Not Good, One Good, Our Good in This One

Psalm 16 is majestic. Peter unleashes its importance during his first ever sermon in Acts 2:29-36, arguing that David was clearly talking about Jesus. I'm convinced.

But there's more treasure to behold in Psalm 16 as we see the words within the lush forest of its context. Playing Hegel, there is thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Thesis

Psalm 14 calls the atheist a fool. The diagnosis is impartial—we're all the fools. The LORD looks to see if there are any who understand (Psalm 14:2), followed by they have all turned aside (Psalm 14:3). This is not a put-down to people’s intellectual ability, it's the painful description of our rebellion. Thesis: There is none good, not even one.

Antithesis

So we're not good. But what about God's holy hill? Who will dwell there? (Psalm 15:1) The answer lands on us like a series of punches. The one who dwells on that holy hill is the one who walks blamelessly. The one who is full of truth, who doesn’t lie or do wickedness—in other words, the dweller on that hill is not like the ones described in Psalm 14. It's simple: Psalm 15 describes the person we are not. Antithesis: There is One good and we are not that One.

Synthesis

Psalm 16:1 leads us straight to refuge language, reminiscent of Psalm 2:12 (which concludes Psalm 1:1-2)—"Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge." And here comes the synthesis: "I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you'" (Psalm 16:2). No good apart from you. . . The Psalter speaks for us,

Indeed, I'm a fool. I'm not good and I'm certainly not that One described in Psalm 15:1-5. But the Messiah is that One and we partake of his goodness.

The language of this psalm takes off, soaring into the clouds and concluding with the Messiah's unshakable trust in his own resurrection (Psalm 16:10). All together: We’re not good, there is One good, we're good in that One.

His goodness we partake, his resurrection the firstfruits of our own, his presence pleasure forevermore. So we say:

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.