Sermon / July 24th, 2016 / Psalm 16 / A Delightful Inheritance / Pastor Terry Defoe
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (N.I.V.)
Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This morning, we turn our attention to the sixteenth psalm. I pray, as I always do, that God would richly bless the time we spend in his word. Well-known Lutheran theologian from the war years, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wanted the Psalms to have a prominent place in the life of the church. Bonhoeffer said,
Whenever the book of Psalms is neglelcted, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church.
For countless generations, believers have looked to the Psalms for encouragement. The voices we hear in the psalms represent real individuals. Martin Luther said that
... the greatest thing in the Psalter is the view it provides into the hearts of all the saints -- both when these are fair and pleasant gardens, and when they are gloomy and dark.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this down-to-earth collection of human experiences came to be included in the Scriptures. What that tells me is that God is interested in human reality in all of its various expressions. He’s interested in the reality experienced by all kinds of people – by the king in all his glory (Ps 110) and by the anonymous village woman in her grinding poverty (Ps 113). Hearing our own joys and struggles expressed by believers so long ago inspires us on our own faith journey.
Some of you may know that my grandfather on my father's side was a pastor in northern Saskatchewan, affiliated with The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. When I was a teenager, I was given my grandfather’s Bible. It was interesting to see how it was worn. When you looked at it from the side, you could tell that the New Testament had been read a great deal. That's what you’d expect to see. The other part of the Bible that had a lot of wear was the Psalms. The Psalms were obviously an important part of my grandfather’s life and ministry. And the same is true of his grandson!
Psalm 16 is a psalm of trust. It’s a confession of faith. A mood of confidence is found throughout the Psalm. A brief prayer in verse 1 sets the tone, just four words, words any believer can pray:
Keep me safe, my God. (16:1, N.I.V.).
Psalm 16 describes the rest God's people experience in His presence. It rejects the notion that security and satisfaction come from material wealth or from human accomplishments. It insists that all that is good and needful is found in the presence of God. And, as we will see in a few moments, this Psalm provides early support for the notion of a resurrection from the dead. (vs. 10-11)
Most Christians are surprised to hear that the Psalms are quoted more than 100 times (116 times) in the New Testament. Jesus quoted the Psalms 11 times. For example, He quoted the twenty-second Psalm when He was dying on the cross:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Ps 22:1, N.R.S.V.)
He quoted Psalm 118 when he spoke to the chief priests and elders about Himself. (Ps 118:22–23, N.R.S.V.).
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 16 is an explanation of the first commandment,
You shall have no other gods. (Exodus 20:3, N.I.V.)
It also supports the Shema, a well-known statement found in Deuteronomy (6:4)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (N.I.V.)
Psalm 16 is itself a statement of faith, an Old Testament creed. Verse 2: (N.I.V.)
I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.'
For many people, our world isn’t a safe place. Many people experience destruction, vulnerability and sorrow. We see evidence of that on adaily basis. news. Psalm 46 (v.1, N.I.V.) says,
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
That thought is also found in the New Testament. The apostle Paul assures us that absolutely nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God, as we see it expressed so clearly in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:38).
The author of Psalm 16 trusts God no matter what. One Christian writer says,
My family and I play a game with the local and national news programming. We list all of the things we were told to be afraid of in a 30-minute span. Try it; the average is 6-8 per broadcast and it ranges from races of persons, to scary multi-national terror groups, to “the dangers of [this or that.]” It is my way of showing my children just how much of the media is designed to keep them fearful. It is an inoculation of sorts because clearly, fear sells.
Psalm 16 is a powerful antidote to the fears that challenge us. Security for the psalmist comes from a life entrusted to God.
The theme of Psalm 16, as we have already seen, is found in verse 1:
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. (N.R.S.V.)
The psalmist, who happens to be King David, seeks God’s protection from life’s threats and insecurities. As king of Israel, David quickly learned that a believers’ trust in the Lord will be tested and refined in times of trouble. The Hebrew word for “protect” can also be translated as “keep.” (Psalm 121:3). God keeps His people from harm. He promises never to leave them or forsake them. Luther's morning prayer concludes with this thought:
Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.
The Psalm-writer found “refuge” in God. When we hear the phrase “take refuge” we think of finding a place of safety, as David did when he was being pursued by King Saul. (1 Samuel 24)
The Psalmist was part of a worshiping community. This community of kindred spirits was crucial in maintaining his faith. He describes fellow believers as “holy ones.” (v. 3, N.R.S.V.) His respect for them isn’t based on their pedigree or their power, but on their wholehearted devotion to God. These are holy people, set apart by God, who give evidence of their dedication to God through their words and through their actions. During times of worship in the temple, the psalmist receives instruction from God. In his time of worship he finds refuge from his troubles. In the Temple he's reminded that God is the supreme good in his life. (v. 2).
According to the Psalmist, an important part of honoring God is avoiding idolatry. The psalmist doesn’t "run after other gods" (16:3, N.I.V.) or participate in their worship. Avoiding idolatry is something God's people in every generation have done. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our lives. In our modern world, idolatry wears many disguises. Idolatry is a disloyalty to God. Idols demand exclusive allegiance. Behind a facade of worship, idolatry leads to much harm, sometimes even physical violence. Faith, on the other hand, fosters peace and a sense of well-being. The Hebrews had a word for it – they called it shalom.
In verse 5, the psalmist says to the Lord,
...you make my lot secure. (N.I.V.)
A person’s "lot" can also refer to their "destiny." It’s as if the writer is saying,
Lord, my life and my future is in your hands. I trust you.
This thought carries through into the New Testament where Jesus says, in the book of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 20:
... I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (N.I.V.)
The psalmist knows full well that he is not the master of his own destiny. His life is not his own. He belongs to the Lord. When the psalmist tallies up all the blessings he received from the Lord, he's amazed at God's generosity. The psalmist makes the point that as God's beloved child, he shares in all the rich blessings of God. And now, as New Testament believers, the rich blessings we receive include the forgiveness of sins earned for us at the cross. As New Testament believers, we have all that’s necessary for life and living in and through our Savior.
As we live out our Christian life, we realize that true contentment is not based on material possessions. We are content in our relationship with God and thankful for our place in His kingdom. Blessed and strengthened by His word and the sacraments, we possess the strength and confidence we need in order to do His will. Jesus says, in Matthew chapter 6, verses 31 – 33
... do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)
And in John, chapter 10, verse 10 (N.I.V.) we read
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
In our self-centered culture, the psalmist reminds us that life is not something we achieve, but rather something we receive as a gracious gift from God. The life-sustaining blessings we enjoy are not earned or deserved, but are evidence of God’s goodness. Psalm 16 has God’s cure for the sense of entitlement we so often found in our society, replacing it with genuine humility and gratitude.
The second half of Psalm 16 speaks of the various ways God instructs His people. By day, says the Psalmist, the Lord gives counsel. And at night God continues to instruct. The Psalmist is comforted by the thought that even in life’s dark and challenging moments, he is not abandoned. One Christian writer says,
When the dark night comes upon us, we are being invited to surrender to God and trust him anyway.
At night, our worries and anxieties can seem overwhelming. On the other hand, nighttime can also be a favorable time for God to speak to us. In the silence of the night, when the bustle of the day has died down, God speaks to the heart. In the midst of our hectic daily activities, we need more quiet time. We need to be able to step off the treadmill for a while so we can focus on what's most important. Looking back over the years, the psalmist realizes, with heartfelt gratitude, how God's wise counsel has guided him.
Trust is the solid foundation of a believer’s life. Trust is a way of acting and living that says,
Lord, you are the most important reality in my life. You are the foundation of everything I am and everything I do.
Life brings many choices. As Christians, we seek to involve God in those choices. We pray and we seek His guidance. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, comes alongside to assist. And God, who is high and lifted up, graciously stoops down to intervene. God’s presence in our lives is a source of stability. Our ongoing relationship with Him provides the strength and confidence we need. The Psalmist’s faith has a powerful effect on both his body and his soul. In Psalm 16 verse 9, he says
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. (N.R.S.V.)
God is present among us in His word. He’s present in the sacraments - Baptism and Holy Communion. Present in the Christian community. Present in Christian friends. His gracious presence allows our physical body to rest securely. Rest for the body is hard to come by. And peace for the soul is elusive. But Jesus is the Prince of peace. And because our sins have been forgiven, we have peace with God.
It has been found that a strong faith is often connected with health benefits. One article says:
Religion ... is a profound predictor of health. Spiritual practices can reduce blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and help stave off some effects of mental illness. 1
Another article says that people of faith
... experience lower levels of depression and anxiety; display signs of better health, such as lower blood pressure and fewer strokes. 2
Psalm 16 communicates important promises for the future. According to the Apostle Peter, in a sermon preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Psalm 16 predicts Jesus’ resurrection. In that sermon, Peter referred to the last three verses of Psalm 16 and said, in Acts 2:31:
Seeing what was to come, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. (N.I.V.)
The psalmist understood that death could not separate him from the joy of God’s presence. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul assures us that death cannot "separate us from the love of God." (Rom 8:39, N.I.V.). By means of Christ’s death and resurrection, death has been defeated. According to Peter, Jesus, the son of David, rose from the dead, "because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24, N.I.V.).
The psalmist's faith in the LORD was a delightful inheritance (16:6, N.I.V.) passed down to him by previous generations. He hopes to pass it along to the next generation. The same is true of ourselves. Our faith is a great blessing, truly a delightful inheritance. It provides us with many blessings, most importantly our salvation -- the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life. Psalm 16 reminds us of these truths. And for that we thank God. Amen!
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in the same Christ Jesus.
Let's pray – DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – We thank you for the Psalms. We thank you for the encouragement we find there. Remind us that we are members of your faith family. With the psalmist we can truly say, "You are my Lord, apart from You I have no good thing." Amen.
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1. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/surprising-links-between-faith-and-health#GPwWrQTgiDbDbiHl.99. Rob Moll, Nov. ’14