Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon

Psalm 16

June 30, 2024

Psalm 16

Passage: Psalm 16
Service Type:

Psalm 16

June 30

It was December of 1991. I was 11 years old. My dad was an over the road truck driver when I was a kid – and though he did a few different things in trucking, at this point in my life, dad’s trucking took him from near Philadelphia PA to Detroit Michigan twice a week. Just back and forth.

My two younger brothers and I would take turns going with him in the summers when we didn’t have school, and it was our favorite thing to do. But every once in a while, he got the opportunity to go well past Detroit somewhere new. This particular December, he got a load to North Dakota, and asked my mom if she would want to ride along.

She agreed to it, and away they went. Several days into their trip, they were in Fargo ND, and no surprise to anyone who lives out here, a huge snowstorm moved in on them. They were at a truckstop for the night, and woke up to 2 feet of snow. Everything shut down, and they had to just sit and wait until they cleared the roads, so they could clear the parking lots, so they could even get things going again.

My mom must have been feeling rather claustrophobic in the cab of that semi truck, because she exclaimed to my dad at some point – “Get me out of here! Get me back home to where I’m safe and I know what’s happening!”

They got rolling again, he brought her home, and two weeks later, that house she was so eager to get back home to, burned. And I still remember her telling that story to a lot of different people – maybe my home isn’t as secure as I thought it was. Maybe it’s not the safest place to be.

You don’t have to raise your hands here, but how many of us find our house, our home, to be the place we feel the safest? Probably most of us. And to some degree, that’s normal – in some ways, that’s how it should be. That’s why it’s so tragic when kids or a spouse don’t feel safe in their own home.

But here’s David in Psalm 16, and most bible scholars and commentators say he is on the run. You can read all about this in the OT book of 1 Samuel, but long story short, after David killed Goliath, the king of Israel got a little jealous because the ladies were all talking about the giant killer and not the king. So he tried killing David several times, hunting him like a wild animal.

That’s probably when this Psalm was written – while David is on the run from Saul, somewhere in the wilderness, knowing that God had anointed him to be the future king of Judah, but not knowing how long he would have to run before that came to pass.

So, here’s what David prays as he runs for his life:

[ 002 ] 1 Protect me, God, for I take refuge in you.

The word that is translated protect here can mean, to “keep watch over” as a shepherd.(1) That’s pretty cool seeing as David was a shepherd before any of this. He knows exactly what it is to protect and look after the sheep. He knows exactly what it is for the sheep to take refuge somewhere during a storm or when danger lurked nearby. David uses that imagery to say, God YOU are my refuge. I’m on the run. I don’t have a building I can go to. I don’t have a barn. Maybe a cave or two, but even that is short-lived. Maybe it’s not my home that is my security, or the safest place to be – It’s YOU Yahweh. You are my refuge. I need you to protect me – I take refuge in you. In fact –

[ 003 ] 2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you.” Everything earthly that would typically bring stability and security has been stripped away, and he prays: You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you. I wonder if that is a prayer that you can only really understand when you pray it from the deepest anguish of your soul. In those dark nights of desperation.

Or is it possible to be in the middle of the most beautiful place, with the people you love, a heart full to the brim of really good things, and still say, “I have nothing good besides you, Lord?” Maybe?

For David, who is on the run for his life, though, it’s coming from a heart that has had everything comfortable and beautiful and secure stripped away, except for Yahweh himself and the covenant people Israel, which David in verse 3 calls…[ 004 ]  the holy people who are in the land, they are the noble ones. All my delight is in them.

Maybe as David is on the run, he misses those gatherings at the tabernacle with the people of God. Maybe he’s thinking back to the prayers around a table, or smelling the incense and sacrifices at corporate worship. He misses the people. He delights in them. They are family. He loves being with the people of God.

This is something that I have really enjoyed watching grow at River City over the past 5 years. There is a family bond here that is pretty special. Just in the past couple of months, watching the hugs and hellos and handshakes here when everyone starts showing up on a Sunday – we obviously enjoy being together, and that’s a special thing. We are not only saved from our sins – we are adopted into a family, and that’s one of God’s good gifts to us.

David knows that In contrast to the people of God:

[ 005 ] 4 The sorrows of those who take another god for themselves will multiply; I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood, and I will not speak their names with my lips.

A lowercase god refers to an idol, and an idol is any person, place, thing, or system or thought that you look to as your source instead of God.(2) Now, I can drive through Riverside, Kalona, Wellman, Lone Tree, Hills, and I won’t see any statues or idols literally dedicated to fertility, or idols dedicated to prosperous crops, or temples dedicated to the sun or anything like that. I see a statue of Captain Kirk and that’s about it. And I hope I’m right about this, but no one prays to him. No one expects that there is a life force or being behind that statue that is a reality. At least I hope not. But in David’s time, the cultures of other nations all around him – and even some corrupted Israelites – are worshiping, singing to, praying to, believing in some other force or being or reality represented by those statues. Modern day India? Africa? Haiti? Oh yeah. Still happens.

David looks at his world around him and says, even though I’m running for my life and I don’t understand what all God is doing, none of these other gods are even tempting. I know that running after some other power than Yahweh for counsel and help and wisdom only leads to more confusion and more sorrow. So he obeys the Law of Moses which says to not even speak the names of the local gods. He really means it – Yahweh, you are my refuge, my good! You’re my everything. And to illustrate that, David reaches back into Israel's history.

If you grew up in church, you know the story of Israel coming out of Egypt. Crossing the Red Sea, Moses, the 10 plagues, and all that. They were in the wilderness for 40 years before coming into the promised land, and right before they entered the land, Moses divided up the territory into 12 portions, one for each of the 12 sons of Jacob – it was their inheritance, their security, their home. You can read Joshua chapters 13-21 and find all of the boundary lines spelled out with all the cities they would inherit, the rivers and hills, etc.

[ 006 ] Here’s an example: Joshua 13:29-33.

You notice at the end of those verses that God made a unique distinction. Of the 12 sons, the family line of Levi didn’t get any land. The Levites would serve as priests and worship leaders, and their inheritance, their portion, would be that they got to serve in the very presence of God. Their inheritance was being in God’s presence.

And David reaches back to that picture – Land being divided up into different portions; each tribe receiving their inheritance, knowing that one day he will be king over all 12 of the those territories, and he says in verse [ 007 ] 5 Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. God I know you said I would be king, you said I would inherit the throne - I don’t see it yet, I’m here on the run, but I’m not anxious about it. You hold my future. I trust you. You are doing what you know is best for me, and I’m okay with it. [ 008 ]  6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

The life you’ve given me now is pleasant, and I know my future will be beautiful, but God, YOU are my portion. You are my inheritance. Not your stuff. YOU. One pastor said it like this: The material blessings the Lord grants you are not your inheritance.... They are merely bonuses.(3)

I am afraid that a lot of Western Christianity lives as if material blessing is their inheritance and Jesus himself is just a bonus. That the breakthrough God has for your life is to increase your wealth, your health, your position, your influence, etc, etc, etc., and Jesus is just an add-on or the means to an end.

Now don’t hear me saying you either have material blessing or you have Jesus. In his infinite wisdom and his good purposes, the Lord grants wealth to some people, and not to others. He grants health to some, but not all. He grants influence to some, but not all. But, rich or poor, healthy or sick, influential or unknown, the real breakthrough we all need is a higher view of Christ, a deeper love for Christ, where we could say with David – Lord you are my portion, my inheritance, my treasure, my prize.

I believe this right here is why David was called a man who was after God’s heart. He didn’t just want God’s stuff, he wanted God’s presence.

So how do we get there? How do we get to that place of seeing Jesus as our everything, and the good stuff in life is just a bonus? How do we get that attitude David had? What does it look like to treasure Yahweh? To treasure the Father, Son, Spirit?

Look at verse [ 009-1 ]  7 I will bless the Lord who counsels me — even at night when my thoughts trouble me. [ 009-2 ] 8 I always let the LORD guide me. Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.

Where do you look for counsel? For wisdom? For instruction? I know as a young man, my dad was the first person I would call no matter what. If it was a question about cars, about houses, about business wisdom, my dad was my go-to – my right hand. He gave solid counsel and I’m grateful for all the advice I got from him over the years. I’m sure many of you could say the same about your own dad. Today, it’s probably YouTube. If you can’t figure something out, hit YouTube and you’ll get it.

But I know for a fact that both YouTube and my Dad have answered questions I could have, probably should have, taken to the Lord. Even when I’m writing a sermon, the major temptation is to just grab commentaries, watch other preachers, make a bunch of notes and write it all down – without ever sitting down to pray and actually wrestle with the scriptures. God what does this say? What does it mean? What are you wanting us to know or do or think with these words? You inspired this text – what am I missing?

It takes longer that way, but it’s how we stay connected to Jesus. It’s how he counsels us, guides us, and leads us. [ 010 ]  In John 15, Jesus puts it like this: Remain in me. If you want to bear fruit, if you want to have a life that doesn’t get frazzled and rattled when trouble comes along – remain in me. Always. Even at night.

This is something more recent generations of Christians have called [ 011 ]  “Practicing the Presence of God.” Remaining in Jesus means staying in a place of prayer all throughout the day. I’d bet some of you do this without even thinking about it.

It’s a great habit to give the first part of your day to the Lord, read his word and spend time praying. That is important and highly encouraged. But you don’t have to then get up and go to work or school as if you’re leaving God wherever you leave your Bible. If you have been united to Jesus Christ by faith, then by his Holy Spirit, he goes with you everywhere you go!

Even, as David says in verse 7,  when you’re awake in the middle of the night, what if, instead of reaching for your phone to pass the time, you can reach for Jesus. “Lord, why am I awake right now? What are you trying to say to me?” If someone comes to your mind right then – start praying for them.

A 16th century monk named Brother Lawrence used to say that he enjoyed the presence of God just as much when he was working in the kitchen with pots and pans clanging and a bunch of people all asking him for things as he was when he was on his knees in worship, or participating in the Lord’s Supper. And really all he did was pray and think about God in every little thing he did. Scrub the pots – Lord, you have cleansed me of my sin. Fill an order – God you have met the requirements for my salvation with your Son; fix something that was broken – God you are the mender of the brokenhearted.

Anytime he was getting ready to prepare a meal or set the table, he would pray about it – Lord help me to do this for your honor and your glory – may your goodness be seen and tasted in this meal and in these settings – stuff like that. Just with every move he made, it was all done in prayer. And those who knew him said there wasn’t a person more joyful anywhere than Brother Lawrence who was always in the presence of God no matter where he was or what he was doing.

And that makes sense, because even David says in verse [ 012 ] 9 Therefore (because it is the Lord who counsels, guides, instructs, me – because I’m looking for your presence all the time) my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely.

Do you see that? My heart, which refers to the mind, the will, the desires; my being, which refers to my personality, my honor, my reputation; my body – the physical aspect of me – all of it is wrapped in joy and gladness, rest and security. Why? Where does that security and joy come from? [ 013 ] verse 10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol (graveyard); you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.

David seems to understand that God’s goal for his life isn’t just to get him safely through this life, but then just leave him in the graveyard when he dies. And it’s not only that David will never be abandoned by God, it’s in the next verse too: [ 014 ] 11 You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.

That’s why the sorrows of those who pursue other gods will multiply! The joy and security and path of life is found in the presence of God! And that’s what I want my life to look like!

Two Sundays ago, I told you that a friend of mine over in Wellman needed a physical miracle in the next couple of days, or Jared would not wake up one morning. Well, Saturday night a week ago, he passed away. One of the many tributes his friends posted on Facebook stood out to me. The friend recalled Jared saying multiple times in the weeks before his death, “Sometimes I wonder why we work so hard to stay out of heaven.”

I think what my friend realized and ultimately experienced is that when you enjoy the presence of God here on earth, death isn’t frightening anymore, because in Jesus Christ, the path of life has been revealed to us, and no terrorists or suffering or cancer or accident or death can take that away. That we will not be abandoned in the graveyard, but that eternal life is just over the horizon where we will be in the full and undiluted presence of God – and whatever you picture heaven to be, know this: There will more joy there than you could ever ask, think, or imagine.

Looking back on this Psalm, both the Apostle Peter in Acts 2 and the Apostle Paul in Acts 13 realized that David wasn’t just speaking figuratively or in a future sense for himself, but that in Jesus Christ, they had literally seen a man who, even though he was dead in a grave, had not been left there to decay, but was raised to life! Jesus was most truly God’s Holy One, the Noble One who was now in the fullest sense seated at the right hand of God the Father.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said it like this: “This Psalm is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, in that his body never had time to decay – he was resurrected on the third day, but then the Lord Jesus said to his disciples in John 14, “Because I live, you will live too”. And he prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory” (Jn 17:24).”

Spurgeon said, “That means we also will walk the same path of life that Jesus has walked; that the presence of his Father, where Jesus right now is risen, exalted, and glorified, is the exact same presence that will make heaven heaven for us. The right hand of God, where Jesus sits, is the same exact place to which he will also exalt us; and the eternal pleasures, in which he himself rejoices, are the same pleasures that he will abundantly pour out on our souls. It is God's purpose that his joy will find a home in us so that our joy may be full.”(4)

[ 015-blank ] So, if all of this is true, what does Psalm 16 mean for you and me today? It means that even when every earthly comfort is stripped away, and there’s nothing left but Jesus, you still have everything. He watches over you like a shepherd and he himself is your protection and refuge. You have a beautiful inheritance ahead of you, but you don’t have to wait until you die to start in on it. If you are in Christ by faith, he is with you right now. It’s no coincidence that Psalm 16 says “I will bless the Lord who counsels me… I always let the Lord guide me” and in John’s gospel, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor who guides us into all truth.

It means we can live and walk in the presence of Jesus right now, simply by staying connected to him all day long. Washing dishes – Lord thank you for cleansing my heart with your blood! Buying something at the store – Lord, thank you for purchasing me out of sin and darkness. Eating and drinking – God, you are my true sustenance. You are my true nourishment. You lay down to sleep – God thank you for being our true rest. You’re in the shower – God thank you for the body of Christ with different functions and gifts and abilities that all work together for your glory.

And the promise of Psalm 16 is that Jesus is eager to be present with us wherever we are willing to seek after him and trust him. So to close today, I want to give you a minute to respond in prayer. I’m going to ask you two questions and give you a minute to think it over and pray.

[ 016 ] What are some areas I’ve looked for wisdom or security apart from waiting on God in prayer?

Lastly: Of these things David found in the Lord: Joy, counsel, rest, security – which one am I most in need of right now?




  1. Kevin R. Warstler, CSB Study Bible: Notes, 2017, 828.
  2. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2019), 514–515.
  3. Ibid, 515
  4. Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 703.