July 18 – Psalm 16


Here we have another psalm by David, and in it David entrusts himself to God, confessing that he has no good whatsoever apart from him. That sort of absolute statement is a stirring and clarifying call to worship God and nothing else. Specifically in verses 5-6 David calls the Lord his “chosen portion,” saying, “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” This language calls to mind the settling of the land of Canaan in the book of Joshua, when God first brought the nation of Israel into the promised land. When he did, land was allotted to all the tribes of Israel (Josh. 13-21), all except the descendants of Aaron. These were the priests and Levites, who served in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple; the priests made the sacrifices and offerings while the Levites administered the services and sang the worship songs. Now, land was a really big deal in this time period. If you and your family didn’t have any land for agriculture, you and your family didn’t eat. So instead of surviving off their own land, the Levites had to survive off the contributions of the whole nation of Israel.

But God was also making a specific point by doing this. In Numbers 18:20 the Lord tells Aaron and his household, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.” God specifically wanted the worship leaders of Israel to stake their whole beings upon him, to know that their only hope of provision and sustenance rested on the Lord alone. That’s the imagery David is bringing to mind by calling the Lord his “chosen portion.” It’s as if someone came to David and told him he too had been given no land, and yet David is deeply pleased with his real estate. Having nothing but God was a wonderfully sufficient inheritance for him.

David seems utterly convinced that in God he isn’t lacking anything that is necessary to constitute a happy life, and because of this he is unshakeable. Definitely don’t miss the cause and effect here. It’s not as if David is inhumanly tough or has disciplined himself to be unmovable. Remember back to Psalm 13; we know David had really low points. The only reason he can say, “I will not be shaken,” is because he knows, “[God] is at my right hand.” In David’s context, that phrase “at my right hand” describes someone who is right beside you ready to stick up for you; it’s like having a supporting witness in a courtroom or a partner with you on the battlefield. When David looks at God and sees God’s awesome power combined with his tender love, he knows he has an unshakeable foundation, not because of his strength but because of the Lord’s.

Another thing worth noting here is David’s pointed repudiation of idolatry. And this is certainly on theme—to say that God is your chosen portion is to declare that other gods are not. When David says he has no good apart from God, he’s also saying that being apart from God offers no good. God confirms that chasing after anything else will only multiply our sorrows, because only he makes known the path of life; only with him is fullness of joy.(16:11) Necessary to our growth in adoring God is a healthy practice of rejecting, and repenting of, the idolatry we’re prone towards.

Finally, this psalm comes up much later in the Bible, in Acts 2 on Pentecost. There, Peter points to verse 10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,” and tells us these words were a prophecy about Jesus’s resurrection, that God would not abandon Jesus to Sheol and would save him from the corruption, or decay, of the grave (Paul says the same in Acts 13:35). And God did this so that those who are united to Jesus might be saved from the same, that we might be called into fellowship with him in his death, his resurrection, and the joy of his presence forever. Because of Jesus, he is your portion, your beautiful inheritance, and your fullness of joy. And there’s more: according to Hebrews 7:25, Jesus is, right now, praying for you. He is the perfect advocate for you, the one at your right hand as David mentions in verse 8, interceding for you in order to strengthen and establish you according to his word.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Psalm 16 for us?

• What stood out to you in this psalm?

• How does David speak about God here?

• What reasons does David give for his confidence in the Lord?

• Why do you think David brings up “another god” in verse 4?

• What, if anything, is convicting about this psalm to you?

• Could someone read Acts 2:22-28? How does Jesus’ death and resurrection help us trust that God will not abandon us?

• How can this psalm practically help us grow in our confidence in the Lord?