I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call [out to Him] as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”… For You, [Lord,] rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living (vv. 1-4, 8-9).
I’ll never forget the day I discovered that our senior editor at Singspiration Music, Norman Johnson, was terminally ill. I watched him cope with the vicissitudes of suffering for eight years as he battled Lou Gehrig’s disease. About a week before he died, he called and asked me to represent the music industry in making some comments at his funeral. He died while listening to Handels Messiah. The “Hallelujah Chorus” was beautifully and victoriously rendered at his memorial service in an arrangement he penned. My dear friend Norm went out in a blaze of glory!
Once you’ve stared death in the face, it is no longer the fearsome specter that lurks in childhood dreams. In fact, at that moment, God’s reality and ultimate victory over death is never more evident.
The bad news of this psalm is that the psalmist, nearing death, was overcome with self-pity and defeat. Briefly, during this episode, life was the pits. The good news is that he didn’t rely on human resources to pull him through. Though there is a place for medicine and Christian ministry to the hurting, this psalmist went beyond all such aid and directly into the presence of the Great Physician, the Wonderful Counselor. Furthermore, the Lord heard and answered, choosing to demonstrate his graciousness and compassion (v. 8-9).
A certain responsibility accompanies great deliverance. For the rest of his life, this psalmist wont forget God’s loving mercy. Adversity has enriched his life. Suffering has purged him of superficiality. Like Job, he can say, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 NIV).
O Lord, I don’t have to experience serious illness to know your mercy and grace. You are the Lord of my life… and the Victor over death!