Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Psalm 16

Psalm 16
A psalm of profound insights

"A Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust." (verse 1)

     The word "michtam" is likely a derivative of the Hebrew word katham which can mean "to hide" or to "lay away," signifying a secret or mystery.  The deep truths outlined in this psalm of David are indeed profound, and at times even prophetic, as we shall see.
      To "preserve" is to uphold the condition of something or someone, to prevent from spoiling or harm, and to keep intact. David is asking a rather all encompassing prayer for his life. He is relying on God alone to keep him, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Whatever the particulars of his need, David cries out for God to uphold him in his present circumstance, and declares his singularity of trust in God's care.
        Sometimes, life seems so unsure and the future frightening, especially when facing health, family, or financial crises. The natural tendency is to fear or doubt, but there is something else we can do. We can do exactly what David did, and give God the complete reigns to our life; we can trust Him to preserve us in every trial, every circumstance, every need.
        These past few weeks have brought this truth closer to my own heart, as I have been battling with my health and the fears that go along with that. I've had to make the choice, sometimes moment by moment, to trust in God to uphold me. One morning, a familiar song came into my head with the lyrics, "My life in Your hands, my heart is in Your keeping...", and in meditating on this truth that is found richly throughout the Word of God, I found the peace I needed to persevere. He holds my very life in His hands, and I can trust Him to preserve and keep me through every trial in this life.
         He is the same God that David trusted in, and we can come to Him the same way David did, depending upon His mercy and trusting in His grace. He will preserve you, no matter what you are going through.

"O my soul, you have said to the LORD, 'You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.'" (verse 2)

     David often talks to himself, addressing his own soul, as in Psalm 42:5 , "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?" Here in Psalm 16, David reminds himself of his own words, something he actually once said to God. David draws upon this particular moment in the past as the very fuel for his faith today.  Whether he was facing fear, discouragement, or condemnation, this recollection serves as the faith bolster he needs to keep going.
      The very trials and triumphs we experience along the way will later prove to be a strong source of strength and comfort when facing future challenges. I have often returned to certain passages of scripture, or past journal entries written during times of trial, to draw encouragement for the situation I was presently facing. Just as other believers can encourage us, we can encourage ourselves in the Lord by remembering His past faithfulness to us. [Read Psalm 42 for an example of this]. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His word remains relevant and powerful for every situation we may face.
      And what exactly does David remember saying? "You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You." David here reflects on both his position and his standing with God. He remembers the day that he first declared the Lord to be His God; the moment he recognized that his own righteousness was dependent upon God's grace. It is simply his statement of faith, yet it is such a powerful reality that in merely reminding himself of it, he finds great encouragement.
      In truth, it is the same profession we each have made, if we have placed our trust in Jesus. We can say with David, "Jesus is my Lord, and my goodness is nothing apart from Him". His death and resurrection gave me a right standing with God, and I am justified by faith in Him alone. This is the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness. When we know our position with God, we are able to stand amidst whatever trials we will face. [See Ephesians 6]. The simple words of the gospel classic, Nothin' but the Blood of Jesus, resonate with the heart of David's profession of faith in this psalm, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus... This is all my righteousness: Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

" As for the saints on the earth, 'They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.'" (verse 3)

      In this time of remembering, David also recalls his pleasure in like-minded men and women, who also find their hope and peace in the Lord's mercy. He delights in such company. Fellowship with other Christians who love God wholeheartedly is precious and one of my favourite things on this earth! Talking about the Lord, what He is doing in our lives, what He did for us at the cross, and the hope we share in His imminent return, is like food for my soul! Talking about Jesus with other believers excites my heart like nothing else. Jesus is our common joy and bond, and about such sisters and brothers in the Lord, I agree with David , "They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight!"
    Fellowship with other Christians is not just about times of joy, however; like the truest of friends, the body of Christ is there to help one another in our struggles, weaknesses, and failures. When going through a trial or tribulation, remember that you belong to the family of God... that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are there to lift you up when you fall and to support you when you are weak. You are not alone, and you don't have to go it alone. 
     Sometimes my greatest joy in being part of the body of Christ is the way that other members of the Church, whether from my church or not, reach out to me with the love of Jesus when I'm hurting. Just this past week, sisters from many different fellowships in our city all gathered around me to pray for peace and healing in regards to my health issues. The next time you are facing discouragement, call up another believer and ask them to pray for you.  It is our joy to be able to encourage you in the Lord, for you are family!
    Conversely,  if you have never experienced the joy of being God's hands and heart in the life of another, ask the Lord to show you opportunities to reach out to those around you, especially your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Truly, fellowship with other believers is one of the greatest delights I have known this side of eternity, and the good news is that it only gets better and will last forever!

"Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take up their name on my lips." (verse 4)

      In whose company does David not delight? Those who worship false gods with abominable sacrifices. He will not join them and he warns them of the consequences of forsaking the God of heaven. Great sorrow will be their lot in this life and in all of eternity.
      Yet, God loves all men, and desires that none should perish. He sent His Son, Jesus, to make a way that all men, regardless of religion or culture, could be saved. By simple faith in His all sufficient sacrifice on our behalf, we pass from a state of judgment and death to life and peace. We need no other god, no other system, no other "faith;" Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6) This is the gospel.
      In this verse, David simply says it like it is. No mincing words, or soft peddling the truth. Is David being harsh? No. The truth may be hard to hear, but it is not unkind to share it. True love speaks the truth at all times. It is cruel to speak pleasant lies that damn a soul. There is only one Truth, only one way to God, and out of love, we must share this reality with those who are believing a lie. This week, a friend shared an touching story with me about her daughter. With great conviction, this little girl had unashamedly shared the gospel with her grandmother, finishing with a plea to her offended grandma to believe and be saved from an eternity in hell. The truth, although unwelcome, was shared out of her deep concern for the soul of her loved one. True love speaks the truth. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16)

"O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance."  (verses 5-6)

      David voices that he has put no stock in his earthly possessions, positions, or pieces of land. He has invested his life into eternal life. Its actually a somewhat startling concept at first, coming from the man who is the King of Israel, which was the leading nation of it's time; a man with wealth, power, fame, and talent. He could have anything his heart desired, and yet here he declares that his only inheritance is in the Lord. He wants no earthly claim. A man who has everything, but wants nothing, ... but God.
    I am a normal North American woman. I have normal desires, such as a family to raise, a home to own and decorate, and a pleasant long life of joy and fulfillment. But I am different in one key way that has changed the direction of my life unalterably. I died. The day I placed my trust in Jesus Christ, my old life was crucified with Him and His life became my own. I am not my own anymore... "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me," (Galatians 2:20) When that happened, I became a citizen of Heaven, and my inheritance from God. Whether I have family, land, and pleasure in this life is beside the point; it is not my inheritance. My future, my retirement, is in heaven, and it is into that "plan" that I am investing my time, energy, and money. Yes, I have a good inheritance!
    Do you own a home? Do you have an RRSP or other "nest egg" you are laying up for yourself? Did you inherit something of value from your family? That's fine! But don't forget eternity. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) Notice the order Jesus gave; He's giving us a practical way to assess our own hearts. Into whatever we put our most time, our greatest efforts, and our biggest financial investments is that which will hold our hearts. What are you investing in?

"I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons." (verse 7)

   David was in need of guidance. Instead of turning to the self-help section at the book store or the the Internet, (I jest), David looked to God and sought His counsel in prayer and in the scriptures. We know that David was a man of the Word and of prayer, and it is to the Lord that he turned when he needed wisdom and counsel. Of course, as the King, he had both spiritual and political advisers, but David does not mention their counsel. He desires that his answers come from God alone, and it is to Him that he looks. Whether God answers through his Word, His messenger, or His still small voice, David knows that when the counsel comes, it will be from the Lord.
    He has promised to give us wisdom liberally when we ask in faith. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)  I often find myself unsure as to how to proceed in life. Depending on the nature of the dilemma, I may seek out various means by which I may gain wisdom and direction. However, I have found that when I take the matter to the Lord first, the anxiety and stress associated with the problem is all but gone in the assurance that He will guide me and give me the counsel I desire.
   I have also found that night time is the worst for those pressing issues that weigh down our souls; in the quiet of the evening, our thoughts can run wild and fears bare their ugly heads. Thus, it is crucial that we seek the Lord in His Word in both the morning and the evening. With the rising of the sun and the setting of the sun, we need to seek His counsel. When our hearts are full of His Word, which is truth, we are able to combat the attacks of the enemy through lies, fear, and discouragement. Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, throughout the day, and hide His words in your heart. Then your heart shall instruct you in the night seasons.   

"I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (verses 8-11)

     David comes now to the finale of this meaty psalm that is already packed with profound truths and deep insights. Before I add my simple commentary on these verses, I must first offer the "in-house" commentary found in the book of Acts, when Peter quoted this exact passage of scripture and gave an explanation of it's meaning. Its always best when we let the Bible interpret the Bible.

     "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him:" [HERE WE HAVE PSALM 16:8-11 QUOTED]"
        "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses." (Acts 2:22-32)

    Peter basically declares that this passage of scripture in David's psalm is a prophesy of the Messiah, the "Holy One." The point of Peter's sermon is that this prophesy came true in Jesus. Lets take this verse by verse.
    [8] "I have set the LORD always before me" implies a keen and intentional awareness of the nearness of God. Throughout the scriptures we often find statements like, "...for the Lord is at hand," or that God is "...standing at the door," both carrying the idea of His immanency and presence. Paul, in his address at Athens said of God, "...He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being..." (Acts 17:27,28) Peter, in quoting this Psalm, used the Septuagint translation, (then in common use), which rendered this phrase, "I foresaw the LORD always before my face..." (Acts 2:25) When something is right in front of your face, or when something is set before you, it stands to reason that this is something you cannot help but look at, to notice. If the LORD is before your face, will He not also be in your thoughts? In short, David is saying that he is as aware of the presence of the LORD as if He were physically inches from his nose.
      "Because He is at my right hand..." To be at someone's "right hand" is to be their greatest supporter, loyal counselor, and trusted friend. David proclaims the LORD to be not only close, but to be his advocate. God is David's friend. This awareness of relationship enables David to boldly declare,
  "I shall not be moved." 
    What are some ways that we can be "moved"? Certainly, physically, in that we are but frail human beings at the mercy of laws of nature, and there are many material things that can "move" us out of our place. Think earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, winds, waves...
     Mentally, too, we can be "moved," or convinced, of something we had previously not been in agreement with. Once, I thought I hated the colour "harvest gold," yet now it is the theme of my bedroom. Emotionally, our moods can "move" us all over the map, changing with the circumstances.  The other day, I was full of joy, singing praise songs while doing dishes, until the kids got in an argument with each other and strife broke out in our home. Within minutes, I was stressed and anxious, the songs of praise all but forgotten.
     Spiritually, while it is possible that a person be "moved" in their faith, this is the point, I believe, that David intends to make with his statement. Because God is with him, counseling him, upholding him, David is confident that his faith shall not waver, whatever else in him might. Though his health be shaken, his mind shaken, his emotions shaken, yet his faith will stand.
    We can have this same confidence in the Lord.  When our eyes are on Jesus, who is both with us and upholding us, we can endure any and all trials we may face in this life. Jesus is our anchor, and we shall not be moved.
     Paul in Acts 20:24 was able to say, like David, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." His eyes were on Jesus. Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) He is with us this very moment. We shall not be moved.
    [9] "Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;" David finds not only peace, but joy in this assurance. While all else in this life is not sure, David is sure of this one thing. God is with him and will keep him spiritually. Thats huge. We need to grasp this ourselves and take it to heart. Whatever befalls us in this life, no matter how grave and dire it may be, we can rejoice in the one thing that will never fail us: our salvation in Jesus Christ! There are so many admonitions in scripture to rejoice always, and in light of this truth, it is possible.
     "My flesh also will rest in hope." When we are anxious, it is impossible to be at rest. With the confidence of God's presence and sure salvation, David is able to rest in the hope of the promises of God. His "flesh", that is, his body, is able to relax in the face of whatever trials prompted the writing of this psalm; the circumstances that lead to his prayer for preservation in verse one need not wreak havoc on his physical being. But further, David is even at peace with death. Should this trial end in the grave, he is confident, even rejoicing, in this... his certain hope. What is that hope?
  [10] "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol..." David knows and believes in the future resurrection of the living and the dead, promised in the scriptures. He trusts in the sure Word of God to raise up those whose hope is in Him at the last day.  We share this hope in Jesus! "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).
    "Nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption."  Here David, by the Spirit of God, prophesies about the promised Messiah, the "Holy One." He would die, but not stay dead. Jesus was crucified and buried, but rose again the third day. He is alive forevermore. His resurrection made a way for our resurrection. David's hope is founded upon the risen Messiah, Jesus Christ. After Jesus died, He freed the captives in Sheol (Ephesians 4:8-10), all of them waiting in hope for this promise. Today, our souls go straight to heaven. "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8)
    [11] "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." David concludes this weighty psalm with this exuberant declaration of faith. In verse one, he tells the Lord that he has put his trust in Him, and here in verse eleven, he confirms it. God will show him the way, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Peter rephrases this as "You have made known to me the ways of life," in Acts 2:28, indicating a path already shown... in Jesus Christ. To be with God in person is the single most delightful experience a man or woman can have. A fullness... a super abundance, of overwhelming joy and delight is what awaits us on the other side. Heaven is glorious beyond anything we can even imagine. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." (Ephesians 3:20)

 Just like David, we can be certain that God will preserve us through what ever we may face in this life, and then bring us home to glory!

    "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." (Jude 1:24)

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