10 Jun Psalm 16 – What satisfies you?
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I know it is only mid-year but anyone loves Christmas and look forward to Christmas already? There is something about Christmas that draw the heart of people. For some of us, it is the thought of holidays, family gatherings, foods, presents, Santa Claus, Boxing Day sales etc. But when all is done, we experience Christmas hangover – the feeling of disappointments after the presents has been opened and the meal has been served. We asked the question, “Is this it?” So what we try to do is we quickly swipe this feeling under the rug and began to look forward to the next big thing happening. For me I don’t have to wait for long for the next big thing after Christmas. If you know what I’m saying. Ehem birthday. But eventually the excitements fade out and we are slammed into reality. The family gathering turns into family fights; the new dress that looks so gorgeous when you first bought it does not look as gorgeous anymore; the delicious food that you consumed has turned into body fat; the three weeks of thrilling holiday adventure has turned into daily routine work. Our unconstrained expectation slams into reality and that unmet expectation turn into frustration and depression. At the end of the day we had put our hope and joy in something or someone that cannot deliver.
So we begin to look forward to the next big thing. Next holidays, next Christmas, next sale etc. But we live in a generation that do not know how to wait. For some of us we can’t even wait for Christmas to buy a Christmas present for ourselves. We bought a Christmas present for ourselves in July! By some of us I meant me. Some of us can’t even wait for a reply on WhatsApp. I mean, seriously. The person who has the idea to put ‘last seen’ on WhatsApp need to be stoned. I have heard many couples who had a fight because of ‘last seen’ status. Interesting fact: The Oxford dictionary word of the year for 2013 is selfie. That summed up our generation. We are selfie generation. There is nothing wrong with taking a selfie. Most of us spend hours mastering the perfect angle and position for selfie. The problem occurs when we stop there. You will never be good enough to satisfy you because you are created for someone greater than you. The joy of selfie (looking at self) will never fill the void in your heart.
In the book of Genesis, we find a rhythm where God made everything to be good. In fact, it is so much more than good. Have you ever wonder why KFC taste so good? Because one day God came to colonel Sanders and tell him Heaven’s recipe to cook fried chicken. That’s a possible explanation but very unlikely. The reason KFC tastes so good is because God created flavours. God could have made tasteless food for man to eat but He did not. Same goes with sex. God could have invented sex with no pleasure and for the purpose of procreation only but He did not. He creates sex to be full of pleasure. Work was given not for man to toil with vain but for man to delight in as he exercises his God-given dominion over creation. But all of these wonderful gifts are not an end in itself. Creations are designed for you to worship the Creator. Food, sex and work are tools for worship. Creations are given for us to look to the Creator and find our satisfaction in him.
But when sin enters the scene, it fractures the whole creation. What was good become broken. Rather than having creation points us to God, we make the creation ultimate and glorify creation. We began to seek and pursue after creation rather than the Creator. So we try to find our ultimate joy in food, sex, work, new gadgets, new clothes etc. And all of them does give us some sense of satisfaction and joy. But it does not last. What gave us a tingle in the beginning seems to wear out over time. And we think the solution is to have more of ‘it.’ Research shows that what was enough to bring us joy today is not enough to bring us joy tomorrow. We create ‘tolerance dynamic’ for the very thing that we crave.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 – “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” This statement comes from a King who has everything the world has to offer – 700 wives and 300 concubines; the wisest man ever lived; the richest king in the history of the Israel. He experienced all the pleasure of the world that people in our days are running after. But yet he said that all of them are meaningless. Hevel. Contrary to popular beliefs, Solomon seems to communicate that having more in life will not bring us satisfaction in life. In fact, he seems to communicate the opposite of it. Having what we want in in life will only make our life more miserable. Why? Because we realize none of it will last. We were made to find our joy and delight in God. We were not made for temporary pleasure but eternal pleasure. C.S. Lewis famously said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
In Psalm 16, David offers us what our hearts truly need. Psalm 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Notice David did not say partial joy but fullness of joy; It is it not temporary pleasure but eternal pleasure. This is what David has and this is the offer on the table for every believer. We were not made for partial joy and temporary pleasures; we were made for fullness of joy and eternal pleasures. And according to David, there is only one person who can give this to you – God. If I can sum up what David is saying in Psalm 16 in one sentence, it is – God minus everything is infinitely better than everything minus God. Or if you prefer Piper’s, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” His is slightly more popular than mine. Just slightly. To the point that he writes all his book based on this one sentence. One thing for sure, Psalm 16 is a song of someone who is extremely satisfied in who God is for him.
So, today, I do not have 5 steps for you to be satisfied in God. I don’t. And I don’t think it is possible to manufacture satisfaction. You are either satisfied in God or you are not. In Psalm 16, David will not tell us how to be satisfied in God but David shows us what a life that is satisfied in God looks like. Do you see the different? This psalm is not a step by step instruction. If you follow this, this and this, then you will be satisfied in God. But this is David’s song and declaration on who God is for him. This is a reality that he experiences. It is like reading Edrick’s love letter to Ellis back when they were still dating. Not now. Usually after few years of marriage, the letter looks very different. “Dear wife…. love, your husband.” But not when you are dating. The letter is filled with emotion and Edrick’s affection toward Ellis. I hope. But you can’t read this love letter and turn it into 5 ways you can love Ellis the way Edrick does. It won’t work. So do not turn Psalm 16 into a to-do list because you will be frustrated. But hear David’s song and pray “God, I want to feel what David feel. I want to experience what David experience. I want to have the confidence that David has in you.” Pray that David’s song will be your song. That is the purpose of this Psalm – that you may sing along with David that God is your ultimate satisfaction.
Before we jump into the content of Psalm 16, let me give you its context first. This is something that I always try to do every time I preach. Because content without context leads to misinterpretation. Psalm 16 is either written by David or it is about David. But we do not know the exact context behind Psalm 16. One thing that we do know for sure that this psalm is a psalm of confidence in God. And this confidence is reflected in a form of a plea. We know this from the very first line in the psalm, Psalm 16:1 – Preserve me, O God. So here we have David is in some kind of danger. He plead to God to preserve him. The whole psalm is shaped by David’s plea for God to preserve him. We do not know the exact reason for his plea. The most probable context is that this psalm was written when David tried to hide from King Saul who wanted to kill him. But we cannot be fully sure. One thing for sure is that David is in some kind of situation that he need God to preserve him from or for. Although we cannot be sure of its exact context, there is no doubt we can be sure on who God is for David. Psalm 16 is filled with David’s confidence on who God is for him. And this confidence in God is the reason that David is sure that God will preserve him.
Four things that David says about who God is for him. God is my refuge; God is my inheritance; God is my counsellor; God is my satisfaction.
God is my refuge
Psalm 16:1-4 – 1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
What is a refuge? A refuge is a safe place. In the Old Testament, God commanded the nation of Israel to build cities of refuge. The function of these cities is to be safe places where one can receive protection if they accidentally kill another person. So if you accidentally kill someone, you would come to this city to receive protection from a family member of the person you killed who might seek revenge. As long as you remain in the cities of refuge, none of your enemies can get to you. You are safe in the cities of refuge. This is what David is saying – “God is my refuge. My safe place is in God. There is no safer place than in God.”
All of us need a refuge and all of us have a refuge. A refuge is something that can give you a sense of security and safety. You cannot live without one. The question is, what is your refuge? Because unless your refuge is God, it will not last. It does not matter how much money you have in your bank account, it can disappear in a single day. It does not matter how beautiful you are, gravity will get you sooner or later. It does not matter how successful you are, your success can be destroyed in one night. There is only one refuge that has no end and David has it. God is his refuge.
It means that whenever David needs to feel secure, he goes to God. That’s why he goes on to say, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” Wow. We are talking about a king here. Or a future king. He does not say that everything else besides God is not good. That’s not Biblical. Because creations are created by God for our good. Sex is good. Food is good. Family is good. But they are not ultimate. The literal translation from Hebrew is, “Beyond you, no good.” It sounds like a broken English but the idea is that there is no good beyond God. God is David’s ultimate treasure. God is David’s highest good. God is David’s meaning of life. Every other good out there only function to give David more of God. Here is what it means. It means that when David enjoys the pleasure of sex, food and family, it does not stop there. Those pleasures help David to treasure God even more. And David understands that all those other pleasures can be taken away from him at any time. But no one can take God away from David. Since God is David’s highest good, he can have God alone and that is enough. But if he has every good but do not have God, everything is meaningless. This is what it means to say that “God is my refuge.”
David then paints out how it looks like to have God as our refuge in daily applications. It’s on verse 3 and 4. David says that the people that bring him delight are the people of God and the people that bring him sorrow are the wicked. It means that there are people that help him grow in affection for the Lord and there are people that takes away his affections from the Lord. And David prefers the former. He delights being around people who help him delight in God even more. He has no delight in people who run after other gods. Those who run after other gods only multiply their sorrows.
So here is a litmus test for those of us who called ourselves Christians. First, do you love other Christians? Do you find delight and joy at being around them? Can you see yourself grow in your affection for the Lord by being around them? Those who love God delight in the company of those who love God. Second, do you find yourself uncomfortable being around those who lives sinful life? Do you disagree with their values and lifestyle? Or are you comfortable being around them? Maybe you like being around them more than being around your brothers and sisters in Christ. Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying we should not be friend with sinners. But I am saying that our delights need to be more with those who love God. It is only when we find our delight in God and the people of God that we can be blessings to the people who do not love God.
God is my inheritance
Psalm 16:5-6 – 5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Okay, you need to understand a bit of the Old Testament to truly understand what David is saying. Let me explain. Today, a land is something that you buy and sell. Correct? A land is part of something that you invest in. That is why the Real Estate business is booming. But that is not how it works in the Old Testament. Land is not something you buy and sell but something you inherited. So when Israel conquered the Promised Land, God divided the land and gives each tribes their own portions. There are boundaries or border lines that separated the land of each tribes. These border lines were set to determine the inheritance of each tribes. You cannot buy and sell the land as you wish. If you are broke and in debt, the land can be taken away from you for a while but on the day of Jubilee, once every 50 years, the land must be restored to its rightful owner. Are you with me? But, there is one tribe that does not receive land or inheritance. It is the Levites or the priests. But to them, God promised something else. Numbers 18:20 – And the LORD said to Aaron, “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.”
This is what David is saying. “I do not need land. I do not need anything else. I just want you and that is enough. God you are my portion. God you are my cup. God you are my inheritance.” This is a word of a man who is satisfied in who God is for him. Remember the land is not something you can buy or sell. It can only be inherited. Yet David says he has no need for it. God is the only land that David wants. By the way, David is not Levites. He is not priests. He has every right to inherit lands. He is a king! But in comparison to having God, it means nothing. David positions himself as Levites and he is satisfied with what he has. He does not say, “Well, I have no choice. I am a Levites and I have been predestined not to inherit any lands.” No, a thousand no. But he says, “God is my chosen portion. The lines fallen in pleasant places. I have beautiful inheritance.” My chosen is better translated as my allotted portion. It is allotted but it is pleasant and beautiful. That is how David sees God. What he is saying is that, “Give me the best that this world has to offer. Give me a mansion which served Kobe beef for breakfast. Offer me the very best pleasures that this world can give. Put it on the table before me. But if I have to choose between those pleasure and the LORD, I will still choose the LORD. Because nothing can satisfy me like he does.” Or if David live in our days, he will probably sing, “But everything means nothing if I ain’t got you, yeah.”
But it also means that David trust in God’s total sovereignty. He has no control over his lot. He has no idea where the border lines will fall. God is the one who hold his lot. God is the one who decides where the lines fall. Whatever happens in David’s life, God holds his lot. God is sovereign over every little detail. And because of it, David is satisfied. David might have all the pleasures of this world, but his satisfaction is still God. Or if my guess is true and David writes this Psalm while he was hunted as a criminal by his own king, this is even more amazing. David might have none of the pleasure of the world but he is still satisfied because he has God. His joy is not in what the Lord gives but in the Lord himself. David rejoices in God’s sovereign rule over his life. In prosperity and in adversity, David delights in the Lord. “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
God is my counsellor
Psalm 16:7-8 – 7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
I love this part. Yes God is absolutely sovereign but his sovereignty does not mean we don’t have to do anything. God directs David’s path through his counsel. God is his counsellor. Even though David was anointed and gifted, David continue to rely on God’s counsel to lead him. He did not let his gift get the best of him. He continues to seek the Lord’s counsel and the Lord continues to graciously provide David with his counsels. I love the way Piper puts it. He says that God becomes David’s refuge and inheritance through the means of his counsel. God is David’s refuge because David listens to God’s counsel. God is David’s beautiful inheritance through his teachings and promises. The beauty and the majesty of God is revealed through his counsel. And as long as David set the Lord before him and trust his counsel, then David will not be shaken. David understands that obedience to God’s counsel is what enable him to stay strong and not be shaken. And how does David’s receive God’s counsel? Through the laws of God. That is why again and again you find David writes in Psalm that he delights in the law of God. He writes in Psalm 19 that the law of the LORD is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
A quick reflection: Is that how we see the law of God? A lot of time we think of the laws of God as a restriction to our joy. We see it as prohibition from enjoying life. But that’s not true. The laws of God is given for our joy. God is not a joy-killer; God is a joy-giver. The law is given to protect our joy. Let me give just one example. The law of God on sex. Trivia question: Who invented sex? This is not a tricky question. God was the one who invented sex. He was the one designed it. It was not like one day God was tired and took a nap and when he returned he was surprised at what Adam was doing it with Eve. “Adam, what are you doing? That’s gross man. Quit it, will you?” Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that sex is a picture of unity between Christ and his church. It reflects Christ’s love and passion and desire to be one with his church. It is a beautiful thing. God created sex for us to enjoy, delight and take pleasure in as it reflects the enjoyment, desire and pleasure Christ has when he becomes one with the church. So let me ask you then. Is sexual desire a good thing or a bad thing? This is not a tricky question. Sexual desire is a good thing. It is God’s gift for you. So guys, relax. You are not weird. Sexual desire is a good gift of God that God wants you to enjoy. But then he also gave laws to protect the delight and enjoyment of sex. You can only have sex in the context of marriage. Why wait for marriage? Because it reflects Christ’s single devotion and commitment to his church. And for us, this single devotion and commitment to one another comes in a form of marriage vows. So sex and sexual desire is a good gift of God for us. But when we disobey the law of God, sex lost its beauty. Sex becomes nothing but temporary satisfaction that makes us slaves to sin. That is why we find many people addicted to porn. That is why husband left their wife and vice versa. That is why many people get depressed and commit suicides. The law of God is given not to limit our joy but to protect our joy.
David understands this. He sees God’s counsel as joy. He thinks about the law of God day and night. And now he is making a bold declaration. “Because God is my refuge, because God is my inheritance, because God is my counsellor, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16 is opened with a plea, “Preserve me O God.” And now he affirms, “Oh I am sure God will preserve me. I will not be moved.” Whatever comes his way, he knows that the Lord is at his right hand because of who God is for him.
God is my satisfaction
Psalm 16:9-11 – 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
So here is David’s conclusion. God is not only his refuge, inheritance and counsellor but God is also his satisfaction. And David’s confidence in God is BOLD. He is confident that God will preserve him even from death. His heart is glad; his being rejoices; his flesh secures because nothing can take away the delights that David has in God, not even death. This is a bold statement. At David’s time, the Jews had some idea of afterlife. But the idea was not well developed yet. It comes later through Jeremiah and Isaiah. But here we find David saying that God will not let abandon his soul to Sheol, another name for death. What David essentially saying is, “The relationship that I have with God is so good. It is very beautiful. It is very precious. And I believe that God will not let this relationship end because of death. Death is not strong enough to take away the joy that I have with God.”
Then David concludes with one of the most beautiful verse in the whole Bible. Psalm 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Think about the thing in life that brings you greatest joy. The thing that make you smile every time you think of it. The greatest pleasure you have experienced, the most beautiful sight, the most incredible sounds. David says those things are not fullness of joy. It is the best you can think of but it is not the best. They are just tiny hint to the joy that David will experience. They are just like a tiny drop of water before a gushing waterfall. And not only that, but that joy will have no end. Every joy you experience right now will only last for short while. But this fullness of joy lasts forever. It has no end and it will not be disrupted by sorrow even for one millisecond. That’s what God prepares for David. And it can only be found in God’s presence and at God’s right hand. Infinite joy and pleasure. David says, “It is mine!”
However, there is one problem with this Psalm. Some of you might have notice it already. The problem lies in verse 10. David is confident that death will not come in between God and David. God will not abandon David’s soul to Sheol or let his holy one see corruption. But we know that David died. David passed away and was replaced by his son Solomon. So how can he confidently declare that he will not taste death? I’m glad you asked. David might not have realised it when he writes this Psalm but he was actually prophesying about Son of David who would conquer death. Listen to what Peter says few hundred years later.
Acts 2:25-32 – 25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
Sounds familiar? It should! Peter is quoting Psalm 16. But now he says that Psalm 16 is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus. Psalm 16 is true of David but Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of it. God is Jesus’s refuge. God is Jesus’ inheritance. God is Jesus’ counsellor. God is Jesus’ satisfaction. But for a moment Jesus tasted death. On one Friday, Jesus was tortured and experienced a physical death. He is the only one who is truly faithful but he was abandoned to Sheol. Why? Because he took our sin into himself and he was judged by God at the cross. At the cross, the faithful one became sin and died. But it does not long. The relationship that he has with God is that intimate and precious. And God was pleased at Jesus’ life and sacrifice. Therefore, God did not abandon Jesus to the grave. God did not let Jesus’ body see corruption but on the third day, God raised Jesus to life. And this Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God, enjoying the perfect fellowship with God. But that is not the end of the story. For we who believe in Jesus, Jesus guarantees that a day will come where we will be resurrected as well. Death does not have the last word over us. Jesus conquered over death. We will be resurrected and given new glorious bodies. One that will never decay and taste death. There will be no more back pain that comes with aging. We will experience fullness of joy and eternal pleasure. Uninterrupted eternal bliss. That is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9 – But as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Jesus is the fulfilment of Psalm 16 and because of Jesus, now the truth about Psalm 16 is also true about everyone who believes in Jesus. Psalm 16 is yours if you put your faith in Christ’s perfect work. Fullness of joy and pleasures evermore are yours!
Here is something for you to consider though. You cannot just claim verse 11 of Psalm 16 and ignore the rest. Do you really believe in the reality of Psalm 16? David believes it, but do you? Few questions for us to consider:
Is God your refuge? Do you run to him for your security or do you run to other things but God?
Is God your inheritance? Is he enough for you? Are you content with him or are you still seeking for something more?
Is God your counsellor? Is your life defined by his words? Do you delight in his laws? Are you listening to him? Do you trust him over your own wisdom and human wisdom?
Is God your satisfaction? Is he your greatest enjoyment? Can you affirm with David that God minus everything is infinitely better than everything minus God?
These are the questions that we need to struggle with as we ponder on this psalm. I cannot answer these questions for you. I cannot give step by step instruction on how to make God your refuge, inheritance, counsellor and satisfaction. He either is or he is not. But one thing I do know for sure. If you believe in the resurrection of Christ, if Psalm 16 is yours, then your life will be radically changed. If you believe in the truth of Christ’s resurrection and Psalm 16, you no longer live for here and now. Your best life is not now. Your best life is later. Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. That’s what is waiting for us. But not now. It comes later. It comes when we are finally resurrected and reign with Christ. The focus of our life is not this present world but eternal life.
Let me close with this. Do you know what happen to Jesus’ twelve disciples after the resurrection? When Jesus was arrested, they were scattered and hide in fear. They hide themselves in houses and afraid to show themselves in public. Yet history showed that all of them ended up being persecuted and killed for the name of Christ. What happened? They saw the resurrected Christ. They get Psalm 16. They understand that Jesus is indeed resurrected from the death and that their best life is not now but later. That is why in this life they gladly give themselves for the cause of Christ. Why? Because they know fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore is theirs in Christ. They did not put their hope in this passing world. Their hope is in the world to come. They understand something that we learned tonight through Psalm 16. And this is what I want you to carry home with you and ponder throughout the week. God minus everything is infinitely better than everything minus God.
What satisfies you? Is it the temporary pleasures of here and now? Or is it the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? Let’s pray.
- Explain tolerance dynamic. Can you see the trace of it in your life?
- What does it mean to have God as our refuge?
- What does it mean to have God as our inheritance?
- What does it mean to have God as our counsellor?
- What does it mean to have God as our satisfaction?
- How does David’s view on God’s laws different from common perception on God’s laws?
- “We were not created for partial joy and temporary pleasure.” Explain the effect of this statement in our daily lives.
- Read Psalm 16:11. How should this verse shape our view on this current life?