1 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.
12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
19 In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.
Having witnessed God’s work of salvation bringing about a harrowing rescue of your poor soul from the jaws of destruction and death, you feel that you owe Him your life.
If you have been saved out of the devil’s grasp at the very gates of hell, if you have felt the death grip of sin’s claws on your poor soul, if you have smelled the sulfur of hell and heard the hissing of the dragon himself in your ears, and if you know that God has saved you from the yawning jaws of death and hell, then you would feel the deep sentiment expressed in this Psalm. You would cry out with all of your might, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
The Psalm opens with this singular, sincere, and personal testimony, to be found nowhere else in the Psalms - “I love the Lord.” Repeatedly throughout Scripture, from Deuteronomy to Revelation, you will find constant admonition to love the Lord and keep His commandments, but here the saint confesses to his own love for the Lord. Whether an Old Testament or New Testament saint, the confession is the same. How could anybody not love the One who rescued him from death and hell? How could anybody not love the One who saved him from a dismal life of not loving God? The Hebrew word is broad, connoting appreciation and affection, friendship and dedication, and, of course, glad service to a King and Lord. All apply. But how can a Lord be a Friend at the same time? This is the wonder of the Lord Jesus Christ, who called His disciples “friends” and died for them, and rules over them. In the biblical covenant motif, our relationship with God weaves together honor, love, and service. In many contemporary “Christian” contexts, Jesus is presented more as a girlfriend or a buddy than a Lord.
Our love is based in His love and His deep concern for our condition. Since we are sure that He listens to us, then we will continue to call out to Him for His salvation for the rest of our lives. In a sense, salvation is a lifelong ordeal and those who will be saved are those who will continually cry out to God, and He continually delivers them from the evil one. Since righteous Seth and his posterity began to call upon the name of the Lord, this practice has defined the godly throughout history (Gen. 4:26). The righteous know for certain they need God to save them.
Memories can stimulate rich times of worship. As we call to mind those moments of life and death struggles with sins that had the upper hand or addictions from which we could never extricate ourselves, depressing thoughts that almost left us in despair, or doubts that could have taken us to apostasy, we know that God has been merciful to us. When we called upon the name of the Lord in sincerity and humble faith, God answered our prayers. Where our faith could have been dislodged a thousand times, God continues to extend His preserving grace to us.
What more comforting thought is there but to know that God’s hand is on your life? When a man understands that the God of heaven has poured out His blessings upon him, he gets the sense that he is loved, and so he loves. Ultimate rest comes in knowing that we are reconciled with God. Our greatest fears are allayed, death is swallowed up in victory, and all accusations are silenced. We are accepted. We are sons. We are loved.
The remainder of the Psalm is taken up with the response of a loving heart to a loving God. The world may offer its cheap, inauthentic versions of love, but this is what biblical love for God looks like: paying vows, walking with God, offering sacrifices of thanksgiving, and sustaining faith. It is more than singing “I love you, Lord” sixteen times in an emotionally-contrived worship service. This man commits to walking in God’s presence Monday through Saturday. He doesn’t need to hide from God while he disobeys His law, all the while hoping he can get away with it. Rather, this man lives an authentic life before the Lord, repenting, believing, hoping, and trusting in God. What does God want from us but what a father wants from his own children- love and obedience. God’s love must inspire love, or we have yet to experience His love. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?”
At first glance, this portion of the Psalm may seem a little disjointed. But a closer look would identify a meaningful pattern that inspires true worship, rooted in God’s redemptive work.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death - Verse 8
I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living - Verse 9
What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? - Verse 12
I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people - Verse 14
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints - Verse 15
O Lord, truly I am thy servant - Verse 16
Thou has loosed my bonds - Verse 16
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving - Verse 17
Laid out in this way, the pattern should be obvious. Over and over again, the psalmist is saying, “Since God has done this for me, I am inclined from the heart to do this for Him!” Who doesn’t want to be the servant of God when he is assured that he is dying in the arms of the Savior?
When a man pays his marriage vows, he is true to the relationship. He may not be the “perfect” husband, but that is not what is assumed in the term “paying your vows.” There is the husband who uses an impatient, unloving tone of voice with his wife (but is always careful to restore the relationship along the way). On the other hand there is the man who abandons his wife for six months at a time and takes up with prostitutes. This man breaks his vows. A faithful husband will perform “due maintenance” on the marriage relationship. This is what is entailed in our relationship with the Lord. A vow is a promise and a commitment, and all relationships rely on these things. Where there is no promise and commitment, there is no significant relationship. When the believer commits his life to Christ, his allegiance to Christ must trump all others. Should the New Testament tithe constitute anything less than the Old Testament tithe? Is there less love for God now that His Son came to die for us? Might we “feel” like we should present some thanksgiving offering from time to time, as appropriate for the great blessings God has already poured out upon us?
1. Referring to the sinner woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jesus explained that the one who has been forgiven much will love much. If we should wish to know who have been forgiven, we need only look for those who love God, and those who love God will keep His commandments. Continually, they come back to the question, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?”
2. Consider the work that God has done already in your life. If you have seen the guilt and power of sin quenched by the efficacious blood of Christ, then respond in love, in praise, and faithful service to your King.
1. Loving worship involves thanksgiving offerings to God, which usually come in the form of gifts to the church. If you give your time or money to the church, make sure that it is offered well to God. For example, we know that God loves a cheerful giver. He also knows when it is a true sacrifice, not a gift of 0.00001% of your net worth.
2. We nurture and cultivate our relationship with the Lord through the loving worship and loving fellowship with the community of the saints. If our relationship with God’s people sours, then our relationship with Christ is probably souring as well! Weak churches and weak church relationships are symptoms of a weak relationship with the Lord and a failure to pay those vows in the presence of all His people.
1. What does a true, biblical love for God look like?
2. How would love for the Lord differ from a love for a girlfriend?
3. What did righteous Seth and his posterity do that marked them out as true believers?
4. Give several examples of Thanksgiving Psalms.
5. What does it mean to pay your vows in the presence of God’s people?
1. How has God rescued you from the snares of death and the bear trap of sin? Can you think of moments when you were delivered from doubt, discouragement, sin, and rebellion?
2. How do we treat worship in the congregation? Is it an opportunity to perform “due maintenance” on our relationship with the Lord? Do we confess sins in this context? Do we bring thanksgiving offerings? How are our relationships with the body of Christ?