Psalm 16 - The Prayer of a Righteous Man Page 1 of 4 - (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

March 30, 2014
Tom Lowe

Psalm 16

Title: The Prayer of a Righteous Man
A Psalm of David.
Michtam of David.

Psalm 16 (KJV)

1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;
3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.
5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.


This is a very personal psalm that focuses on the goodness of the Lord. The personal pronoun “my” is used over a dozen times (my trust, my goodness, my cup, etc.). David’s joy (vv. 9, 11) is expressed in words like “delight” (vv. 3, 6), “pleasant” and “pleasure” (vv. 6, 11), and “glad” (v. 9). David finds his delight only in the Lord and confesses that everything good in his life has come from God. This psalm may have been written shortly after the Lord gave His gracious covenant to David and assured him of an enduring throne (2 Sam. 7). That covenant was eventually fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Luke 1:32-33). The style of David’s response to the covenant (2 Sam. 7:18-29) matches that of Psalm 16, a combination of joy, praise to God, humility, and submission to the divine will.

In our study of the psalms, thus far, it seems as if David’s life is always in danger, especially in those turbulent years when he fled from King Saul. There was one occasion when David deliberately spared Saul’s life, and then he retreated to an adjacent hilltop and called across the valley to the king. He held up Saul’s spear and the flask of water that had stood beside his bed—graphic evidence that, except for his mercy, Saul would be dead, killed by the hand of David. Then David protested to Saul and the language he used (1 Sam. 26:19-20){1] is echoed in verses 4-6 of this psalm, which seems to have been written about the time of this incident.

This is a michtam psalm. There are six psalms which bear this description, all are by David and all were written during David’s self-imposed exile. The other five are psalms 56-60. The word michtam has been explained in various ways. Some thinks it comes from a word meaning to engrave, or sculptured writing. If that is the case, the thought would be that here something is preserved that should never be forgotten. Interestingly enough, each one of the michtam psalms preserves the thought of resurrection. Some think the word michtam is mystical in nature, “a psalm of hidden, mysterious meaning.” Others say the word means “a golden psalm.” Michtam suggests that this psalm was one of David’s golden meditations, dealing with truth so significant, it should be preserved forever, although originally a personal, private meditation. All six of the michtam psalms end on a happy and triumphant note. This is also a Messianic psalm, for in his message at Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28){5], Peter said it referred to Jesus, and so did Paul in his sermon in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:35){6].

No study of this psalm can be complete unless we see, somewhere in its shadows, the glorious person of whom David was a type, the great, glorious Savior of mankind. Both Peter and Paul cite it as referring to Christ. “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (16:10) is clearly a prophesy of the Lord Jesus.

We are going to look at this psalm, however, more in light of what it meant to David and what it ought to mean to us. We will also investigate the minor disagreement concerning the identity of the man in the psalm—Christ or David?

1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
In verses 1 and 2, David uses three words for God:
1. He is El in verse 1. El is the abbreviated form of the great name Elohim, God the Creator. El is God as the omnipotent, the all-powerful One. El stands for God in all His strength and might. David is living in the light of that.
2. He is the Lord in verse 2, that is, He is JEHOVAH, the God of Covenant. He is the God who condescends to enter into a saving contract with men. David is living in the light of that.
3. He is ADONAI, the Lord, or “my Lord,” in the second part of verse 2. Some render the name as “my Sovereign Lord” or, as we would say, “my King.” David is living in the light of that.
Let us bring the three names El, Jehovah, and Adonai together. We might say that “El” is God my Maker, “Jehovah” is God my Mediator, and “Adonai” is God my Master. Here is the protection of the godly man. He is living in the Lord’s presence so no fear can plague him and no foe can deter him.

“Preserve me” (“keep me safe,” NIV) doesn’t suggest David was in trouble or danger, as in Psalms 9 and 13. It simply means that he needed God’s constant care and oversight so that he might honor the Lord and enjoy all the good things that only God could give him. God alone is good (Matt. 19:17){7], and apart from Him, we have nothing good.

I mentioned in the introduction that there is disagreement over who is speaking in this psalm. There are some who say David, and others who say Jesus. It is certainly David who is speaking here and on down through verse 8; then in verse 9 the psalm turns abruptly to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which is confirmed by the two great apostles, Peter and Paul; thus, both David and Jesus are present in this wonderful poem.

2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

Notice how David expresses his confidence in God’s goodness, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee. “Thou art my Lord. You do not need my goodness” is the way the Hebrew scholars who translated the Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint handled it, and that is a wonderful way to render it. But other translators have rendered it in a different way. Rotherham: “My sovereign Lord art Thou, for my well-being goeth not beyond Thee.” The Revised Standard Version: “I have no good beyond Thee.” In other words, David confesses he has no well-being apart from God-Jehovah, his sovereign Lord. That is the thought here: “I have no good beyond Thee.” I have Him, and I have everything!

If we follow the Septuagint we find in our Lord the One who saves: “Thou art my Lord, You do not need my goodness.” Or, if we follow the others we find in our Lord the One who satisfies: “Thou art my sovereign Lord. I have no well-being beyond thee.

As the hymn writer puts it:
All that I need is in Jesus
He satisfies, joy He supplies
Life would be worthless without Him
All things in Jesus I find.

Thou art my Lord. You created me and have preserved my life, and I owe to you all my service and obedience. The Lord is our greatest treasure (Ps. 73:25, 28), the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). To know him through Jesus Christ is the highest privilege in life.

My goodness. Whatever piety, or virtue, or goodness found in me was placed there by You. If we have anything we think is good, and it doesn’t come from God, it isn’t good, and it doesn’t come from God, it isn’t good.

Extendeth not to thee. My goodness doesn’t add anything to your happiness. The sense is, God is all-sufficient and infinitely happy, and the author of all the goodness that is in or is done by any of His creatures. When Jesus Christ is your Savior (refuge) and Lord, you experience God’s goodness even in the midst of trials.

The godly man is seen living in the Lord’s presence.

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