Psalm 116

I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

–Psalm 116:1-2 (ESV)

Psalm 116, like many other psalms, is a salvation story.  The first two verses boldly declare the main theme of the text.  Verse 3 states the author’s plight: “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.”  The psalmist’s desperate cry in v. 4 is answered in vv. 5-9.  The rest of Psalm 116 is contains the psalmist’s reaction to the salvation of the Lord.

228, “I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life”

After a long stretch of American-style psalms (106-115) in the Psalter Hymnal, we return to a Genevan setting for Psalm 116.  Rev. William Kuipers is the author of this excellent 10-stanza versification.  Although the lyrics are quite easy to understand, the singer needs to be mentally focused in order to preserve the flow of thought in each stanza.  In one or two places, Rev. Kuipers shines a well-placed New Testament light on the text—for instance, in stanza 9, “Redeemed by grace I’ll render as a token/Of gratitude my constant praise to Thee.”

SACRIFICE OF PRAISE is one of my favorite Genevan tunes.   The Psalter Hymnal preserves its original rhythm, although the parts were re-harmonized by Seymour Swets in 1954.  For congregations unfamiliar with the tune, I can only think of one or two difficult spots: the long note on a weak syllable at the beginning of each line, and the fermata at the end of the second and third lines.  To avoid running into trouble here, consider playing through an entire stanza before singing, and execute the fermatas with a consistent duration (I usually treat them as whole notes).  However, as with most music, perfection of this tune’s tempo and other properties can be achieved only by becoming familiar with it.

Overall, I can attest to the integrity of number 228.  While my own congregation is often weak with regard to the Genevan psalms, they sing this setting of Psalm 116 with confidence.  One of its most applicable spots in worship is as a song of redemption immediately after the reading of the law and the assurance of pardon.  Don’t be afraid to use it!

229, “I Love the Lord, for My Request”

Not much needs to be said about number 229, the American-style counterpart to “I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life.”  The text?  Solid—a typical 1912 Psalter setting.  The tune?  Familiar and easy to sing.   The one challenge with CANONBURY is determining how long to hold the end of each line.  I would suggest normal quarter notes at the end of the first, second, and third lines, and a dotted half note at the end of the final line.   On the organ, come off these final notes promptly as a cue to the singers.

230, “What Shall I Render to the Lord”

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“What Shall I Render to the Lord” is simply a continuation of the previous selection, versifying Psalm 116:12-19.  The only difference is its tune, WALLACE.  The combination of 2/2 meter, low key, and limited melodic range give this tune a meditative chant-like quality.  If WALLACE is unfamiliar for your congregation, a possible alternate would be ROCKINGHAM OLD (number 26).  Then again, just about any long-meter (8.8.8.8.) tune could be implemented for number 230—if treated appropriately to match the words!

I love the Lord, for my request
And humble plea He makes His care;
In Him through life my faith shall rest,
For He both hears and answers prayer.

–MRK

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