16 A Miktam of David. 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. 1
Passover week had ended the day before. Two discouraged pilgrims were on their way back home from Jerusalem on a Sunday afternoon. A week that had held such promise had ended tragically with the arrest and execution of the man they were certain was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.
The previous Sunday, this Messiah had ridden into Jerusalem to shouts of joy and praises to God. But he was arrested, abused, humiliated, and executed like common criminal. How could Messiah die? Moreover, how could the real Messiah suffer the open curse of God by being hung on a tree? Discouraged, they trudged home on their 7-mile journey weeping and wondering about their dashed hope and broken dreams.
Luke tells us one of the discouraged disciples was named Cleopas (Lk. 24:18). John calls him “Clopas” (Jn. 19:25). He had a wife named (appropriately enough) “Mary, wife of Clopas” whom John listed as a witness to the crucifixion. So, it’s quite likely that Luke is recounting the story of this married couple, Cleopas and Mary, trying to deal with the tragedy they had witnessed, when a stranger drew near to them on the road and asked what they were discussing.
“Concerning Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered, “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”2 Jesus rebuked them, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” 3
Wouldn’t you have loved to be there to hear Jesus preach about himself from the OT? What scriptures did he use to make Cleopas and Mary’s hearts burn? We have every basis to believe, based upon Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:25-28, that Jesus would have quoted from Psalm 16:8-11. Paul quoted Psalm 16:10 in a sermon in Antioch (Act. 13:35-37). Psalm 16:10 says, “You will not abandon me to the grave, / nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
The first line of verse 10 is certainly impressive as a statement of faith in life after death, something any OT saint could have said. We find the suffering Job proclaiming something similar:
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, / and at the last he will stand upon the earth. / 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, / yet in my flesh I shall see God, / 27 whom I shall see for myself, / and my eyes shall behold, and not another. 4
But it’s the second line of Psalm 16:10 that no OT saint would have even the slightest reason to sing: “nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” As Peter pointed out in his great Acts 2 sermon, every death brings physical decay – even David’s body decayed in a grave in Jerusalem. Peter preached:
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.”5
Paul is even more blunt in his use of Psalm 16:10 when he preaches:
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.6
Many students of the Psalms suggest David composed this Psalm during the years he was on the run from King Saul and his army (e.g. 1 Sam. 26:19).7 While the Psalm certainly fits well with those events, David doesn’t attach any personal history to this hymn as he does with some of his other psalms. He simply titles the psalm as A Miktam of David. Since we have no real idea what a “Miktam” is; it most likely refers to a musical genre.
The opening lines describe messiah David’s relationship to God by using three of God’s names. He begins his address to God as El. “Keep me safe, El, / because I take refuge in you. / 2 I say to I AM, “You are the Lord (Adonai); / I have no good thing apart from you.”8 “ʼEl
emphasizes God’s inhabitance of the heavenly sphere, focusing on his transcendence over human qualities: immortality and power.”9 “El” is what humanity is not. In verse 2, his address of God as “I AM” emphasizes God’s saving covenant with his people, accomplished through his Messiah. It was the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:13-14). In the second line of verse 2, David refers to God as Adonai – the master, ruler, lord, king.
So, David is confessing his trust in the transcendent covenant God who orders David’s life and directs messiah David’s path. David’s confidence doesn’t come from his circumstances; it comes from his trust into who God is. Messiah David’s life is in danger (v.10) and messiah is publicly staking his fate upon God to preserve his anointed one. It is God’s reputation as covenant maker and covenant keeper that is at stake.
David claims God as his refuge. It’s possible that the background for this language is in the familiar “cities of refuge.” They were designed to provide safe haven and protection for those accused of causing wrongful death.
God is our city of refuge! He is our safe, soul-satisfying haven of rest. Like a frightened child running to her father, hiding from danger behind the imposing presence of one committed to protect her, David sought safety in God. Like the residents of the great plain states seeking shelter from an approaching tornado, or like a soldier under attack from the enemy, retreating behind the formidable walls of a king’s castle, so we find our refuge in God
Because God is the transcendent ‘El, the covenant-making I AM, and the ordaining and sustaining Adonai, David sings, “I have no good thing apart from you.” He means that God alone is the source of all good. James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). It means that if we do not have God himself, whatever we decide is “good” is actually useless to us. Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). It means that, having come to know God as our refuge, redeemer, and Lord, nothing should ever mean as much to us as God does.10
The result of messiah David’s trust into God alone is that he delights in God’s people over whom he has care as the anointed king. He regards those faithful to I AM as the true nobility of the kingdom and, like the right worshipper of Ps. 15:4, he has no regard for those who worship idols. Of them he sings, “/ 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.” He will not join in their rituals of worshipping false gods (for libations to idols see: Isa. 57:5f.; 65:11; 66:3; Jer. 7:18; 19:13).
Messiah David is certainly king over all the realm of Israel and all the people. But his special regard, his love and particular care belong to those who worship I AM in faithful trust and look to
Him alone as the source of all good. Apostates slaughter animals to gain the favor of idols who never saved Israel and demand no moral decency. The king will not even “take up their names on my lips,” a Hebraism for “I will not speak their names.”11
This is practical application of God’s covenant love. Do you love God’s people? Do you prefer their company? Or, do you enjoy the company of profane people who see their personal desires as their only good? “If, like Peter, you have no difficulty warming your hands at the fire of those who are hostile to your Master, it is because you are far from him. You had best get back to him before you deny him, as Peter did.”12
The third part of David’s song describes the present covenant blessings he enjoys. He sings, “I AM, my allotted portion and my cup, / you hold my lot.”13 The imagery is an allusion to Joshua’s casting lots to determine the allotment of land to the 12 tribes of Israel (Josh. 15-19). David is saying that, like the Levites, his true portion and inheritance is God himself. As Augustine said, “Let others choose for themselves portions, earthly and temporal, to enjoy; the portion of saints in the Lord is eternal. Let others drink of deadly pleasures, the portion of my cup is the Lord.”14
When we hear David sing that God has allotted his cup, it’s hard not to hear Messiah Jesus’ weeping prayer “in the night” (16:7) in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. …My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”15
David lists as his final blessing his security as God’s anointed king, “8 I place I AM always before me. / Because he is at my right hand, I will not be toppled.” This brings the hymn full circle from the opening plea for God to preserve him. God is at David’s right hand because God has promised his anointed king a greater Son to reign on an eternal throne. While David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), he was not the Messiah to come who God promised would be a Son to him and an eternal king (2 Sam. 7:8-16).
What we hear in this section is messiah David – hiding in desert caves while King Saul and his army scour the wilderness looking to kill him – confessing that the measure of his satisfaction is God and God alone. The measure of our satisfaction is the degree to which we can both trust and rejoice when all we have left is God.
David is not denying that other things are good or satisfying or capable of evoking pleasure. But we embrace those things only when acknowledged and enjoyed as gifts of God without whom all else is ultimately meaningless. Everything else without God is tragically inferior to God without everything else. Or as C. S. Lewis put it, “he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only”.16 Simply put: “You, O God, are the portion allotted to me!
You, O God, supremely beautiful, are my inheritance! You, O God, are the only land I need or want!”
Seeing I AM as everything leads messiah David to the certainty of eternal intimacy with God. “Several times in the Psalms the sense of being already face to face with God grows into the certainty of enjoying this intimacy forever, for God is not one to give … up his friends”17 even though their earthly lives end. This is where the prophesy of Messiah Jesus’ resurrection comes in.
Understand that David knew he would die a physical death like all men. God’s covenant with David promised that David’s days would run out and he would be buried. “12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”18
Did David know he was prophesying the real, historical, physical resurrection of his greater Son? Was his constant near-death experience of running from King Saul enough to make him contemplate how the future Messiah would, like all men have to die, but yet would rise from the grave? Had David, like St Author of the Hebrews said of Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac, “considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back”?19
David may have consciously prophesied Jesus’ resurrection. But it’s not necessary that he did so. “…later in his first letter, Peter wrote that the prophets “searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10–11). This means that David did not necessarily clearly and perfectly understand that he was writing of Jesus’ resurrection when he composed verse 10.”20
But if David wasn’t consciously envisioning Christ’s resurrection, this verse still demonstrates his remarkable faith. In that case, David was singing of his own hope that his relationship with I AM would extend beyond the grave and that, in some way, he would somehow live again in an uncorrupted physical body. Unlike you and I, he didn’t have Messiah Jesus’ resurrection to look back on. There was no physical man in heaven to whom David, like you and I, could look as the firstfruits of our own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23).
That makes David’s faith a supernatural, God-given gift. Perhaps David didn’t foresee Jesus’ resurrection specifically. But it was necessary for him, and every other human being since Adam’s rebellion, to look for the coming work of the Promised Seed, Messiah Jesus. Let’s give Peter the last word this morning as he preaches from Psalm 16:8-11:
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. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, / “Sit at my right hand, /35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”21
1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ps 16.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Lk 24:19–21.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Lk 24:25–27.
4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Job 19:25–27.
5 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ac 2:29–31.
6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ac 13:36–37.
7 Waltke, et. al., 319, citing: J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, reprint 1966), vol. 1, p. 190. See also: Boice, citing H. C. Leupold, 131.
8 Waltke, et. al., 321.
9 Id., 328.
10 Boice, 132.
11 Waltke, et. al., 330.
12 Boice, 132–133.
13 Waltke, 322.
14 Cited by Charles Augustus Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), p. 120.
15 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Mt 26:39, 42.
16 C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, edited and with an introduction by Walter Hooper [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996], p. 31.
17 Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 103.
18 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), 2 Sa 7:12.
19 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Heb 11:17–19.
20 Boice, 134. 21 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ac 2:29–39.