Blog / Book of the Month / Sermon / November 15, 2015 / Pastor Terry Defoe / Psalm 16 / A Delightful Inheritance

Sermon / November 15, 2015 / Pastor Terry Defoe / Psalm 16 / A Delightful Inheritance

Posted in 2015 / Audio Sermons / Rev. Terry Defoe / Psalm Sermons / Sermons / ^Psalms

Sermon / November 15, 2015 / Pastor Terry Defoe / Psalm 16 / A Delightful Inheritance

My message is based on the 16th Psalm. From the New International Version of the Bible, the writer says:

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 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.

Psalm 16 is a Psalm of trust -- trust in the Lord and trust in His Holy Word. To trust in the Lord is to completely yield to His will. To trust him is to put him before everything else in our lives. The writer of Psalm 16 says, "I have set the Lord always before me." The writer's faith is the lens through which he views everything in the world. Psalm 16 begins with a brief prayer -- a brief prayer asking God for His protection. The  prayer is then followed by a beautiful description of what a life of faith looks like. It's clear that the author of this Psalm is not writing about abstract ideas. He's writing about things he has personally experienced -- things he wants all of God's people to know. I pray that God would bless our consideration of his holy Word this day -- that His Holy Spirit would enable us to hear God's Word, to comprehend it, and to live it out in our daily lives!

The writer of Psalm 16 speaks of security and joy in the presence of the Lord. He confesses his own faith in the Lord. As he travels life's journey, the Lord is out in front of him leading the way, not behind him, pushing him along. In a very real sense, the Lord stands between the writer and all of his challenges -- whatever those challenges might be. Because he trusts the Lord, he is able to rest securely at night. Because he trusts the Lord, he has a deep and abiding sense of peace in his heart. God's people know that they can't control everything in this life – and it’s not God's will that they should be able to that. God's people also know that what they cannot control, the Lord looks after on their behalf.

The author of Psalm 16 clearly finds refuge in the Lord. God, he says, stands at his right hand. In other words, God is the source of his strength. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul expressed a similar thought when he said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) The Psalm-writer, like the Apostle Paul, and all of God's people down through the years, finds strength in the Lord. Because the Lord is with him, his fears are manageable. As God's people travel the journey of faith, as they let God work in their hearts and minds by his Spirit, their fears do not control them. Because of his faith, the Psalm-writer can face adversity without being shaken.

Consider for a moment the story of Elijah found in First and Second Kings in the Old Testament. Elijah went from a high point in his life to a low point in a very short time. Elijah had just been to the mountaintop – he had just overcome the prophets of a notorious false god. And then, very quickly, everything fell to pieces for Elijah when his life was threatened by Queen Jezebel, the wife of evil King Ahab. After that severe challenge, Elijah fell into a serious depression. He got his eyes off the Lord and onto himself and onto his own troubles and, when that happened, his life began to rapidly disintegrate. At one point, Elijah sat, alone and dejected, under a broom tree and he told the Lord that he wanted to die. Elijah complained that he was the only one left in all of Israel serving the Lord. That's when the Lord told him was that there were 7000 other people in Israel still serving him. Elijah clearly lost his sense of perspective. Like Peter in the New Testament, who went from walking on the water to sinking below the angry waves, Elijah went from the mountaintop to the slough of despondency.  

Sometimes, our troubles press in on us with so much force that we forget to look up. We forget that, above the dark and threatening clouds of life, the bright sun of God's grace in Christ continues to shine brightly. In Psalm 16, the writer reminds us how important other believers are to us as we travel life's journey. The Psalmist was clearly supported and encouraged by the community of believers that surrounded him. Along with all believers, he learned the basic truth that, apart from his faith in God, he possessed nothing worthwhile. Everything good that he had came from the Lord. And the same, of course, is true of us today.

The writer of Psalm 16 did not believe that all religions lead to the same God, an argument commonly heard today. He had seen the troubles that accompany people who worship false gods -- who practice what the Bible calls "idolatry." The word for trouble that the writer uses here is “sorrow.” And that's still true today. Those who are caught up in idolatry discover that those idols demand much of them and give back only trouble in return. The Psalm-writer clearly says that the sorrows of those who follow false gods are multiplied. As one Bible scholar puts it, the number of sorrows that accompany idolatry isn’t just a matter of addition. It's a matter of multiplication.

The God of the Holy Scriptures wants to be close to his people. He wants to be present with them. He wants to stand at their right hand. He wants to protect them. The Psalm-writer knows that God has assigned him his portion and his cup – in other words, the circumstances of his life. The Psalm-writer’s “allotted portion” is his share of material blessings like land, or property or food. The “cup” he speaks of here refers to the practice of passing the wine to a guest at a feast or a meal. For Christians, of course, this discussion of a cup reminds us of the cup of the Lord in holy Communion. For us, this cup is a very real vehicle of divine grace -- a means of grace whereby sins are forgiven and strength is provided for living out the Christian life. We are thankful that God has assigned this precious cup to us.

The Psalm-writer enjoys his share of material blessings – but he considers those material blessings to be secondary -- far less important than the spiritual blessings he’s been given. The Psalmist, in looking back on his life, knows very well that he has been richly blessed. He wants all believers, including us, today, to come to the same realization.

According to the author of Psalm 16, God sets out boundaries for human behavior by means of His Law. The Lord shows his people how to find the path of life and then, for the rest of their lives, he guides them along that path. The Psalmist knows that these are not oppressive boundaries, but are given for the good of God's dear children. Honoring God-given boundaries brings freedom, not bondage. The Psalm-writer describes how God counsels him. By means of His holy word, in the quiet, thoughtful moments of daily life, God guides his servant on the way he should go. Like the Psalm-writer of so long ago, God speaks to us, too. We hear him most clearly in those quiet moments when life's distractions are minimized, when no other voice is competing for our attention. God speaks to us through our morning devotions. He speaks to us through an evening Bible reading. He speaks to us in worship – on Sunday or midweek. He speaks to us in sermons; he speaks to us in Bible classes or a support group. We hear him best, as I say, when distractions are at a minimum.

Having experienced all these blessings, the Psalm-writer now takes every opportunity to praise to his God. Because of his faith in the Lord, his heart is glad. Because of his faith in the Lord, his tongue rejoices. His words are words of praise to God. His actions and his words give evidence of the faith that dwells in his heart. After telling us what his life is like in God's community of believers, the Psalm-writer tells us what he looks forward to. He says, "Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” We need to remember that, for Old Testament people, the idea of heaven wasn’t as clear for them as it is for us. We need to remember that Jesus added a lot of detail to these preliminary Old Testament concepts of life after death. Not having as many details filled in as we have, the Psalm-writer nevertheless looks forward to his inheritance from the Lord. And so do we!

The Psalm-writer knew that the Lord would not abandon him to the grave. In other words, even after death, he believed that his relationship with the Lord would not be broken. Do you remember the words of the apostle Paul where he said that neither death nor life... nor anything else in all creation … can separate us from the love of God as it so clearly expressed in and through Jesus Christ? (Romans 8:38) The Psalm-writer joins all believers of all generations in looking forward to eternal blessings at God's right hand. For us, that means the promise of heaven. For us, it means the promise of eternal life – eternal life lived out in God's holy presence.

The Psalm-writer speaks of the present joy of those who follow the Lord. And he describes their expectation of what the future will bring. Looking back over his life, the author realizes – with gratitude in his heart – that God's wise counsel has continually guided him. In the silence of the night, when the hustle and bustle of the day was stilled,  he clearly heard God’s voice speaking in his heart. The Psalm-writer had a wonderful positive outlook on life. When you think about it, our biblical faith is a positive faith. Our faith begins with trust. That trust leads to hope. We know that God will always be with us. He is our  refuge and strength and a very present help in time of trouble. All of this means that you and I have every reason to be joyful and optimistic. In a world with so much bad news – with so much hatred and violence – so much trouble – so much misunderstanding – so much just plain ignorance – we have reason for hope. The basis of our hope is not our external circumstances. It is the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the one who died on the cross to forgive our sins and rose from the dead for our justification. In Christ, we Christians have life – in this world and in the next. In Christ, we Christians have light. That light overcomes the darkness. That light shows us the way. In Christ, we have hope. And that hope overcomes despair.

As I was working on this sermon this past week, I began thinking about my favorite part of the Scriptures. The Gospels are very important to me – because they tell me the story of Jesus. And the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul are important because they explain the basis of my beliefs. But, to me, there's always been something very special about the Psalms. To me, there's something down to earth about them – something refreshingly honest – something true to life. And so I'd have to say this morning what I’ve said more than once before – that the Psalms are my favorite part of the Scriptures.

It's true. This life isn't always what we would like it to be. There are – it’s true – tough times and tough situations and tough people to deal with. There are times when our faith is going to be tested. There are times when the devil is going to laugh at us. But at times like that, you and I turn to God's Word and remember that we're not the first people to experience these things. These things are part of the human condition. This morning, I pray that the joy of the Lord would be your strength. I pray that, because of your faith in God, you can look forward to the future with joy and hope. Why would that be? Because we Christians are a privileged people. We are living out the abundant life that Jesus promised his people in John chapter 10 verse 10. We have the blessed hope of heaven. I pray that God would enable us to fully enjoy our blessings. And not just enjoy them, but also to share them. May he prepare many hearts to respond to the message we proclaim in Jesus’ name. May God grant that. Amen.

Let's Pray: Dear Heavenly Father – It's most certainly true that we Christians are richly blessed. You stand at our right hand to protect us from our enemies. Your Son has gone to the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. By the enabling of your Holy Spirit, we trust your son as our Savior and Lord. As your people, we live an abundant life. And we have hope for the future – because Jesus was raised from the dead. We ask that You would bless us and keep us in the very center of your will. Bless us so that we might be a blessing. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.