Well, it’s never a bad time to soak in the glorious truths of Psalm 16. And that’s what we are going to do today in a clip from 2015. This clip comes from a memorable sermon titled “The Path to Full and Lasting Pleasure.” The clip begins where the sermon begins, with John Piper walking out on stage at a Shane & Shane conference. There Pastor John recited Psalm 16 from heart. This text and this sermon come in light of pretty deep sorrow for the Bethlehem community, making for a clip and a sermon that have impacted many of you. Without any further introduction, here’s Pastor John reciting Psalm 16.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:1–11)
“God will bring you into everlasting pleasure if he is your sovereign Lord and supreme treasure.”
If you have a Bible, I want you to open it to Psalm 16, which I just recited. Let me set the table for you before I pray and ask God to come and do mighty things among us. The reason I anticipate that he’s going to do remarkable things is because of the way he has set up this evening.
Two weeks ago, I was in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, fishing with my son and six others. One of those others was a twenty-year colleague whom I love, who has been the worship leader at our church for twenty years. When we got back to the outfitters, he was to call home. The phone call was that his son had died at 22 without the slightest history of health troubles. He was in Northern Ireland doing a mission trip and simply fell over, and with his sister at his side, he met Jesus.
The funeral was last Friday, four days ago. Little did we know that Alex, before he had left for Northern Ireland, had told his small group what he wanted at his funeral. He didn’t think he was going to die, but he said, “Here are the songs, and here’s the text that I want — Psalm 16.” We sang all the songs that he chose, and Psalm 16 is the passage that I was asked to speak on months ago at this event.
And so last Friday, in front of about a thousand young people mainly, I was doing what I just did, praying Psalm 16 over those people. Now I’m here speaking to several thousand people, probably not too much older than Alex, on Psalm 16. And in my judgment, God set this up to burden me for you in a way that he wouldn’t or couldn’t in any other way. You have no idea whether you will live out this week. None. Alex had no troubled medical history whatsoever, and to this moment we do not know why he died.
So, Lord, I believe this is a divine appointment for many. Whether it be the case that some here will not live out the week or whether they will live sixty more years, it’s a divine appointment. And the weight I feel for this psalm to become a reality in their lives is very great.
And so I invite you, Holy Spirit, to come in the name of Jesus. I plead with you to come. Don’t leave me to my own resources. I look away from myself, and I ask that these friends would do the same. May they look away from themselves and all their performances, looking wholly to you to speak to them now, so that who David is and what he sees in this song, they would be and see and feel. I ask this in Jesus’s powerful name. Amen.
Let me give you the main point, as I understand it, of all eleven verses in one sentence: God will bring you — body and soul, through life and death — into full and everlasting pleasure if God is your safest refuge, and your sovereign Lord, and your supreme treasure, and your trusted counselor. If he’s not, my prayer is that he would become these things for you as he speaks to you through this psalm.
A few of you who really know your Bible well might hear that one-sentence summary and say to me, “Are you going to take into account what the apostle Peter makes of this Psalm in Acts 2, in the New Testament? Peter says that verses 9–11 are a prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus, and you didn’t mention that in your main point. Why not? Because that’s the one thing he picked out of the psalm to mention.”
My answer has two parts. Number one, yes, I am going to deal with what Peter makes of this Psalm in Acts 2. Number two, the reason I don’t say that the resurrection of Jesus is part of the main point of this psalm is because I don’t think it is. Rather, the resurrection of Jesus is a massive and unshakable argument in support of the psalm’s main point.
“Again and again in the Bible, glorious realities are made to serve practical, personal main points in texts.”
If that sounds strange to you, that something as massive and unshakable and great and glorious as the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead should be an argument under a main point, supporting it, know this: one of the great and amazing and wonderful things about the Bible is that again and again and again, glorious things — massive, unshakable, beautiful, awesome realities — are made to serve practical, personal main points in texts. That’s amazing, and that’s true all over the Bible.
So yes, we will get to Peter’s application of verses 9–11 to the resurrection, and we will discover it is not the main point of Psalm 16. The main point of this text is that God will bring you — body and soul, through life and death — into full and everlasting pleasure if he is your treasure and refuge and sovereign and counselor. That’s the main point.