Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:7-9)
A Sweeter Song
Ancient Greek sailors faced many perils at sea and this was reflected in their myths. Greeks imagined sirens, dangerous creatures who lured sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwrecks on the rocky coast of their islands. In the myths, two famous Greeks sailed by the sirens successfully. Odysseus plugged his men’s ears with wax and had them tie him to the ship’s mast. This kept his men safe and Odysseus could hear the siren’s song with little harm. The other man was the legendary Orpheus who sailed with Jason and the Argonauts. As they approached the sirens and began to hear the voices, Orpheus took out his lyre (a stringed instrument) and began to sing an even more charming melody to drown out the sirens and keep the ship from ruin.
Pastor Craig Troxel says that Orpheus, not Odysseus, illustrated the better strategy for Christians. We can pass some tests in life by restricting our bodies (like being tied to a mast) or limiting the lure of enticements (wax in the ears). But the better strategy is to increase our desire to love and follow Jesus. Trusting and obeying Christ must be a sweeter song to us than the music of this sinful world and our sinful flesh. No wonder Christians have read, sung, and chanted the Old Testament Psalms to help us, with the Holy Spirit’s blessing, to keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil and Satan.1
In recent posts, we’ve been looking at Psalm 116 which King David began by saying, “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice.” The rest of the Psalm describes love for God who first loved us in so many ways. This post builds on I’ll Hasten to His Throne and Love for God Should Drive Us.
We Love the Lord, So We Talk to Ourselves (Verse 7)
Scripture: Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
Comment: By talking to himself, King David is using the “Orpheus Strategy.” He’s reminding himself to rest in the Lord who is gracious, righteous, full of compassion, and protects the unwary (see verses 5-6). Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave similar Bible-based advice on the topic of Spiritual Depression and wrote:
Most of your unhappiness in life comes from listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself. Fight those negative thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up, bringing back the problems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Psalms 42 and 43 are different. Instead of allowing this self to talk, the Psalmist starts talking to himself. He plays better Bible-based music for himself to hear. His soul had been crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment,’ and says to himself three times:
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Lloyd-Jones continues: The main art in spiritual living is to exhort yourself, preach to yourself, and question yourself. Say to your soul: Why are you depressed, troubled, and anxious? Remind yourself to trust and hope in God and praise Him instead of muttering on in sad and unhappy ways. Remind yourself of who God is, what He has done, what He has pledged Himself to do, and that you are His precious adopted child. And then, by faith, praise Him as your Savior and your God who has promised that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love in Jesus our Lord.2
When I follow Lloyd-Jones’ advice and drown out my own negative self-talk with Scripture, I am am always blessed. In Psalm 116:7, King David tells his soul to rest in the Lord’s goodness. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus promises His followers rest for our souls when we keep on coming back to Him. We receive some of that rest in this life, more rest when we die and go home to Christ, and perfect and everlasting rest when Jesus comes back and brings us into the new heaven and new earth. The word rest is plural in Psalm 116, perhaps pointing to the fact that Christians’ rest comes in these stages.
Isaiah 26:3 expresses a parallel truth: “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” King David talks to himself about God’s goodness in Psalm 116 and then goes on to remember answered prayer.
We Love the Lord, So We Talk to Him (Verse 8)
Scripture: For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
Comment: Most of Psalm 116 is talking to God and King David wrote it after the Lord had saved him from a crisis that nearly killed him. Jesus probably sang this Psalm at the last Passover Supper that He celebrated with His disciples.3 His Heavenly Father did not spare Christ from Gethsemene, where He prayed earnestly and His sweat fell like drops of blood to the ground.4 God did not spare Jesus from Gabbatha, where Christ was unjustly humiliated, tried, and sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate.5 And the Father did not spare His Son from the cross at Golgotha, where He bore our sins in His body to reconcile us to God. So Jesus used Psalm 116 prophetically of the future deliverance God would give Him after His crucifixion, death, and burial were done. Because of the joy awaiting Christ, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is risen, victorious, ascended, exalted, and seated in the place of highest honor at the right side of God’s throne.6
Again I think of the three phases of time. The Lord has already saved Christians from sin’s penalty and power once and for all (past tense). He is rescuing us all along the way through this life (present). And God will deliver us from the presence of sin altogether when He returns for us (future). Revelation says: “God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”7
Like the hymn “Amazing Grace,” every Christian can sing, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares we have already come. God’s grace has brought us safe thus far. And God’s grace will lead us home.” We love the Lord so we talk to Him, thanking Him for all He has done for us. We trust Him for our present and our future and…
We Love the Lord, So We Walk with Him in Obedience (Verse 9)
Scripture: The Lord delivered me that I may walk before Him in the land of the living.
Comment: By God’s grace, Old Testament believers like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham walked close to the Lord in faith and integrity. The Psalmist said that this was no burden, but liberating for him. He walked about in freedom, for he sought out the Lord’s precepts.8 The New Testament says the same: “If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”9
To talk with God, no breath is lost. Talk on! To walk with God, no strength is lost. Walk on! To wait on God, no time is lost. Wait on! (E. Stanley Jones)
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Adapted from A. Craig Troxel, With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will Toward Christ, p. 101. 2 Adapted and expanded from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, p. 20-21. 3 Matt 26:30 and Mark 14:26. 4 John 19:13. 5 Luke 22:44. 6 Heb 12:1-3. 7 Rev 21. 8 Psalm 119:45. 9 1 John 1:7.