Christ so clearly foresaw, declared and predicted (Matthew 24, Luke 21). It was to come and it has come; but the Gospel remains.

The Gospel bears in focus the GATE TO GOD. This, it MUST be entered; for there is no other way (John 14:6). Omission of this step is like omitting to breathe, but more fatal. Finding it, however, and entering through the Lord Himself, this brings you into direct communion with God as Lord, and what a Lord is He, who master of all, yet in mercy is a Friend to His own people. How rich is His holiness, for YOU ARE MY FRIENDS if you do whatever I command you! He declared. It is not a substitute for obedience, but a motive, a motif, an enablement, which however, always includes that great office of a friend, to forgive a failure, to encourage its non-repetition, and the stirring of the imagination into better things.

With Him, it is no mere influence, since THIS friend is God Himself; with His word is power and with His pardon is peace.