This psalm begins with the term “A Michtam of David” (Psalm 16:1a). The word “michtam” comes from a root word that basically means “to engrave or stamp into gold.” This is telling us to consider this psalm to be precious because it is THAT valuable.
“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” (Psalm 16:1a)
David begins by asking God to preserve him. This means to guard and protect him be encircling him with hedge of thorns.
Did you know you could ask God to be that hedge for you? That’s what David was doing here.
David’s logic was that God might as well be his hedge of protection since his trust was in God already.
So long as we live in earthly bodies we will be tempted, often successfully, to trust in pretty much anything other than God. In a later psalm David says this:
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
ANYTHING we trust in other than God would be trusting in something He had made….other than in the Maker Himself. Doing this would be practicing idolatry whether it be “holy medals”, crosses, minerals, pyramids, etc.
David trusted in the Maker of all things and we are encouraged here in this psalm to do the same.
“O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.’” (Psalm 16:2)
One curious thing David models seems a little strange. He talks to his own soul. Here he reminds his mind, will and emotions that he has spoken to the LORD reminding himself that anything that if good about him comes from God.
If we would remember this we would never succumb to pride and arrogance.
“As for the saints who are on the earth, ‘They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.’” (Psalm 16:3)
When David refers to “saints” and “excellent ones” he is referring to their efforts to perform well in God’s eyes. Other places in the Old Testament make it quite clear that without Jesus NO ONE is a saint or holy.
“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 – NASB)
Several letters written to Christians in the New Testament are addressed to “the saints” who were the Church in that region. The only way to become a saint in God’s eyes is to become born again in Christ.
“Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take up their names on my lips.” (Psalm 16:4)
David says something that I’m sure did not delight him. He says that if anyone hurries to any small “g” god will experience multiplied sorrows. In other words, they will keep the sorrows they have (which motivate them to rush to some false god in the first place) and those sorrows will INCREASE.
There are a couple of interesting things to see in this verse. The first is that the word “sorrows” comes from a Hebrew word (“atstsebeth”) that literally means “idol” but can also mean “pain” or “wound”.
Isn’t it curious that according to God we can sometimes worship or idolize our pain and sorrows? I think this is because we often spend SO MUCH time thinking about it – instead of focusing on He who can address our pain.
The second thing we can see here is that the New American Standard Bible translates the word “hasten after” as “barter with” because the Hebrew words there are so close. I wonder how much of our time is spent trying to bargain with false gods to make the sorrows they put in our lives go away.
In the second part of verse 4 David proclaims that he will not entertain offerings to false gods in his times of troubles. Let’s join him in that resolve.
Whatever sorrow is in our lives today…was inserted there by satan, the enemy of our souls. Let’s resolve to NOT go to the perpetrator and barter with him to relieve the pain he enjoyed putting in our lives. Let’s go to our Father in heaven instead.
“O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” (Psalm 16:5)
What David begins to model here is his lifestyle: worship and praise to his God.
David sees God Himself as his allotment when it comes to his inheritance. He’s not interested in stuff….he has GOD! The term “God is my cup” literally means, “God holds me together.” That’s why he sums this line up by saying that God sustains his destiny.
We don’t have to worry about our destiny. That’s God’s job. We simply need to discern His destiny for us and cooperate with Him instead.
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6)
The “lines” David speaks of here refer to ropes that measure out one’s territory granted to him. The term “have fallen to me” speak of them coming down to him. David is saying “God gave me this.” Then he assesses what God has given him and he announces that he considers it to be a “good inheritance.”
How would our experiential lives improve is we lived like that? It would be good for us to assess what it is God allows us to have and to proclaim aloud (so our souls could hear us saying this truth) that “I have a good inheritance.”
I think if we did this we would be much more likely to live a life of gratitude instead of resenting what little we do not have.
“I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:7-8)
David frequently proclaims his intentions to bless the Lord. He connects the truth that when God gives us counsel our hearts give us instruction even in the “night seasons” (or dark times.) He reminds himself that he has set the LORD always before himself. This refers to focus. He focuses on God, therefore he cannot be moved.
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” (Psalm 16:9)
When we, like David, get a grip on the fact that focusing on God results in us not being able to be moved by the stresses and attacks we experience in life we will join David in rejoicing, having glad hearts and giving our flesh a reason to “rest in hope.”
“For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10)
This verse serves two purposes. The first is to remind us that God won’t abandon us to what often feels like hell on earth.
The main purpose here, though, is to give a prophetic word about Jesus. This verse is one that speaks of the truth that Jesus did not remain in the grave and that is Good News!
“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
David ends his psalm by speaking directly to God. We would do well to practice what he does here.
He voices his expectation that God will reveal the “path of life.” David speaks of this path often in his writings. I love that the word “path” refers to “a well-trodden road” because it speaks symbolically of God walking back and forth on it to go before us and then come back to accompany us like Psalm 23 shows Him to do.
It also speaks to the many faithful who have gone before us on that path of real, God-derived life. It truly is a well-travelled road.
David says that God’s presence is the place where fullness of joy can be found. The term God’s “presence” literally means to “be in His face.” This brings the sensation of His nearness. He is EVERYWHERE but when we seek the sensation of nearness with Him…well, there is joy to be found in that.
May we all do that…frequently at first…and then habitually and then…..perhaps sometime soon….continually.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience satisfying joy all the time?
Finally, David tells God that at His “right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
God’s right hand is an important place mentioned many times in the Bible. In fact, as the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was being murdered this is what he saw and proclaimed:
“Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56)
According to the Bible when Christians confess Jesus as Lord they are baptized INTO Jesus.
Fellow Christians: we are IN Christ. We are seated at the right hand of the Father IN Jesus.
“at Your (God’s) right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
We are there spiritually yet I don’t typically sense “pleasures forevermore.” Do you?
As we conclude this study please join me in praying that as we practice what David models in this Psalm that God will reveal to us everything that truly is.
I am confident that we just might experience these pleasures that simply come from being THAT near to a God that satan tries so hard to get us to abandon.