Psalm 16 – Threefold delight
Contentment is a rare quality. Personally speaking, I struggle a lot with restlessness – a feeling that I’ve not yet settled down and that there is more to achieve. Others may struggle with the same emotion but in relation to something else – wanting to have more or to experience more. I’ve no doubt that some of my restlessness is healthy – it arises from that deep sense that this world is not our ultimate home, that we are made for God and for the new creation He will reveal when Christ returns. At the same time, however, I could too easily make that a rationalisation for a kind of discontent that is destructive and, frankly, ungodly. In Psalm 16 David points to three things in which he delights. These lead him to a place of satisfaction in the present at the same time as trusting in God for his ultimate, eternal future.
As you read through this psalm, two of the sources of delight are obvious – in verse 3 David says he delights in God’s holy people and in verse 6 he says his inheritance is delightful. It is, however, the third source of delight that is most significant of all, his delight in God. This isn’t expressed using the word ‘delight’, but it rings out loud and clear in verse 2: “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing”. David’s fundamental perspective is that God is sufficient and everything good that he has comes from Him. The sufficiency of God and confidence in His good purposes for us are the twin foundations of a life of faith. David has set God before him and if God is beside him then he cannot be shaken (verse 8). God is his counsellor and teacher (verse 7), who reveals to him the path of life (verse 11). God will never abandon him (verse 10). No other god is worthy of worship and the pursuit of other gods is a path to death and sorrow (verse 4).
With this foundation laid, David is free to delight in the inheritance he has been given. He receives his position in life as a gift from God. The language of lots and boundary lines (verses 5-6) derive from the partition of the land among the nation of Israel and they tie this gratitude to this life. We can extrapolate to say that our gifting, opportunities and position in life are all received from God as gifts. We do not create ourselves or control our destinies – we journey into life seeking the good paths that God is unfolding. We need to take time periodically to pause and give thanks. Too often we slip into an attitude of grumbling – especially when we begin to compare with others (her inheritance is better than mine; I wish I had the opportunities he has). Instead we must give thanks to God and seek faithfulness with whatever He has given us. We must learn to settle into who we are, where we are, what we are and seek God’s guidance to serve Him there. There may be new things, places and opportunities ahead, but the hope of these should not rob us of joy in this stage of life.
The second consequence of David’s contentment in God is that he can delight in God’s people. He is not only concerned with his own inheritance, but with their security living in the land. He exists in relationship to the community of those who, in contrast to the surrounding nations, look to God as the source of every good thing. We too must learn to locate ourselves within the community of God’s people – the Church. As we are freed from competition and comparison, we can give thanks to God for the gifts, ministries and successes of others. We can ask Him for grace to be their support and encourager.
As David describes his confidence in God’s good purpose, he is led by the inspiring Spirit to make one of the clearest statements of resurrection hope in the Old Testament. If God has been and will be faithful throughout life, then surely He will not abandon David even in the moment of death. Surely his body will not ultimately decay (verse 10) and he will have eternal pleasure in God’s presence (verse 11). For us, living this side of the resurrection of the one to whom verse 10 ultimately points (see Acts 2:27), we have absolute confidence in the future resurrection and our eternal life with God. This eternal perspective casts the troubles of this life, our limitations and restlessness, in a new light. The path of life leads through the grave to a glorious future and an eternal inheritance that is reserved for us. As we travel on this road, let us delight in God, in our lot and in our brothers and sisters. May God keep us safe in this hope for He is our refuge (verse 1).