Scripture Focus: Psalm 116.1-2
1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Reflection: Hymn of Hope — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman
Advent isn’t shy about acknowledging pain and darkness. Advent happens as the world gets darker specifically to remind us that it is into the darkest dark that Jesus came and from the darkest dark that Jesus ignites the light of salvation. Psalm 116 is a lament that never loses sight of salvation’s light and cycles continually back to thankfulness and praise.
Hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote a hymn based on Psalm 116 in 1719. The hymn was later adopted and adapted by African-American churches and the gospel tradition. In 1990, gospel music artist Richard Smallwood wrote new music to the adapted text based on versions he experienced. The work was featured on the soundtrack of the Whitney Houston Christmas film The Preacher’s Wife. The opening phrase closely follows the psalm and Watts’s interpretation.
“I love the the Lord
He heard my cry
And pitied every groan
Long as I live
And troubles rise
I hasten to his throne”
— I Love the Lord, sung by Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack
The psalmist agrees with Watts that troubles rise. The psalmist was “greatly afflicted” and alarmed, saying, “Everyone is a liar,” still, they trusted in the Lord. (Psalm 116.10-11). Death features repeatedly in Psalm 116. The psalmist has been delivered from death to the land of the living. In the end, despite darkness and trouble, the psalmist hastened to the temple courts to give an offering of thanks, praise, and obedience.
Thanksgiving and love are connected to lament. One often leads to another. When we love the Lord, rising troubles lead us to raise laments to God. When we lament, we reflect not only on the suffering of the moment but the salvation of the past. When we remember how good God has been to us and his promises for the future, we respond in hope with thanksgiving.
In this season and every season, no matter what your troubles are, the Lord pities every groan. His Holy Spirit groans with ours when we have no words. (Romans 8.26) Our hope is not only that we can hasten to his temple and throne of mercy but that Jesus hastens to us in response. His Advent brings his presence, compassion, and care.
Reminding ourselves of what Jesus has done and that he hastens to us, we can say, as the psalmist does, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116.7)
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For god, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
2 Chronicles 8 (Listen 3:02)
Psalms 116 (Listen 1:34)
2 Chronicles 9 (Listen 5:07) Psalms 117-118 (Listen 2:52)
2 Chronicles 10 (Listen 3:01) Psalms 119.1-24 (Listen 1:34)
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