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Meditation Psalm 16

A miktam of David.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.’
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

(Ps. 16:1-11 NIV)

Psalm 16 is a Psalm of Confidence but as we come to this Psalm it doesn’t always describe us.

We struggle with having confidence in God. During the daytime whether at work or at home as circumstances confront us, we couldn’t really say that we have a peaceful quiet confidence in God. If the circumstances are particularly stressful it can keep us awake at night. And if things are turned over and over again throughout the night in our mind we couldn’t really say that we have a peaceful quiet confidence in God during the night.

If we struggle with confidence in God during the day and night, it only gets worse when we think of our inevitable death. Will it be illness or heart problems, coronavirus, or just an accident. It is not a very pleasant activity to contemplate the day and manner of your death and we certainly don’t do that with an air of confidence.

In fact the only part of this Psalm that we can easily identify with is the cry for help in the first verse.

Keep me safe, my God for in you I take refuge

Out of our worry, out of our stress, out of our doubt, out of our lack of confidence we have no difficulty in crying out for help, and safety and security.

Lord, we would cry, keep us safe because we have a real issue with our lack of confidence.

Lord, what have you done to help us with this lack of confidence?

God says ‘I have made provision for you and your fellow Christians by giving you Psalm 16. I knew that my people would struggle with confidence in me and so I have given you a song and prayer of confidence for you to sing and pray’.

Does that mean if we sing this song about confidence in God that that will help us to be more confident in the Lord? Yes it really will.

We need to consider what we do when we sing. Sometimes we think that our singing is all about praising God, and yes it is that, but there is more to it than that. Not only do we sing to God but we sing to one another.

In Ephesians and Colossians there are verses that speak about Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs; it says in Col 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through Psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude.

Not only do we sing to God but we sing to one another to encourage one another. We sing to make truth memorable.

When we sing in congregational worship, Christ is present with us in a special way that is different to all other times. Christ promises ‘where two are three are gathered in my name there I will be there in the midst’. When we sing, Christ is the divine song singer in the midst of his people singing over us, and as we sing we sing through Christ because our prayer and praise is mediated by Christ.

And as we sing this Psalm of confidence the truth of confidence in the God of resurrection is taken up by the Holy Spirit, moving us from our desolate cry for help to a place of confidence in God.

If you make it your habit to read through the Psalms, you will notice that in about 75% of the Psalms the writer is complaining or moaning about something. In some of those Psalms of lament the author moans the whole way through to the end and there is seemingly no light to lighten the darkness at all.

But in Psalm 16 the moan or cry is in verse one. He calls upon the name of God, in liturgical terms we would say that verse one is a prayer of invocation where he invokes the name of God. That brings him into God’s sanctuary, into God’s presence and God gives the Psalmist the sanctuary’s perspective. Sometimes God is seen as the speaker, but quite often God puts the words, the song upon the lips of the Psalmist and has him sing the truth.

We can’t be certain what the occasion was for the composition of this Psalm, but some of the content might suggest that David wrote when he was running as a fugitive from King Saul.
David might well have reason for a lack of confidence during the day, he is on the run, he has no place he can call home and the danger of ambush seemed to be there at every rock and corner.

Danger of course multiplied at night and they tried to snatch some sleep with the risk of a night time attack.

And whether it was day or night the danger of death was always there.

I have divided the Psalm into three parts or four if you count verse one as a separate section where David cries out for help.

V2-6 Confidence in the God of resurrection in the daytime
V7-8 Confidence in the God of resurrection in the night time
V9-11 Confidence in the God of resurrection at the time of death

The reason why the theme of resurrection dominates the Psalm is because the promise of verse 10

You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay

This verse is applied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ by both Peter and Paul in the NT. Peter in the great sermon delivered on the Day of Pentecost and Paul in his sermon in the synagogue at Antioch.

The original setting is the experience of David, but the ultimate fulfilment of this Psalm can only be in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The weight of that prophecy and its New Testament interpretation has now got to dominate the whole of the Psalm as we must now read the Old Testament through New Testament spectacles.

Turning to this first section we can learn to have confidence in God through every day of our lives.

The Psalmist is caused to reflect upon the relationship that he has with God and does this through using three different names for God.

  1. The first name for God is found in verse one as the Psalmist appeals to God using the name for God that means strong or mighty one. I can take refuge in God because of his character as the strong and mighty one.
  2. Then in verse 2 he uses the name that was first revealed to Moses at the burning bush scene and it the name of the covenant keeping God. The Psalmist had been brought into a covenant relationship and the covenant faithfulness of God is a reason for confidence. I will not desert you, I will never leave you or forsake you. Every single promise that I have ever made, they are yes to you in Jesus Christ. In fulfilment of covenant promises, Jesus Christ as our covenant representative has come and taken our sin upon himself and died in our place. My sin meant I was out of relationship with God, but Christ has died to bring me back into relationship with God. He has bought me out of the slave market of sin and brought me into a covenant relationship that will never be broken. Singing of the covenant Lord causes the Psalmist to reflect upon the relationship. It helps my confidence to reflect upon how close I have been brought to God. If you are a Christian you are a new creation in Christ Jesus, and today you are as near to God as Christ is, because you are now in Christ, in union with Christ, and all the blessings and benefits of the Christian life flow from our union with Christ.
    David says apart from you covenant Lord I have no good thing.
    David is not trying to devalue the importance of his life, his work, his play or his possessions. He is just putting it all into perspective. Maybe my confidence ebbs and flows the way it does because I fail to grasp the perspective of that kind of singlemindedness – Lord I have nothing but you, or putting it in NT terms, ‘for me to live is Christ’. It is so easy to put confidence in other things.
  3. Then David uses a third title for God in verse 2 again I say to the covenant Lord you are my Lord meaning you are my master. You are my master, you direct my life, you cause me to stand.
    Singing the names of God is reminding me of the Character of God, the relationship that I am in, and the role that God plays in my life.

V3 is very difficult to translate into English, so I’ll just work with how the NIV has chosen to translate it. The Psalmist takes delight in the other people of God. As we have been brought into relationship with God through Jesus Christ it means that I am part of a larger family and I have brothers and sisters in Christ.

V4 points to those who have chosen other gods. The Psalmist refuses to throw in his lot with those people or to offer sacrifices or take the name of those false gods upon his lips in worship.

Talk about false gods in the OT makes us feel very good about ourselves in our 21st century Christian walk with God in Britain. We feel kind of righteous about ourselves and think ‘well, of all the sins that I am guilty of, I certainly don’t worship false gods’. But let us pause for thought here. A false god is anything other than God that we place our confidence in. We can place our confidence in our ability to be people smart, confidence in our business acumen, confidence in our craft, confidence in our humble mindset, confidence in the general kind of good guy that I am. You place confidence in any other god, says the Psalmist, and you will suffer more and more.

David returns to his single-minded confidence in the covenant God in v5-6

V5 Lord you alone are my portion and my cup, you make my lot secure.

We say something similar when we pray the Lord’s prayer – give us this day my daily bread, my cup and my portion. The lot in life that I have is secure. In the Almighty power that God has used in raising Christ from the dead, so he exerts that power in establishing us as new men and women in Christ, and has made us secure in Christ

Phil 1:6 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.

V6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places surely I have delightful inheritance.

A lack of confidence can come from a lack of contentment, not being satisfied with the lot in life that God has given us.

As David refers to boundary lines he is alluding to how the land of Canaan was divided up between the tribes after the conquest of the land in the time of Joshua. While David was from the tribe of Judah, he possessed no land at this point, he was on the run as a fugitive being hunted in danger of death. He was like the priests who had been given no land because the Lord was their sole inheritance. And that is the experience of David. My lot in life is good because the strong and mighty God is my covenant Lord and master, and I have nothing good but my Lord.

My job, my home, my hobbies, my food, my drink, my play – everything good comes from the hand of a loving God who has made my walk in life pleasant, because apart from whatever the circumstances may do in me and around me, the true perspective is I live on the resurrection side of the cross, and through rising with Christ, my daily walk with God is a new creation in Christ. Lord why did you give me this song to sing? So that you might grow in confidence in the God of resurrection throughout each day.

But the Psalmist also had struggles during the night time and he needed to have
confidence in the God of resurrection in the night time

You can see this in v7-8
V7 I will praise the Lord who counsels me even at night my heart instructs me.
V8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

If you are troubled about your health, your family, your job, your relationships, if you suffer from the oppression of loneliness or depression, the hours of darkness can be particularly difficult. It can be a time of fear. God has taken that into consideration for you and has put a bit about that into the song that he has put on your lips.

Even at night the Lord’s counsel instructs. I look consistently to the Lord, and with the Lord at my right hand, I will not be shaken. The Psalmist doesn’t physically see the Lord, but does that mean that if I take my eyes of the Lord he will no longer be at my right hand? He will always be at your right hand, but if you take your eyes, your focus off that truth you will not see him, but he is still there.

The next time I lack confidence in the Lord at night time I’m going to remind myself that God is right there.

Confidence in the God of resurrection at the time of my death

To help me here God needs to get me thinking about the fulfilment of this prophecy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only way really that I can have confidence in God either by day or by night is to understand what God has accomplished in Christ.

V9 My heart is glad
My tongue rejoices
My body will rest secure

There is that word of confidence again. I can rest secure because I am a new creation in Christ. The song of confidence that I have been made to sing is making a difference, The truth about what God has done for me in Christ makes my heart glad and my tongue rejoice.

V10 I will not be abandoned by God in death. Because Christ lives, I will live also.
V11 Because of that insight that God has given us about death and resurrection he has made known to us the path of life.

It is the truth of what God has in store for us in eternity breaking in upon the here and now that fortifies us and gives us strength, confidence to live in the day, through the night, anticipating the end of our time here on earth.

The way of life that I have been made to know is one of walking with God in confidence every day and through the night, and that way of life leads to what is described in

V11 You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The anticipation of what God has in store for us helps us grasp the joy of his presence. He is with us every moment of the day, and at night he is at our right hand, and look at v11 again – he is going to bring us to be at his right hand.

Lord I have sung this song, my confidence is growing in the God of resurrection. I do believe but help me in my unbelief.