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08 June 2017

Psalm 16: Joy and Hope in Christ

This Psalm has a number of uncommon words that I first had to decipher, so I had to start by learning about these trickier words and phrases. Once I had figured out what all the words mean, then the Psalm became beautiful and very comforting to me.

From verse 2:

Lord, thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee.

I started out looking this up in Strong's Concordance, but it wasn't there, and I'm not sure what that's all about, but the next thing that I did was to look at the collection of parallel translations at the Blue Letter Bible site. The NIV rendering is pretty representative of the collection, and I made note of it in the margins of my Bible:

You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.

The other idea that was repeated several times among the various translations is this, from the New King James:

You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.

I love this sense that everything good comes from Christ, and that without Him there is nothing good either from us or for us, both individually (verse 2) and collectively as His saints (verse 3).  David  then follows this idea up with a declaration of the importance and benefits of fidelity, as well as his intention to be true to the Lord.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take their names into my lips.
-Psalm 16:4

I was recently reading in Hosea where loathsomeness of chasing other gods brought home through the comparison to a bride who willfully turns to prostitution and whoredom, abandoning a loving husband, though Isaiah assures us that the Bridegroom is anxious to take his bride back when she strays. The vivid imagery from Hosea and Isaiah makes David's declaration of fidelity all the more poignant. The more that I ponder this idea that straying from our covenants to God is offensive to Him in much the same way that straying from the marriage covenant is offensive to a faithful spouse, the more powerful the imagery of faithfulness in the covenant is. Having observed the devastation when marriage covenants are not upheld strictly, the comparative consequence of straying from our covenants to God, while not always immediately obvious, is sobering. David continues with the Psalm, with verses 5 and 6 referencing the security of knowing that the Lord is caring for and providing for His people, in the same way that a faithful husband provides for his wife:

The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

The "portion of mine inheritance" here references the way that the promised land was divided up by lot when the Israelites. John Taylor referenced these verses several times in addresses to the Saints in his day, always in appreciation for the beautiful lands and homes that the Lord had given them. In many translations of the Bible, this is rendered as property lines given for an inheritance. I have looked around our part of the world many times and thought how lovely it is here, and how blessed I am to enjoy the land the the Lord has given to me. David echoed the same theme as President Taylor in his expression of gratitude and reliance on the Lord:

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 rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer they Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt sew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  
-Psalm 16:8-11

I don't know when this was written, if it was before or after David murdered Uriah the Hittite, but I love the confidence that he expresses here: he's not going to be abandoned; and the Lord will not have to tolerate corruption: David anticipates being clean. I'm kind of guessing this is after that incident, given the strength of the imagery that David is drawing on: to me this looks like someone who has had a long look at the ugliness of their own actions, and is extremely grateful to be snatched from hell by the grace of our Savior. This opportunity for complete redemption is something that every prophet has emphasized. One of my favorite examples comes from Isaiah:

Come no, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be a scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
-Isaiah 1:18

The standards are high: the Lord cannot look on any sin with the least degree of allowance. But His mercy and grace are up to the task: nothing is too hard for Him; He is able to redeem us, to cleanse us, and to bring us home.

No wonder David ends his Psalm with an expression of confidence and joy.

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Anne Chovies said...

I think this Psalm was written several years before David got himself in trouble with his adultery and murder. Verse ten is generally considered a prophecy of Christ's short stay in the tomb. But I agree this still is an expression of David's gratitude for Christ's atoning sacrifice. David's spiritually and humility up until shortly before his transgressions​ were deep and admirable.

Ritsumei said...

Interesting. I forgot to check this Psalm and see if it's quoted elsewhere in the Bible -- and it is, in Acts 2:25-28, and again in Acts 13:35. I thought that I was done with this one, but I think that I still want to linger a little longer, and see what it is that Paul has to say about it. Very interesting. So many layers of meaning.


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