Psalm 16:1


This psalm yields many texts for instructive discourse; but it is not on any of them that we propose now to dwell, but on the psalm as a whole. It is one of the most evangelical in all the five books of the Psalms. It opens with a prayer and a plea; but its main current is that of joy and praise. It is moreover repeatedly quoted in the New Testament, where, by the Apostles Peter and Paul, some of its words are declared to be those of David the prophet, and to have received fulfilment in Christ, and in him alone. We cannot, however, apply all the psalm to the Messiah. Some of it is evidently the expression of a private personal experience, and the utterance of a joyously devout saint, whose joy and devotion have both been inspired by a revelation of God to him; while other parts of it are the still more elevated utterances of one who was borne along by the Holy Ghost, to tell of visions which he saw of One in whom his royal line should witness the culmination of its glory! The touching expressions in 2 Samuel 23:3-5 will account for both the words of the saint and the words of the seer which are here found. As the saint, David was inspired by revelation; as the seer, he was inspired for it. And by making these two main divisions we shall, perhaps, best homiletically expound the psalm.

I. WE HAVE HERE THE SONG OF A SAINT INSPIRED BY REVELATION. In this light the contents of the psalm are very varied. We number them, not as re]lowing in exact logical or culminative order, but that we may call the student's and preacher's attention thereto, one by one; observing that we follow the Revised Version, which is most excellent. Here is:

1. A prayer and a plea. (Ver. 1.) Apparently he is in peril; what, we do not know; but, as is his wont, he makes his hiding-place in God; and very touching is the plea he puts in: "for in thee do I put my trust." Our God loves to be trusted. The confidence which his people repose in him is in his sight of great price; and he will hot - cannot disappoint them.

2. The psalmist has taken Jehovah to be his own God. Jehovah - the eternal God - the God of Israel, was his own sovereign Lord. And as he confided to him all his cares, so he yielded to him his entire homage.

3. He finds in God his supreme joy. "I have no good beyond thee" (cf. Psalm 63:25). All the largest desires of the soul have their perfect satisfaction in God.

4. In his fellow-saints, he finds a holy brotherhood. In them is his delight (Psalm 42:4; Malachi 3:16). The closest and dearest bond of permanent friendship is found in the fellowship of holy life and love in God.

5. He shuns the ungodly. In blended pity and anger he looks on those of his nation who have lapsed into idolatry, and exchanged the worship of Jehovah for the service of idols (cf. Jeremiah 2:13; Romans 1:25, Revised Version).

6. The portion which he has in God is secured to him. (Ver. 5.) It cannot slip from his grasp, nor be snatched out of his hand, nor can he in any way be despoiled thereof. God will uphold him in possession, and will give him timely counsel and assistance (ver. 7).

7. God is ever before him, as a constantly present Friend. He is no abstraction. But one ever at his right hand, to guard, guide, advise, gladden, and strengthen. Yea, to give him a steadfast, unconquerable firmness in the midst of numerous foes.

8. Consequently, he has a heritage of wealth with which he is well pleased. (Ver. 6.) The inheritance assigned to him as it were by lot, and marked out as it were by line, was one which gave him a plenitude of delight.

9. For he knows that the near and dear relationship between himself and God is one which not even death itself can disturb. David caught a glimpse of the sublime truth of how much God had meant when he told Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (cf. Matthew 22:31, 32). We have almost the truth which is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 5:10. "My flesh," he says, "shall rest in hope." Yea, more; David even peers beyond the unseen state (Sheol); he beholds it conquered, and the one whose God is the Lord delivered for ever from the hold of death. And even this is not all; but he sees far, far beyond, awaiting the believer, fulness of joy and eternal delights in the immediate presence of the great eternal God. So that the burden of the song may be summed up in our final thought on this aspect of the psalm, that: 10. Once God's, he was his for ever! "Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol" (cf. Psalm 48:14; Psalm 73:26). Is it any wonder that, with such a heritage in Divine love, the psalmist should find his heart glow with joy, and that his tongue should break out into shouts of praise? Surely if such a God is ours, and ours for ever, we are well provided for, and shall be well guarded, throughout eternity.

II. WE HAVE HERE ALSO THE VISION OF A SEER WHO WAS INSPIRED FOR A REVELATION. We have in that memorable sermon on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter opened up the kingdom to Israel, a remarkable reference to this very psalm (cf. Acts 2:25-31). In which the apostle declares that what David said respecting the Holy One, he spoke as a prophet, seeing far ahead the fulfilment of the covenant God had made with him. And in Acts 13:34-37 the Apostle Paul makes an equally distinct reference to this psalm, while he even more emphatically declares this prophetic utterance to be a Divine declaration. And we get a plain and distinct account of such far distant scriptural forecasts in 2 Peter 1:21. Thus we can clearly trace a second significance in the latter half of Psalm 16., as it recounts "the sure mercies of David." For, indeed, if it had not been for the Divine promise and oath made to him - a promise and an oath the fulfilment of which could never be disturbed by the vicissitudes of time, there might not and probably would not have been the like joyful repose of the saint in God, in the prospect of death and of eternity. So that, although the vision of the prophet comes second in our consideration, it was really the first in importance, and the foundation of all the rest. And all this may be brought home in fruitful teaching, in four or five progressive steps.

1. David had had a direct revelation that his throne should be established for ever. (2 Samuel 23:3-5; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 72; Psalm 89:20-37.) And to his dying day, amid all the disturbances of his house, this covenant, "ordered in all things and sure," was all his salvation, and all his desire.

2. In the foreglancings of prophetic vision he saw the Holy One in the coming age as its Ruler and its Head.

3. He beheld also the Holy One going down into the tomb. To Sheol; not hell, but Hades, the invisible realm of the departed.

4. He beheld the Holy One rising again. As the Lord and Conqueror of death; as the Head of the redeemed, he beheld him leaving the grave, and going forward and upward as their Forerunner. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus carries along with it that of all his followers.

5. It was on this sublime Messianic hope that the psalmist built his own. And, indeed, it was on this that such as Abraham fixed their gaze, with leaping gladness and thankful joy "That which is true of the members is true, in its highest sense, of the Head, and is only true of the members because they are joined to the Head" (Perowne); 1 Thessalonians 5:10.

III. IN COMBINING THE SONG OF THE SAINT AND THE VISION OF THE SEER, WE HAVE MOST ELEVATED AND ELEVATING TEACHING FOR OURSELVES.

1. Here is the great secret of life made known to and by the holy prophets. As one expositor remarks, the antithesis in the psalm is not between life here and life there, but between a life in God and a life apart from him.

2. That God should have disclosed this great secret by his Spirit can bring no difficulty whatever to those who understand communion with God.

3. The grand redemption of God's grace is realized in a fellowship of holy souls in blest and everlasting relation to God as their Portion, their endless Heritage of infinite purity and delight.

4. This fellowship of life centres round him whom no death can retain in its hold, even round him who is the Resurrection and the Life. Believers are one in God because one in Christ.

5. His triumph over the tomb is the pledge of theirs. He has gone ahead as their Forerunner, and has in their name taken his place in the Father's house, preparing theirs likewise.

6. Hence the entire blessing of God's great salvation is summed up in the words, "Thou wilt show me the path of life." In which phrase, as Austin finely says, "we have a guide, Thou; a traveller, me; a way, the path; the end, life. Happy are they who choose this Guide, who follow this way, who inherit such a life! How the troubles and perils of this life seem to dwindle away when we can realize that such a God and such a home are ours! and not ours only, but also of all those who have said to Jehovah, Thou art my Lord"! - C.









Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.
: —

I. PRAISE IN EVERY AGE IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF WORSHIP. The holiest saint, what is he in the sight of God by nature? A poor sinner, born, no doubt, again of the Spirit, made a new creature by the Holy Ghost. But what does he owe it to? He owes it all to the free grace of God. "By the grace of God," said the great apostle of the Gentiles, "I am what I am." And ought not this creature, delivered from such a miserable state of death and condemnation, redeemed and renewed to cultivate continually the thankful spirit? Let him pray by all means; but let him also praise.

II. THERE IS NO PART OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP THAT SO TENDS TO UNITE CHRISTIANS, IF THEY REALLY TAKE IT UP IN SPIRIT AND UNITY, AS PRAISE. Men who cannot agree on the platform agree when they come to sing praise.

III. THERE IS NO PART OF WORSHIP WHICH SO TRAINS AND FITS US FOR HEAVEN AS DOES THE SERVICE OF PRAISE. In that world there will be no more need of prayer, for all will be supplied; no more need for sacraments, for we shall sit face to face with Him who shed His own blood for us, gave His own body for us; no more need to search diligently for the things written for our learning. They will be swallowed up in sight, and will be absorbed in certainty. Praise will be the one grand employment of the inhabitants of heaven.

(Bp. Ryle.).

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