Psalm 16 — Protection and Promises

This is our second Messianic Psalm – Psalm 2 being the first that we have that refers to or foreshadows Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This Psalm has also presented me with some difficulty as far as deciding how to write about it.  I have been reading this psalm and re-reading it, looking at various commentaries and asking God about it for … well, since my last Psalm entry, so you see, it hasn’t come as easily as the others.

The Difficulty…

On the one hand, David wrote it, so I think I should be considering his point of view.  On the other hand, it is about Jesus Christ, so I feel that to do justice to the actual subject of the psalm, I should consider it from Christ’s view.  As a result, I think if we approach reading it from Jesus’ point of view, we may make headway with it, but I know I can say with certainty that I will probably mix the two viewpoints.  I pray I will be able to accomplish something sensible with this psalm and that I will not confuse you.

 1.   Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

A michtam  has been translated in various ways.  One translation says it is an  “engraving” or poem; another says its root is the word for gold and thus this is what some classify as a Golden Psalm.

David begins this Psalm with a prayer for protection:  “Preserve me, Oh God.”  The Hebrew word is shamar – to hedge about – to guard or to protect, or to attend to.  Perhaps you have heard people in prayer sometimes ask God for a hedge of protection around themselves or a friend.  It could be this word is where idea and image originates.

From the context of the Psalm and the way it is worded, there doesn’t seem to be any particular danger that David is concerned about.  Looking back at some of the earlier psalms we looked at, there is often a sense of urgency when the psalmist asks for protection, in these cases there is some specific enemy lying in wait for him or is pursuing him.  In those psalms, he uses a different word in place of preserve – he uses words like deliver or protect or save – words that imply urgency and immediate threat.

He continues with stating that he puts his trust in God.  When you tell someone that you trust them, what is it you are saying?  Are you qualifying that statement of trust by limiting it to certain areas?  In a human to human relationship, I would have to say we do limit the areas in which we will place our trust in another person.

When you tell God you trust Him, are you limiting the areas?  We should not.  We are to give all areas of ourselves to Him.  Unfortunately, we are all sinners and fall short of putting our total trust in God.  But because this psalm is not about David or us, but about Christ, we need to think about what Jesus is praying.  I look at this passage and those that follow and this seems to be a turning point in who this psalm is about.  From now on it is Jesus who is the focus.

When Jesus says that He puts His trust in the Father, he is including not only trust for protection, but also guidance, assistance, provision, and redemption. Look at Isaiah 49:7:

Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people.

It seems odd that Jesus would need protection, but He did become human and had to go through all that we have to go through, so he did need His Father’s protection.  Even though He was the Son of God, He was sent to this earth to experience life as a man and man needs to learn to rely on God the Father. We’ll see more of this later in the Psalm.  Just remember that Jesus put all his trust into His Father’s hands.  This is shown by His prayer in the garden on the night of His betrayal: “Father, save me from this hour.” (John 12:27)

The True Subject of the Psalm

Verses two and three belong together because they make up a complete sentence and thought.  It is with these verses that the foreshadowing of the Messiah is made plain.

 2.    O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

3.     But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

I can see David saying this, speaking his humility before God and declaring his allegiance, but doesn’t it seem a bit presumptuous for a man to discuss his goodness before God?  This is one of the reasons I had struggled with this psalm.  It didn’t sound like David would say something like this.  The conclusion is that Jesus is the one to whom we are listening.

Jesus’ Complete Surrender

When Jesus says “Thou art my Lord,” he is giving himself freely and fully to the Heavenly Father, allowing Him to be the master of His whole being – spiritual, mental and physical. Jesus made his soul take second place so he could commune with God through the spirit.  God’s spirit is dwelling inside him is the controller of his life, and so, in response to God’s will and the desires of the spirit, the soul says, “Jehovah is my Lord and I am nothing without Him.”  The flesh, then, has placed the spirit of God in the pilot’s seat.  At this point the man becomes the sojourner in the world; a stranger in a strange land.

This is where surrender comes into play.  In order to allow the spirit to enter and be the major force in our lives we need to hand ourselves over to God.  It happens most often during intense emotional times in life that a person is most susceptible to suggestion.  So in order to get the strong and over-controlling soul to give up its place of dominance to God, an event needs to have taken place to “soften” the soul so the spirit can take control.

Many people, however, through up-bringing and hearing the word of God, voluntarily surrender without the life-shaking event – and so it is with Jesus.  Jesus bowed Himself to the Heavenly Father so he could do the work of the Father.  When our soul bows to the authority of God, then we become like Jesus because the soul has declared its full consent to the rule of God.  It is a major coup to the flesh when the soul says to God: “You are my master.”

The Goodness of God and of Man

The phrase “my goodness extends not to thee;”  shows that the man, Jesus, understood that the Father does not need anything that man has to offer.  There is nothing man can do and he has no goodness that can add to the goodness and righteousness of God.  He understood that even though He is the Son of God, He still had limited goodness because of the human life He accepted for our sakes.  So, like us, although we may have goodness within us, none of this goodness will make God better.   Nothing we do can do this.  Let’s face it: When it comes down to the simplest of facts, we must admit that God doesn’t really need us for His existence.

But, God wants us around, because we are His family and His creation and He loves us.  Like Jesus, we can extend our goodness to others around us, helping them get through the trials of life, bringing to them the knowledge of the gospel, helping them to follow Jesus, and we can help the widows and the orphans and visit the sick and those who are prisoners – just as Jesus said.  This is extending our goodness.

The Inheritances

Notice the change between the two previous verses and verse four.  The prior verses were about the goodness of God and accepting His command over our lives and helping those around us, but these two verses concern themselves with the opposite situation.  Here we deal first with people who run their own lives and run after false gods.

4.    Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

5.    The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

The word sorrows, in Hebrew, comes from a word that means idol and has additional meanings of pain or wound.  Those who follow idols and false gods will have their sorrows multiplied.  We hurt from taking up those idols, but when they are overthrown, the pain that we have suffered will disappear.  He continues the last half of the verse with what seems to be almost an oath or a vow, stating he will not offer blood offering to the false god, nor will he even speak the names of the gods.  All of this echoes the commandment given on Sinai: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  Translation: If you are going to follow me, I hold the number one position in your life, and there are no other positions.

Matthew Henry says:
“They that multiply gods multiply griefs to themselves; for whosoever thinks one god too little, will find two too many, and yet hundreds not enough.”

Then, verse five tells why he will not follow them: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup … .   In other words, I am the heir of all that Jehovah has to offer – Yahweh is all I need.  Just as we cannot add to the goodness of God, neither can the idols we pick up add anything to the portion that God has graced to us.  God’s portion is love and protection and grace and guidance, while the idol’s offering to us consists of nothing but silence.  This is because someplace, deep down inside ourselves, we know that we cannot maintain by our own strength – that our Father Who Art in Heaven is our true comforter and strength and, as this verse states, He is the one who maintains our covenant with Him.

Pleasant Places and the Inheritance

Discarding and denying the idols that we pick up in favor of the true and living God sets us down paths that lead to “pleasant places.”   Pleasant places being the benefit we can enjoy now.   A “goodly” inheritance is what we have to look forward to.  The word goodly is translated from the Hebrew word which can mean “glisten” and is further explained to mean “be fair” or “make fair.”  Using the word “glisten” brings a bright or shiny aspect to the inheritance.

6.  The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

7.  I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

Jesus was tempted by Satan, but he would have no truck with anything the evil one had to offer.  What Satan was offering Him in the wilderness was essentially idols: power, fame, fortune, and finally Satan, himself as an object of worship.

Jesus saw that His heritage was with the Father and He would not give that up.  While on earth He was able to withstand the temptations of Satan because He knew His heritage and was confident of His Father’s promises.  Because of this, Jesus could walk the face of the earth and bless the Father who spoke to Him and reassured Him at every step.

Jesus was in constant contact with the Father and looked to Him for guidance. The phrase, “my reins also instruct me … ,” may be a little confusing.  Literally, reins refer to the kidneys, but as used in the Bible and in this passage, they refer to the innermost thoughts and feelings.  We may receive instruction by allowing God to speak to us through our innermost thoughts, giving us spiritual wisdom.

8.  I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Jesus (and David, for that matter) placed God at the forefront of their lives.  It was their heavenly Father to whom they went when they needed help, protection, guidance, and peace – in short, when they needed a  friend.  It was the Father He turned to when He faced the specter of the cross.  It was the Father who gave Him what He needed to take Him to that ultimate sacrifice.  It was the Father in whom Jesus placed His hope and who saw Him through death on the cross.

Jesus’ Path Foreshadowed

The death of Jesus and His descent into hell is foreshadowed in this verse.  Jesus knew He would be placed in a grave, where the body decays, but He also knew the Father’s promise of resurrection and that His body would not be corrupted.

10.  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

He also knew He had to visit hell, but He had utter faith in the Father and knew that He would not be there for long, and He was not disappointed.

11.  Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Now we see the promises fulfilled.  Jesus is the first to walk the path that we, as His followers, will walk. The Father has resurrected Jesus from the grave and, breaking the bonds of death, lifted Him out of Hell to live with Him in glory forever.  In the presence of God, Jesus experiences the complete joy that only God can give.

We also see in this verse the position that Jesus has taken up: that of sitting at the right hand of God where there are pleasures forevermore.

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