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Wisdom from Psalm 16

man riding a bike through a forest


While everyone seeks happiness, fulfillment and contentment, a Christian eventually discovers that there is no lasting happiness apart from God.  We know that there is no salvation apart from him, but eventually realize that there in not only no salvation apart from God, there is no happiness, life, purpose or meaning apart from him.

The psalmist said it well when he wrote, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”  (Psalm 16:2) The writer was not reflecting here in some ethereal, theoretical realm, but understood this in terms of the real world where he lived.  He knew from experience that there was nothing that would serve his happiness and well-being apart from a relationship with God. This was more than just a “nice” thought, it was this man’s lived reality. 

The writer goes on to say that “the sorrow of those who run after another god shall multiply.”  (Psalm 16:4)  “Another god” could be anything that we imagine might make us happy.  Another god is an idol:  something apart from God that we picture making us happy.  The human mind is something like what John Calvin called an idol factory, cranking out idols non-stop around the clock.  We never cease imagining things that we think will make us happy.

Needless to say, we violate the second of the Ten Commandments constantly.  (Exodus 20:4).

picture of skyscrapers

Rather than looking around for something to make us happy, we should look to the Lord as being our inheritance – our portion – our life.  Wisely the psalmist writes, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot.”  (verse 5).  We would do well to number ourselves among the priests in the tribe of Levi who received no inheritance, except the Lord.  He was their inheritance in the Promised Land.  “They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.” (Deuteronomy 18:2)

Christians are blessed beyond measure.  In fact, we are – among all peoples – the most blessed.  As we survey the world – and then our lives – we can rejoice and count ourselves among those who can truthfully claim Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”  As the boundary lines of history are drawn on the map of life, our inheritance is beautiful beyond measure.  Our land, our inheritance, our portion is the Lord himself.  He is our reward.

The writer of Psalm 16 applies these thoughts in a very practical manner.  In verse 8 he writes, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  What a wonderful picture of Lordship.  He set the Lord always before him – always lived in his presence – and acknowledged that he lived every moment of every day in the presence of God.  For the unbeliever this thought is terrifying.  For the Christian, it is a blessing.  “Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices.” (verse 9)

He continues by giving God all the praise for this knowledge.  “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.”  (verse 11) In the same way, the whole Gospel of John talks about life, real life, eternal life.  Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  The life that Jesus offers is more than just eternal: it is vital, real, dynamic and qualitatively so much more than just mere existence.   


As the psalmist concludes he writes, “At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  (verse 11)

Amen to that!





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