David cries out in Psalm 16:1, “Preserve me, O God.” Save me. Keep me. Hold on to me. Don’t let go of me. I wonder if you pray that way. If you don’t pray that way, you are not thinking clearly. We need God to keep us every day, all day. You cannot do this without him. You can’t remain a believer without God’s preserving grace. Keep me. Hold me. Preserve me. Now, what is he asking God to preserve him from? That’s going to come. We’ll see it in just a moment.
Psalm 16:2: “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” You are my Lord, and you are my good. That is, as my Lord you govern all the good that comes to me, and you are the good that comes to me. I have other lords, I have other authorities in my life that I have to come to terms with, but none of those lords, none of those authorities, comes close to your authority. You are my Lord. You are the authority over all other authorities. If there’s another authority, it gets its authority from you. You are my Lord.
And you are my good. I have other goods in my life. But if I taste none of God in any good that this world offers, it’s not good. It is not good if there’s none of you as the Good in it. “I have no good apart from you.” If I taste nothing of you in any good that this world offers, it is not good. You are my Lord, and you are my good.
Psalm 16:3: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” Lord, the reason I began with verse 2 by saying, “I have no good apart from you,” is so that when I say, “All my delight is in your holy people,” you would not think me an idolater. You alone are my greatest good, my greatest delight. And when I look around the world and see people who delight in you above all else, they are my delight because you are their delight. I’m not speaking double-talk between verses 2 and 3. I’m not contradicting myself. What delights me about your people is that you are their delight. You are my good, and I have no good apart from you. If there’s none of you in this people, I want nothing of this people.
Quest Over, Battle Begun
Psalm 16:4: “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.” What happens if we choose another god besides the true God — another ultimate good, another Lord, another delight, another treasure? What happens is multiplied sorrows. “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.” David has already found his good; he’s already found his delight; he’s already found his treasure. He’s not on a search anymore. Are you? David’s quest is over. Is yours? It’s over. I have found him. I have found my Good. I have found my Lord. I have found my delight. I have found my treasure. It’s over. I’m not running anymore after anything else. There’s nothing but trouble there. “I have no good apart from you.” The Lord is my good. I’m not shopping around. My quest is over.
So, he responds to temptation — and you will have it this afternoon and tomorrow; you will have the temptation, “Here’s another god; here’s another good; here’s another delight; here’s another treasure.” David’s response is, “I won’t even drink it. I won’t even take their name on my lips.” “Their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out. I will not even take their names on my lips.” These alternative gods, these alternative delights, these alternative goods — I’m not going to touch them. I’m not even going to get close or talk about them. I have found the all-satisfying treasure. Why would I choose multiplied sorrows?
I think verse 4 is what David was asking to be preserved from in verse 1. When he said, “Preserve me, O God,” what’s he asking to be preserved from? And the answer is verse 4. “Preserve me, O God.” I take refuge in you. I’m flying to you as my good. I’m flying to you as my treasure. I’m flying to you as my delight. I am flying to you. Preserve me from being drawn away to these other gods. Preserve me from failing to be satisfied in you this morning.
“This is the battle of the Christian life: to have God as our good, to have God as our delight.”
I wonder if you pray like that. I wonder if you fight like that. That is just about all I do. This is the battle of the Christian life: to have God as our good, to have God as our delight, to have God as our treasure. And the world is saying, “No, I’m better!” So what else is there to do but fight? Verse 4 is what he’s pleading. “Preserve me, O God.” Don’t let me be drawn away to these other gods.
Psalm 90:14 is on my lips just about every morning. “Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love!” Is that your steady prayer? “Your steadfast love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). Oh, don’t let me be more satisfied with anything else than with you. That’s the battle. Verse 1 cries out for preservation; verse 4 states the danger.
Our Lord and Lot
Psalm 16:5: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” I think verse 5 is virtually identical to verse 2, which says, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” I think “You hold my lot” (verse 5) corresponds to, “You are my Lord” (verse 2). And “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” (verse 5) corresponds to, “I have no good apart from you” (verse 2). Think about it for a moment and see if you agree that those are similar.
What does it mean that the Lord holds David’s lot? In the next verse, David refers to his “inheritance.” “I have a beautiful inheritance” (verse 6). Inheritances were often distributed by lot among family members and among tribes (Numbers 26:56; 33:54; 36:2; Joshua 14:2). It’s like drawing straws. And David says, “God holds my lot.” Jeremiah 13:25 says, “This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord.” We still have the phrase “my lot in life.” When you say that, you don’t mean, “I have an acre.” You mean your situation, your circumstance.
That’s what God holds. “You decide my fortune. You set my circumstances. You decide my place, my times, my inheritance. You govern my life.” Which is the same as saying in verse 2, “You are my Lord.” That’s what it means to be Lord of my life. You govern my life. You hold my lot. You allot my inheritance. I’m in your hands. And “[You are] my chosen portion and my cup”(verse 5) corresponds to “You are my good” (verse 2).
Then Psalm 16:6 simply spells out the nature of David’s “lot.” What is his lot? “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” The lines, the borders of my life that God has given me, are beautiful. My future with God, my inheritance, is a beautiful inheritance.
Now let’s step back from verses 1–6 and ask, What’s the main thing David is saying in these verses? I think the answer is, in the words of verse 2: you are my Lord, and you are my good. Or, in the words of verse 5: God holds my lot, and God is my lot. God decides my fortune, and God is my fortune. God allots my inheritance, and God is my inheritance. God governs my life. God is my life.
He says it in verses 2 and 3: he’s my Lord; he’s my good. Verses 5 and 6 state it another way: he is my lot; he holds my cup and my portion. And in the middle is this: Don’t go after another god! How could you choose another god? That’s the way these verses are structured. So, “preserve me, O God.” Please preserve me from that insane choice of going after other gods when he’s my Lord and my good. He’s my lot-holder and my lot itself. So preserve me, O God. You have shown so much of yourself to me, don’t let me become insane. Sin is insane, you know. That’s the point of verse 4. Multiplied sorrows — why would you go there? And people go there every day.
Counsel in the Night
When he turns now in Psalm 16:7 and says, “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me,” I think he is saying, “God, by his counsel, is the one who has shown me all this about himself. I didn’t think this up. God has come to me by his counsel and made plain to me that he is my Lord, he is my good, he holds my lot, and he is my portion. God is the one who, night and day, has shown me these things.” I think that’s the point of verse 7. He’s the one who has shown me all this. And at night, as I am lying there, in my spirit, from deep inside of me, as if from my kidneys and my heart, there well up these truths: God holds my life. God is my life.
I wonder, Christian — child of God, son of God, daughter of God — what your heart says to you at night. And if you’re a child of God, one of the things that your heart says to you at three o’clock is, “God is my life. God holds my life.” I didn’t make my heart beat for the last three hours. You don’t make your heart beat. God does. He holds you in being. And if you have a mustard seed of faith at three o’clock in the morning, God gave it to you. God sustains you. God preserves you. That’s what the child of God says from his kidneys (kidneys is the Hebrew word behind heart) — meaning, it comes from deep inside of you. “God is my good. God is my life. God is my portion, God holds me in his hand while I’m sleeping.” That’s what the child of God says at night. And that’s from God. It is his counsel doing that. He does that for you.
And then he gives the positive counterpart to Psalm 16:1. In other words, verse 1 is the negative: “O God, don’t let anything take you away from me as my portion, my good, my lot, my beautiful inheritance. Don’t let anything replace you.” But the positive counterpart in Psalm 16:7 is, “Oh, I bless you that you are answering that prayer. Here I am at three o’clock, and I’m still a believer. I’m still loving you and trusting you and clinging to you with my fingernails. You have answered verse 1, and I’m blessing you that you’re still my God.” That’s what God makes known by his counsel.
Fullness of Joy, Forever
Now let’s jump out of order for a minute. While we’re on verse 7 (which is about God, by his counsel, informing David’s mind of these glorious things), let’s jump to the next verse about God “making known,” and that’s Psalm 16:11. Verse 11 continues the thought of what God makes known to David — that is, his “counsel.” And verse 11 is as good as it can get. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In verse 7, the Lord makes known by his counsel these things that we’ve been opening in verses 1–6. And in verse 11, that reaches its climax. This is as high as it gets, or as deep as it gets, or as wide as it gets. When you read Psalm 16:11, don’t you want to say, “Well, no wonder in Psalm 16:2 David says, ‘I have no good apart from you’? No wonder Psalm 16:3 says, ‘I delight in God’s people because they delight in you.’ No wonder in Psalm 16:5–6 he says, ‘God is my chosen portion and my cup.’” Where else could you find “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore”?
“Nobody anywhere in the world can offer you anything better than Psalm 16:11.”
Is there anything fuller than full? No. Is anything longer than forever? No. This is no rocket science. This is just glory! Nobody anywhere in the world can offer you anything better than Psalm 16:11. Because nothing is even conceivably better than verse 11. Nothing is fuller than full or longer than forever. “Fullness” means completely satisfying. And “forevermore” means those pleasures never stop.
I remember when I was 9 years old. We had a spiral staircase that went up to our roof. And I would lie up there and look at the stars, and I would be scared of eternity because it seemed boring. It’s going to get old. It’s going to be boring. And then you grow up and you read verse 11, which says it’s not going to get boring. God is God!
When it says “pleasures forevermore,” it doesn’t mean they feel good for about a thousand years and then don’t feel good anymore. If you think that God is incapable of making you happy forever, you don’t know God. Infinite is infinite. He is infinitely full. That means there is no way to exhaust the kindness that he intends to show you. Verse 11 is as good as it gets. And that is part of the counsel that God has made known to David. “You make known to me the path of life.” God’s gift of life is the gift of himself. His presence, his right hand, his life — this is God. “At my right hand are pleasures forevermore” — joy that is full.
God Before and Beside
Now if that’s true, and it is, David does what any reasonable person would do. Psalm 16:8: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” — shaken from my delight in God, shaken from my faith, shaken from my cherishing God in all things.
“If you think that God is incapable of making you happy forever, you don’t know God.”
“Before” and “at [the] right hand.” What does that mean? God is non-spatial. He is spirit. He doesn’t have dimensions, so you can’t locate him in space. These are metaphors. So what are these metaphors trying to say? “Before” means he’s not behind, where I can’t see him. I keep him right out there as my good and my delight and my cup and my portion and my inheritance. That’s what he is all day long to me. Those other things aren’t my inheritance. You are. He is always visible, by his word, in your mind, preaching to you the reality of who God is. “At my right hand” means close. And it’s the right hand, not the left hand, which is the honored, close place. As you walk through the day, he’s before you. I see him. I’m keeping him conscious in my mind. And he’s honored and cherished and loved in the place of honor at my right hand.
That’s the way you go through your days. That’s the way you live the Christian life. You’re going to get up tomorrow morning, and you’re going to put him right there before you by his word. You’re going to reach out and take him and keep him right there in the treasured, cherished, honored position of your right hand, and you move through life. That’s the way you live if you know verse 11, if you know verses 1–6. And when you live like that, with God before you and at your right hand, it is the answer to the prayer, “Preserve me” (verse 1). If God starts to fade away and out there is a new car, or some relationship, or some treasure, something that is starting to be more precious to you than God, verse 1 is not being answered. The cry is, “Keep yourself ever before me, ever in view, ever cherished.”
Now we come to Psalm 16:9. With this confidence that he’s never going to be shaken, he says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” So in this life, there is gladness, and there is rejoicing that is very great at times, and that’s a foretaste of the everlasting pleasures of verse 11.
Right now in this life, your joy is seldom full. You need to learn how to live with this. You need to learn how to fight for this. We live in an embattled state. Your body is going to die if Jesus doesn’t come back first, and your faith is going to be embattled to the last day. Just before he died, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Right to the end, I don’t ever expect it to go away. I’m an old man, and I expect to fight on until I breathe no more. There will be no coasting. You coast, you die. So we will fight on. And yet, in this life, in verse 9, “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” In other words, his confidence is building to the point where he says, “Not even death is going to interrupt my joy. My flesh will dwell secure.”
We want to say, “Come on, David, you’re not God. You will die. They will put you in a hole. You will rot. Your flesh will decay in the ground. What are you talking about?” Then David gives the jaw-dropping explanation in Psalm 16:10. Death is not going to have the last word here. “For you [O God] will not abandon my soul to Sheol [the place of the dead], or let your holy one see [not even see!] corruption.” But David, there’s a pit waiting for you. Every person who dies is thrown into this pit, and in that pit you decay. You see corruption.
And right at this point, the apostle Peter (in Acts 2) and the apostle Paul (in Acts 13) read verse 10, and they say, “This is the Messiah. This is Jesus Christ, whose flesh did not see corruption.” How did they see that? Listen to Peter in Acts 2:29–32. I’m going to take it in two stages. What Peter says is amazing. Because he doesn’t just say, “This is Jesus”; he says why he thinks this is Jesus. He has just quoted Psalm 16:8–10. Now he explains for the Jewish crowd whom he wants to persuade that Jesus is the Messiah:
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne . . .
Stop there. What’s he saying? Why is he telling us this? What’s he referring to? How is this helping us grasp how he saw Jesus in verse 10? David knows something. What does he know? He knows God took an oath and swore something to him. He’s referring to 1 Chronicles 17:11–12, where God says to David, “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, . . . and I will establish his throne forever.” David knows this. He knows he is not the Messiah. “I am David, and a son of David is coming. God told me this. And the difference between me and him is that he reigns forever. I don’t — I decay. He will not see corruption. He’s bigger, better, longer than I am.” So as David is writing Psalm 16:10, he’s conscious that all of his glorious experience of God is a prefiguration. He’s a forerunner who is pointing to the one who is going to be so much more. He’s aware of this, and as he writes he is being caught up into tremendous confidence.
It’s the Advent season. It’s Christmas. And you know the beautiful Christmas words of Gabriel to Mary: “[This child] will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). David knew this about his son. He didn’t know when; he didn’t know who; he didn’t know how. He just knew, “He’s coming, and he’s going to be infinitely greater than I am. And if I am to be rescued from death” — which verse 11 certainly signifies (my pleasures at God’s right hand are forever; death will not end my relationship with God) — “what could be greater?” What could be greater is he never even sees corruption.
That’s the second half of Psalm 16:10. And that’s what Peter and Paul saw. They saw David on the wings of the Spirit of prophecy reach the apex of his own hope and go beyond it. And they said, “That’s the Messiah.” And so, Peter finishes his explanation of Psalm 16:10 (in Acts 2:31–32), “[David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” David spoke about the Messiah when he said, “He won’t even see corruption.” Peter keeps going: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
So, Peter is not just saying, “It’s Jesus.” He’s explaining how he drew down that conviction from what he knows that David knows about the son of David from the promise God had made to him. David, like all true prophets, is being carried along by the Holy Spirit. His spirit is rising with the joyful confidence that God will preserve him. God is his Lord. God is his delight. God is his portion and his inheritance. God will give him pleasures forever. And death itself will not be the last word. God will not abandon him to Sheol. At this point, the Spirit of prophecy takes over and says, “And your son is going to be greater than all that. He will not even see corruption.”
Put Christ Before You
So dear South Cities Church, how are you going to embrace the reality of Psalm 16 in view of verse 10? This is my closing counsel to you and my prayer for you as an eleven-day-old church. Let me put it negatively. If David is wrong in verse 10, and he’s not a prefiguration, a forerunner, of a Son of David who would rise from the dead, then you can kiss Psalm 16 goodbye. You can close your Bibles and kiss everything I’ve said goodbye. Because every blessing — God my good, God my Lord, God my delight, God my portion, God my cup, God my inheritance, God my fullness of joy, God my pleasures forevermore — is promised to sinners. David was a sinner — an adulterer, a murderer. So how in the world can he claim these for himself? How can we?
And the answer is that this Son of David purchased them. He died for the sins of Old Testament saints and the sins of New Testaments saints (Romans 3:25–26). David’s sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. My sins and your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus if we trust in him. Therefore, there’s forgiveness in the blood, and there’s a future in the resurrection. And therefore, Psalm 16 is yours because of Christ. Verse 10 is true. He did die; he did rise; his flesh did not see corruption. And therefore, you can bank on these promises.
So what should you do? You should set him always before you. You should keep him at your right hand. And if you do, and if your good pastors do, and if your council of elders does — if they and you keep God in Christ clearly before them as their treasure and good and Lord and cup and inheritance and portion, and God cherished and loved and honored at their right hand, this church will not be moved away from Christ, away from salvation, away from the Bible. It will be strong until he comes.