Psalm 16 - The Prayer of a Righteous Man Page 2 of 4 - (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

David had discovered by experience that it was better to find his delight in the Lord’s people than to cultivate the great ones of the earth. Jonathan, the king’s own son, professed friendship for David and once indeed came out to meet him in the wilds to “strengthen his hand in God.” But, immediately after, we read, “Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh.” (1 Sam 23:18). Jonathan, one of the great ones, was a broken reed after all.

The word translated “saints” means “holy ones,” or “separated ones.” Here it refers to the people of the covenant now in their own land, the land God had promised them before they arrived (Ex. 19:6). The word occurs for the first time in Exodus 3:5, where God, speaking to Moses out of the burning bush said: “Remove thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The same Hebrew word is translated “saints” elsewhere in the Bible. David, then, was not only living in the Lord’s presence, he was living for the Lord’s people. They were his delight. Are they ours? One of the first marks of a born again believer is this: “Hereby we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.”
We don’t live the Christian life alone. , because we are part of a great spiritual family and need each other. As in previous psalms, two groups are depicted: the believing remnant (“saints”) and the unbelieving worshipers of idols (10:8-10; 11:2-3{8], 12; 14:5-6). The saints are those who trust God and obey his covenant, those who are set apart for the Lord. They take seriously God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2{9]; 20:7-8, 26; 21:8). Israel was a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6{10]; Deut. 7:6) and a holy nation, just as the church is today (1 Pe. 2:9){11]. David called them “the majestic ones” (NASB), a word that carries the meaning of excellence, nobility, and glory. In spite of our faults and failures, believers are God’s elite, His nobility on earth. We must love one another and use our God-given abilities and resources to minister to the family of God (Gal. 6:1-10). Like David, we must not compromise with those who disobey the Lord and worship idols (money, success, fame, etc.) but should seek to lead them to Jesus Christ, the source of all that is good and lasting.

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.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god. David knew about idolatry, he had been down to Gath and had looked at Dagon, the weird half-man, half-fish god of the Philistines. He had been down to Moab, and had seen Chemosh, the bloodthirsty god of the Moabites. The idolatrous times of the judges were still very much alive in everyone’s memory in David’s day. King Saul kept pagan men like Deog the Edomite on his payroll. Idolaters, notwithstanding all their zeal or the cost of their idols, gain nothing for themselves but an abundance of sorrow and misery. Having shown his great respect and affection for the saints of the true God he now declares his great abhorrence for those who forsake the true God, and worship idols. He wished that God would increase their sorrows so that they would be either awakened and converted to God, or cut off, if they were impertinent and incorrigible. David wanted no part of that type of thing. He was living by the Lord’s precepts and this practice kept him from evil aspirations and associations. It will do the same for us.

Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer. Many of the ancient Gentile nations offered blood as the sacrifice to their lifeless gods, and sometimes they would drink part of the blood of their sacrifices, whether blood of beast or man, a practice which God hated, because He had so severely forbidden the drinking of blood by His people, either at their sacrifices or as part of their food.

Nor take up their names into my lips. David was surrounded by the evil influences of those who worshipped heathen deities, “sacred beings,” which for him do not even exist, and whose rites of worship were utterly abhorrent. For he is a loyal worshipper of the Lord and has kept the law that forbids even mentioning the names of other gods (Ex. 23:13){4].

We are not to be isolationists, for the Lord has left us in the world to be salt and light; we must be careful not to be defiled by their sins (James 1:27; 4:4; Rom. 12:2{12]). No church is perfect, because no believer is perfect; but let’s still give thanks for the people of God and seek to encourage them all we can.

5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

David was excluded by Saul’s watchdogs from his share of his family’s inheritance. Each family in Israel had its territory assigned to it by line{2] and lot by Joshua in the original distribution of Canaan among the tribes. The inheritance stayed in the family. David’s share was in the farms and fields of Bethlehem but so long as Saul sat on the throne there was no hope he could enjoy his inheritance. His own parents were fugitives in Moab. “Never mind,” says David. “I have a better inheritance. I have the Lord. I don’t envy the vast riches and glory of idolaters, but I do heartily rejoice in God as my portion, and I desire nothing better. God who has allowed other nations to live in their idolatrous ways, has granted this favor to me, to know and worship Him, the only true God. Other nations have chosen and adhere to their false gods, but as for me, I have chosen God, and I will hold firmly to Him.”

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup means that the psalmist accepts his lot in life as his divinely appointed portion direct from the hand of God. “In fact,” says David, “God is my portion, because I have deliberately and in complete freedom of choice, chosen Yahweh as my portion, and found him to be all that I could long for.” The word portion comes from the time immediately after Israel had conquered the Promised Land, when the land was being allotted among the twelve tribes of Israel; each tribe received its portion except Levi was given a special inheritance (Josh. 13-21). Because they served in the sanctuary and ate of the holy sacrifices, the priests and Levites had the Lord as their special inheritance (Num. 18:20-32; Deut. 10:8-9; 14:27-29; Josh. 13:14, 23{13]), and David saw himself in that privileged position. His cup is just another way to say the same thing. Obviously he can’t help repeating himself with joy. Then he says it for a third time! For one’s lot is the same thing as one’s portion and one’s cup.

6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

David was a fugitive when he wrote this; with no home, with the moss for a mattress and the caves and forests for shelter. How could he say: The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage?

But David was not forgetting. This was the language of faith. Years ago the prophet Samuel had visited the farm in Bethlehem, had poured the holy anointing oil of God on David’s head, and had told him that one day he would be Israel’s king. Nothing that Saul could do could prevent that. Not just the Bethlehem farm—but all of Judah, all of Benjamin and Dan, all of Gilead and Goshen—all was his. Present appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the lines had fallen unto him in pleasant places. And they have to us too! If we suffer with Christ we shall also reign with Him. We have God’s Word for it.

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places. The “lines” were the measuring lines used to mark off the inheritance of the tribes, clans, and families in Israel, and then each individual lot was marked with a “landmark” that was not to be moved (Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Prov. 15:25; 22:28; 23:10-11). David rejoiced that God had caused the lines of his inheritance to fall in pleasant places, and that he had a “delightful inheritance” (NIV). He wanted to be a good steward of all that the Lord had given him.

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