A Song Of Hope For Body And Soul: A Series On Psalm 16 (Part 2)

Last time, we looked at verses 1–4, where David seeks refuge in God. In this final part, we will see how David proclaims his trust in the Lord in the remainder of this psalm.

David Puts His Trust in God (vv. 5–8)

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. (vv. 5, 6)

Here, the king expresses gratitude, and contentment in God and in the blessings he has given. He uses terms that were often used in reference to land allocations: “portion,” “lot,” and “inheritance.” Certainly as the king, David has vast lands and he dwells securely in that land; but is he praising God for his land allotments? Instead of praying concerning earthly land, David is speaking of an eternal inheritance.

As we read in Hebrews 11, rather than a plot of land, David’s interest is with God and the eternal land that he receives through promise. For although by faith in his Divine King, David “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions . . . became mighty in war, [and] put foreign armies to flight” (Heb 11:32–34), ultimately, he “did not receive what was promised” (Heb 11:39) in this life. Instead, he looked ahead and above to the city with foundations that can never be shaken. (Heb 11:10)

Just as Asaph sang in Psalm 73, David’s portion is God himself. His inheritance is the beauteous eternal promised land, the new creation, earned not through the battles of King David, but through his offspring who, according to promise, would sit on the throne forever. And for this eternal inheritance, David blesses Yahweh.

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. (vv. 7, 8)

David has sought refuge in the Lord; now he writes that he also seeks counsel (or wisdom) in the Lord. In response to God’s counsel, he gives praise.

When one considers the life of David, it is quite clear that things generally work out for him. He is always delivered from trouble, he always seems to come out on top, and even his mistakes are turned into God’s blessings for the people. Why is that? Generally, it can be observed that he is successful whenever he seeks counsel and wisdom from the Lord. There are times, however, when David trusts not in the Lord, but in himself; and when David trusts in himself, as is true for us as well, things do not go well for him.

Remember the census he took of his military in 1 Chronicles 21. The king was told to trust in the Lord, but Satan slithered into his ear and he took a census to see how many men he had in his military. In other words, he trusted not in the Lord, but in numbers. And what happened? The angel of the Lord sent pestilence on his army and seventy thousand men of Israel died. Who needs enemies when you have a commander like David? Seventy thousand soldiers died because David chose not to seek counsel in God.

In contrast, in this portion of his psalm, David is encouraging himself and others to continue seeking counsel in the Lord. As Christians, this is a good reminder for us to continually seek wisdom from the Lord rather than trusting in ourselves or in the suggestions of Satan.

Moving on to the final verses of this song, we can begin to see how Psalm 16 is a messianic psalm. Often referring to the king, a messiah (meaning anointed one) was someone anointed by oil when called to that particular office in ancient Israel. David was indeed anointed by Samuel—but that is not why this is a messianic psalm.

David Knows the Lord Will Never Abandon His Soul (vv. 9–11)

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 (v. 9, 10a)

What is David talking about here? Sheol refers to the Jewish conception of the land of the dead; maybe David hopes he will not die? It can also mean “the pit,” literal or spiritual; so perhaps David is at a spiritual low point? Given the context, however, these meanings are unlikely. At first glance, it seems like David’s confidence in God comes from an expectation that he will never die; nonetheless, the end of verse 10 clarifies his prayer for us, and we see that David is not referring to himself:

You will not . . . let your holy one see corruption (v. 10)

If the king is referring to himself, then the Word of God has failed. Why? Because David died—his body saw corruption. We read in the Book of Kings, “David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his fathers” (1 Kgs 2:10). David died and he is still dead to this day. His flesh? Not secure. He has most definitely seen corruption. If the prophet David is not writing of himself, then of whom does he speak?

Recall what Luke said about Jesus: “He interpreted to the disciples the things concerning himself in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). Could it be this is one of the passages Jesus opened their minds to? The apostle Peter answers this question for us in his famous Pentecost sermon. In Acts 2:22, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up and begins preaching:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. You crucified and killed him by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him . . . (Acts 2:22–25)

Peter preaches the life and death of Christ—the gospel­—and then he begins to quote King David. What Scripture written by David does Peter cite?

For David says concerning him, “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 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.” (Acts 2:25–28)

The apostle is preaching the resurrection of Christ directly from Psalm 16. Jews from all over the known world listened as Peter preached and interpreted Psalm 16 in light of Jesus of Nazareth. What would they have thought when he did this? Undoubtedly, some would have thought, “No, Peter, Psalm 16 is about King David, not some crucified criminal.” Anticipating their objections, Peter continues:

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. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29–32)

According to one of the men who sat under Jesus interpreting the Old Testament in light of himself, Psalm 16 is ultimately about the glorification of Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah who was raised from the dead in order to demonstrate in power who he is: the glorified King. Peter concludes his exegesis of Psalm 16 and moves on to Psalm 2, another messianic psalm. There, he reveals that Jesus is indeed the one whom David was speaking of:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“The Lord said to my Lord,

‘Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.’”

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:33–36)

Thus, by his death on the cross, his resurrection on the third day, and his ascension to the throne on high, where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the exalted Messiah, fulfills Psalm 16. He has subdued all his and our enemies, even the greatest of enemies, sin and death—and this ought to give us great confidence.

Is there anything that could ever give us more confidence than that our Lord was raised and  now dwells secure, that the Holy One of God has not seen corruption, and that by trusting in him and his work, we too will be raised with him on the last day and seated on high in the heavenly places? That was David’s confidence, and that is the confidence of the New Covenant believer. For at one time, Christians were far off; but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ and can say with confidence to our God, “You make known to me the path of life” (v. 11). And that path of life is through Christ Jesus, in whom we have our inheritance, eternal life.

Application: Using Psalm 16 as a Prayer or a Song

As we consider Psalm 16—a prayer of David, a song sung by the people of God for thousands of years, and a promise revealed in its christological fullness—when would be a particularly beneficial time for Christians to use this psalm?

It may surely be used anytime and should certainly be used in worship. More particularly, for Christians experiencing seasons of loneliness, sadness, or suffering, Psalm 16 is a wonderful prayer we can pray, knowing that amidst these circumstances we have the objective promise that our God will never abandon us. We may feel as if we are in a spiritual pit, but we have the historical reality of the resurrection and enthronement of Christ that we can look to as evidence of our God’s faithfulness. Furthermore, as we meditate on this psalm, we ought to remember and seek to improve upon our baptisms, which are a sign and seal of the benefits of the resurrection of Christ and our union with him. Indeed, looking to the risen Christ whom we have been united to ought to give us hope in the God who did not abandon his Son and who will not abandon us.

As we sing this psalm, we are reminded not only of the resurrection of Christ, but also of what his resurrection as firstfruits secures: our own bodily resurrection. Just as Christ was raised in glory, so too will those who are united to him be raised. This is the “beautiful inheritance” (v. 6) David sang of. For those who seek refuge in God, the inheritance is the promise of eternal life in the new creation. What a powerful truth for pilgrims going through times of physical pain and suffering, or the feelings of hopelessness that often accompany distress. So, not only can we use Psalm 16 in worship, but we should pray it and sing it for our own spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Along with King David, the apostle Peter, and the rest of the saints, let us read, pray, and sing Psalm 16 with assurance as we meditate on the fullness of the joy and satisfaction we have in Christ Jesus our Lord—“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more” (v. 11). Thus, Psalm 16 is a resurrection song that gives us confidence in our risen and ascended king, Jesus Christ.

©Scott McDermand II. All Rights Reserved.

You can find the whole series here. 


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    Post authored by:

  • Scott McDermand II
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    Scott McDermand II is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Bad Axe, Michigan. He graduated from San Diego State University (B.A., History) and earned masters degrees at Westminster Seminary California (M.A., Historical Theology; M.Div). He serves on the board of directors of the Heidelberg Reformation Association as secretary. He has a passion for preaching and teaching the Word of God, Biblical theology, Church History, and enjoying fellowship with the people of First Presbyterian Church, Bad Axe, MI. In his free time, he enjoys baseball, reading, classical music, eating whatever his wife cooks for him, and walking their two dogs.

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