Praying the Psalms: Psalm 16

Do you trust in the Lord? Is your contentment and joy so found in God that regardless of what happens in this life you have an unabashed confidence in Christ, your treasure? We tend to be unhappy people. We complain about our the quality of our home, the number on our paycheck, or the unexpected and frustrating events that happen to us. We tend to always want more from this world and we become angry when God does not give it to us. David gives us a radically different perspective in Psalm 16. This psalm is a prayer of contentment, joy, and trust in God alone. As we study this prayer, may God gives us this sort of attitude in our prayers and in our life. Praying the Psalms

Commentary

v. 1-2 - The Psalm begins with a cry of trust. “Preserve me!”, the psalmist cries. The Lord is his refuge. God is the one in whom all his trust lies. Whatever crisis we face, we must display an unrelenting trust in God, because he is our Lord. David recognizes that any good in his life comes directly from God himself. “I have no good apart from you” (v. 2).

We are quick to take credit for the good things that happen to us. We tend to praise ourselves for any good thing that happens to us, and blame God for any wrong. So when we get that promotion at work, we will praise our own handwork and dedication. We pat ourselves on our back and praise our accomplishment. Yet, David understands that any good in his life was not achieved by his own might, but by the gracious gifting of God. Apart from the loving and providential hand of God we would posses nothing good in life. All of it is from him.

We would be wise like David, to recognize God’s sovereign rule over our lives knowing that he rules it all. Because of his divine power over this world and over our personal lives, it is fitting to place our trust in him. He is an excellent refuge, fortified and strong.

v. 3-4 - David then goes on to describe his delight to be around the people of God. He delights in the saints of the land, the people of Israel. It is a joy to be around the Lord’s beloved. Yet, for those who run after false gods and idols, the psalmist does not participate in their pagan worship. He refuses to participate in idolatry.

David’ prefers to surround himself with the people of God. Though we must be careful not to live in a holy bubble as a church, we too should long to surround ourselves with God’s people. When we gather together for prayer, for worship, or for communion, the community of saints produces joy. We should delight in one another, because we delight in the holiness of God. In our lives we should seek active participation in the holy community and not participate in the false worship of a secular culture. David’s trust in God is proven by his delight in God’s people.

v. 5-6 - “You hold my lot.” God holds our very life in his hands. In verse 5 and 6, David expresses a contentment in his life, knowing that the Lord is in control. His lot is in his hands. God is so sovereign that he causes the dice to land. Sometimes life seem so random and chaotic, doesn’t it? But, David understands, and so should we, that God is the one who causes the lines to fall in our lives. Every door that is shut in our face or every door that is opened—all of it is decided by God himself. For David this is comforting and it gives him a robust contentment. Because his lot is decided by God, it allows him to be truly joyous with where God has him. He is not asking the “what if” question in the back of his mind. Rather, he sees his life and where he is as God’s will for him, and as he thinks about how God has directed his life he concludes that he has received a “beautiful inheritance”. Though David’s life was far from perfect, and though we too can have some rough areas of difficulty, we have been blessed far beyond what we deserve. The good in our life—from listening to the laughter of our children to sipping a warm cup of coffee on a cool summer morning—all of this is God’s beautiful inheritance towards us. Rather than cursing God for what isn’t, we should praise God for what he has given. When we begin to understand that the only thing we deserve is death, we begin to look at our life through the lens of gratitude to God. Then and only then, will God begin to give us a supernatural contentment as we stand in awe of God’s gracious provision for us.

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v. 7-8 - David’s trust in God gives him comfort and confidence. He receives comfort as the Lord gives him counsel. God instructs him and teaches him. The Lord is always before him and guiding him. The Lord isn’t absent from his life but very present. He is at his right hand. Therefore the comfort of his presence leads to confidence.

One of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture is the comfort of God’s presence in our life. Knowing that God is with us and that he does not abandon us, gives us a ferocious courage when life’s challenges begin to pile up into a mountainous wall. Our comfort and confidence is found in the Lord.

v. 9-10 - What is the result of this comfort and confidence in the Lord? Deeply satisfying gladness and joy. Like a fountain that runs over is the joy of our hearts when we trust in the Lord. We receive joy, because we know that regardless of the lot we have been given, that our flesh dwells secure. There is no need to fear whatever suffering, persecution, or martyrdom awaits us. When we have this sort of unwavering confidence in God’s rule over our life, it fills our hearts with joy. Whether we are thrown in a dark jail cell for preaching Christ in a closed country or whether we are beheaded by ISIS for following Jesus, for the Christian joy abounds. Because, when we put our trust in God, our flesh is secure though we may lose our own heads for his glory.

How can this be? Well it is through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! The apostle Paul in his sermon in Acts 13:35 references Psalm 16:10 as evidence pointing to the resurrection of Christ. It is written, “You will not let your holy one see corruption”. Jesus Christ experienced the horrors and death of the crucifixion. It is there that his flesh was nailed and his blood poured out. Even still, Jesus went to the cross with joy accepting the lot that God had given him. Though, God does not allow his holy one to see corruption. Jesus paid the price for our sins and absorbed the excruciating torment of the crucifixion, and it was God who raised him from the dead. God did not abandon his son to Sheol, but raised him from the grave on the third day!

For the Christian, who has trusted in Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, we have this same hope. Because of Jesus, God will not abandon our soul to Sheol. Death has lost its power. It is a defeated foe. Therefore, regardless of what believers face in this life whether filled with worldly blessings or whether filled with thistles and thorns, there is still unceasing joy for the Christian. The joy of the Christian is not found in our circumstances but found in God himself. Because God comforts us with his presence it gives us confidence knowing, that whatever our lot may be, it is well with our soul, because our life is found in the resurrected glory of Jesus Christ. Though we may lose our heads, our flesh dwells secure in Christ. Therefore our hearts are glad and rejoice in the unshakeable confidence and hope we have in the resurrection of Christ!

v. 11 - The conclusion of this Psalm is filled with joy. God has made known to us the path to true life, a life of joy and contentment. The path to truly living is not found in hedonistic pleasure or materialistic wealth of the world, but in the hedonistic wealth of the pleasure of God’s presence. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasure for evermore” (v. 11). God by his great grace and mercy, through Jesus, brings us into the fullness of joy in his presence. When we live with Jesus as our all consuming treasure, he is the satisfaction for which we long. He is the oasis of rest. He is the pearl of great price. Praise be to God that in Christ we receive the fullness of joy. May we trust in Christ by faith to receive this great salvation purchased for us, and in our Christian life may we display such trust in God—that regardless of our present circumstances—that the fullness of joy in God would dwell within our hearts. For we know, that God will not let his holy ones, sanctified by the blood of Christ, see the corruption of hell. He will not abandon us in death. But, at the moment of our last breath we will experience the totality of the fullness of joy as we stand in the satisfying and glorious presence of God as we enjoy the pleasure at his right hand forevermore.

Prayer Guide

  • Are you trusting in God in whatever you are facing? Ask God to help you trust in him as your refuge?
  • Do you delight in God’s holy people? Ask God to give you a joy in the community of the saints.
  • Thank God for the “beautiful inheritance” he has given you. Praise him, knowing that apart from him, you would possess no good in this life.
  • Express thankfulness for the comfort of his presence and the confidence you possess knowing that he is at your right hand.
  • Thank the Lord for Christ, who by his resurrected glory gifts us with a gladness that fills up our whole being.
  • Ask the Lord to give you a trust and contentment with Christ as your treasure.
  • Praise the Lord that through Jesus he brings you into his divine presence where your joy is full and infinity satisfying.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 11

The Psalms are not just songs, but prayers. By studying the Psalms we can learn how to better pray and engage in communion with God. Each Thursday I’ll be posting a commentary and prayer guide for the Psalms to help us learn and practice prayer. There are moments in our lives that feel like total chaos. The world seems to be spinning and we seem to be sinking in a whirlpool of hostility. It is in these moments, to which Psalm 11 speaks. This Psalm of David is a meditation in which David is preaching to his own soul in his moment of crises. David reminds himself that God is trustworthy and still on his throne though his life seems so out of control. There is great wisdom in learning to preach to ones wandering heart, and this psalm is an example of David reminding his own soul of God’s power and stability though David feels weak and unstable.

Commentary

v 1–3 - The first stanza of the Psalm describes the perils of David’s crises. He begins in verse one telling himself to take refuge in the Lord. The idea of the Lord being a refuge is a reoccurring theme throughout the psalter. God is a safe house and a shelter in the chaos. He is a safe place and a protection. Though God is a refuge, it is easy for even the faithful to doubt in that divine protective shelter. Sometimes the wind whirls so powerfully, the hail so large, or the monsoon to thick, that we begin to doubt if God protection and refuge will really survive the destructive weather of chaos. David knows his own heart is prone to run away and flee rather than trust in God as shelter. He speaks to his own soul asking what’s the point in such hopelessness. Why flee like a bird to the mountain when the wicked are fitting an arrow directed towards the upright in heart? Though the very foundation of worldly security seem to be destroyed, it is not appropriate to hopelessly declare “What can the righteous do?”

Davids soul is doubting God’s ability to be his refuge. He is despondent heart and trusting in the Lord seems to impractical compared to the whirling tempest of evil that surrounds him. We too can be so very discouraged from taking refuge in God. As we witness the pandemonium and lawlessness that makes up our present age, it is easy for us to think that trusting in God will do us little good. When our souls feel to be in disarray, it is to easy to doubt God’s goodness or his power. Yet, it is in those moments that we need to speak truth to our broken hearts and encourage them with the truth. Though we may be paralyzed by the trouble of the moment we must turn our attention to the truth. This is exactly what David does.

v. 4–7 - This second stanza is David’s mini-sermon to his own heart, reminding himself of God’s character and power. Even though the wicked have David in their cross-hairs, “The LORD is in his holy temple”. God is in his throne and he is ruling and aware of all that is happening. His eyes see. Though God may feel distant or absent from our present trauma, he is very well aware. Yet, he is not only aware but he is on his throne in heaven ruling. God wields complete sovereignty over all that happens. Nothing happens without his ruling hand allowing it to happen. Whatever evil may befall in this life, nothing happens without his sovereign hand allowing it to happen. Though God does not perform evil, it is his sovereign wisdom that allows such things to happen, even to his saints.

Why does God permit such evil to happen, especially to his children? Well David reminds himself that often God permits trails in order to “test the children of man”. God in his goodness often tests the faithfulness of the righteous. This is why James could say, “Count it all, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jm 1:2–3). For the people of God is is a joyous thing to encounter such trails, because through this testing God is sanctifying us and conforming us ever to his image. David’s life is an example here in Psalm 11. This moment of crises, whatever it may be, is forcing him to trust the Lord as his refuge. This trial is growing him but making him more dependent on God. God allows evil things to befall his children, because those evil acts are used by God for his children’s good. The wonderfully wise providence of God uses what others meant for evil to shape his people for their good. We see a specific example of this in the life of Joseph in Genesis.

When it comes to the wicked, God hates the one who loves violence. Those who practice such evil, God is in direct opposition to them. Though God may use the evil of this world and use it for the good of his people, this does not mean that God is pleased by or condones the actions of the wicked. Rather, the sovereign Lord who sits on his throne will bring them to account for their actions. Those who viciously set their eyes on destroying the covenant people of God will face the stern and just anger of the one who sits on his throne in heaven. David understands this and affirms that God will one day rain coals on the wicked. “Fire and sulfur and scorching will shall be the portion of their cup”. This is a direct allusion to the terrible fate of Sodom and Gomorra in which God brought down his stern and ferocious wrath on those cities. In our present moments of crises we must remind ourselves that the wicked who seek our harm will one day receive their due. Though God may not execute his justice immediately in our present circumstances, one day the wicked will receive the portion of their cup.

The final verse affirms that the Lord is on the side of the righteous. He loves those who love him and obey him. Those who are pure in heart will see God. The upright will behold his face in glorious splendor. As we think about this Psalm in the context of the whole canon of Scripture, we are thankful that it is Jesus alone who purchases for us this privilege. God in his incredible mercy used the death of Christ to make us righteous. Though we are all sinners and though we deserve the fire of sulfur upon our heads, Jesus took our cup upon himself. God poured out the cup of his wrath upon his son Jesus on the cross. By grace, God overs us the righteousness of his son Jesus. As we trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ, we have the glorious promise that we too will one day see him face to face. Through Christ we know God and come into a relationship with God. This is the glorious good news of the Gospel.

The message of this psalm is clear enough. When our wandering hearts begin to doubt God’s goodness and power, we must remind ourselves that he is a trustworthy refuge. God is on his throne. He opposes the wicked and will protect the cause of the righteous. When our hearts in desperation say, “What can the righteous do?”, we know the answer. Take refuge in the Lord, because the Lord is in his holy temple.

Prayer Guide

  • What is your crises moment? Share that with the Lord
  • Confess thoughts that demonstrate a lack of trust in God
  • Praise the Lord that he is in control and able to use the evil against you for your good.
  • Thank the Lord that he is on the side of the righteous, and through Christ has made you righteous.
  • Ask God to help you trust in him as your refuge.

Praying the Psalms: Psalm 3

The Psalms are not just songs, but prayers. By studying the Psalms we can learn how to better pray and engage in communion with God. Each Thursday I’ll be posting a commentary and prayer guide for the Psalms to help us learn and practice prayer. We each encounter time of incredible crisis in our lives. There are moments where everything seems to be falling apart and our enemies are all around us. Such an occasion takes place in Psalm 3. It is a Psalm written by David inspired by one of the hardest times of David’s life, the rebellion of his son Absalom. His own son had conspired against him to remove David from leadership. For a season David was on the run, hiding and fleeing from Absalom. As we try to imagine the pain, hurt, and frustration that David experienced we also see within Psalm his confident trust in the Lord.

Commentary

v. 1–2. The Psalm begins with describing the desperation of his current situation. He looks around and see his enemies. He has “many” foes and there are“many” rising against him. The sheer number of those who are against David is overwhelming to him. It seems like everyone has turned on him and everyone has dejected him from his kingship. The Christian is not immune to making enemies. Often times the Christian will be hated by the world. In fact, Jesus has promised us persecution. There are times of the Christian life when many may rise up against us.

David’s enemies where ruthless and saw all that was happening to him as a sign that God had abandoned him. David tells us that they are saying of his soul, “there is no salvation for him in God”. The enemies saw David’s downfall and failures and they concluded that the hand of the Lord had left him.

Christians too might hear the wicked lies of the enemy whispering this phrase into our ear. “God could never save you! There is no salvation for you in God. He has abandoned you!” The great accuser can cause doubt in our hearts of God’s good intention and his ability and willingness to deliver us from the calamity of both our spiritual and physical crises. As we will see, these accusations from his enemies will not derail his faith, but only draws him into greater confidence and pleading with God.

v. 3–6. The psalmist begins to think about his history with God. He begins to think about the ways God has delivered him in the past. Time and time again, God has stuck with him and protected him like a shield. In his darkest moments, God has lifted his head from despair. As he cried aloud in desperation, the Lord answered him.

It is easy for us to get so overwhelmed by the present that we begin to forget God’s faithfulness in the past. Though our present circumstances may be paralyzing, it is vital that we remember how God has delivered us from our previous hardships. My grandfather has a saying that has always stuck with me. He always said, “Never doubt in the dark, what God has revealed in the light”. In other words, though our present circumstances may be bleak, remember what God has shown you about his loving kindness in the past. The darkness of the present hour should not shake our faith. We must remember how he has delivered us. As we do, it gives us great confidence in our crisis moments to trust God as our shield.

David tells us that because of his trust in God, he was able to put his head down and sleep. Anxiety and fear often leads to sleepless nights. Everyone has had moments in their life when they were so burdened with worry and stress that they were unable to fall asleep. As soon as they put their head on the pillow, their mind starts running with worry, hypothetical situations, and anxiety. They are unable to fall asleep. David’s, remembrance of God’s protection led him to be able to truly rest.

There is something humbling about sleeping. No matter how self-sufficient we think we may be, we need sleep. God has designed us to spend a third of our day unconscious and dependent upon him. Sleep is a vulnerable thing, because no matter how much you may think you are in control of your life for a full 1/3 of it you are sleep unaware of all that’s going on in this world. Every human being, whether they desire to or not are forced by the hand of the creator to put their lives and this world into the hands of a sustaining God. To give our hearts and mind to sleep requires us to give our life and problems over to God. As we close our eyes, we only open them again by the grace of God. Even in our sleep the Lord sustains us. David sees God’s sustaining hand on his life and he concludes that he will not be afraid of the many thousands of people who are rising against him. He has a confident trust in his sustaining God to deliver him.

v. 7–8. The last section of this Psalm concludes with is prayer of petition. He calls out to God and says, “Arise, O Lord!”. In confident trust he calls out to God to save him and deliver him from his enemies. He trusts God to handle those rising against him. He is confidently trusting in God to strike his enemies and break the teeth of the wicked.

The final verse concludes with great assurance, “Salvation belongs to the Lord”. Although David’s enemies were convinced there was no salvation for David (v. 2), David understands that salvation is not given by the will of men, but by God himself. David understands that salvation is God’s to give, and he gives it to whom he pleases as they come to him by faith.

We may feel completely undeserved of salvation. We may believe lies that tell us God could never save or deliver us, yet God is gracious and blesses his people. God has made a way to bring salvation to all people through the death of his son Jesus. Jesus is the salvation of God. All who come to place their faith in Jesus Christ–no matter how dark their circumstances or how great their crisis–salvation is given to them by God’s grace. It is those who express their dependent child-like trust in God who receive God’s salvation. This child-like dependency even in calamity is the essence of saving faith. It is a faith David lives out in Psalm 3, and its a faith we should possess as well.

Prayer Guide

  • Bring your hearts concern to God. We can come to him in the middle of our crisis. What crisis are you facing now you need to bring before God?
  • How has God delivered you in the past? Remember those times and praise God for his faithfulness then.
  • Pray in confidence before God asking for his help in your present situation.
  • Thank God that he gives salvation to those who trust him in faith through Jesus Christ.
  • Confess your often lack of trust in God during difficult times.Ask God to give you faith right now in your time of need.