Psalm 16

This is a very personal hymn of joy that focuses on the goodness of the Lord. The personal pronoun “my” is used over a dozen times (my trust, my goodness, my cup, etc.). David’s joy (vv. 9, 11) is expressed in words like “delight” (vv. 3, 6), “pleasant” and “pleasure” (vv. 6, 11), and “glad” (v. 9). David finds his delight only in the Lord and confesses that everything good in his life has come from God. This psalm may have been written shortly after the Lord gave His gracious covenant to David and assured him of an enduring throne (2 Sam. 7). That covenant was eventually fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Luke 1:32–33). The style of David’s response to the covenant (2 Sam. 7:18–29) matches that of Psalm 16, a combination of joy, praise to God, humility, and submission to the divine will. This is the first use of Michtam in The Psalms; it is repeated in the inscriptions to 56–60. Students don’t agree on the meaning of the word: engraved in gold, to cover, secret treasure, a poem containing pithy sayings. All six of the Michtam psalms end on a happy and triumphant note. This is also a Messianic psalm, for in his message at Pentecost (Acts 2:25–28), Peter said it referred to Jesus, and so did Paul in his sermon in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:35). As he praised God for His grace and goodness, David presented three descriptions of the Lord, and all three may be applied to Jesus Christ today.

The Lord of Life (vv. 1–8)

“Preserve me” (“Keep me safe,” NIV) doesn’t suggest that David was in trouble or danger, as in Psalms 9 and 13. It simply means that he needed God’s constant care and oversight so that he might honor the Lord and enjoy all the good things that only God could give him. God alone is good (Matt. 19:17), and apart from Him, we have nothing good.

A good relationship (vv. 1–2). The Lord is our highest good and greatest treasure (73:25, 28), the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). To know Him through Jesus Christ is the highest privilege in life. If we have anything that we think is good, and it doesn’t come from God, it isn’t good. God meets us with “the blessing of good things” (21:3, NASB), and His goodness follows us until we reach the Father’s house (23:6). When Jesus Christ is your Savior (refuge) and Lord, you experience God’s goodness even in the midst of trials. Our relationship to ourselves, our circumstances, other people, and the future depends on our relationship to the Lord.

A good companionship (vv. 3–4). We don’t live the Christian life alone, because we’re part of a great spiritual family and need each other. As in previous psalms, two groups are depicted: the believing remnant (“saints”) and the unbelieving worshipers of idols (10:8–10; 11:2–3; 12; 14:5–6). The saints are those who trust God and obey His covenant, those who are set apart for the Lord. They take seriously God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2; 20:7–8, 26; 21:8). Israel was a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6; Deut. 7:6) and a holy nation, just as the church is today (1 Peter 2:9). David called them “the majestic ones” (NASB), a word that carries the meaning of excellence, nobility, and glory. In spite of our faults and failures, believers are God’s elite, His nobility on earth. We must all love one another and use our God-given abilities and resources to minister to the family of God (Gal. 6:1–10). Like David, we must not compromise with those who disobey the Lord and worship idols (money, success, fame, etc.) but should seek to lead them to Jesus Christ, the source of all that is good and lasting. Multiplied gods only bring multiplied sorrows. David didn’t even want to speak the names of the false gods of those in Israel who forsook the covenant (Ex. 23:13; Josh. 23:7). We are not to be isolationists, for the Lord has left us in this world to be salt and light; but we must be careful not to be defiled by their sins (James 1:27; 4:4; Rom. 12:2). No church is perfect, because no believer is perfect; but let’s still give thanks for the people of God and seek to encourage them all we can.

A good stewardship (vv. 5–6). After Israel conquered the Promised Land, each tribe except Levi was assigned a special inheritance (Josh. 13–21). Because they served in the sanctuary and ate of the holy sacrifices, the priests and Levites had the Lord as their special inheritance (Num. 18:20–32; Deut. 10:8–9; 14:27–29; Josh. 13:14, 23), and David saw himself in that privileged position. “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup” (v. 5, NASB). To possess great wealth but not have the Lord is poverty indeed (Luke 12:13–21), and to enjoy the gifts but ignore the Giver is wickedness indeed. If Jesus is the Lord of our lives, then the possessions we have and the circumstances we are in represent the inheritance He gives us. The measuring lines marked off the inheritance of the tribes, clans and families in Israel, and then each individual lot was marked with a “landmark” that was not to be moved (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Prov. 15:25; 22:28; 23:10–11). David rejoiced that God had caused the lines of his inheritance to fall in pleasant places, and that he had a “delightful inheritance” (NIV). He wanted to be a good steward of all that the Lord had given him.

A good fellowship (vv. 7–8). David’s personal fellowship with the Lord was his greatest joy. This was when God instructed and counseled David and told him what to do and how to do it. David even went to “night school” to learn the will of God. (See 17:3; 42:8; 63:6; 77:2, 6.) “Night” is plural, suggesting “dark nights” or “night after night” learning from God. The word “instruct” carries with it the idea of discipline and chastening, for David learned many lessons when God’s loving hand chastened him (Heb. 12:1–12). The Lord at his right hand suggests God as his advocate and defender. (See 73:23; 109:31; 110:5; 121:5; 1 John 2:2; Acts 2:33; 5:31.) With the Lord as his guide and guard, he had nothing to fear; he would not be moved (10:6; 15:5). The future is your friend when Jesus is your Lord.

The Conqueror of Death (vv. 9–10)

To delight in the Lord and His goodness and then lose all these blessings at death would be a great tragedy. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19, NKJV). But in His death and resurrection, Jesus has conquered death, and through faith in Him we have a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3ff). When David wrote “My body will rest secure” (v. 9, NASB), he was referring to Messiah and not to himself. Using these verses, Peter proved that Jesus had been raised from the dead, for it’s obvious that David was dead and his body had decayed in his tomb (Acts 2:22–31). But Jesus did not see corruption! When He arose from the dead on the third day, He had a real and substantial body, but it was a glorified body that could ingest food (Luke 24:36–42) but was also able to appear and disappear (Luke 24:28–31) and pass through locked doors (John 20:19–29). David could face death with a glad heart and soul, and could rest in the grave in hope, knowing that one day, he, too, would have a new glorified body. Paul used this same text to prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (Acts 13:26–39). The full light of revelation about death and resurrection had not yet been revealed in Old Testament times, although there are hints in verses like 17:15 and 73:24–26, but through Jesus Christ, God had brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

The Joy of Eternity (v. 11)

The noted philosopher and Harvard University professor Alfred North Whitehead once asked a friend, “As for Christian theology, can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven?”13 But the focal point of heaven is not gates of pearl, streets of gold, or even angels and glorified saints. The central glory and joy of heaven is Jesus Christ (Rev. 4–5). The path of life that He shows us on earth today will end in even greater life when we enter heaven. Then we shall be in His presence and experience fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. A foolish caricature of heaven shows white-robed saints with halos and harps, resting on little white clouds; but the Bible gives no such description. In our glorified bodies, we shall be like Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–3), and we shall worship and serve Him forever. The pleasures of heaven will be far beyond any pleasures we have known here on earth, and as we enjoy the Lord and serve Him, we will not be restricted or encumbered by time, physical weakness, or the consequences of sin. So magnificent are the glories of heaven that the apostle John had to ransack human language to find words to describe it (Rev. 21–22).

Is Jesus Christ the Lord of your life? Have you accepted your inheritance and are you making the most of it for His glory? Do you anticipate being with Christ in glory? Is He the joy of your life today; for if He isn’t, when will you be prepared to enjoy Him for all eternity?