Psalm 16 is a psalm of confidence. Here David moves from a very short petition (verse 1) to expressions of passionate commitment to God and His people (verses 2-6) to a conclusion of confident praise (verses 7-11). This is a very personal hymn of joy that really focuses on the goodness of God. So personal is this psalm that David uses the word ‘my’ over a dozen times. He proclaims he finds his delight only in the Lord and confesses that everything good in his life has come from the Lord. This psalm became central in the preaching of the apostles in the early church. See Acts 2:22-31. Peter referenced this psalm in his Pentecost message and Paul used it when he spoke in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. This psalm may have been written shortly after the Lord gave him His covenant and assured David of his enduring throne. See 2 Samuel 7. This covenant was eventually fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of David. The style of David’s response to the covenant in 2 Samuel is very similar to this psalm. It is a combination of joy, praise to God, humility, and submission to the divine will. David praised the Lord in this psalm, showing three descriptions of the Lord, all of which can be applied to Jesus today.
First of all David speaks of the Lord of life. He begins this psalm by asking the Lord to preserve him or keep him safe. This doesn’t necessarily mean David was in trouble or danger. It is more likely David was asking for God’s constant presence and care so that he could honor the Lord and enjoy all the blessings He offered to His people. David feels safe here because he knows that the Lord alone offers security. And from this strong sense of confidence David is able to boast that his goodness comes from the Lord. David even shares with the people of God the enjoyment of God’s presence. Psalm 73 tells us the Lord is our highest good and greatest treasure and we read in James 1:17 that He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. God meets us with the blessings of good things and His goodness follows us until we reach the Father’s house. Psalm 23:6. And, when Jesus is our Savior and refuge, we experience God’s goodness even in the midst of trials.
The psalmist moves to other people. We do not live the Christian life alone because we are part of a much larger family. We are connected to believers past, present and future…the great cloud of witnesses. And, we need each other. David speaks of two groups of people, the believers in the land and those who want nothing do with worshiping the Lord. He refers to the godly people as Saints in the land. These people trust God and obey His covenant. They are set apart for the Lord, and they take seriously the command to be holy because the Lord is holy. Exodus 19 tells us Israel was a kingdom of priests and 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us we are called to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession. In the NASB translation David calls these believers majestic ones, a word that carries the meaning of excellence, nobility and glory. From Adam until now, God’s people, despite our short comings and failures, are God’s people on earth. And like David, we are called to not compromise with those who are of this world and all the trappings involved in that. David here has distanced himself from ungodly worship, rituals, and words. This does not mean we are to isolate ourselves from those who do not believe. On the contrary, we are called to be salt and light to the world. We just have to be careful not to be drawn into the things of the world.
Inheritance was and is a big deal. After the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years they received their inheritance of land…the promised land. Each tribe but Levi was given land for their inheritance. The Levites received no land. Instead, their inheritance was the Lord and serving him full time. They served in the sanctuary and ate of the holy sacrifices. David saw himself in that position. He had extensive royal holdings of land and property and treasures but he realized nothing was greater than his relationship with the Lord. Jesus reminded us that having great wealth but not having the Lord was indeed great poverty. Luke 12:13-21. Having a cup of blessing represented God’s provision for all the psalmists needs. David’s personal fellowship with the Lord was his greatest joy and this was when God came to him, instructed him, and counseled him. It is as though David went to night school with the Lord. God’s instruction brought David life. That the Lord instructs him means not only learning but also discipline and chastening if necessary. God is at this right hand and that suggests God is also his advocate and defender. With the Lord at his right hand David had nothing to fear and he would not be moved. The psalmist so depends on the Lord for strength and joy that he senses that God is always right beside him. Peter quoted verses 8-11 in his Pentecost sermon.
Secondly, David is sure that the Lord is the conqueror of death. To delight in the Lord and His goodness and then lose all that at death would be horrible. David is convinced that death cannot separate him from the Lord and that strengthens his confidence. He is so excited about this that he rejoices, his heart is glad and there is cause for celebration. David feels safe. While many fear separation, David remains confident of seeing the Lord again after his death. When we look at this psalm in light of Jesus we see a couple of things. David did not know Jesus or of him other than there would be someone on his throne forever. But we know the rest of the story. We know of Jesus who came here, lived as we live except he lived a perfect life. He took our sins…past, present, and future upon Himself. Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for our sins that we should rightfully pay. He has conquered death and made a way for us to return to the Father. Many believe when David wrote, ‘my body will rest secure’ he was referring to the Messiah and not to himself. Peter used these verses to prove that Jesus had been raised from the dead. It is clear that David was dead and his body had decayed in the tomb. But Jesus did not see corruption and though he tasted death, He was raised from the dead. Jesus was raised with a glorified body. David could face death with a glad heart knowing that one day he too would have a new glorified body. The psalmist expressed his confidence that life continues after death. (verse 10).
Finally David expressed confidence that he will have an escape from death and he points towards one with whom he will live forever. We need to keep in mind that while we read about heaven and the jewels and gold streets and splendor, the greatest joy and treasure in heaven is the crucified and risen Christ. The path we are shown now in following Him leads to a great life now but an even more glorious life in heaven. There we will experience the fullness of joy, and worship Him forever. David can only speculate what that might be like and truthfully, we don’t fully understand either. As one scholar said, John had to ransack the human language to try to find words to describe it. See Revelation 21-22.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W