Psalm 16 – Quiet Trust in God
Psalm 16 is a psalm of confident, quiet trust in God. After all of the big events of Holy Week and Easter, it’s nice to have some time for quiet reflection. Psalm 16 invites us to do this.
The writer entrusts his life to God, “Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge I have no good apart from thee.” (1-2) He recognizes that nothing is good apart from God, that all good things, happiness and prosperity, come from God. He recognizes his great need for God. The King James version reads “my goodness extendeth not to thee,” meaning even our best never comes close to “the best” which comes from God. This is a reason for humility.
The writer takes delight in the “saints” in the land, they are “the noble” (RSV) or “the excellent” (King James). He is one of their company, enjoying God’s blessings. Those who follow other gods “multiply their sorrows.” (6) It isn’t just a matter of increasing sorrows, hurts, pains or grief, but they are multiplied indicating an increase in suffering for those foolish enough to follow other gods, or exchange the one God for a heathen gods who demand blood libations rather than the offerings of wine that were offered to God. This is such an abomination to the writer that he will not even take their names on his lips.
Inner Well-Being that Comes from God
The psalmist then goes on to express the inner well-being that comes from putting his trust in God. “The Lord is my chosen portion and cup.” (5) Portion is one’s share in the division of goods and cup, a metaphor based on practice of passing wine to a guest at a feast or meal, means my fate or destiny (hence Jesus passed the cup at the last supper, Mt. 26:27, 39).
God is my destiny, God holds my fate, the psalmist declares. The writer has chosen God. The psalmist’s good fortune cannot be taken from him for it is God who holds it fast. Not only that, “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, yet, I have a goodly heritage.” (6) He uses the metaphor of dividing lines of property to indicate the blessings he has received. Each of the blessings he has received from God are comparable to fertile fields or pleasant land.
God as Companion
The writer goes on to say how God counsels him, gives him directions for his life, speaks to him at night to keep him from going astray. He starts with God before him always, but God moves to his right side, as a nearby friend, walking by his side. God, the object of his life, becomes his walking companion. “Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices.” (9)
Who would not be glad with God as his companion? His whole body is at ease, trusting in his God. God rescues him from Sheol and shows the path of life where he will enjoy pleasure for evermore – perhaps hinting at an afterlife.
Reflecting Back on Holy Week
It can be hard to comprehend this in light of the events remembered by Christians throughout the world last week. Who can put their quiet trust in a God who allowed his own son to die such a brutal death? Yes, there was the resurrection. We know the story didn’t end with Jesus’ death, but the Hebrew nation did not have a strong concept of life after this life. For them, immortality was found in the tribal community which continued on after they died.
We know that, in this life, good people often suffer for no known reason. There is a strain of belief in the Old Testament that people who are just and follow the one true God will be rewarded in this life. Hence in Job, we see his friends wondering what he did to warrant his suffering. So where is consolation to be found for someone who suffers unjustly?
Jesus, Our Reason for Quiet Trust
That’s why we need Jesus; why we need the New Testament. Jesus fulfills the promise of the Old Testament. As beautiful as the Psalms are, they grow in meaning in light of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is only in light of Jesus and his resurrection, that we make sense of suffering in this life.
So we have reason for quiet trust in our God who never fails us, who brings good out of evil and rewards us in this life and the next, who brings us “into pleasant places.”
Wishing you some quiet time to reflect on God’s goodness in your life this Easter Week!
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Dancing on a High Wire the first book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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