Psalm 116: God Conquers Death
During Lent many people come up with self-imposed sacrifices, giving up chocolate, cheese, alcohol, adding fasting and penance. Myself, I may give up something but I usually wait to see what sacrifice God is going to give me each Lent. What God sends us is always more meaningful than the ones we come up with. This Lent God has sent our world a far greater sacrifice than I anticipated with the coronavirus and the sacrifices we have already had to make with many more to come. While the death toll is not great right now, the reality of death is front and center. Psalm 116 reminds us that God, the author of life and death, is trustworthy and cares for his people.
Another hymn of the Hallel, Psalm 116 is written by someone who has come close to dying and thus, is very aware of the value of life. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me, I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I beseech you, save my life!’” (3-4)
The writer praises God for his righteousness and for hearing his plea: “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (1-2); “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; the Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.” (5-6)
He goes to the Temple to pay his vows and offers God his prayers of thanksgiving. “What shall I render to the Lord for his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” (12-14) “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!” (17-19)
Having skirted the gates of death, he recognizes how precious his life is in God’s eyes: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (15)
Worse than Death
There are worse things in life than death. Recently I heard a story of a woman in her nineties living in a nursing home close to family. She visited her family several times a week and was active in their lives. She contracted the coronavirus and is now quarantined. Her daughter speaks to her on the phone and hears her voice grow weaker every day. Her mother’s life is fading away and her daughter is unable to touch her or see her. Being isolated from loved ones can be worse than death.
Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter, where God is victorious over death, raising Jesus from the tomb. This Lent is more challenging as churches have been shut leaving us with no place to offer our sacrifices. Yet in confronting death, we realize how precious life is. We also realize that there is a life beyond this life that we see, that God truly has conquered death.
Praise God Who Conquers Death!
This Lent, let us join with the writer of Psalm 116 in praising our God who has conquered death through the life of his son, Jesus. And let us support and pray for each other that we might meet the challenges posed by this pandemic with love and charity.
How are you handling that sacrifices that have arisen because of the coronavirus?
(For a different take on Psalm 116, go here.)
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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