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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:I Love the LORD
Text:Psalms 116:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 18:1,10                                                                                    

Ps 5:1,3,9

Reading – Psalm 116

Ps 116:2,3,4,5

Sermon – Psalm 116:1

Ps 116:1,7,8

Hy 77:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, when you’re in love, you want to talk about it. Maybe people remember that about when they first met that “special someone.” You found a way to mention him in almost every conversation. Because your love was so intense, everything was connected back to her. Later on too, you can tell a lot about the love between husband and wife from the way they speak about each other, and how they like to mention one another. Sure, there can be a secrecy to love, where for a time you share it only with your diary. But if love is real, and living, it’ll be expressed.

That’s what we hear in Psalm 116. This is a song of exuberant thanksgiving. And the Psalmist begins with what his heart is full of, with what’s moving through him constantly: “I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications” (v 1). He loves God, and he wants to tell that to anyone who listens.

It’s a song of thanksgiving, we said, because God has delivered him from trouble. It’s a personal “thank you,” but one that is shared in the presence of the congregation. We’re allowed to listen in on his words, so some call this psalm a testimony. It’s a declaration of his confidence in God, an outburst of his affection for God: “I love the LORD.”

This is what the Psalmist says. And this is what every believer ought to be able to say without hesitation: “I love the LORD.” And the child of God has so many reasons to say that, and to keep saying it. Because of who the LORD is, because of what God has done, because of what He is yet to do, we love him!

That’s always true, isn’t it? When love can point out the reason, when love has a foundation, that love is strong and lasting. So this morning let’s consider why we can love God so much, and how we can love Him more. I preach to you from Psalm 116:1,

           The child of God declares his love for God:

                          1)  what the LORD has done

2)  what his child will do


1)     what the LORD has done: They sometimes say that love is blind—that it overlooks a world of faults, and it can embrace someone regardless of foibles and weaknesses. That’s probably true. Yet when we love God, our affection has its eyes wide open. For the Psalmist, love is aflame in his soul for this one, principal reason: God saved him!

Now, there is lots that we don’t know about the Psalmist. We don’t know who he was. We don’t know what trouble he was facing. But we do know that it was severe. This was no minor problem: “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me” (v 3). He was just about to die. It might’ve been a dangerous sickness. Or it might’ve been cruel attacks from people he once trusted. The Psalmist felt like he’d been tormented, enslaved, almost killed. He despaired of life itself.

But he didn’t die, of course. Because now he’s looking back. He’s remembering, and he’s doing so from a safe place—a place where every threat has been removed, and where there are no more chains. He’s at peace.

As he sits in safety, he hears an echo: it’s the echo of his cries of distress. In his trouble, he had gone to the Lord in prayer, again and again. Just take a look at all the different references to prayer in the first four verses. He says: “God heard my voice, and my supplications. I call upon him. I called on his Name. I implore you…” In that time of grievous hardship, he’d seeking God, reaching out to Him as his lifeline. Sometimes praying out loud, sometimes quietly. Sometimes with many words, sometimes with that simple cry for help: “Deliver my soul” (v 4).

And this is what God has done: “He has heard my voice and my supplications!” (v 1). Those anguished cries haven’t been ignored, but those prayers have been answered. As the Psalmist tells us what happened, he paints a beautiful picture of God listening to him. Look at verse 2, “He has inclined his ear to me.”

When you incline your ear, you’re tilting your head to one side so that you can hear better. Sometimes people who have hearing loss do this: they turn their head slightly towards the person speaking, to try and capture the sound better. Maybe a better image is that of a parent, listening to his child. The child is short, the parent is tall, so Dad inclines his ear so that he can hear.

God listened to the prayers of his child, and He was fully attentive. For this is what God does: He listens to our voice! Consider how Psalm 65 addresses the LORD, “O you who hear prayer, to you all flesh will come” (v 2). When we pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, our prayers don’t bounce off the ceiling and fall to the ground. Our prayers don’t disappear into the atmosphere, or get stored in “the Cloud.” God inclines his ear and He hears our prayers.

So this is what the Psalmist declares, “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications” (v 1). Notice that this is the reason he gives for his testimony, the motivation for his praise: God has heard him.

Now, when we think about that, we might want to quibble, put in our objection: Shouldn’t we love God simply because of who He is, not for what He does for us? Isn’t it enough of a reason to adore God because He is holy and majestic and almighty? Our love for God should never be conditioned on what we get from God, like his answer to our prayers, or like his blessing on our plans.

There’s a bit of truth to that. The LORD is worthy of honour and praise in Himself, as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, as the King and Judge of all. We do love God for who He is, in his nature—we love that He is almighty, that He is holy, that He is immutable and righteous. We don’t just love the mercies of God, we love the God of mercies!

But it’s impossible to separate them. We can’t build a wall between God’s everlasting character, and then how we experience his character every day. The Triune God reveals himself to us by his actions—always has. He shows Himself in real life. We can taste and see that the LORD is good! So we love Him!

This is what the author of the psalm discovered: “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple” (vv 5-6). And how did he know this about God? Through his salvation, through the recent deliverance. “I was brought low, and He saved me” (v 6).

Whatever it was distressing him, God took it away. If it was an illness, God had healed it. If it was the betrayal of a friend, God gave vindication. If it was guilt, God forgave. Whatever it was, the author rejoices to say this, “You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (v 8). The answer to his prayers had come, he’d experienced the goodness and power of the LORD in real life, so now he proclaims his love.

And this is where we need to join in. We love our God, because He is a great God, and because He’s done great things. For we’re not so different from the author of this psalm. We said we don’t know what his trouble was exactly, but it sounds a lot like what we face. And by trouble I don’t just mean sickness, or work-related stress, or betrayal, or lack of money, or even persecution. I mean the power and the deadliness of sin!

This is our deepest trouble—our heaviest burden by far. If this isn’t dealt with, we’re totally lost. We can have everything in the world, even the happiest and most successful life, but without someone to save us from our sin and the death penalty that it deserves, we have nothing. But if sin is forgiven, and we are made right with God, then everything else is put into place. If God gives us Christ, then together with Him, He’ll give us all things we need.

God delivered the Psalmist, and God delivers us. The pains of death surrounded us, and the pangs of hell laid hold of us. Because of our sinfulness, all of us are by nature objects of wrath. All people are naturally captive to the power of the devil, where the only thing we want to do—the only thing that we can do—is live in open revolt against God’s law. It’s a miserable thing to be a sinner, to be hopeless and without true freedom.

But thanks be to God, He has saved us from the pains of death. In the power of Jesus Christ, He has delivered us. He broke our chains, and set us free. “Gracious is the LORD and righteous; yes, our God is merciful.”

Our text tells us just how good the LORD is. We get to hear that God shows his goodness to everyone who confesses his Name! That He gladly welcomes all who believe in Him, whatever our past. In fact, God has led and directed our whole life for this purpose—that we would come to know Him rightly. God puts people around us who can teach us about Him. God makes sure we hear his gospel. God causes things to happen in our life—even very difficult things—so that the end result is us, calling on the LORD, seeking Him, asking for his deliverance.

And this is what the LORD has done: He has washed us from our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus makes you clean. His Spirit keeps you clean, and helps you to love Him more. For God has brought us into covenant with himself through Christ. Yes, He opens the way to the Father, and for Jesus’ sake the Father “inclines his ear.” He leans down, ready to listen. For as our God, He wants to hear our prayers, and He’s ready to answer.

This psalm shows us that great privilege of the child of God, the privilege of calling on the LORD. Beloved, set your entire life before God in prayer: your burdens, your joys, your fears, your thanksgiving, your requests. He’s the God who hears prayer, who delights to hear prayer, and to answer prayer.

It’s true that God doesn’t answer every prayer according to what we ask. Every one of God’s children have learned this, but it’s a lesson that needs learning more than once, even throughout our life. His answer can be a long time in coming. Yes, God did a great thing and He delivered the Psalmist, just like he prayed for. But how many more of his prayers were answered in a different way? And how long did it take for that answer to come?

Sometimes we want something so badly, and we pray for it so hard, so sincerely—and it’s a good thing that we’re praying for!—yet God doesn’t grant our request. We start to think that He’s not inclining his ear toward us, but He’s looking the other way. Then it can be hard to persevere in prayer, to keep going to Him.

I say this, not to lessen at all the need for us to pray. But for us to realize that God is God, perfectly wise in all He does, perfectly good. And sometimes what we wish for and hope for isn’t the same as what God has planned. He leads in a different way, a difficult way. He sends a hardship, and not a blessing. He seems silent, not responsive. But the Father still bends down to hear us. He still cares for us, because that’s what He has promised in his Word and at our baptism.

And while we wait for his answer, God is pointing us to what matters most. That we know Him, and can be satisfied in Him. Like we said before: If our sin is forgiven, and we have peace with God, then everything else has its proper place. If God has given us Christ, then He’ll also give all things we need in his service.


2)     what his child will do: So what’s the response of the child of God to the LORD’s great mercy? What is our response? It can only be to say, “I love the LORD.” In verse 1 the Psalmist wants to tell us about his deep affection for God. And not just in verse 1, throughout the psalm you can hear it: the author’s heart is full of the joy and devotion produced by love. It’s a beautiful thing when a person is moved in all things by love for the LORD, when a person just enjoys God, and delights to be with Him.

Now, it’s true that this love for God was required. Jesus calls it the first and greatest commandment, and God’s people have always been expected to obey it. Love was required in the law, but it was never automatic. It’s only produced in a person by the working of God’s grace, when a sinner knows that God has been good to him, that he’s been saved without any merit of his own.

That’s how it was for the Psalmist, we said. God showed him great mercy by answering his prayer for salvation, so he’ll give his reply: “I love the LORD.” Let’s say a bit more about that word “love.” Because we don’t always have a very substantial idea of love; it can be a bit feeble, kind of anaemic. We throw love around like confetti, for we love lots of things: fishing, wine, books, sports, toys, cars. We love this, and we love that. But next month our love might’ve moved on to something else.

The verb “love” in our text is much stronger. It carries the flavour of dedication, of commitment and longevity. This is meant to be a love that lasts, an affection that endures. God gets that across to us when He commands us in his Word, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is full-on love, love to maximum, love without an expiry date. God says: “Take all that you know, all that you have, all you are, and love me with every bit of it—always!”

If you look closely, that’s what has the focus in Psalm 116. It begins with that public declaration, “I love the LORD.” But that’s not all that the author says, and that’s not all that he does. In the rest of the psalm he puts his love into practice. For us also, it’s all too easy to agree that we love God, that we believe in God. It’s too easy for us to sit in church and say the words and sing the songs. Words can be so empty and cheap. But what comes next? How does your confession lead to action? Your words to deeds?

For the Psalmist, this was the vital question. We see it in verse 12. The LORD has been good to him—hearing his prayer, saving him from death, restoring his life. So this is what he asks, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?” He wants to do something!

That’s the question that anyone who has been saved by God will ask: “How can I repay the LORD?” And the answer: You can’t. His gift is too precious, his mercy too rich, his salvation so undeserved, you could spend your whole life trying to pay it back to God, but not get anywhere. Because God is God, and you’re a sinner, you’re out of your depth.

Even so, notice what the Psalmist does. He’ll give his entire life to private worship and public devotion. It’s already in verse 2, “Because He has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” That’s quite a commitment: “I will call upon God as long as I live.” But why wouldn’t we? When we pray, we are speaking with the Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth. We know He can do great things, that He will do great things. So someone who loves God wants to talk with God. If we love God, we want to pour out our whole life before Him, because we know that we need his blessing, and his guidance, and his mercy.

The child of God will pray. And then the child of God will also live for God. The Psalmist says, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (v 9). That’s a rich image for our closeness with the Lord—walking. When you walk with someone, just the two of you, you’re attentive to the other. You listen when they speak. You’re mindful of where they step. You both stay on the path that’s been chosen.

So for us and the LORD. He’s in heaven, we’re on earth, but we can walk with him. It means that we are always attentive to God’s voice in the Word. What does He want you to do? Where does He want you to go? If we love God, we want to walk with God, every day, and everywhere. Then there’s no secret place of your life where God is not welcome, but you want to follow his lead in everything.

And then we give back to God, because we want to thank Him. Notice how that’s where the Psalmist ends up. He says that salvation has put him into God’s service: “O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant” (v 16). Now his whole life will be for this: doing the will of the LORD.

Beloved, it’s not any different for the child of God today. The Lord has saved us through his Son, redeemed us from death, and given us his Holy Spirit. We love God for this, and we want to do something to show God our love. This is how to do it: Be God’s eager servant, his happy slave. In all your life, do his will!

When we get to the New Testament, this is what the Spirit tells us, “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3). It’s just like in human relationships: when you really love someone, you don’t just want to talk about them, but you want to serve them. You take a pleasure in doing their will (most of the time). Love means that we’ll do what is hard, what might require us to deny ourselves. Love means that their will is our will.

So also if we love God, our Father in Christ. If you say “I love the LORD,” then listen to what the LORD says. “This is what God wants me to do, so I’ll do it. I’ll go God’s way, not because it’s easier, but because I love him, and because of the great things that He’s done for me.”

For the Psalmist, he was so serious about devoting his life to God that he even made a vow about it. He probably made this vow when he was in trouble, when he was feeling the pains of death. Then the Psalmist must’ve promised that if the LORD saved him, he’d live for God. The LORD had saved him, so now the Psalmist says, “I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all his people” (v 14). Just as he promised, he’ll present his gifts and he’ll offer praise.

For us too, because we love God, we want to be dedicated to Him. We want to give him our whole life. We love God, because He’s given every reason. He has saved us in Christ Jesus, He has transformed us by his Spirit, He has become our God and Father. Yes, “this is love,” says John, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Brothers and sisters, may this great love of God move you to love Him, to love him more, to love him truly, now and always.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2017, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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