Psalm 16

Psalm 16
The Perfect Humanity of Christ
Psalm 16 – 18. These Psalms give us a revelation of Christ, as the dependent man (Psa. 16), the righteous man (Psa. 17), and the victorious man (Psa. 18).
Psalm 16. This is a Psalm of David, and it is a “Michtam” psalm, which means “golden” or “jewel”. There are six Michtam Psalms, and they illustrate the preciousness of the Lord’s people to His heart who trust Him through trial, much like gold that is tried with fire (1 Pet. 1:7). This is something that is extremely precious to God, just as the pathway of Christ as a dependent man was precious to the Father’s heart. Therefore this Psalm is “a golden jewel”. The other Michtam Psalms are 16; 56; 57; 58; 59; 60. Psalm 16 is a Messianic Psalm, and it takes up the pathway of Christ on earth as a dependent man. This Psalm prophetically lays out the earthly pathway of the Lord, through death, resurrection, and to the right hand of God, where is fullness of joy. We know it is about Christ because it is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-28 (see also Acts 13:35). In Psa. 14 we have God looking down for a man. In Psa. 15 we have the qualifications of a perfect man, with whom God can dwell. In Psa. 16 the man is Christ, who identifies Himself with the faithful remnant, like Matt. 3. This Psalm has been called “the meal-offering Psalm” because it presents to us the perfect humanity of Christ, similar to the meal-offering in Leviticus 2. God intends for us to enjoy Christ in this way, and the manna is a type of Christ as a humbled man (see John 6). But though Christ is man, He is also the Son of God. That is what makes this Psalm, and the humanity of Christ, so precious. The Spirit of God guards the deity and glory of Christ (Mark 1:1).
Michtam of David.
1 Preserve me, O GOD: for I trust in thee.
v.1 Dependence and Confidence. In the first verse we have the expression of Christ as a man on earth; wholly cast on God for preservation – “Preserve me O God” – and also confident in His protection – “for I trust in thee”. It is interesting that the word for God here in v.1 is “El” (singular) rather than “Elohim” (plural). What we have here is one Person of the Godhead communing with another Person. The Son speaking to His Father. We could think of Psalm 16 as the daily prayer of Christ. He did everything with His Father’s approval and communion; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). It is good for us too to follow the footsteps of Christ in this. We can’t take one step without the preserving grace of God. Sin is a will acting in independence; Christ never acted independently. Christ was perfect as a man, and this was demonstrated in the temptation. He was the Son of God, but Satan wanted the Lord to step out of His place as man. He passed the test perfectly, abiding in obedience and dependence on His God.
2 Thou my soul hast said to Jehovah, Thou art the Lord [Adonai]: my goodness extendeth not to thee; —
3 To the saints that are on the earth, and to the excellent thou hast said, In them is all my delight.
vv.2-3 Subjection and Humility. In v.2, the Psalmist confesses his taking the place of subjection to Jehovah. When we consider that this speaks of Christ, it is beautiful. As a man on earth, Christ took the subject place, and confessed the Lordship of God.1 This is an example of what we have in Phil. 2:6-7; “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”. Christ did not insist on His rights as God, but embraced His place as man and servant; i.e. subject to God, thought He was co-equal. The last part of v.1 is a confession that underscores Christ’s humility; “my goodness extendeth not to thee”. We should confess the same thing to our God! We are dependent on Him, not He on us. Our goodness adds nothing to God.2 In Luke 18:19 Jesus said, “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God”. In v.2 man speaks to God, and in v.3 God speaks to man. We have a transition; now God is speaking. God would have “the saints on the earth” (the faithful remnant) to know that His delight is in them. Christ so fully identified Himself with the remnant, that He uses their own language. It doesn’t take away His deity, but it does highlight His humility! Read Mat 3:13-17. There we have Christ in action carrying out the expressions of v.3, identifying Himself by baptism with the faithful remnant, and God answering from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. There is a sense in which the final fulfillment of this is yet future, with the remnant of Israel in the seventieth week of Daniel, with whom Christ will identify Himself.3 But we can see by the broadness of v.3, “the saints that are on the earth” and “the excellent”, that Christ finds all His delight in believers who are associated with Himself. To Christ, the saints are a precious, golden jewel, in the midst of a corrupt and ruined world. Note that it is Christ speaking in the last clause of v.3, as a continuation of v.2. Christ Himself finds all His delight in the faithful remnant! Beautiful to see the humility of Christ in associating Himself with the saints!4
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another: their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, and I will not take up their names into my lips.
5 Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
vv.4-6 Separation and Satisfaction. In v.4 we have the backdrop of v.2; “my soul hast said to Jehovah, Thou art the Lord”. The “another” in v.4 refers to other lords; i.e. false gods. The faithful can look around with a sober assessment of the “alternative paths” taken by the wicked, hastening after other gods. The result of those paths is that “their sorrows shall be multiplied”. The “sorrows” of the wicked will be abundantly multiplied in the great tribulation! The dependent man is a separated man; “their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, and I will not take up their names into my lips”. Notice the carefulness; not just the sacrifices (contrast with drink offerings of wine, Lev. 23:18), but even the language of the wicked is avoided. Yet separation in scripture is always looked at as from something and to something (Num. 6:2-3). We can fall into a legal frame of mind if we forget that separation is first positive, then negative. In fact, the negative aspect will follow almost automatically when the heart is right. However, God still does speak extensively about the negative side of separation because our consciences need to be exercised. Here the faithful, especially Christ as a man, has a portion that is so wonderful and satisfying that it eclipses the portion of the wicked; “Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup”. An inheritance is a permanent possession, but a cup is a portion for here and now, the present enjoyment in the pathway (Psalm 23:5). How wonderful that Jehovah was both the portion of Christ’s inheritance and cup.5 Christ walked in the light of Jehovah’s smile, and He felt that favor towards Himself; “the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places”. This expression, “the lines”, refers to property boundaries, such as would mark out a portion of land as an inheritance. Surely, we can say the same about our portion (Col. 3:1-3)!
7 I will bless Jehovah, who giveth me counsel; even in the nights my reins instruct me.
8 “I have set Jehovah continually before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
vv.7-8 Counsel and Courage. Next we find the thought of counsel or guidance from Jehovah. Christ daily looked to God for guidance, and we should as well. We live in a world turned upside down by sin and confusion. We need wisdom and instruction from God (Eph. 5:15-17), and this comes to us through His Word, and can only be received in dependence on Him. The second part of v.7 is very helpful; “even in the nights my reins instruct me”. Night seasons are when things aren’t clear, or when things are very difficult. The word “reins” simply refers to our motives; i.e. a knowledge that comes from within. Christ was guided in His pathway by an inner wisdom. This might at first seem mystical and inconsistent with dependence on God, However, we read in Col. 1:9-10 that we can be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We read in 1 Cor. 2:15 that “the spiritual discerns all things, and he is discerned of no one” (1 Cor. 2:15). This inner discernment comes from God, and cannot be had in independence of Him. The second thing we find is courage, which comes from having God always in view; “I have set Jehovah continually before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved”. Christ was the perfect example of this. He always keep God in His thoughts, and lived in view of God’s interests. We should to the same. No matter how dark the circumstances, we can set the Lord before us; i.e. bring Him into our thoughts. What a difference that makes! It produces courage, which is different from self-confidence. Here it is courage because of the presence of Jehovah; “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). When we do this, the result is joy and assurance (v.9).
9 Therefore my heart rejoiceth, and my glory exulteth; my flesh moreover shall dwell in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol, neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to see corruption.
vv.9-10 Joy and Assurance of Resurrection. Setting Jehovah before Him, Christ could say “therefore my heart rejoiceth, and my glory exulteth”. This is the secret to Christian joy and happiness. He then refers, in the latter part of v.9 and v.10, to the hope of resurrection. He refers first to His death, when the body (“my flesh”) is separated from the soul and spirit. This state of separation would not continue forever; “my flesh moreover shall dwell in hope”. It is the hope of resurrection; faith counting that God would raise Him up! In Hebrews 11 the faith of Abraham that God would raise up Isaac is a type of Christ; “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:19). In obeying unto death, and going to the cross, Christ was trusting God to raise Him from the dead. This is what v.10 expresses. It is not Christ taking the place of Son of God, to raise Himself, as in “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18), or “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Rather, it is Christ the dependent man, trusting God to raise Him up. In v.10 we have the temporary nature of Christ’s death. One one hand, His soul would not long remain in the state of separation; “For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol”. The word “Sheol” is the equivalent to Hades in the New Testament, and it simply refers to the intermediate state of the soul in death; i.e. separated from the body. On the other hand, while separated from His soul, Our Lord’s body would not begin to decay; “neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to see corruption”. This is different from every other man. Every person’s body, when they die, begins to decay immediately. Not so with the Lord! Notice also the preciousness of the body; “thine Holy One”. The body of our Blessed Lord was still part of who He was and is, and it is called “holy”. In case there is any doubt as to the meaning of these verses, after quoting them, Peter says of David, “he, seeing it before, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither has he been left in hades nor his flesh seen corruption. This Jesus has God raised up, whereof all we are witnesses” (Acts 2:31-32).
11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life: thy countenance is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” [vv.8-11 quoted in Acts 2:25-28]
v.11 The Prospect of Glory. Having laid out the negative side of resurrection (v.10), the Psalmist now speaks of it positively; “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life”. The “path of life” is resurrection! But this goes beyond resurrection, and takes up the ascension and glorification of Christ at God’s right hand. Christ had confidence that He would see Jehovah’s countenance; i.e. find Himself in the presence of God; “thy countenance is fulness of joy”! And further, He would be find Himself at God’s right hand; “at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore”. He could anticipate the joy of that day, the pleasures of the presence of God, and it gave Him comfort and strength for the pathway (Heb. 12:2).
  1. Unless there be some mistake, I do not think it is my Lord, but “thou art in the place of Lord;” as a man, a servant, He owns Jehovah in the place of Lordship, identifying Himself with the saints on earth. – Darby, J.N. Heads of Psalms.
  2. In the place He had freely taken, the bondman’s place, He would not put Himself on a level with the Master; He said, “My goodness [is] not to thee.” He was here to obey, not to assert co-equality. So He would not be called “Good Master” by one that knew not who He is, only what He became. – Kelly, W. Notes on the Psalms.
  3. This He did historically, when He went to the baptism of John Baptist, with those whom the Spirit led to God in the holy path of repentance. They went first there. He associates Himself with them in grace. Still, we look on to the full result in the last days even here. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  4. After examining many critical authorities, I adhere to the English translation of the second verse. The third leaves the sense obscure, from not changing the preposition. “But to the saints” answers to “said unto the Lord,” not to “extends not to thee.” He says to the Lord, “My goodness … to the saints, … in them is all my delight.” Thus this psalm has a most important and deeply interesting place. It is Christ taking His place in grace amongst the poor remnant of Israel… – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  5. This, I apprehend, is the difference between heritage and cup. The inheritance is the permanent portion of the soul; the cup, what its feelings are occupied with, what comes to a man to occupy his spirit by the way. – Darby, J.N. Practical Reflections on the Psalms.