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The Life Preserver - Psalm 16



In this psalm, we come to what is called a "Mikhtam" of David which in the original language meant, “a writing” (See the beginning of Psalms 56-60; Isaiah 38:9). This writing serves as a set of poetic words that contain prophetic truths about the Messiah that reveals details about what happened to Jesus after His death and burial. At the same time, David is writing about some real issues he is facing and trusting God to help him while not realizing the depth of meaning behind his words.


Both Peter (Acts 2:25) and Paul (Acts 13:35) reveal the true meaning behind the words found here. While it is true that David wrote it and it may have had some initial application to his life, there are certain things mentioned in this psalm that could never apply to David. For example,


“Nor will you allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”

We know that David died and did decay like all other humans that suffer death in the flesh. We will discuss this at greater length today.


The title of the lesson today is “The Life Preserver”. The true meaning of the word preserve here is to keep, guard and or save. While the psalm applies directly to Jesus and the hope of His resurrection, it is because of His being raised that we also can rest assured that our bodies will one day be raised incorruptible and changed and we will be immortal in new bodies with eternal life.


Let’s begin by reading the Psalm:


Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips. The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.

Preservation in prayer (vs. 1-2)


Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.


I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.”


God is our keeper and refuge. We ask God to preserve us. Preservation is more than just safekeeping; it also speaks of longevity as belonging to God. Here David calls God in Hebrew “El” which is the name for the one true God. He is not to be confused with false gods.


We are kept by the power of God through faith as new covenant believers. While others are trying to take life away, David turns to the source of life and sustainer of life in trusting faith. We are kept from temptation by the evil one and his scheme worked by other evildoers through prayer. David says he trusts God to hear and do what he is requesting.


The LORD is our only good in life. When you look at what the world offers it pales in comparison to anything God offers. David now calls God “Yahweh” (LORD) and you are my Lord (Adonai) which means “master”. This means David sees himself as a humble servant that seeks to obey the Lord. David is speaking from his inner man, (from the soul) to God about his needs. This was not an uncommon thing for David to speak from within his soul (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)


Nothing is lasting here and so we turn to the everlasting/eternal God who blesses us. David adds that if it weren’t for the Lord he would have no good thing on the earth. In God’s care, he had the best that life could offer. Every perfect gift comes from above.


Preservation in the people of God (vs. 3-4)


As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.


The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips.


The saints are the majestic ones that David delighted in on Earth. David says that beyond His love for and his trust in God, he also has as an extension a great love for the people of God on the earth. These are the excellent ones that David delighted in because they are sanctified and set apart (saints) and this fellowship was enriching to David’s pursuit of God. David loved those that the Lord loved. Those that obey the Father are His treasured ones (Psalm 147:11)


The world and its wicked relationships would like to pull David away from God, so David chooses to be associated with and find value in being around God’s people. Let this be a lesson to us to cherish the family of God that we have in Christ. We are better because of the unity that we have in serving the Lord together. We can be support to one another with the love of the Lord, encouragement, and even discipline to keep us heading in the right direction. God designed the church to be a place where we share our burdens.


The sorrowful will have increased sorrow because they don’t serve God but rather worship idols. In contrast to being devoted to the true God of heaven and earth David states that sorrow as opposed to good things will befall those that serve false gods, offer them sacrifices, and cry out their names from their lips. These people are not interested in serving the true God overall.


The word for sorrows can also be translated as idols. So as they increase idols so they also increase their sorrows. With every new image that they worship, or created carving that they cry out to, they would miss out on knowing and experiencing the benefits and blessings of the only real God. To hurry or hasten after another god, which is no god at all, is the same as joining oneself (betrothal) or aligning with this false idol. There was a price to pay for endowment and according to David, you pay with sorrow. As long as they remain in this error, sorrow multiplies.

David also refuses to participate in their pagan rituals of mingling wine and blood in drinking to honor a false god. Drink offerings of water or wine were common to worship the one true God. Like most false religious practices, they take on similar practices that are twisted versions of the original. Eating or drinking blood was strictly forbidden by God (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10). David would have no part in an act that was an abomination before God.


Finally, David makes it clear that not only would he refrain from pressing the cup of error to his lips to drink blood, but he wouldn’t even allow the names of these foreign gods to proceed out of his mouth. This too was an ordinance in Israel (Ex. 23:13). So nothing vile was allowed to enter David and here he expresses that nothing about these false gods made from wood, clay, metal, or stone (that could offer him absolutely nothing) will ever have their names on his lips. God is the only one David would serve, cry out to, and be found worshipping.


Preservation in pleasant portions (vs. 5-6)


The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.


The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.


Our inheritance, our cup, and our support is the Lord. What truly satisfied David (his portion, part, or cup) is the LORD (Yahweh). The LORD to David was all that he wanted for his inheritance. The reason was that God was the maintainer of his lot in life. He uses the word “cup” to make the distinction between the bloody wine that worshippers of false gods consume. David expresses that they can keep the wine mingled with blood and let me be filled by God. In essence, David was asking God to fill him up completely. The LORD was all that David needed.


In contrast, those that choose not to serve the one God of heaven and earth will also receive a cup from the LORD filled with wrath and indignation (Isaiah 51:17). David knew that God was not only good to him in preserving his life here, but God also had blessings reserved for David in eternity. Everything God does is good for His people. We have a pleasant plot and a beautiful heritage. The lines have fallen for David in pleasant places. He has a beautiful inheritance! Dividing land by lots by stretching lines and plotting markers was a common practice in Israel (Numbers 26:55; 33:54). An example is found in Joshua 15:1-4 which goes into greater detail.


David feels blessed by God to be in the place where he can serve and honor God and he feels wealthy to see the pleasant places granted to him. He is truly counting his blessings. When David said the lines have fallen, he is not saying it was by chance or mere luck that he was blessed. He recognizes God as the stretcher of the lines and everything fell into place because of the divine hand that parceled out the portion that he now enjoyed.


Preservation in God’s presence (vs. 7-9)


I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.


I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.


Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.


The LORD counsels the godly in the night hours. In verse 7, David says that he blesses the LORD in return for the blessing that God has been to him. God has been a good counselor to David. When we don’t know which way to turn and we are surrounded by so many poor options in a wicked world, David is grateful for guidance from above. David was in love with God’s word and he meditated on it so often that it was his constant thought. Here he reflects on his gratefulness for being provided with direction to do what is right. He can be mindful of the will of God when he needed it the most.


David said that his mind recalls the sweet teachings of God when the world shuts down and David finds himself staring up as he lies in bed at night. Before he closes his eyes in sleep God probes the heart and mind (Psalm 7:9). God tests our hearts and minds (Jer. 11:20). God knows if we yearn for Him (Job 19:27). In Psalm 17:3, which we will explore in greater detail in the next episode, Lord willing, David says,


“You have tried my heart (put my heart to the test) you have visited me by night, you have sifted me and you find nothing. My intent is that my mouth will not offend.”

We can use this time at night for counting sheep to fall asleep or to fall further in love with God and His word as we contemplate divine truths about God and His goodness toward us.


When the Lord is continually before us we cannot be shaken. David is not only contemplating God at night but David said the LORD is continually before him. God is at the very top of David’s priority list at all times. He lived in the presence of God.


He is on my right hand, suggesting that He is in control and protecting David. When God is perpetually in your presence you cannot be moved or shaken from your place. David realized that he not only desired the presence of God but that God was ever-present. God is the all-knowing, all-seeing eye, and our life is laid bare before Him. With the knowledge that God was watching, David had no fear of what man might try to do to him to bring him harm (Ps. 109:31; 110:5; 121:5). You will never shake a man or woman of God that trusts in Him on this level (Psalm 10:6).


David adds because of his presence I can be glad, rejoice, and dwell securely. God’s protection produces a gladness of heart, a tongue that rejoices, and our flesh can have hope. Resting in hope does not only refer to the sleep of death for the righteous in anticipation of a future glorious resurrection, but it means that we “dwell securely” wherever that dwelling might be. Security comes from knowing that God is sovereign over all things. We are confident in hope even in death’s valley, and we are hopeful because it was prophesied of old that God’s people would live again (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).


Preservation in the path of life (vs. 10-11)


For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.


You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right han,d there are pleasures forever.


We are not simply going to die and go to a nether world. David is making a prophetic pronouncement that he knew would eventually apply to him. He states, “For You (God) will not abandon my soul to Sheol; You will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay (see also the word "corruption"). Sheol was the nether world of the place of the dead. The reason that we know this was Messianic in scope is because of the way this passage is applied in the New Testament. Read Acts 2:22-36 and Acts 13:26-39. Notice in both passages that the point is made that David died and his body saw decay like all other human deaths and the proof was that his tomb could be visited and his remains would be found there.


Paul and Peter taught that Jesus was in the tomb for three days and then He was raised, not having to undergo the process of fleshly decay or corruption. But this doesn’t mean that David doesn’t rest in hope! Jesus was just the first to be resurrected and we hope in our resurrection one day.


Men of faith in God have always believed that God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:19). My body might lie in the ground but my soul is not extinct. The soul lives on and lives forever. Sheol as commonly translated as “hell” is not the same thing as the place of torment in the lake of fire. Jesus, upon his physical death, told the thief that had just asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom,


“Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus would not depart from this world and His soul be left in the realm of the dead, sometimes referred to as Hades. He would find comfort in paradise until the day He was raised just like all of the faithful who are still anticipating the day when all are raised from the dead and face the final judgment. Those who are in Christ will not be condemned but granted entrance into heaven. Those who have never served God and obeyed the gospel of Jesus will be punished with everlasting fire and be cast away from the presence of the LORD.

Jesus was the Holy One in prophecy here that would not see decay. He was often referred to as the "Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14). Those who are wicked will not only suffer the death of the body, but they will also suffer a second death of the soul (Psalm 55:23). Jesus never saw corruption as He was raised and then ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father.


Those that serve the LORD as David did will experience the death of the body but even after the outer tent is destroyed and we return to the dust of the ground, we have an eternal body in heaven that is not subject to decay because it will be immortal and imperishable.


In I Peter 1:10-13 Peter tells us that prophets like David didn’t comprehend what they were revealing in the unfolding of the gospel of Christ. The passage specifically mentions that the “Spirit of Christ” was in them (prophets) pointing to the suffering of the Messiah and the glories to follow.


God shows us the way to live life here and also in the life to come. Instead of seeing corruption, the path of life is made known and in the presence of God, there is the fullness of joy and pleasures at His right hand (again a place of strength, power, and safety). This will be never-ending bliss that awaits the righteous. This is made possible by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.


We are told when we share in His death through obedience to the gospel in baptism we are also guaranteed a resurrection like His by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. In Christ we are made alive, not only spiritually, but one day we will be raised incorruptible in a new body (I Cor. 15:52). Then we will enter heaven and before the face of the LORD there is complete joy awaiting us. This joy contrasts the multiplied sorrows of those that never served the true God and they are denied access to a home in heaven with the LORD. They will instead be lost in hell prepared for the devil and his angels and at that point, there will be no time to repent.


When Jesus died and was raised, He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of His Father (Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3). We who are in Christ are already seated with Him in heavenly places. We are told that just as Jesus sat down on the right hand of His Father on His throne, we will sit with Christ on His throne one day. There we will be with Him forever! We are reigning with Him on the earth, but one day we will see Him as He is, face to face, and there we will always be with the Lord.


Right now we set Him continually at our right hand, but one day He will set us at His right hand where there are perpetual joys and unending pleasures. Just as Jesus endured the cross for the joys set before Him, David and other faithful believers in God will persistently face this world and its challenges by setting their minds on things above. The same glory that Jesus entered into is promised to all of the saints that serve Him faithfully. What a day that will be!

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