Fulfill Your Vows to the LORD

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (Ps. 116:14, ESV). Do you remember making a promise to the Lord? Did you fulfill your vows?

I remember back in college when I promised the Lord that I will obey His call for me to be a pastor. But I did not want to be a pastor. For many years, I served the Lord. I preached. I taught Bible studies. I reached out to prisoners at BBRC every Sunday for four years. I organized missions conferences. I served the Lord, but not as a pastor.

Then after many years, I discerned a strong sense of God’s calling. I discerned that I will become a pastor of this church. I and Mylene prayed about it.

One day, the chairman of the board visited our house with a letter. I told him, “I know what that letter is about. You are calling me to be your pastor.” He dropped his mouth and said, “How did you know?” I told him that six months before, the Lord has impressed on me that I will pastor the church.

I’m glad that I fulfilled my vows to the Lord.

What have you vowed to do for the Lord? Did you vow to give something to the Lord? Do it today! Did you vow to serve the Lord? Do it today!

How many times did you tell God, “God, if you help me on this, I will go to church?” Are you in church now? “Lord, if you will heal my mother, I will serve you.” Are you serving God now? “Lord, help me find work, and I will give to the church.” Are you giving to the work of the Lord now?

God answers our prayers. But we forget our vows.

What do you render to the Lord for all His benefits? You fulfill your vows to Him. You keep your promises.

It is not enough to just say, “Thank you Lord.” You must do something for the Lord.

Ask yourself this question again. What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits? Let us follow the psalmist. “I will lift up the cup of salvation. I will call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD.”


Precious in the Sight of the LORD

In Ps. 116:15, the psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15 ESV). Many have preached funeral sermons on this verse. But I’ve not yet heard a solid reason taken from Psalms, as to why the death of God’s saints is precious. The usual reasons are taken from outside of Psalm 116, such as, the preciousness of God’s children, the love of God, etc. But I have yet to hear the reason of the psalmist. Why did the psalmist say that the death of the saints is precious to God?

The word, “precious,” means, “costly.” Why is it costly? The reason is that when the saints die, the praises die with them.[1] No praise for God comes out of death and Sheol (Ps. 6:5; 30:9; 88:10; 115:17). But in the context of Psalm 116, the psalmist wants to praise the Lord for His deliverance. The implication is that the Lord values the praises of his people. But when the saints die, their praises die with them. That is why it is costly to lose the praises of his saints.

But the Lord has saved the psalmist from death. Therefore, he will fulfill his vows to praise the LORD. He is the servant of the LORD. “O LORD,” the psalmist wrote, “I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds” (Psalm 116:16, ESV). He will serve the LORD as long as he lives. Indeed, a grateful heart is a serving heart.

[1] Mays, Psalms, 370.

I Will Fulfill My Vows to the LORD

How many of you here are married? Do you remember your wedding vows?  It’s okay. I also don’t remember my wedding vows.

Traditional Wedding Vow:
I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

The important thing is not that you remember your wedding vows, but that you live your wedding vows.

In Ps. 116:14, the psalmist says, “I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” He was in the grip of death. He cried out to the Lord. The Lord heard him and saved him from death.

In grateful response, he asked himself what he should render to the Lord for all his benefits? He answered, “I will lift up the cup of salvation.” “I will call on the name of the Lord.”

Now he says, “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord.” Perhaps he remembered when he made a promise to God. But he did not keep it. Now, he will make it a point to fulfill his vows to the Lord.

He will not do it in secret. He will fulfill his vows to the LORD before His people. Why—Because the acts of God are for all to see and for all to hear for the glory of God.

I Will Call on the Name of the LORD

In 2009, my wife, Mylene, was missing for three days while in Manila. She was unreachable by cell phone. Nobody knew where she went in Manila. On the third day, she called from SM Fairview. She had amnesia. She couldn’t remember where she slept or ate. But she remembered me.

After one week, she arrived in Cebu. I brought her to the doctor. She was diagnosed as having brain aneurism, which caused her amnesia. Aneurism is a ballooning of a part of a blood vessel. When the aneurism increases in size, rupture occurs, resulting to complications or death. I asked the doctor to operate on her aneurism on Friday within the week.

On Thursday night, I held her hands and told her. “You know, life is short. We will serve the Lord.”  Then I prayed, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or the earth brought forth its fruit, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. This is something that you alone can solve. You alone can save her, O Lord. You alone can do a miracle. You have brought her this far. I believe you will save her!”

It was a good thing that they operated on her on Friday. The blood vessel was already leaking. Any day longer could have killed her. We thank God that the operation was a success.

I asked her, “What do you no longer remember?” She said, “I no longer remember most of my painful memories.” But she could remember some pleasant memories. Isn’t that a blessing—to forget the pain and recall the pleasant? What a beautiful blessing from God!

In v. 4, the psalmist already called on the name of the LORD. (READ v. 4) But in v. 13, he will again call on the name of the LORD. This time, his call will be part of a thanksgiving ritual in the house of the LORD. He will do it in the Temple, the house of God. “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. . . in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem” (Ps. 116:17, 19, ESV). His call on the LORD is part of his offering of the sacrifice of thanksgiving in the house of the LORD.

This means that his call on the LORD is not a prayer for help, but a proclamation of His praise and thanksgiving.[1] It will be during worship and not just in times of distress.

Every Wednesday, each one in our prayer group would recall the blessings of the Lord, answered prayer, words of Scripture, etc. We would thank the Lord and encourage one another. Then we would call on the Lord in praise and thanksgiving.

Do you call on the Lord only in times of trouble? I encourage you to rise to the next level of prayer. Call on the Lord as part of worship in the church. Make prayer a vital part of worship in church. It is in prayer that the church gives herself to the Lord.

For prayer is but an act of giving ourselves to God. That is the value of prayer. In prayer, we give ourselves. In prayer, we do not pay God something. Rather, we give ourselves to God.[2] That is prayer.

In going to church or serving God, we can say to God, “God, you have given me something. Now, I will give you something.” But in prayer, you give nothing to God, except yourself. That is the value of prayer.

[1] Carl Bosma, Introduction to Psalm 116: “Love and Gratitude No Matter What.” Cited September 29, 2012. Online: http:// worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/i-love-the-lord-psalm-116/, n18.

[2] Jerry Hoek, “What Is the Goal of One’s Prayer Life?” Cited September 30, 2012. Online: http://www.faithcrc.net/?p=740

Death in Life

Death to the psalmist is different from what we understand of it today. We learn five things about death in the words of the psalmist. First, death is equivalent to Sheol—the place of the dead. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me” (v. 3).The “snares of death” are the same as the “pangs of Sheol” that lay hold of him. To him, the condition of feeling dead and the place of the dead are one and the same. Thus, the realm of death infiltrates the realm of life.[1]

Second, the psalmist is already in the hands of death. Note his words in v. 3, “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me.”  He is already in the power of death.

Third, to the psalmist, death in his life is being dead to life. After his deliverance, he says, he shall walk in the land of the living (v. 9). Conversely, in death, he lives in Sheol, so to speak, in the land of the dead. Death to him is not being there in life. He is like a “zombie,” a “walking dead.”

There is a TV series in 2010 entitled, “The Walking Dead.” In the drama, the zombies are called, “walkers.” The walkers walk aimlessly, but when they hear noise, they would go to the source of the noise. They would devour any living thing they catch. Their bite is infectious to humans. In the series, any uninfected person who dies comes back as a walking dead.

Death then is lifelessness, powerlessness, and helplessness. Ps. 88:3-4, “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength.” You eat, sleep, walk, and work every day. But you are lifeless, lacking the divine spark in your life.

Fourth, no word of praise or thanks comes out of Sheol. “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise” (Ps. 6:5, ESV)? There is no worship of God in Sheol. Being in death, the psalmist’s life therefore is marked by a lack of worship of God. Is your life marked by a lack of worship of the living God? You are living in death.

Fifth, death to the psalmist also means trouble and sorrow. “I suffered distress and anguish” (v. 3). Death to him is tears and stumbling. “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (v. 8). Note that the word, “death,” is parallel in meaning to “tears” and “stumbling.” Where the psalmist is in distress and anguish, he is in the power of death.

God’s deliverance from death, then, is a “liberation of life.”[2] God’s salvation is freedom from a state of death to a state of life. That is why he says that he shall walk in the land of the living (v. 9). God’s deliverance to the psalmist is an emancipation from a life of lifelessness and helplessness. It is a release from the shackles of distress and anguish.

Thus, the psalmist will thank God by lifting up the cup of salvation. The cup of salvation then is a drink offering of thanksgiving for his deliverance from death.

Do you live like the dead? Is your spiritual life lifeless? Do trouble and sorrow lay hold of you today? Do you feel like you lack the strength to move on in life? Is your life lacking a desire to worship God? Are you a walking dead?

Let me tell you the good news. Jesus Christ offers you the cup of salvatio­­­­­n. It is a cup that He paid for on the cross. Drink from His cup of salvation and you will live!

Matt. 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Drink from His cup and He will save you from death. He will forgive your sins. He will liberate you from death unto newness of life! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has . . . passed from death to life” (John 5:24, ESV).

Take His cup of salvation by faith. Turn from your sin and trust Jesus as your personal Savior. That is one way to repay the LORD.

[1] James L. Mays, Psalms (Int.; ed. James L. Mays; Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 370.

[2] Mays, Psalms, 370.

I Will Lift Up the Cup of Salvation

In Ps. 116:19, the psalmist wants to go to the temple in Jerusalem. He will go the courts of the house of the LORD. There, he will bring sacrifices.

He will lift up the cup of salvation (v. 12). The cup of salvation is parallel to the sacrifice of thanksgiving in v. 17. He wrote in v. 17, “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 116:17). The cup of salvation points to the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Thus, this cup is the drink offering associated with the thanksgiving meal (Lev. 7:11-21). It was a drink offering that was drunk after a meal that concluded with a thank offering. The drink offering with the thank offering, expressed “thanksgiving for the blessings of salvation.”[1]

How then will the psalmist repay the LORD? He will lift up the cup of salvation. He will celebrate his salvation from death. He gives the reason in vv. 8-9, “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 116:8-9).

[1] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 982.

How Can I Repay the LORD?

I read about a true story of a doctor named, Chuck, who had cancer. He suffered during treatment. The chemotherapy destroyed his appetite. He could not swallow. He became very thin his kids did not recognize him. Chemo weakened his immune system. But eventually, Chuck completed treatment.

A month later, the cancer was back, the doctor said. The levels were higher than before. Being a doctor himself, he knew that the return of a cancer this strong and quick meant only one thing—death.

Fortunately, he soon found out that someone in the lab made a mistake. Somebody switched his results with that of another patient, who had not even been through treatment. Chuck’s cancer was gone and did not reappear many years later.

Chuck was so grateful that he said, “I’m going to live. . . I’m going to see my kids grow up. I’m going to grow old with my wife. I’m going to live.”

“He was filled with a gratitude he had never known. He couldn’t stop touching his kids or hugging his wife. Things that had bothered him before faded into utter insignificance. He was going to live-and suddenly he . . . experienced the truth that life is a gift.”[1]

We see the same grateful response from the psalmist in Ps. 116. In v. 3, he wrote, “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” (ESV) This guy was in deep trouble. In v. 11, his problem has something to do with lying and falsehood.

Whatever it was, he cried out to the Lord. He wrote, “Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul” (Psalm 116:4, ESV)! The Lord answered his prayer. Then he responded gratefully with praise to our God. “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:5-7, ESV).

He was filled with gratitude. So he asks the question—“What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me” (v. 12)? The verb, “render” (Heb. shub), means, “bring back” in the hiphil stem. He is really asking himself, “How shall I repay the LORD?” In other words, he is asking how he can best show thanks to God. In grateful response, he puts on himself an obligation to repay the LORD.

That is the question that you and I should ask today. How can I repay the LORD for all His benefits? This question calls for an obligation of grateful reply.

In Ps. 116, we learn three ways that we can repay the LORD.

[1] John Ortberg, Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 64-65.

What Shall I Repay the Lord?

Sermon preached at the church anniversary of Christian Faith Bible Church, Bantayan, Cebu, Sept. 30, 2012

I’d like to thank you for inviting me on this special occasion. I’d like to thank the Alota, Repique, and Dukay families for their gracious hospitality. The bed I slept in was so big—three guys can sleep in it. The pillows were very soft. The food was good. Your Christian hospitality was warm. I had a great time since I arrived in your beautiful place!

When Pastor Camilo told me that your theme verse is Ps. 116:12, I thought to myself, “What a beautiful way to celebrate a church anniversary.”

This Psalm is a very personal psalm of a personal experience of the psalmist. It is a song of thanksgiving, which is appropriate for us today. We give thanks for our 7th church anniversary. Psalm 116 is also a song of praise for one who was saved from a deadly situation.

The King of Glory (Conclusion)

God is the King of the earth. He is the King of glory who conquers the enemies of Israel. He is strong and mighty in battle. He is the LORD of hosts. He comes to His city and approaches the city gates. He is welcomed and recognized as the King of glory. He comes up to His holy hill. He lives in His holy tabernacle. He is to be worshiped. He is to be adored.

But the qualifications of worship are not outward ceremony, but inward character. True worship of the King of glory requires a pure heart. It requires pure thought and action. It requires faithfulness to God and the truth. It requires faithfulness to one’s neighbor. It requires absolute aversion to anything that is against the character of God.

If you worship like that, you will receive blessing and righteousness from the God of your salvation. Such is the character of people who worship Him.

Yahweh is the Conquering King of Glory

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

  • Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!

Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

  • Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah (Psalm 24:7-10 ESV)

The third part of the psalm pictures the Levites carrying the ark toward the gates of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12-19). In the battles of Israel, they always carry the ark of God. The ark of God symbolizes the presence of God. It also symbolizes the victories of God in Israel’s wars. The arrival of the ark pictures the approach of a conquering warrior king to take residence in his holy hill.

Ps. 24:7-10 is in the form of an entrance liturgy. In v. 7, there is the call for entry into the gates. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (v. 7).

In v. 8a, there is the question about who will enter. “Who is this King of glory” (v. 8)?

In v. 8b-c, there is the announcement of the name of the one coming in. “The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle” (v. 8)!

The liturgy is repeated in vv. 9-10. There is the call for entry into the gates in v. 9. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (v. 9).

There is the question about who will enter in v. 10a. “Who is this King of glory” (v. 10a)?

There is the answer in v. 10b. “The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah” (v. 10b). The words in v. 8 are repeated in v. 10, to emphasize the identity of the king.

The main highlight is the identity of the King of glory in vv. 8, 10. In v. 8, the King of glory is Yahweh, the LORD. He is “strong and mighty” and “mighty in battle.” He defeats Israel’s enemies. He is the strength of Israel in battle.

In v. 10, the King of glory is the “LORD of hosts.” The title, “LORD of hosts,” signifies power and strength against Israel’s enemies (Ps. 46:7, 11). It signifies the power of the LORD over the armies of heaven, who hear His call and obey His orders (Ps. 82:1).