Given my earlier post on suffering, I admit that I have spent a great deal of time in the Psalms over the past several months. The Psalms are where our theology interact with our fallen reality the most, therefore they are the most helpful in times of trouble. Just think about the number of people who know Psalm 23, even though many are not true believers. The Psalm provides comfort for those faced with death like no other Psalm.
As I write this, I’m really falling into Psalm 16. I will share the verse and then explain why.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
Here the psalmist turns to the LORD as we all should do every time, and reaffirms the truth of his faith in the LORD. What jumps out at me is the reality that he recognizes the root, the fountain, the wellspring of all goodness: the LORD.
When it comes to what the world has to offer, we see the truth of these offerings to be insignificant when it comes to knowing and trusting in the LORD. But I also believe another way to understand this is that we have nothing to offer the LORD without His work in us. John 15:1-5 is more clear to this point. That apart from Chris we can do nothing. That is always comforting to me because when I remember this truth, I remember that I can indeed bear good fruit in my life because of the Spirit working in me. It’s a realization of hope, one that I think most mature believers realize.
Unless the Spirit of God is working in us, then we really don’t have any hope of producing good works for the LORD. Not that we do these for our salvation, but we do them for the honor and privilege we have been given to be in Christ and for our sanctification.
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
This one applies to the pastors across the land. I think every pastor should have this verse printed and placed on his wall. Yes, I know that some of the saints truly lack common graces that are so necessary for the functioning of a church, but the reminder tells us that more often than not, there are saints in the congregation who are listening, who are following and who are growing through our ministries. We may not realize that at the time, but that is because they are there submitting to the LORD with hopeful expectation of hearing the word of God preached. It is usually through these people, the quiet widow, the broken husband, the eager student, that a pastor finds most of his joy in the ministry. They are not there to tell you how to do the ministry, they are there to be ministered to through the word of God, and more often than not, they are a pastors greatest encouragement.
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.
This is a reminder of the hopelessness the world has to offer. The apostle John put it this way: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the loveof the Father is not in him. As we grow in Christ, the allure of the world fades and our love for Christ grows. You might ask: does this mean we grow when we turn from the world, or turning from the world leads to growing in the LORD? Yes. In our sanctification, it is both. We are both active in our growth and He is active in us.
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.[d]
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
I believe when we are reminded of our portion and inheritance, we are strengthened not to be shaken. This also reminds me of Paul’s great words: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. When we remember that our lives are truly but a breath, holding onto our only hope becomes so much more wonderful. The reality of our future becomes more real.
As I was reading The Last Lion earlier in the week, it struck me how much of the book is dedicated to defeating Hitlerism. And when those pages finally come, it’s amazing how quickly Hitler dies and goes away. He is no more, even though he wreaked great havoc on the earth, leaving a wretched legacy. But for those in the struggle against him, the coward that he was in taking his own life, it seemed like an eternity as they went through that war. But all in a day, Hitler was no more. They had achieved their goals.
The same is true for us and our lives. We live and it seems like time both freezes still and rushes past us quickly. But the future hope we have with an eternity reminds us of how we are to live in the meantime. All men die, not all men truly live (per Braveheart). When we live in the LORD, our lives are forever and the beginning of eternal life is now. Therefore He is our instruction and we will not be shaken in Him.
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.
I love that conjunction in the middle of verse 10. It is just a snippet pointing to the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection as a whole.
I must confess I like the NKJV better, which reads: Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. They are placing their interpretation on the verse, and I believe they are correct in this. The verse is looking to Christ and His resurrection. I’ve been tempted to jump to the ESV, but what I don’t like about it is that they do not capitalize the pronouns for Christ and God. I think the capitalizations make the text clearer. Just a side note though.
The point is that this verse does mention the resurrection. It is one of the few passages in the Old Testament that do. So the Sadducees were clearly wrong in their assumption that there was and is no resurrection. This is why Jesus had to confront them so many times, and why Paul and the apostles repeatedly spoke of the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the saints to come. This is the hope we have been given for being “in Christ.”
When we put our present sufferings in light of the future hope, we are able to stand and rejoice in what Christ has done. Our hearts are made glad because we see the greater purpose in our lives and in our suffering. I don’t understand all the ways that this is taking place, but I know the One behind these purposes.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Finally, we are reminded of the joy we have in His presence. There is delight in Christ that is found in no other. He is Savior and Mediator. He soothes the aches and pains our our journey, because He has placed us on the path. It may be rough, but there is still joy in the midst of it. Pleasure will come to us in the end, and as the other psalmist says, our cup runneth over!