Our Living Lord – Psalm 16
Our Living Lord
It’s true and it works
Those of you who are students of our culture, keen watchers of society, will know that in previous generations, the dominant question that our culture would ask of a world view, a religious framework, was “Is it true?”
If you said to your friends, “This is what I believe”, the response you’d mostly likely get was, “Well, show me how you know it’s true.
Where’s the evidence?”
There’s been shift though, in our culture, which means that that question, “Is it true?”, has largely been replaced by another question, “Does it work?”
It seems we’re less interested in the empirical facts concerning something, and more concerned about whether it works.
And if it works, for you, great,
But whether or not I’ll buy into your faith system,
Whether or not I’ll believe what you believe, will be determined not by the truthfulness or otherwise of what you’re telling me, but “does it work?”, and particularly, “does it work for me?”
Psalm 16 is a little like what we might call a testimony,
A testimony of someone’s faith in God.
One of the things that I think we miss most about not being able to meet together for church, is all the conversations we have around the main gathering;, catching up with people,
Hearing what God’s been teaching them,
Being encouraged in our faith, as others share with us what they’ve learnt and experienced of God.
It’s part of the reason we’re working so hard to work out how we can meet together again safely!
But see the title of the Psalm there;, A miktam of David
For, some of the Psalms, we’re told that some event somewhere else in the Bible is the situation into which the Psalm was written.
We don’t know that for Psalm 16, but these titles in the Psalms are not just paragraph headings like we find elsewhere in the Bible, put there by the publishers to help us find our place.
These are actually part of the Bible text.
So we know that this is a Psalm of David. This is David’s testimony.
And although we don’t know what specific situation he’s in at this moment, the repeated ideas of death and dying in the closing verses fit any number of moments in David’s life, and they suggest that whatever the situation was, this is serious;, David’s life was at stake.
Here is David’s testimony, that even in the darkest moments of life, his trust in the living Lord, shapes his life.
Because of who God is, faith in God works.
And my non-Christian friends, if they’re interested in my faith at all, they want to know, “What’s the impact?
Does it work?”
“You say that you trust in God,
Well, how does that work?
Point to some area of your life, where your trust in God makes a difference. How would I be better off, if I trusted in God like you do?
What extra protection,
Or assurance, does your faith in God offer you?”
And it’s not an unreasonable thing to want to know, is it?
“Show me that it works.”
To trust in the Lord is to know that you have enough (v 1 – 6)
And the first bit of evidence that David’s trust in the Lord works, that it actually impacts his life, comes in the first 6 verses; to trust in the Lord is to know that you have enough.
See how he begins, A miktam perhaps a musical term, 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.
David begins, by stacking up different names for God.
In verse 1 it’s just the generic word for God.
But then in the beginning of verse 2, you’ll see the Bible translators have put the name LORD in capital letters.
That’s because David uses Yahweh, the personal name of the God of Israel.
This is how God revealed himself to Moses, and how God made himself known, alongside all those great Old Testament acts of salvation.
But verse 2 also has another name for God, translated in our Bibles as Lord. This is the Hebrew title “Adonai”, which maybe you’ve come across. It’s used hundreds of times in the Old Testament to describe God as ruler or master.
When David says, I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;”, he’s saying “The God of Israel, is my Lord”,
That God who has acted for deliverance and rescue throughout history, is my ruler.
I belong to this great God who provide refuge, which is wonderful, but he’s also master, Lord, a God to submit to.
We actually have language a little bit similar to this; Sometimes Christians speak of Jesus as “saviour” and “Lord.” Not only does he rescue us, save us, but we also submit to him as Lord for all of life.
And because this is who God is, the living Lord of history, to trust in God is enough, David says.
“apart from you I have no good thing.”
He says the same kind of thing down in verse 5, we’ll come back to 3 and 4 in a moment.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
Notice, David doesn’t say, “you provide me with my portion”, or “you fill my cup”, which, maybe we expect. David wants us to know that God is his portion, because this is imagery that comes from Israel’s history.
And we’re given another hint to that in verse 6, The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance
You might remember that God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham, and when his descendants, the nation of Israel, came to possess it, it was divided among the 12 tribes.
boundary lines were drawn up, and the allotment for each tribe was described as their portion, their inheritance.
And each tribe’s portion provided what they needed to live.
All except the tribe of Levi.
The Levites job was to serve God in the tabernacle and the temple, and they were provided for, by the tithes and offerings of the other 11 tribes.
They didn’t get their own portion, of land. God said to them “I am your portion, your inheritance.”
It sounds to us a bit like they’ve missed out,
If you were the only one in your family not to get mentioned in the will of some rich relative, you’d probably feel a bit left out.
But this “missing out” was actually a blessing, an honour even.
Not being given a portion of land for your provision and for your security, points you to the fact that the only real security comes from God,
The only dependable source of provision, is God.
And goodness, haven’t we been shown in the last 6 months;, that the things we might otherwise depend on, are not so dependable after all!
Well David says, it’s not only the Levites who can have the real security, the real provision that comes from God.
He claims that language of the Levites, to say, “I too depend on God, and not on the things my hand can provide,
Not on the things of this world,
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
C S Lewis, author of the Narnia books, and plenty of others, preached a sermon in Oxford in 1941, which was later published as a book called The Weight of Glory. In this sermon he commented, the person who has God and everything else, has no more, than the person who has God only.
the person who has God and everything else, has no more, than the person who has God only.
Now, clearly he’s not saying that, family, for example, is of no value. You don’t have to read too much of Lewis to see the great love he had for his own family.
But have God, is to have enough.
To trust in God, is to have the one thing, that really can be depended on.
David’s trust in God works, because of the object of his trust,
Because of who this God is, he now needs nothing else.
If everything he had were to be taken away from him, and, at different times in David’ life that was just about the case,
Even so, he still has what matters.
He still has what he needs.
More than wealth,
More than security,
Even more than family and food.
David needs forgiveness and relationship with God.
And those come through trusting in God.
To trust God is to know that you have enough.
Which means that faith in God actually works.
And I wonder if we would say the same;,
That God alone is our portion and cup
That to have God, is to have enough,
Or would we say, we have God, sure, we trust in him, we cling to him for what he offers us in eternity, but today, we still want other things, to fill in the gaps.
Would we say, God is my portion and cup, alongside, some other stuff.
I want God, but I also want influence,
I have God, but I also want to have the respect of people around me.
I trust in God, but I need to secure my financial future,
I trust God, but I’m still going to kind of, cling to my achievements,
Be confident in what I can offer to God and to other people,
That’s where I go for my security and my value,
God, and stuff.
David has no such divided loyalty, does he?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
For Paul, to gain Christ, to have Christ as my portion, means everything else is garbage.
The garbage truck came down our street Tuesday morning as I was preparing this.
It’s filled with all the rubbish that people want to get rid of, isn’t it?
And it all goes into landfill.
“Everything that this world offers,” Paul says,
“Everything I could contribute to my relationship with God,
Everything I could look to for value, and security, is garbage compared to having God, to gaining Christ.”
Wouldn’t that be a thing to pray;, that this might be true of us.
To trust in the Lord is to delight in God’s people (v 3)
Come back into verse 3 with me though, because David highlights a couple more ways in which his trust in God works itself out in his life.
And one of the ways in which the rubber hits the road, is in David’s relationships with God’s people.
See verse 3, I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Now, he’s just finished telling us that to have God is enough, now he says that he delights in people?!
But he’s not contradicting himself. Rather the immediate effect of his relationship with God, is a new kind of relationship with people.
Holy people as he says there, doesn’t mean people who are extra special, Super Christians, the people who get up at 4 AM every day to read their Bible.
This is the Bible’s language for all God’s people.
When someone sees God as everything, they cannot help but delight in the people God has set apart for himself.
And David says, “They are the noble ones.”
It’s pretty lofty language to speak about people who, well, I don’t want to be rude but, we know what God’s people can be like, don’t we?
David knew what God’s people could be like,
He’s not going to have a rose-coloured view of anyone!
And yet, so, all-pervasive, is his relationship with God, that it overflows into this love for, and delight in, God’s people.
And he points out that they’re in the land, that is, their very presence in the Promised Land is evidence of God’s faithfulness to his promises.
That’s only possible because God keeps his Word.
So come back to that question that our friends often want to know, “Does it work?”
Does our trust in God, overflow, into this kind of delight in God’s people?
Do you see in our church family, in God’s people further afield, evidence of God’s goodness and faithfulness?
Are we longing to gather again as church, because we delight in God’s people?
Does the church, the church for which Christ died, hold such a place in our heart, that we could speak of it like this? “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
We might hear people talking about delighting in their children.
And if we think about that comparison,
Someone who delights in their child, cares for them,
Wants what’s best for them,
Wants to meet their needs,
Celebrates what they do.
To follow David’s example, would mean we’re overwhelmed with thankfulness to God, for his people,
To long for what’s best, for them,
To celebrate what God is doing, through them.
And as we’re about to launch into a new year, and with COVID-19 restrictions easing a little, many of us are getting back into patterns of life, or perhaps even setting new patterns,
So maybe this coming year, is a year to ask that God might be at work in us in this regard;, to grow in us, a love and delight for his people, in our church and beyond.
To trust in the Lord is to reject his rivals (v 4)
The flipside of what David delights in, is what David rejects.
And to trust in God, means rejecting God’s rivals.
See there are other gods that appeal for our allegiance.
Verse 4 there, 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.
There are some who seek after other gods, but such is David’s trust in the true God, that he wants nothing to do with them.
To pour out libations of blood, just means to make sacrifices.
David steadfastly refuses to give these other gods what they want, even though, there are many who run after them.
I think it’s hardest to stand firm in your faith, to live out your trust in God, when it seems like everyone around you is running head-long in pursuit of the gods of our age.
If no one else was seeking other gods,
Seeking delight in other things,
Trying to find their security by other means,
Then it would be relatively easy for us to live out our trust in God.
But when it seems like everyone else is bowing at the altar of the so-called tolerance, that’s what makes it hardest for me to stand firm.
I don’t know if your parents used to warn you about fallowing the crowd with that question, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, does that mean you’d do it?”
And as much as I hated hearing that, I now find myself saying it to my children!
But for David, it really is that everyone else is jumping off a cliff, because he can see what lies ahead for those who run after other gods;, They will suffer more and more.
The language here is literally, multiplying sorrows.
It’s quite an image isn’t it?
To run after other gods,
To serve other gods,
To create gods,
To put anything in the place of God, is to multiply sorrows.
It’s the same language used in Genesis 3 when God describes to Eve, the effect of sin.
Sin multiplies sorrows.
Putting something in the place of God, multiplies sorrows.
And that shouldn’t surprise us, should it?
To put something, where it doesn’t belong, we should expect that it’s going to lead to sorrow.
Put diesel in the fuel tank of your petrol car, or vice versa, that will lead to sorrow.
Put a red sock in the washing with a load of whites, that will lead to sorrow.
Putting anything where it doesn’t belong, and you can expect sorrow.
So put something else in the place of God, as the one thing we can truly depend on, and that’s going to lead to disaster.
To expect, security, refuge, protection, deliverance, from something that is ultimately unable to deliver those things, is to set ourselves up for disappointment,
To multiply our sorrows.
Tim Keller, a pastor in New York who’s preached here at Dundonald, says that the human heart is an idol factory!
We can create a god out of anything!
But just because we put something in the place of God, doesn’t mean it can take the place of God.
And in fact, in every case, it cannot.
Replace the real thing, with something else, and in every case, it will lead to multiplying sorrows.
You might recall the story of the British Airways flight from Birmingham to Spain in 1990, which lost one of its cockpit windscreens, sucking the pilot halfway out of the plane. One of the cabin crew who happened to be in the cockpit grabbed hold of his belt and was able to hold onto him, as the co-pilot made an emergency landing.
The cause, it was determined, was that earlier in the day, the bolts holding the windscreen in place had been replaced with bolts that were 0.66 of a millimetre too small.
To replace the real thing, with something else, even something that seems very, very close to the real thing, is to multiply sorrows.
You probably also noticed, just how far David wants to be away from these false gods.
He says, I will not even take up their names on my lips
The temptation for us is sometimes to see how far we can go,
To see how closely we can follow these other things our society puts in the place of God, maybe we think without God really noticing.
We know for example, that money can’t guarantee us the kind of security that David finds in his God, and yet it so often looks, for Christian people, that when it comes to money, we’re doing almost everything exactly the same as our friends who don’t have this trust in God, and who think money means value and security.
Sure, we haven’t quite jumped off that cliff that everyone else is jumping off, but we’ve gone right up to the edge.
We know that advancement in career, is a god in our age.
Even children, and family, can become gods.
Everything becomes subservient, to giving my children the very best, to making sure they have everything I didn’t have when I was their age.
And to look at a lot of Christian families, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference, wouldn’t you?
It looks like the success and experience of children is the god before which the family bows.
They may not yet have completely switched allegiance, but they’ve walked this line so far it’s hard to tell!
David would say to us, “Get away. Don’t get in as close as you can get. Get as far away as you can!”
Have nothing to do with it.
I will not even take up their names on my lips.
To trust in the Lord is to be given great confidence for the future (v 7 - 8)
David continues explaining the ways that his trust in the Lord works itself out in his life by saying, from verse 7, to trust in God is to be given great confidence for the future.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
This is a challenge for us, isn’t it, to keep our eyes always on the Lord.
It’s important, because it’s the Lord who counsels me, David says, verse 7.
It’s important because, it means being able to say, verse 8, I will not be shaken.
And yet it’s hard, because there are plenty of other things that our eyes can turn to.
I read recently that we’re exposed to around 5000 advertisements every day.
There are lots of things competing for our attention.
And so this is a picture of a deliberate turning of our eyes to God in order to hear his Word.
The older English translations used to read “I set the Lord always before me”, which for me, captures something of the intentional focus;,
The purposeful and deliberate, turning of my eyes to the Lord’s counsel.
And because God speaks,
The person who trusts God like this, and intentionally puts themselves under God’s Word, can have great confidence for the future.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
I said before, that we don’t know which particular event in David’s life caused him to write this.
And if you’re anything like me, you kind of want to know the back story. But, we just don’t.
But of course, one of the great things about not knowing what the specific circumstances were, is that our focus is taken away from the particular issue, and directed to the God in whom David trusts.
It’s actually something we see a bit in the Bible, the author only gives us half the picture, because they want us to focus our attention on the bit they have given us,
What they have told us.
See, the danger for people like me, and maybe it’s the same for you, is that when we’re told the circumstances, as I say, sometimes we are in the Psalms, but when we’re told the circumstances, I quite easily think, “my life’s not exactly the same as that,
No enemies are surrounding me,
My life isn’t really hanging in the balance,
And so I kind of dismiss the assurance, the promise that the author wants to convince us of.
So I’ve never committed adultery with a woman after watching her in the bathtub, as David did,
As is the occasion for writing Psalm 51, and so I can distance myself from the circumstances, and distance myself from the obligation of repentance and contrition that that Psalm speaks of.
I’ve never pretended to be insane before a pagan king, as David did, when he wrote Psalm 34,
And so it’s all too easy for me to think that the deliverance David speaks of there, is limited to that particular, somewhat unusual set of circumstances.
Now, of course, David doesn’t say that. That’s not the point of Psalm 34;, you can only extol the Lord, if he allows you to escape by pretending you’re insane and letting your saliva run down your beard, like he did!
He doesn’t say that at all, in fact he says that no one who takes refuge in the Lord will be condemned,
But I’m always tempted to think, “My situation’s different,
David lived so long ago,
It’s easy for him to say,
I’ve never been in those circumstances,
And so I end up concluding that somehow the promises and assurances are less applicable to me.
As I say, maybe that’s you as well.
But see, we can’t do that here.
Because we’re not told the circumstances, we can’t write off our circumstances as being different.
We’re just told “you can take refuge in God.
You can put your trust in God.”
And because our God is a God who speaks in his Word,
If we’re willing to hear his counsel,
If we’re willing to engage in the deliberate, purposeful, putting of ourselves under God’s Word, and what the New Testament calls “keeping in step with the Spirit”, we can have enormous confidence for the future.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
To trust in the Lord is to be given confidence in the face of death (v 9 – 11)
And a particular application of our confidence for the future, is our confidence in the face of death, verses 9 to 11.
It’s one thing to trust God, for relationship, for forgiveness, for refuge,
But what happens when God doesn’t save us physically?
Because there are differences between us and David.
Even with what I was saying before, we mustn’t ever think that our situation is precisely the same as his.
David was God’s anointed king!
He was a little prototype of the Messiah!
He was to show people something of what it was to live under the reign of God’s king.
For David’s enemies to oppose him, was to oppose the Lord’s anointed king, which was tantamount to opposing God himself.
That’s not true of us.
So what happens when we don’t get the refuge that we long for?
What does this Psalm say to the 33 Christians killed by Islamic militants in Nigeria last week, while members of the military watched from their vehicles.
What is it to trust in God when you’re facing that?
We face death in lots of ways.
And yet David’s confidence in God isn’t something that’s good up until the point of death, and then useless.
Maybe you’ve had that experience of buying something, it comes with a warranty, and then just a few days after the warranty expires, so does your product!
David wants us to be sure that when it comes to trusting in God, we’re not going to find that the warranty’s expired, just when we come to use it.
No, trusting in the living Lord means confidence of eternal refuge, even in the face of death.
Verse 9, 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
David knows that at some point, he is going to face death. It may not be in this moment, but it will come one day.
And far from his trust in God being proved worthless by death, which maybe we’re tempted to think. Those Christians in Nigeria, their trust in God didn’t save them, so what’s the point of it?
Well, on the contrary, David’s trust in God is proved most useful of all, in the face of death.
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.
See David’s not just talking about a trust in God that works for this life. He’s got his eye on eternal pleasures, in God’s presence!
To trust in God, gives confidence in the face of death, because this relationship with God continues even after death.
And notice, the relationship after death, is even greater than the relationship he enjoys now.
He will be in God’s very presence then;, something that he can only look forward to now.
Little wonder that his whole body rejoices!; His heart, his tongue
The person who trusts in God, even today, and believes that God himself makes the way open for us to enjoy relationship with him, that person, has an enormous confidence in the face of death.
If you’re a Christian, this is what’s in store for you,
joy in God’s presence,
eternal pleasures at his right hand.
How is this possible?
And can it really change the way we face death?
Well, these words from Psalm 16 are quoted twice in the New Testament, .
Here’s the Apostle Peter speaking about David in Acts chapter 2.
Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
Psalm 2:31 – 32
How is it that David, sinful, ordinary, human David, gets to enjoy eternal pleasures in God’s presence?
He certainly doesn’t deserve it.
No, he receives that, his confidence is not misplaced, because Psalm 16 is true first of all, of Jesus. He is the faithful one, who did not see decay. That is, he didn’t stay dead and buried.
Because Jesus defeated death, all who trust in him as, remember, Saviour and Lord, share in his victory over death.
How do we know that we need not fear death?
How do we know that trusting in God won’t leave us with an expired warranty the day we pass from this life?
Because Jesus has triumphed over death.
We don’t have to fear death, because Jesus has gone through death.
David trusts in a promise about death being defeated, that, he didn’t see in all its detail, but we do.
And our trust in Jesus the living Lord, overflows into our lives, giving us great confidence, even, at the edge of the grave;
The grave of someone we love.
Because Jesus lives, death, the last enemy, is defeated.
And because Jesus is the living Lord, all the promises of this Psalm are guaranteed, giving us great confidence for life, and for death.
How do we know we can take refuge in God?
Even death the last enemy is nothing to him.
How can we be sure God provides for us?
He didn’t even spare his own Son to give us what we need.
What confidence can I have that God can be trusted in the face of death?
Jesus died the death I deserved, and was raised to life.
Because of Jesus, the person who comes to God, remember, with nothing else, becomes the one celebrating in God’s presence for eternity.
And because of Jesus, our living Lord, this promise is both true, and it works.