This past Wednesday I had the privilege to lead the Bible study at our MidDay gathering. This is a Bible study and lunch group for our senior adults at Fellowship Bible Church that meets every other week. It was a really sweet time together. I taught on Psalm 16 and want to share with you some of the things God taught me.
Even if you are a Christ-follower, you still have the choice to choose life – value, vitality, etc. – in the things of this world or in your relationship with Christ. Finding life in the things of this world is a constant temptation, for most of us. Depending on your season of life, it’s tempting to find value and even your identity in your education, career, kids, retirement, your lake house or your grandkids. The truth is, though, at the end of our days this can leave us empty. Consider Simón Bolívar. During the 1800’s, he was not just the president of one country. He led Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to freedom as El Libertador. Many consider him the most influential leader in South American history. Dying of tuberculosis at the age of 47, he is quoted as saying of his life, “I have plowed the sea.” This simple but devastating declaration is so sad. To have accomplished much by the measurement of this world, yet to die feeling like you moved water only for it to come rushing back to where it was – with no difference to show for it.
David writes of such a person in Psalm 16:4. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply. So why run after God? Why this God? This is an understandable question. Especially if you find yourself in the midst of worldly success or good fortune. Consider what David writes in the remaining verses of Psalm 16.
God Alone Can Be Believed v.1-2
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
The very first word in this verse is an encouragement. But this kind of preservation is not like that of the food in your fridge. After 10+ years of marriage, I have finally learned my wife and I have very different opinions about what food is still safe to eat and what food is not. A little green fuzzy on the cheese? Just cut that corner off! Mold on the yogurt is technically penicillin, right?!
Instead, the Hebrew word here is, “to keep for the purpose of, to guard.” You can believe God to be your shield. He will preserve you spiritually, physically, emotionally. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you are being preserved spiritually every moment of every day. I like this perspective of truth from John Piper, “[…] if God takes His hand off me this afternoon, I will commit apostasy. It depends on Him, not on me.” Physically? Every morning I wake up at home and not in the hospital or that I even wake up at all is God’s preservation of my physical life.
Verse two is an incredible declaration, but a resounding truth which has stood the test of time. God is not only our shield, but He can be believed as our source for all that is good. In May I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Israel. Standing at the top of Mount Arbel, overlooking the Valley of the Doves, just past the Sea of Galilee stood Mount Hermon in the far-off distance. An impressive 9,200 feet tall, this mountain captures an enormous amount of precipitation in an otherwise arid region. This, plus the annual snowmelt, creates a significant run-off every year. This run-off is the mouth of the Jordan River – the source of all vegetation and inhabitation in the Jordan River Valley. God can be believed to be the same kind of source in your life. Yes, worldly pleasures will bring you happiness. But attempting to find joy in this world is like drinking water from a poisonous well. Jeremiah say it like this, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
God Alone Can Be Worshiped v. 5-6
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
My wife and I have two children. Two boys ages 5 and 2. They struggle with the concept of a chosen portion. Our oldest dares to battle wits with his mother – who happened to invent stubbornness, by the way – and he has found himself still sitting at the dinner table two hours later refusing to eat what he has been given. Our youngest, on the other hand, is a master manipulator. The other morning, I told him he had to finish his muffins if he wanted more Lucky Charms. He picked up the remaining two mini muffins in his hands, with one in his mouth, and pointed to his empty plate…expecting me to then give him what he wants.
In verse 5 we see this nuance that should not be missed. “The Lord is my chosen portion.” God alone can be worshiped because He alone is the portion which will satisfy. Again, all other attempts at satisfaction will leave you empty. Momentary happiness is the result of worshiping the created instead of the Creator. As you seek the face of God, He will surely give you His hand of blessing. But the person who seeks their own portion, who pursues God for what He can give and not for who He truly is, will chase a never-ending lust.
Let us not forget, however, He is also to be worshiped as our provider. As I mentioned, He is our portion, but when our satisfaction is found in Him, we are pleased by His hand of provision. We can worship Him for the ways in which He has blessed us with gifts of all kinds. The truth is there will always be things we wish we had. There is a never-ending list of what we’d like to have. Joy is experienced when we choose to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, embrace what we do have and find satisfaction in worshiping God for giving us exactly what He knows we need. He is a benevolent, generous God. Simply put, as your love for God deepens your gratitude for His provision increases.
God Alone Can Be Trusted v. 7-8
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also, my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
The previous principle takes great trust. You have to trust there is a reason you do not have what you do not have. You must trust God that He will give you the blessing He wants you to have when He wants you to have them. This is not always easy but trusting Him produces a depth and richness in your relationship with Him. David knew this. His personal fellowship with the Lord was his greatest joy.
Again, to the Hebrew, the word “night” is actually plural. This is not a matter of chronos (time on a clock) but kairos (an experience). God can be trusted as the great counselor in your darkest times. To whatever depths of discouragement and despair your mind may travel, God will meet you there. Two truths support this comfort: you were created for a relationship with Him (Colossians 1:16) and He can empathize with your every challenge (Hebrews 2:18). He is not distant nor far off. He is not only Emmanuel at Christmas, but He is God with us every moment of every day. He loves you enough to hear your sorrows and cares enough for you to hear your complaints – Psalm 18. He listens. He loves. He will guide you through your every need.
But he is not the Bob Newhart kind of counselor. He is a compassionate companion. At the moment of salvation, you set Him ever before you, as you surrendered to follow Him. He is not going anywhere! If you have a relationship with Jesus, you were saved by grace through faith – this is not of your doing. There is nothing you can do to cause Him to leave you or forsake you, no matter how you may feel in the moment. You cannot outrun Him, nor will He go on without you. You cannot so damage your relationship with Him that He now wants nothing to do with you. It is impossible to embarrass Him in a way that He now no longer wants to be with you. He did not give His Son to die for you so that He would later ignore you. Whenever you put Him before you, you entered into a never-ending relationship. He is faithful to you to the end.
One of my favorite images of this concept comes from a Scottish Presbyterian minister named Samuel Rutherford. In the 1640’s he would write, “He (God) taketh the bairns (child) in His arms when they come to a deep water; at least when they lose ground, and are put to swim, then His hand is under their chin.” In life you will sin, and sin will be committed against you. But God will always be with you and He will always be your companion there with you.
Finally, an awesome truth to end on. God alone can conquer death (v. 9-11).
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I had a childhood pastor who would say, “If you come across the word ‘therefore’ in the Bible, stop to find out what the therefore is there for.” In the case of Psalm 16, the culmination of these biblical truths – believed, worshiped, trusted – means therefore our hearts can dwell secure. You can live your daily life with a security that is lock-tight, rock-solid. By Jesus’s death on the cross, He overcame the punishment of sin. He is your propitiation (substitution). He took on the total and complete wrath of God against sin so that you do not have to because you can’t. He paid a price that you nor I ever could! But then, when He rose from the dead three days later, He overcame the power of sin. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed that everyone will die. 100% of all people who lived, die. Yet there is good news. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing! – Jesus was born that men no more may die. His resurrection ensures all who repent and believe in Him will live forever. Our hearts can dwell secure in this truth. In the midst of your nine-to-five, overwhelmed by the daily grind, you can dwell secure knowing you have salvation, the remission of sin. Does your self-worth and identity ebb and flow with your circumstances? Fret not. You can dwell secure in your identity in Christ.
Then, when the day comes and we gather around to say final words about your life and legacy, you will be in heaven. You will delight forever in the presence of your Heavenly Father. For those who are not Christians, this life is as good as it gets. Yes, there is temporary and momentary happiness. But the sorrows, the trouble, suffering, etc. etc. etc. This is heaven on earth for them. At their funeral all that they knew to be good will come to an end. However, praise the Lord, for those who have a relationship with Jesus it will be just the beginning of an eternal delight. I’m not talking tiny angel’s wings and golden harps. I’m talking about mansions and streets of gold. A place where every tear is wiped away, no more death, mourning, crying, sorrow, or pain. No more cancer, human trafficking, or murder. No more stomach bugs, auto-renewal fees you forgot about, or ingrown toenails. Resurrected bodies delighting in the presence of our Savior. And when we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun – we’ve no less days to sing our praise than when we first begun!
My hope is you have found the same encouragement from Psalm 16 as I have. The comfort and assurance that we will never be abandoned. That God alone can be believed, worshiped, and trusted is a truth of great comfort.