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.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– Psalm 16
The last time I preached, the text was from Psalm 130. In that passage we saw that when we sin or when we experience despair, our souls are to wait on the Lord with our whole being through hoping in God’s Word and taking awe in his forgiveness. Psalm 130 is a prayer that is a combination of boldness and humility. It’s a bold pleading for God to do something, yet it is humble acknowledgement of our sinfulness. The ability to combine boldness and humility comes only from hoping in God.
The reason I’m going back to the Psalms (and will probably keep coming back to them) is because the older I get, and the longer I’m an elder, I see a particular struggle time and again in my heart and in your hearts. That struggle is an internal battle between what we know and what we feel. When the hard times hit and the dark nights roll in, when the trials are great and the despair is deep, there’s a battle that rages between knowing what God’s Word promises in our heads and feeling it in our hearts. The battle is to feel rightly what we know from the truth of Scripture.
You were not meant, Christian, to just know Bible and theology. You were meant to feel it. You were meant to love it, treasure it, delight in it, be satisfied with it as a way to know God. The uniqueness of the Psalms though is that it deals with the volatility and power of human emotions within the constancy of God’s sovereignty and his truth. The psalmists never treat human emotions as the ultimate truth that allows them to do whatever they want. The Psalmists describe how they feel and then remind the reader of the truth of who God is and what he will do for his people.
The worship of God is one of the central themes of the book of Psalms. This is a book of praises to God. Moses is the the first contributor to this book (Psalm 90) and David is the most frequent contributor (73 Psalms are attributed to him). There are 13 Psalms that David wrote which are directly contributed to a specific circumstance in his life. He wrote them because of something that happened to him. These are songs that are grounded in the reality of the difficulties he faced. These 150 Psalms were written over a period of 1,000 years and 113 of them are referenced in the New Testament.
CS Lewis famously said about the Psalms, “I had not noticed that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.” The point he’s making is that we praise what we see as important and valuable and enjoyable. The most important, valuable and enjoyable reality in all the world is God. The Psalms are meant to help your emotions rise with praise and adoration to God and overflow in telling that to other people even in the hardest and darkest times of your life.
As we did in Psalm 130, we are simply going to work through this chapter, verse by verse, and see what David has for us to see in his praises to God. We know that in this chapter he’s going through a trial, for in the very first verse he asks God to preserve him as he takes refuge in him. So something is happening to him that is causing him to be concerned. And from this very first verse flows 10 other verses in which we see God as his ultimate desire.
In Psalm 16 David describes God as his refuge. He says that you are my Lord. He says he doesn’t have anything good apart from God. God is his chosen portion. David blesses God. He says God gives him counsel, he sets God before his face. He says he is at the right hand of God and his whole being rejoices in God. His flesh dwells secure in the presence of God. God makes the path of life known to him and in God’s presence is fullness of joy and pleasures. That’s Psalm 16 and that’s a lot to consider!
Does that not sound like a man who is after the very heart of God? David is desperate to be in the presence of God because that is where he’s happiest. When David uses words like joy, pleasure, and rejoicing, he’s not describing a light-hearted, glib, superficial happiness that the world has when it uses those words. This is not the type of pleasure that comes from watching a funny YouTube video or reading a funny meme where you can get distracted from life for 30 seconds.
The joy, pleasure and rejoicing that David is talking about is a deep and authentic emotion that comes from being in the presence of God. “Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” David is not joyful because things are going well for him. He’s joyful because God will not forsake him.
So let’s look at this and see how we can center our hearts around this unshakeable God.
A HEART OF TRUST PRAYING FOR GOD TO PRESERVE (1-2)
The Psalm opens up with a prayer for God to preserve David. David is asking God to hedge him about with protection, which implies that he is feeling attacked by someone or some circumstance. David does not possess the ability to withstand these attacks on his own strength or ability, and he isn’t turning to some other person, army, or nation to deliver him. He’s turning to God.
What is the reason he can ask God to preserve him? It is because David is taking refuge in God. The preservation God offers is not to everyone, nor is it a blank check to anyone who asks it. Indeed, God shows the opposite of preserving towards those who are his enemies and those who turn away from him in sinfulness. God preserves those who take refuge in him.
You take refuge in that which you trust. If a hailstorm were to rip through your neighborhood would you rather be in a tent or in a house with a solid roof on it? You trust that the roof will give you better protection as your refuge from the storm. The roof will preserve your head far better than a flimsy tent.
David is asking for God’s preservation by acknowledging a trust in God. The preservation he is asking for is linked to the fact that he is trusting in God as his refuge. Verse 2 shows us the type of trust he has in God. David exults in the exclusivity of God by saying that he has no good apart from him. David is saying that what he needs above everything else in the world is the preservation of God. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heard and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).” God is what we need first, last, and most.
David is not saying that the only good thing that exists is God. What he’s saying is that that anything that is good must come from God. We can know this from Psalm 84:11.”For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” The promise to those who take refuge in God is that God will provide for you every good thing that you need. This may not be what you think you need, but it is what God knows you need. For those who take refuge in God, the good that he gives them is that good which will increase their joy in God.
In these first two verses we see David talking with God, pouring out his heart. He is trusting in God as his refuge, asking him to preserve his life, knowing that the only good he has is God and what God provides for him. Have you been here in your heart? Have you gotten to the end of yourself and instead of trusting in your skills, your money, your job, or a thousand other things; have you cried out to God as your only refuge? Do you see prayer as actually talking to the one you were made for?
This is a reason why I love the Psalms. I can take these chapters and turn them into prayers to God when my heart feels dry, and I know that I’m simply praying God’s Word back to him. There’s been many times where I’ve felt completely inadequate for what I’m supposed to do, and cried out to God to preserve me.
THE EXCELLENT ONES VS. THE UNGODLY (3-4)
David then turns towards those who are trusting in God, the excellent ones, and says that he delights in them. Where does the title “excellent ones” come from? In other words, why are they called excellent?
We just read that David had no good apart from God. God is the one that grants him goodness and God is the one that grants the saints the title of excellent ones. Those who take refuge in God, ask him to preserve them, and acknowledge that they have no good apart from God, are the ones who receive this title. They are the excellent ones because God is majestic and grants his majesty towards those who are his chosen people.
God chose Israel as a people holy to him. A people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples that were on the face of the earth (Deut. 7:6). These were the excellent ones and these were the ones in whom David delighted to be with. When David was facing his trials and suffering he didn’t run away from God’s people, but wanted to be with them. He wanted to be in their presence because he took delight in them because God had bestowed on them the title of excellent ones.
David despised the opposite of this. Look at verse 4. The ungodly chase after other gods, not David’s God. The ungodly chase after the desires of their own sinful hearts and seek to find goodness in something other than the majestic God of Israel. What is the result of them doing this? Their sorrows will multiply.
When I press this verse up against the reality I see around me, I’m left asking the question of why it doesn’t seem like the wicked’s sorrows are multiplying. I see wickedness go unchecked and people doings sinful things, getting away with it, and even enjoying it. It doesn’t look like their sorrows are increasing. It looks like their joy is increasing in the sin they are continuing to do! And often it looks like the saints sorrows are multiplying. Consider the ease in which millions of Americans are living their life with no consideration of God whatsoever. They go through their lives with nice jobs, good kids, lots of money, great vacations, and give God little to no thought. Why aren’t there sorrows increasing as they chase after the false gods of materialism and comfort?
Psalm 73 gives an honest look at this perplexity, in which Asaph asks this very question. He says that he had envy when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. They had no pain, and their bodies were healthy. They had no trouble yet continued in sin.
We never know when sin will be judged by God. We never know when the multiplication of their sorrows will finally be poured out on them. However, we do have the promise that sin will not go unpunished and the sorrows will reach a tipping point and be poured out on them. “Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup (Psalm 11:6).”
The true God grants goodness to his people, namely himself. The false gods of this age only will multiply sorrows. David says he will pour out their drink offerings of blood and not even let his lips speak of their false gods.
The Israelites were commanded to offer drink offerings to God containing wine, but drink offerings offered to false gods had blood in them. This was a perversion on two levels. First, the offering was not what God had commanded them to pour out, and second, they weren’t even offering it to the true God. This is such a stench to David that he wants nothing to do with it. He won’t even speak the names of these false gods.
The wicked are taking refuge and seeking preservation in offering up their worship in a way that will only serve to increase their sorrows. For David, he has chosen take refuge in God and delight with the saints in the goodness God offers them. These are the excellent ones and these are the ones David delights to be with.
GOD IS OUR PORTION AND CUP, THE HOLDER OF THE FUTURE, OUR PLEASURE AND INHERITANCE (5-6)
We have seen in verses 1 and 2 that David is asking God to preserve him because he is trusting in him. We have seen in verses 3 and 4 that he takes delight in being in the presence of God’s chosen people who are holy, rather than being with wicked people that are chasing after sin. These are responses David is having to troubles and trials in his life. He asking God to ground his emotions in the truth of who God is.
We see in verses 5 and 6 what God is for David. David uses the word is which means present tense. This is currently what God is providing for David and how David sees God working for him. In verse 1 David says that he has no good apart from God. The rest of this Psalm is giving a fuller picture of what that means. What kind of goodness does God grant to David?
The Lord is his chosen portion and cup, he holds David’s lot, he gives him lines that have fallen in pleasant places and has given him a beautiful inheritance. That is the goodness God has granted to him.
What is David’s chosen portion and cup? The Lord is! David longs to know God, have a relationship with God, and to be in God’s presence. He wants to experience the joy and pleasure that come from knowing God. God is his reward like a satisfying meal is after a laborer has worked all day and has a hungry stomach. God is David’s reward like a cold jug of water is to a hiker after trekking through a desert. The meal is the laborer’s reward. The water is the hiker’s reward. God is David’s reward. As the laborer tastes the food and the hiker drinks the water, so David experienced joy and pleasure from the presence of God. This is what God is like! Have you experienced this? Have you experienced full joy and deep pleasure in God himself? I remember when the wonders of God broke wide open for me at the age of 24 years old and I experienced this full joy and deep pleasure. What a gift.
Who holds David’s lot? A lot was something used to make a decision or give an assignment. It could have been sticks or pebbles or some type of dice that was cast or shaken. The Promise Land was divided out to the tribes of Israel by casting lots. Jesus’ clothes were divided up by casting lots while he was hanging on the cross. When David says that God holds his lot, he means that God is in control of his future. There is nothing that is going to happen to David that will not be outside of God’s control. Nothing. Consider the massive truth of Proverbs 16:33 which says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” God controls the outcome of every roll of every dice in Las Vegas every day.
David says he has no good apart from God and now he is saying that God is controlling everything that will happen to him in the future. God holds his assignment. God controls his future and it will be for David’s good as David longs for God to preserve him.
The lines have fallen for David in pleasant places. The lines could refer to border lines, such as those used to determine who gets assigned what land. This whole chapter is talking about being in the presence of God and having him work for our good. So it seems clear that these lines refer to God’s presence. The phrase “pleasant places” means pleasure or a sweet thing. For David, knowing that God is his portion, his cup, and holds his future is a deeply pleasuring thought to him. It is a sweet reality to his heart. Is that a sweet reality to your and heart?
Finally, we see in these two verses that he has a beautiful inheritance. Again, this is another way to describe what being in the presence of God is like. God is our beautiful inheritance. All of this is flowing out of verse 1 and leading to a culmination in verse 11.
SETTING GOD BEFORE US TO INSTRUCT OUR HEARTS IN THE COUSEL OF THE LORD (7-8)
We have seen in verses 1 and 2 that David is asking God to preserve him because he is trusting in him. We have seen in verses 3 and 4 that he takes delight in being in the presence of God’s chosen people who are holy, rather than being with wicked people that are chasing after sin. Verses 5 and 6 described what God is for David as he sought for God to preserve him as he took refuge in God. Now verses 7 and 8 unfold more about who God is for us but also explain what we do in response to that. What is the appropriate response to the reality that we have no good apart from God and he is our portion and cup, the controller of our future, our pleasure, and our inheritance?
David blesses God! What does it mean to bless God? It means to bow our hearts before him in acts of worship and adoration, praising him for who he is. “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation (Psalm 18:46).” “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1).”
So David gives praise to God and what does God give to David? He gives him counsel. Why does David need counsel? He needs counsel to make decisions. That is why you seek out counsel. But he just said that God controlled his future, so why does David need counsel? The fact that God controls his future is not an excuse to not make any decisions, rather it is the reason why he can make decisions. Do you see that? God’s sovereignty in all of Scripture is always the motivation to do things and never an excuse to do nothing.
You are making decisions constantly. Most of them are small and some of them are big. Most of them are simple decisions but some of them are complex and have major implications. David is praising God because he is giving him counsel in the decisions for it is God who holds his future. This does not mean we will make bad decisions or make sinful decisions. David made many bad decisions in his life when he didn’t seek after God. But for the the life of a man or woman after God’s own heart, he works all of it out for our good. That is cause for giving God adoration.
He goes on to say that in the night his heart instructs him. The heart is the seat of your emotions. It is where joy and pleasure or sorrow and pain flow from. Our heart is meant to love God and it can produce God-honoring emotions or God-belittling emotions. For David, in the night, in the dark times of his life, his heart is instructing him in what is true and right.
The trials and the pain and the sorrow cause us to doubt the goodness of God. However, here we have a verse to remind us of what God did in David’s heart. The place of David’s emotions and affections (his heart) instructed him in what was right in the hard times of his life. That is possible! You heart can be used for worshiping God even in the hardest times of your life. How can this be?
Look at verse 8 to answer this question. David set the Lord always before him. The self-Existent, Eternal God was before David. Your heart is shaped by placing God always before you. Always doesn’t mean perfectly. It means continually, regularly. The Psalms are filled with verses that tell us to put God before us by meditating on God’s Word. Read Psalm 1 and Psalm 119. David put God’s Word before him to shape his heart to instruct him in the trials and pain. Grace Church, let us be a people who always set God before us by seeing the Psalms and the rest of Scripture as being able to shape the very emotions that our heart produces. You’re not just reading inked up pages with words on them. You are entering into the presence of God! Let us be a people who put this book before us and live in it.
David set God’s Word before him continually so that when the trials hit his heart would instruct him in seeking out God to preserve him and be his refuge. He didn’t wait for times to get hard before he sought God. If you do that, your heart won’t instruct you in the counsel of the Lord. That is what the ungodly do. Their hearts abandon God and they are only heaping up sorrows that will be poured out on them at judgement. The saints, the excellent ones, set God before them so that their hearts will instruct them in the counsel of the Lord. And when they do that, they will not be shaken.
When hard times hit we are so quick with our fleshly impulses and American mindset to want to escape the trials. Are we even stopping to think about what God’s Word may have to say about it? If you’re not setting God’s Word before you, your heart is getting instructions from somewhere else and that somewhere else will ruin you. It will shake you.
When David says he won’t be shaken, he is saying he won’t fall down. The ungodly and sin will not have the last word. Because he is at God’s right hand, which means a position of authority, God will have the ultimate say and the last word in David’s life for it is God who holds his future.
A GLAD HEART BECAUSE GOD WILL NOT ABANDON THE SOUL (9-10)
Therefore. The truth of verse 9 hangs on the truth of the previous verse. David says in verse 9 that his heart is glad, his whole being rejoices, and his flesh dwells secure. The reason this is true is because of verse 8. He has set the Lord before him in meditating on God’s Word and praising him in prayer and now his heart is glad in God.
This is what David was made for and he realizes it. He was made for being glad in God and having every fiber in his being rejoice in God. The word “being” in this verse is also translated “glory” in a couple of other places in the Psalms. “Awake my glory! … I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples (Psalm 57:8-9).” The response of David’s heart in God preserving him through giving him refuge is a glorious response. He not only knows in his mind, but feels in his heart, the unshakeable trust he has at the right hand of God. This is what he means by saying his whole being, or his whole glory rejoices in God. He has put God before him, therefore his heart is glad and his whole being rejoices.
Again, we see that verse 10 hangs on the truth of verse 9. Why can David say that God will not abandon his soul to Sheol (the grave) or not let him see corruption? It is because his heart is glad in God. Why is heart glad in God? Because he has set the Lord continually before him as he takes refuge in him to preserve him. That is a sweet chain of promises right there.
This chain of promises is going on right now as David is in the middle of trials and suffering. Remember this has all flowed from a prayer for God to preserve him because he has put his trust in God. That is where we started. It started with a heart of trust in God that produces a prayer to God.
God will not abandon his saints in death or unload his wrath on them. All of their suffering and trials and pain and confusion are controlled by God. They have no other good apart from him. God’s people will not see corruption but the sorrows of the ungodly will multiply. That is why David can say he won’t be shaken.
ACTS 2:22-33 GIVES THE FULL PICTURE
We could move on to verse 11 and finish out this sermon here. However, if we were to do so, we wouldn’t get to the very bottom of the beauty and glory that is present in Psalm 16. David says in verses 9 and 10 that God wouldn’t abandon his soul to the grave and that his flesh would dwell secure, however; David did die. His body did give up and he was buried. So what does he mean exactly in these two verses? To understand that question fully we need to understand it in the light of Acts 2:22-33. We need to hear what Peter said at Pentecost to a group of people, some of whom were perplexed and others who were mocking them because they had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Reading through this passage you will see not only does Peter cite Psalm 16, but you will see truths about God from Psalm 16 fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Jesus was delivered up according to the plans and foreknowledge of God. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was according to the plan of God. David said that God held his future. God also held the future of Jesus which ultimately led him to the cross. The plans of God seemed confusing to Jesus’ disciples. This Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah, the one they had waited for. Yet he died. How could that be God’s plan?
But that wasn’t the end. The wicked acts of those who crucified Jesus only served to fulfill the glorious plans of God, for God raised Jesus up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Jesus to be held by them.
Peter is saying (with confidence) that David was still dead and buried. His tomb was not empty. His bones were still in the grave. Peter is saying that Psalm 16:8-11 is a prophecy that is pointing towards Jesus being the fulfillment of it. He says in Acts 2:31 that David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades (Sheol), nor did his flesh see corruption.
Right now Jesus is at the right hand of God (that position of authority, Romans 8:34) and has received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit which was poured out on the Christians in Acts 2. That’s the very bottom of the beauty and glory of Psalm 16. It is a prophecy that was pointing towards the empty grave that couldn’t hold Jesus. The tomb could hold David. David was still dead but it couldn’t hold Jesus. Death didn’t have the last say for Jesus. He conquered it and as we celebrated last week, he rose from the dead.
So does Psalm 16:8-11 have any direct application for David and for us as well? The glorious answer to that question is yes. Because of what Jesus did at the cross, all those who would put their trust in him (all those who would have Jesus be their refuge) receive a beautiful inheritance. They are the excellent ones. Though we will die, yet will we live. We have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in heaven for us. These promises are for the saints.
What Jesus did through this death and through his resurrection is cause us to be born again to a living hope through his resurrection from the dead. Grace Church, we can not be shaken, our hearts can be glad, our whole being can rejoice, our flesh can dwell secure, our souls will not be abandoned to the grave and we will not see corruption, because Jesus purchased all of this for us. This is true for those who take refuge in God, for those would put their trust in him to preserve their lives. We have access to this hope as a free gift by faith.
THE PATH OF LIFE, FULLNESS OF JOY AND ETERNAL PLEASURE (11)
Now that we have this final piece from Acts 2, we can go and look at verse 11. God makes known to us the path of life. The fact that he makes known to us the path of life means that without him, we can’t know it. It is hidden apart from him revealing it to us. The path of the ungodly only heaps up sorrow when they chase after stuff, or money, or people, or their children or jobs. The fact that he makes known to us the path of life means that we can actually know what it is. We can ascertain it by God revealing it to know and this comes by setting the Lord always before us. He makes known to me the path of life. This is a personal declaration David is making.
A path is a well trodden way in which we can get somewhere. The path of life is the path that follows God. “Make me to know your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths (Psalm 25:4).” The path of life is experiencing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness through the keeping of his covenant and testimonies. “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies (Psalm 25:10).”
Where does the path of life lead to? It leads into the presence of God where there is fullness of joy. Full joy means complete satisfaction in God. This is a work God does in our hearts. He is the one that makes us glad with joy in his presence (Psalm 21:6) and at his right hand are pleasures that will be for eternity. This path of life that we walk by faith now, will one day be our sight.
Again this is what Jesus purchased for us at the cross. Were it not for Jesus, we would never be able to experience joy and pleasure in the presence of God. We would only experience God’s wrath and judgement. But for those who are trusting in God as their refuge to preserve their souls, for those to whom God has made known the path of life, for those to whom the Lord gives counsel, to die will be gain.
If you were to read through this Psalm quickly and carelessly, you may think that David is saying that God will grant you a nice life without many problems. The Psalm talks about a chosen portion and a beautiful inheritance and pleasant places. Yet as we’ve seen, these are not talking about circumstances, rather they are talking about the presence of God. Jesus did not live a nice life. He lived a life of suffering and we are called to follow in his steps.
For Jesus, the chosen cup that was given to him was the cross. Grace Church, we also are called to pick up our cross and follow him. This life will be filled with trials. There are several families in our church right now experiencing deep trials. You will, at some point in your life, experience trials and suffering.
We don’t know what will be in our future, but God holds the future. Jesus secured the promise of verse 11 so that we can rejoice in fullness of joy no matter what comes our way. There will be times of sorrow but their will be joy in the morning.
David set the Lord always before him. He meditated on God’s Word and this is how his heart instructed him. One practical way to mine the depths of God’s Word and see God more clearly in places like Psalm 16, is to ask questions of what you’re reading. Here are some suggestions of questions to ask as you set God before you.
- What does this text tell me about God?
- What does this text tell me about myself or humanity?
- How does this text lead me to Jesus?
- Does this text reveal something I should thank, praise or trust God for?
- Based on this text is there anything I need to repent of?
- Does this text reveal to something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself?
- Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others?
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angles nor rules, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).” If nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus, nothing can separate us from fullness of joy in him and eternal pleasures at his right hand. So set God before you this week, and for the rest of your life.