“God promises terrible things if you will not be happy in Him!” Perhaps you didn’t hear that clearly, let me tell you that again. “God promises terrible things if you will not be happy in Him!” What’s your reaction to that quote? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Does it confuse you? Let’s explore this a bit further.
We tend to have a very negative view of pleasure, that it’s Satan’s domain, or only has to do with pursuits that we would categorize as forbidden fruit. But is that really the case? I think all men seek happiness and pleasure in all they do. Blaise Pascal said it like this, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” Don’t just take Pascal’s word for it, hear Scripture. Deut. 28:47-48 says this, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD shall send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything.” Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whosoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
There is a kind of faith that is pleasing to God and a kind of faith that is displeasing to God. Here we just saw that God is pleased when we come to Him believing that He rewards those who seek Him. To not seek God in this way doesn’t please Him, do you hear that? I hope many questions are raised in your minds right now: what does it mean to seek reward in God? What is the reward He gives? And how is He pleased in this? Well Church, turn with me to Psalm 16.
Before the Psalm begins notice the description given, “A miktam of David.” This Psalm is called a miktam. A miktam is one of those words we come across that we’re unsure of what it means. Some think it refers to a certain musical setting/style, some think it refers to a mystery hidden away that God’s revealing, others think it refers to a writing on stone, still others think it refers a precious gem or jewel. Among all the opinions on what this word miktam means, one thing is clear. It’s used here in Psalm 16 as well as in Psalms 56-60 and in each of these Psalms there is a common theme: struggle, confidence in God, and assurance that God will deliver us in the end. We’ll see this soon but before launching out note one more thing. David wrote it, that is clear. But is this Psalm about David? Like Psalm 2 and Psalm 8 much of what is said here does apply to David but there is much that doesn’t. So, moving beyond David these words ultimately find their fulfillment in Christ, and because of that these words also find fulfillment in all those united to Christ, His Church. That is indeed what’s ahead of us in Psalm 16, so let’s look at it now.
It is difficult to draw up divisions within Psalm 16, so many of its eleven verses seem at first to stand on their own. But in an effort to make the meaning plain, my division is as follows:
-Our Preferred Refuge (v1-2)
-Our Preferred Company (v3-4)
-Our Chosen Portion and Pleasure (v5-11)
Our Preferred Refuge (v1-2)
“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.’”
David begins in v1 with the only prayerful request of the whole Psalm. It’s a plea for God to preserve him, asking God to care for him. After this initial plea he quickly moves on stating that he’s taking refuge in God. This implies that some kind of trouble or struggle is occurring which is prompting David to seek shelter in God. Since it doesn’t tell us which struggle this particular Psalm is about in David’s life, I think we ought to see that it could apply to many of his trials. Whatever season it is David has learned that God is a shelter in the storm, a safe refuge, a fortress he can abide in during trials of all kinds. Despite what happens in life David knows he can trust God. And from having gone through many trials and being in one at the moment David has learned what he says in v2, that God Almighty is the Lord, the Sovereign One, the Master over all. And not only so, God Almighty isn’t only Lord over all, He is David’s Lord. There is a personal element here that David is personally submitting himself to God and underneath the rule and reign of God. And more so, David says apart from God David has no good. This isn’t saying the Lord is David’s only good in all of life, no. There is much goodness David, and all men, experience. But all of those who have acknowledged the Lord, who have submitted to the Lord, and who have said to Lord ‘You are my Lord’ have found the following realities to be stunning: 1) the Lord is good in Himself, 2) in all things the Lord does good, and 3) the Lord is the fount or source all of the good experienced in life.
Because of this, v1-2 make the point that the Lord is David’s preferred refuge. Is He yours? Is the Lord your refuge? Or when trials come do you run to other places and supposed fortresses for comfort and peace and relief? Have you said to Him ‘You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you’? When you hear David say this do you say to yourself, ‘I can think of lots of good things I have that I got for myself.’ Or ‘I have lots of good in my life other than God.’ Or ‘I have loads of things in my life that I never recognized as being given by God.’ If any of these thoughts are your normal way of thinking you’re seeing life wrongly. I wonder if anyone is thinking of James 1? James 1:16-17, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change.” Jonathan Edwards once described God’s good and perfect gifts saying as Giver God is like the sun and His gifts are the beams of light flowing forth out of it. He then went on to say the way to use His gifts rightly is by enjoying them in light of the Giver, or by following the sun beam back to the sun. All of life and all in life is then put into proper perspective. And when all of life is put in proper perspective, we’ll find the Lord to be our preferred refuge as well.
I wonder, is your life is in perspective or out of perspective? May these opening few verses restore it rightly. There’s clearly much more we could linger on here, but we’ll keep on because David keeps on expanding this thought out in v3-4…so turn your attention to v3-4 as we now see…
Our Preferred Company (v3-4)
“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 subject now transitions from the Lord in v1-2 to the Lord’s people in v3. David has said he loves God’s goodness and all the good he has in and from God. Now we see that one of these good things from God that David loves is God’s people. “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” In the midst of trial and trouble isn’t it lovely to read of where David’s heart and mind go? Yes of course he first thinks of God, but then right after that David thinks of those who belong to God. David isn’t content to remain isolated or on his own in loving God, no. As he grows in his love for the Lord David also finds himself growing in his love for those who love the Lord. To David, these are the saints in the land, these saints are the excellent ones, and in these saints David delights greatly. David could’ve chosen to delight the most in his flesh and blood family, in his closest advisors and wise counselors, other kings like himself but no, he chose differently. David’s preferred company were his brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Is the same true of you? Or do you see the community of the Church, the communion of saints as something of a side dish to the Christian life? Are your brothers and sisters in Christ the closest relationships you have? They ought to be. If you love the Lord than it follows that you should do life with others who also love the Lord. Why would you confide in and share life the most with those who turn away from the God you love most? David knew it, and many of you have found it true, that much of the good God intends to bring you in this life isn’t found in isolation but in the fellowship of the Church. For all its warts, weakness, and strangeness, the Church truly is the dearest place on earth.
Knowing this then, why would anyone keep it at an arms distance away? Perhaps you’re afraid of being known too closely, or being seen for who you truly are? Allow me to say two things to this. First, I’d like to encourage you. There’s no need to fear being known. All of us are distressed when we look at ourselves, but when we look at Christ, we’re at rest. We are naturally bent inwards toward ourselves and we need others to remind us to stop looking at ourselves and look to Christ instead, enter the Church! We couldn’t save ourselves on our own, why do we believe we can do the Christian life on our own? Enter the Church! We say it often but it’s true – God saves us individually yes, but He saves us into a family, and in that family is where our lives are lived out. Praise God for His Church! Second, I’d like to challenge you. I’ve heard many reasons why people stay away from the Church or just kind of dabble in it instead of fully jumping in. That church has a strange pastor, he’s too young and can’t know what I struggle with, or he’s too old and can’t relate to the younger folk, or this church has bad music, that church is too small, this one is too big. When it comes down to it you need to know this: no Church is perfect and those in the Church will eventually hurt you…but take great caution, the connection between the Lord and the Lord’s people is so strong that to turn away from one is to turn away from the other.
Look at where he goes next in v4. David drives his point home in v3 by pointing out the sorrows of the wicked in v4. Those who deny v3 are in reality rejecting God and by rejecting God they’re running after other gods, and the result of that pursuit is clear: multiplied sorrows. Thus, David says he wants nothing to do with it their wicked pursuits, such that he doesn’t even want to name them. So Church, before us in v3-4 is a clear contrast. The pursuits of the wicked end in multiplied sorrows while the pursuits of the saints end in solid joys. Or as John Newton so poetically put it, “Fading is the worldly man’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show. Solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.” You don’t have to be rocket scientist to see this! This is like someone putting two plates before you, one with rich chocolate cake on it and the other with a piece of tree bark. What’s better?! Only in a fallen world would we make the wrong choice in a situation like that! Yet, so much more is at stake than what plate is better. In the gospel of God He offers all who believe redemption, peace, His very righteousness, and a true home in Him forever. Yet sin tempts us, allures us, seeks to deceive us by whispering to us that we can have all this and more outside of God on our own terms. Again, only in a fallen world would we make the wrong choice here. Yet, even though our hearts are bent toward sin, even though we have an enemy in the devil seeking to devour, praise God that He gives us His Spirit, texts like this one, and a community around us to remind of all that is truly good, and true, and beautiful!
So we say with David that the Lord is our preferred refuge and His people are our preferred company in v1-4, now see all of this expanded further next in v5-11…
Our Chosen Portion and Pleasure (v5-11)
v5-9 first, “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.”
The blessings and benefits of God in v5-6 are all about our inheritance. We remember Old Testament inheritance talk don’t we? After the Exodus God brought His people to Sinai, through the wilderness, to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. In that land God conquered and gave allotments of land to each tribe of Israel. Each got their portion. But one group of people didn’t receive any land, remember who? The priests. What was the inheritance of the priests? Deut. 18:2, “They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.” That God said this about His priests is of mammoth importance because His priesthood would one day not simply be a group among His people, but would define all of His people. In Exodus 19 and Isaiah 61 God said we shall be and in 1 Pet. 2 and Rev. 1 God says He has made us to be ‘a Kingdom of priests.’ Therefore, David’s words are right on. Since we’re a kingdom of priests what is our inheritance? We look to no land. The Lord is our inheritance. And since the Lord is our inheritance we conclude with David, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
In v7-9 the list of blessings and benefits cascade out of David’s mouth: the Lord counsels me, the Lord instructs me, the Lord is before me, the Lord is with me, and because of these things blesses the Lord and rejoices saying, “I shall not be shaken…my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” Do any of you have a particular chair or couch you love settling down into after long day? You know, the kind of place where as soon as you’ve sat down you let out a long sigh of relief? I do, and after a long day I love the moment I fall into its comfort and warmth. Don’t miss what’s being said here. David knows God, is blessed by God, and has settled down quite comfortably into His comfort and warmth. Have you? Commenting on this passage John Calvin says, “In this way we will experience our condition to be always pleasant and comfortable; for he who has God as his portion lacks nothing required for a happy life.”
David’s confidence extended beyond this life as well, look at v10-11, “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.” Even in death David rejoiced that his soul would be secure satisfied in God. But wait, does v10 apply to David? In one sense it does, because David knows at the last day there will be a resurrection from the grave. But in another sense v10 is well beyond David. Long after David wrote this, both Peter and Paul applied this verse to Jesus. Hear Peter’s words in Acts 2:25-31, “‘For David says concerning Christ, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “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, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.” Now hear Paul in Acts 13:35-37, “Therefore God says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up did not see corruption.”
v10-11 aren’t about David being kept from dying, no. He died and experienced the corruption of his flesh. Ultimately v10-11 (and all of Psalm 16 really) are about Jesus’ words to the Father and His own dying and not experiencing corruption. His preferred refuge is the Lord, His preferred company is the saints, and His portion and pleasure is His Father. When He died for sins not His own, He didn’t stay dead! He rose and ascended into the pleasures at God’s right hand. And joy upon joy, all who come to Jesus in faith, enter into the same joy, the same pleasure, and on the Last Day the same resurrection. All you saints take great cheer. Each night we close our eyes and rest and open them on a new morning. One day we shall close on our eyes on this world in death, for die we must, but rise we shall! And all who by faith embraced Christ here will say there, ‘the Lord is my portion and pleasure.’
“God promises terrible things if you will not be happy in Him!” What does it mean to be happy in Him? What does it mean to seek reward in God? What is the reward He gives? And how is He pleased in this? Church I mean it when I say it, it is Christ’s pleasure that He is our joy. Too many people view the gospel as simply a call to give up this or stop doing that and come into a life of little and lack. And in a sense we’d agree, right? There is much we give up and leave behind in coming to Christ. But O the reward of knowing and being known by God. The gospel is, not a call out of pleasure but a call into true pleasures forevermore!
What does this have to do with Christmas, with His first advent? The reason the Christmas announcement is said to be ‘good news of great joy for all people’ is because in Christ the fullness of joy can be ours. This is one reason He went to the cross, to purchase all the pleasures promised in Psalm 16. And this is one reason why He rose and ascended, to secure all the satisfaction stated in Psalm 16.
So, don’t settle for less. Worldly pleasures are tree bark compared to the rich cake of heavenly pleasures in the gospel!
 Jeremy Taylor, source unknown.
 Blaise Pascal, Pensees, quoted in All Men Seek Happiness, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/all-men-seek-happiness, accessed 12/12/19.
 Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David – Vol. 1 (McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing, reprint) 192.
 Mark Futato and George Schwab, The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs – Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Vol. 7 (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House, 2009) accessed via Logos Bible software 12/12/19.
 John Calvin, quoted in Futato and Schwab, see citation above.