Psalm 16 – A Resurrection Psalm

Psalm 16:1–11 (ESV) — 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.

 

Psalm 16 is a Psalm of David.

  • It is short but sweet.
  • As we will see it contains a crucial piece of the Gospel.

 

 

Verses 1-6:

David talks about two possible stances one can take before God.

  • In You” or “Apart from You
  • He illustrates for us the difference between each stance.

 

(1) “Apart from You” – one outside of God’s covenant faithfulness.

  • There is no good (vs. 2) “no good apart from you
    • The idea here is contentment and sufficiency – Heiser.
  • There are sorrows (vs. 4) “sorrows of those who run after another god
    • Examples of this fact are legion.
  • There is no fellowship with the saints (vs. 4) David will not “take their name on my lips
    • He will refuse to participate in their offerings.
    • They will be excluded from fellowship.
    • To be apart from God is to be apart from fellowship.

 

(2) “In You” – one who participates in God’s covenant faithfulness.

  • Preservation and refuge (vs. 1) “Preserve me…in you I take refuge
    • Coming from David, we can be certain this doesn’t mean a life w/o trials.
  • Good (vs. 2) implied in “no good apart from you
    • Again, contentment and sufficiency.
  • Delight in fellowship with the saints (vs. 3) “saints…in whom is all my delight
    • Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) — 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • The Future (vs. 5) “you hold my lot
    • Affirmation of God’s sovereignty.
  • Blessing and a beautiful inheritance (vs. 6) “The lines” and “a beautiful inheritance

 

 

Verses 7-9:

David speaks about the power of God’s Word.

  • Gives counsel (vs. 7) “who gives me counsel
    • The Pentateuch, Nathan, God directly?
  • Penetrates the heart (vs. 7) “in the night…my heart instructs me
    • Immersion in the counsel/word of God saturates the heart.

 

Not surprisingly, one immersed in the counsel of God can say he has “set the Lord always before me” (vs. 8).

 

Then David uses a military metaphor to describe the blessing that comes from God’ presence.

  • because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (vs. 8)
  • Surely an expression of confidence in God and His presence rather than in himself.

 

John Walton expounds on this blessing.

“A fully armed warrior would hold his weapon in his right hand and his shield in his left. The person to the right of a king would have the privilege of defending him. For a king to put someone there would be an affirmation of trust and therefore an honor. In contrast, when the Lord takes up his position at someone’s right hand, as here, he is in a position to offer defense with his shield” – John Walton.

 

In other words:

  • Psalm 118:6 (ESV) — 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
  • Romans 8:31 (ESV) — 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

Before we contend with verses 10-11 we need to get into to some background.

 

 

Important Background:

There is much debate about how Jews understood Psalm 16:10-11.

 

(1) David was speaking about the Messiah and resurrection.

  • “According to the usual interpretation, David here is speaking not in his own person, but rather as the Messiah…” – G.K. Beale.
  • Under this view, the words “not let your holy one see corruption” refer to resurrection.

 

(2) But, there were those that believed David was speaking about protecting his life.

  • “On this view, the citation is of David speaking in his own person” – G.K. Beale.
  • This view says that the Hebrew Bible conveyed the idea that God was preserving David’s life from his enemies.
    • N.T. Wright notes that perhaps David was, nevertheless, “hinting at a future” of resurrection.

 

Then about 800 years after David – in the 200’s BC – something very interesting happened.

  • At this time the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek – The Septuagint.
  • The translators chose Greek words for Psalm 16:10 that indicated they held a resurrection understanding of the text (hinting at a Messianic understanding?) not a “preserving David’s life” view.
  • “The LXX envisages deliverance from the corruption that follows death…Consequently, an interpretation in terms of resurrection is possible only on the basis of the LXX” – G.K. Beale.
  • “Hence it has been argued that whereas the MT [Masoretic text] refers only to deliverance from premature death, the LXX envisages deliverance from the corruption that follows death” – G.K. Beale.

 

 

Verses 10-11 – Peter’s Use of Psalm 16:

And then 200 or so years after that, we come to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.

  • Peter’s words confirm once and for all what Psalm 16 was always about.
  • Peter says, “For David says concerning him…” and then quotes Psalm 16.
  • Peter makes it plain that, “Though David is the writer, he is not the speaker in the psalm. The speaker is Christ” – James Smith.

 

Peter on Psalm 16:

  • Acts 2:24–27 (ESV) — 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 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.

 

Verses 10 and 11 are about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • This is huge!
  • Psalm 16 specifically prophesies the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Psalm 16 “…provides the authoritative language for explaining the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus” – G.K. Beale.

 

But given Peter’s words, it seems many Jews had a difficult time believing this.

  • Perhaps they thought it to be about David and not a Messiah.
  • Acts 2:29–31 (ESV) — 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.

 

Peter argues that Psalm 16 can’t be about David because he died and saw corruption.

  • The only way Psalm 16 makes sense is if David is prophesying about his promised descendant – the Messiah who is Christ.

 

This wasn’t the only time Peter or Paul appeal to the OT to make the case for the resurrection of the Messiah.

 

Examples:

Acts 13:32–35 (ESV) — 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “ ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’

 

Acts 17:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

 

1 Corinthians 15:4 (ESV) — 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

 

Question:

Why was it apparently so difficult for Jews to embrace the idea of a resurrected Messiah?

 

There are at least two reasons:

  • (1) Their expectation for the Messiah.
  • (2) Their expectation for resurrection.

 

Messianic Expectation:

  • A rising Messiah means a dying Messiah.
  • As we all know, this did not compute with the Jews.
  • The Messiah was to restore Israel, assume the throne and overthrow her enemies.
  • Jesus didn’t do these things.

 

Resurrection Expectation:

  • At the advent of the above Messianic restoration, the expectation was that all righteous Jews would be raised from the dead.
  • The Messiah would not be raised; He was reigning as the victorious King – alive and well.
  • But, the righteous Jews would be raised to participate in the restored kingdom.
  • This didn’t happen either.

 

So Jesus’ death and resurrection posed at least two problems for the unbelieving Jew.

  • (1) Rome was still in charge – he did not deliver the kingdom.
  • (2) The righteous dead were still in the grave.
    • If Jesus rose, as Paul and Peter claimed, then where are Abraham, Moses, David, etc.?

 

This is why Psalm 16, when understood properly, is so important.

  • It completely shatters the typical Jewish Messianic expectations.
  • And it grounds the Gospel firmly in the OT.

 

And Paul did not hesitate to spell out the significance of this truth.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:14–17 (ESV) — 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.