Psalm 16 - An exposition
This is a Miktam of David which can be said to be a prayer, meditation or poem of deliverance to God. The original meaning of the word Miktam is lost but the Psalm still speaks to us today.
Psa 16:1 Preserve me, O God, - David begins his plead to God with a heart desire for preservation. One can imagine that David is in a very difficult situation, and whatever enemy may wish to destroy him, David is pleading to God that He may outlast them by God preserving him. One may run into the camp of a strong man knowing that therein is power to protect them, likewise David runs to God because He knows, without a shadow of doubt, that God is able to protect him.
For one to pray such a prayer highlights the impeccable fact that one is in a position where one cannot save or protect themselves; nor is there much hope in humanity to protect them, but in God alone. Only He possess the omnipotent power to secure and protect against the deadly arrows of the evil one. Our Lord Jesus Christ in his Life and ministry was constantly under the protection and preservation of God; only when God lifted his omnipotent hand to let the devils in for a season was our Lord's security breached. My friends, your life is in God's omnipotent hands and you can with confidence and assurance pray with David when your situations become vile and desperate, Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
The Christians home is always a place of refuge because the master of the house is Christ and the builder is God. The wind of the devil and his host have long been blowing upon it with a violent force, but never has it blown over a single brick or cause injury to one of its dwellers. It is a place of refuge and whilst we long for it, for this passing earth is not our eternal home until its renewal, there we shall forever be safe and secure.
Psa 16:2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. David in his heart has made a resolution, he has declared with a solemn declaration that apart from Yahweh His Adonai, he has no good. That is, that he has no good, no merit nor righteousness except that which is gained from God, or by being in union with God. All of his happiness is to be found in God, and if there is a good which he has that is not found in God, then it is no good to him.
What great lessons we can learn from this my friends which will bring our souls many glad tidings. If we today as good soldiers of Christ, belonging to his kingdom and being children of His Father say with boldness and sternness, that you oh God (that is the trinity) is my Lord and apart from you I have no good, nor happiness, how joyful shall we live our days! We shall be like Paul who counted all things as dung, yea, as utterly rubbish compared to knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. Apart from God, the saints of Christ have no good; they have no righteousness, no promises nor hope - their portion is but vinegar and sour grapes. But with God and in Christ they have an unlimited basket of goodness of which at any moment, when they put their hands in, to take something out, it is always good, yea, good for their souls. The Saints may pull out the imputed righteousness of Christ onto them, or the security of eternal salvation, or the surety of their sanctification, or the fullness of blessings in the heavenly places, or the sealing of the Holy Spirit till the day of redemption; and above all God himself who is their portion forever and ever and will be their delight for as long as God inhabits eternity.
These are the saints scattered all over the earth, found in different plains and islands. Psa 16:3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. This should be the Christian disposition towards its fellow heirs according to the promise of grace. The Christian should marvel and delight in the saints of Christ because they are the excellent ones. And why are they excellent? Is it due to any merit of their own? Not at all. It is entirely due to the fact that they belong to Jesus, God has chosen them and they have His Holy Spirit living in them. They are the redeemed, the new creation, and God is pleased to dwell in them, yea, to make his home with them. They are excellent because they have been purged and sanctified, they will be glorified and exalted to dwell with the Lamb of Judah in the new Jerusalem. The old man is gone, that is Adam, and the new man reigns in them who is Christ. The original image was corrupted by Adam which is now still present in those who are not yet saints but the new man is found in those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They are the excellent ones, for even angels marvel and inquire about their nature and meaning of their God given status. Therefore, my brethrens, delight in your brothers and sisters for they are the excellent ones of God your King. They are his treasured possessions and priced ones. If they are His, should they not be yours also - oh friends, delight in those who are called saints, who have become co-heirs with him. Delight in them and rejoice, thank God for them and let your feet dance at the mercy which was given to them. They run after the true God, they chase after him and Love him unlike the wicked, who run after false gods, and their sorrows will increase, for they thirst after that which cannot satisfy.
Psa 16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. It is true that sorrow, pain and anguish will attend the worship of any other gods other than the true God - if this sorrow, pain and anguish doesn’t follow immediately in this life, then it will surely follow in the hereafter, where the wrath of God will have its way upon them, bringing destruction to their idolatrous way. If men cannot be purged of their idolatry in this life through reason, grace, or the love of God as displayed on the cross, then it is for certain that they will be purged in the hereafter. Worshiping idols is always a fruitless occupation, unfitting for the souls of men which was made to rest in God. But fools we have been in resting ourselves everywhere else except in the green pastures of Christ.
This verse does speak of idolatry in the sense of the physical worship of other gods other than Yahweh. Men are ready to forsake the tabernacle of Yahweh to render service to other gods, to offer them drink offerings and to champion their name as if it was they who rescued them from the oppressive hands of the Egyptians. The Psalmist had resolved to never do such an abominable deed - it is like substituting heaven for hell, life for death. Men who forsake the living God for idols are those who have chosen to go their own ways, their souls delighting in their abominations; gladly they offer their drink offerings to images of stone, or a tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of the craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. They go mad after them, but fools they are, for they do not know that its all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind. The Apostle said ‘for we know that an idol as no real existence. and that there is no God but one.' God is contrary to these mute idols - Yahweh is alive. He is the creator of heaven and earth.
This sin of idolatry is great in the eyes of the Lord and often in the scriptures it is denounced with a great terror of vengeance. Yahweh says 'They have made me jealous with what is no god' and "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king," 1 Sam 15:23. Saul's foolish ways earned him his just reward, namely the stripping and total rejection of his kingship.
In exodus 22:20 it says "Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction." Notice the passion that will be given to the man who sacrifices to any god other than the LORD, the man will be devoted, that is the man will be committed to destruction. There is no alternative to the man’s unavoidable destruction except the man repents of his abominable ways; but if he does not repent, then he shall be devoted forever to eternal destruction. This is so because such worship provokes God to anger, for God had said in Exodux 20:3-5 "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God."
What are your idols? those elements which you have replaced the satisfaction of the Lord with. Is it money, work, culture, self, sex, etc? Whatever it is, depart immediately from it and remove its name from your lips lest you should also be devoted to eternal damnation. Take the example of righteous David who declared that offerings of blood he will not pour out, or take their names on his lips. They shall not be remembered but entirely removed from his memory, they shall not be a part of his life because the LORD is his delightful portion.
In rejecting Idolatry David concerns his soul with the only food and drink which can satisfy it, namely, Yahweh. Only God can satisfy the eternal thirst and hunger of men because only God is eternal. Men grope in over grown forest to find that fruit which at last will satisfy their desire, but when it is found, they hunger for more and begin to search for a different kind of fruit. But the man who has truly found God and God has found him, there is no other place or scene where he may go. He is infinitely satisfied by the fruit which is found in God - He is forever satisfied. This is why David says Psa 16:5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. Because of this choice, which all with a discernible spirit make by the grace of God, will say at the end, and with eyes of faith declare at the beginning, Psa 16:6 The (or My) lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. That is, all the lines of providence have lined themselves up in pleasant places. And David affirms of the nature of his inheritance, that it is beautiful. David has for him a beautiful inheritance and that inheritance is God himself who is the loveliest of all beings. Nothing surpasses him in splendour, nothing in majesticness - He is Omnipotently supreme, and has in his being all of the treasures of life and happiness. This is the inheritance of David as well as the inheritance of the all the saints. Therefore, David blesses the LORD who gives him counsel.
Psa 16:7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. David blesses the LORD from the depths of his soul. He awakes and delights in God and blesses God, that is, He give thanks to God. David gives thanks to God because God gives him counsel. A counsellor is a confidential advisor and God is portrayed to be the counsellor who gives counsel. Also, the baby spoken of in Isaiah 9:6 which we now know to be our Lord Jesus Christ will be called wonderful Counsellor. And Jesus tells his disciples that 'the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you' John 14:26. The whole trinity is therefore our counsellors - they instruct us in the way of holiness. The Father may whisper his gentle voice to us in the morning, reassuring us of his renewed mercy; while the Son, in the light of the afternoon, reassure our poor souls of his continual presence with us; and the darling Holy Spirit, just before we lay our feeble heads to sleep, may arouse our souls to say a prayer and fill us with unending peace. Therefore Christian, emulate David in giving thanks and praise to God, continually blessing him for given you counsel, which surpasses all the wisdom of the best counsellors of this world. Remember to bless him because your heart delights in his counsel. You might say, but I don’t hear the counsel of the Lord. I assure you this my friend, that God always instructs those who are his, therefore, the fault lies with you - for you must learn to listen and quieten your spirit like a weaned child on his mother’s breast.
The Lord gives us counsel but also does our heart. I would not encourage the natural man to listen to his heart or pay much attention to his heart, for the word of God tells us that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. But for those who are born-again, I would advise such a deed, that is, to listen to their heart, for their heart has been changed and renewed to seek and accept those things which are of God. In obeying the instruction of our hearts, it is always wise to check it against scripture, following that principle of testing every spirit by the word of God.
Those who blesses the Lord from a deep sense of joy and satisfaction in their soul will not waver in setting the Lord always before them. David in his joy writes Psa 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. With God's presence and aid one is assured of safety. One cannot be shaken.
In the new testament, Peter applies the rest of this Psalm to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 2:25). And how fitting it is that Peter does this noble exegesis. For who else was always in view of the throne of majesty, who else constantly had unlimited resource and the limitless presence of the Father above? It is our dear Lord Jesus - no sin was found in him, no ill or wickedness, but he rightly and perfectly manifested the righteousness of his Father without a single blot or blemish. Therefore, His Father is always before him, and Christ himself set his Father before him, for his whole aim was to glorify his Father and to do his will. The Father was always at his right hand as for Christ never being alone, except on that cross when his Father had to crush his precious Son for the sins of the saints. Even in such a horrific and damnable death - God turned it to be glorious and make it the chief way in glorifying his beloved Son. Even in death Christ was not moved, nor shaken, for His Father raised him from the dead as to crown him Lord of all humanity, angels and all that there is, visible and invisible.
Therefore the heart of Christ was glad - He was utterly happy in God his Father who did not depart from His promise but kept it and gave him a portion among the many (Isaiah 53:12), with Christ’ portion surpassing all of the many put together. Christ whole being rejoices, one can imagine on that Sunday morning, when the eyes of our beloved Christ opened - his whole presence immediately lighting up that dark cave and transcending out of his burial clothes. The cave nor death could not contain his joy and it overflows, for he promised his disciples that His joy would be in them. The joy of Christ is an overflowing fountain, it is contagious like the laugh of an innocent child, it flows richly from the belly and from utter satisfaction in all that His Father his for him. It is this joy that Christ offers to us - rejoice always as the apostle put it. Christ not only rejoices but his flesh is secured forever. For he now has an indestructible body, never to perish again. As long as God is eternal, so his body shall be eternal. His body will be safe and secure. This body can approach the sun and touch it and not burn. It can dwell in acid and not corrupt - whatever may be the fiercest trial heaven and earth can muster, the resurrected body of Christ can endure it and that for all of eternity. As it is with Christ so it will be with us. For we shall have the same body.
All this is secure because God Psal 16:10 will not abandon his Son's soul to sheol, or let his holy one see corruption.
Psa 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Christ is constantly happy by his Father's side and so shall we for all eternity. There shall never be a grey stroke on the canvas of eternity, there shall be only those colours in the rainbows manifested. Men, woman and angels, Christ and God shall forever rejoice and be glad with each other till eternity dawns and closes its curtains. There shall always be a new mode of joy which streams flow from God - He shall be the constant source of our eternal pleasures and since there are no blemishes in God then there shall be no blemishes in our joy, satisfaction and happiness in all eternity. These manifold blessings may begin here in this world, for eternal life starts in this mortal flesh. We can begin to enjoy God here and magnify that joy a million fold when we have the possession of our new body and the new earth and new heaven.