I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
How would you complete this phrase: “I love the Lord, because…”? It is good to think about why we love God, and to tell Him why we love Him, and to tell others as well. That is what the psalmist is doing in this psalm as he celebrates his reasons for loving the Lord. Bible scholars classify this psalm as an Individual Psalm of Thanksgiving in which an individual stands in front of the worshipping community and declares what God has done for him.
Thanksgiving in the Psalms was never just a private matter between the individual and God, but was something celebrated before others. The worshipper would offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving at the temple and proclaim what God had done for him. “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD” (vv. 17-18). The sacrifice of thanksgiving was eaten as part of a celebratory feast by the worshipper with his family and friends (Leviticus 7:12-15).
The declaration of God’s goodness at the meal would begin with the words, “I love the LORD, for…”. In today’s text the psalmist declares his love “for” the Lord has heard his cry for mercy. He had been overwhelmed by “trouble and sorrow”, but the Lord answered his prayer. Evidently the psalmist had either been very close to a literal death, or else he passed through a time of such great difficulty that it felt like “death entangled” him. When the “anguish of the grave” swept over him the Lord heard his voice.
The psalmist cannot remain silent. He is compelled to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell others what God has done for him. Although Jesus Christ is God’s perfect and final sacrifice for sin, we are still to offer sacrifices to God, those being sacrifices of praise. In the Book of Hebrews we are commanded: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
We are to tell God and others, “I love the LORD, for...”
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