Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!"
John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life."
"But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us."
"All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'"
Psalm 116 is a thanksgiving psalm. We do not know for sure if the psalmist wrote it with any particular occasion in mind or if he had in mind the many ways he had experienced God at work on his behalf in the past. We are simply not told.
What we do know is that the psalmist had experienced God’s gracious intervention in His life. This is captured in verses 1-11. God heard his voice and his prayers; when the cords of death encompassed him, when terror came upon him, when he was in distress and sorrow—the Lord saved his life! He experienced the grace and righteousness of God and so much more. That’s all a big deal!
The psalmist asks what he can give God or do for God because of all the benefits he has received from His hand. But what strikes me is where he resolves to give the testimony of God’s goodness! Twice in this Psalm he declares that it should be in the presence of the people. “To Thee I shall offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, oh may it be in the presence of all the people.” (verses 13-14, 17-18).
Personal expressions of thanksgiving are important. We should be in the practice of “offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving” because of God’s answer to our prayers; because of His consolation in times of distress and sorrow; because of His salvation; because He is God and we are the His people, the sheep of His pasture.
But there is something powerful that we can experience when we offer up the testimony of thanksgiving and praise before others. God’s work and glory are magnified and our faith and joy are increased.
In times like this we can become accustomed to sharing stories of fears and woes. But if we dwell there, we can become very self-absorbed and our spiritual vision clouded when it comes to God’s activity in our lives. We must be faithful to give God His due and share with each other stories of how and where we have seen God at work: where we have seen His favor; where we have experienced His rescue; where we have witnessed His glory. Not in any way that is dismissive of hardship or that calls attention to ourselves—quite the contrary. In a way that puts hardship into perspective and magnifies the Lord.
What do you need to make known to others about the work and wonder of God? Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Someone’s faith may grow weaker if you don’t. Someone’s faith may grow stronger if you do. Including yours!
Prayer: Lord, may my tongue set afire an inferno of your glory in the hearts of men.