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  • Writer's pictureChrystie Cole

Morning Pages: Psalm 16

Psalm 16 is a simple yet beautiful song of devotion. There is so much within this psalm that teaches me what it means to behold God in such a way that I am not only sustained by God but also deeply and richly satisfied in him.

I've been learning much lately about consumerism and scarcity mindsets and their impact on our faith and relationship with God. This psalm shows that David approaches the Lord, not from a place of scarcity but abundance. Throughout this psalm, David sets a feast of faith before us—one that has long marinated in God's steadfast lovingkindness and generosity. This psalm orients us Godward to the Lord who has provided abundantly all we need—himself.

He begins with a petition,

Vs.1 “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.”

This psalm starts with David prevailing upon God to “preserve” him—to protect and keep watch over him. David knows his human frailties and his need for God's protection. Throughout his psalms, David refers to the Lord as his refuge. I love the structure of this sentence. It connects two important statements, "preserve me" and "in you I take refuge," with one tiny word: for. It would be easy to miss the significance of this little word. But for David, it is the linchpin that holds the whole sentence, and his faith, together. He appeals to God for preservation and refuge because God IS his preservation and refuge. There is no other upon which David depends. He’s essentially saying, “I’ve put my hope and trust in you, Lord, so don’t let me down. Please keep watch over me; be my shelter and refuge.”

And while the psalm begins with this petition, the rest of the psalm, beginning in verse two, is an expression of devotion to and contentment in Yahweh,

Vs. 2 “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”

I love the picture here. David uses personal and possessive language to express that he has both taken possession of God as his own and has surrendered his life to the possession of Yahweh as his Lord—the only one to whom he yields and submits. And he can do that because he recognizes the Lord is the source of everything he has….”I have no good apart from you.”

All his eggs are in Yahweh's basket. He isn’t looking anywhere or to anyone besides the Lord for provision and protection. Yahweh is all he has and all he needs. This is part of wholehearted living—fully placing your hope and trust in Yahweh and finding your satisfaction and contentment solely in whatever he provides.

It's easy to feel this way when you lack nothing or life seems to go your way. But that isn't the pattern the psalms provide us. The psalmists' lives were often riddled with turmoil and tragedy—reminding us that an intimate, satisfying relationship with the Lord can be had amidst less-than-ideal circumstances. It isn't an issue of either being satisfied in God and denying your suffering or admitting your suffering and denying God. It is instead honestly acknowledging the complexities, pain, and disappointment with life while also holding onto the Lord as the one true source of joy, hope, and satisfaction, which is perhaps what leads David into the following two verses,

Vs. 3-4 “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 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.”

David's life and faith are enriched by those who follow and set their hopes on Yahweh, which reminds me how rich it is to have companions in the faith—those who weep when we weep, rejoice when we rejoice, and walk with us in faithful obedience as strangers and aliens in a foreign and hostile land.

Verse four is in contrast to the previous verses. David placed his hope and trust squarely on the Lord—the one true God—whereas others chased after other gods. But, where David will be satisfied, they won’t find what they seek. Instead, their sorrows and pain will multiply. David is so sure of this that he won’t even utter the names of false gods.

Because we've mostly grown up in a monotheistic culture (the belief in one god) versus a polytheistic culture (the belief in many gods), the idea of worshiping other gods can feel foreign. But it's not that distant of a practice. At times in my life, I have lived functionally as a polytheist—sacrificing to the gods of productivity and achievement. I've chased after the gods of approval, acceptance, and belonging. I've served the gods of sex, escape, comfort, control, and food. And while these things aren't necessarily bad, when I've elevated them to a god-like status, my sorrows are indeed multiplied. Because while they may offer temporary enjoyment, they can never provide what God so graciously wants to give me—himself.

He continues,

Vs. 5 “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.”

Once again, David doubles down. The Lord alone is his chosen portion. Yahweh is David’s inheritance, not riches or earthly gain, not fame or renown, not success or reputation. David's relationship with God isn't transactional; it's personal. The Lord isn't just some cosmic wish-granter for David; he is the lover of his soul and his constant companion. Which is why having the Lord is more valuable and worthy than all else. And the fruit of that personal relationship is that David trusts Yahweh personally “holds his lot,” meaning he believes that all the Lord intends him to have, he will have. It cannot be snatched away from him because the Lord himself holds it securely in his hands, which leads him to say with integrity,

Vs. 6 “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.”

This isn't some spiritual double-speak where David thinks and feels one thing but says another. And it's not just because he held a position of prominence, power, and prosperity. David's life wasn’t easy. It was bittersweet—mixed with glory and humiliation, suffering and prosperity, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. And yet, he is content with all the Lord has entrusted to him because what most matters is Yahweh, not his gifts.

And because David knows the Lord is faithful and full of steadfast love, he trusts that everything coming from the Lord's hand—even the hard—is good, generous, beautiful, and faithful in time.

David views this as his inheritance—a gracious gift from the Lord to be received in trust, faith, and gratitude—and therefore, it is sufficient and pleasing and perfect. The Lord is a good, good father who gives good gifts to his children. We may not immediately recognize the beauty of the gift, but we can trust the hand it comes from.

David continues,

Vs. 7 “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.”

David's posture in this verse is that of humility and thanksgiving to Yahweh, who continually instructs, leads, and counsels David—both while awake and asleep—which means that David can rest. To rest is to cease all striving and strategizing and, instead, to sleep in humility and dependence upon God, who is always at work. This power-filled truth leads David to bless the Lord. Blessing is not just something God does for us; it is also a gift we offer him. Bless in this verse literally means “bended knee” and "to speak well of." And in this verse, David, a great and mighty king who rules and reigns over a mighty kingdom, is bending a knee and showing honor and deference to the Lord who needs nothing and supplies everything. The Lord is the one who is always at work on behalf of his people, leading and guiding them even while they sleep. And for that, we can bless the Lord, offering him a sacrifice of praise that arises as a sweet aroma.

David continues,

Vs. 8 “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

David is single-minded, setting his heart, mind, and gaze fully on the Lord. He keeps Yahweh near, ever before him—intentionally and frequently counting and recounting the goodness of Yahweh. And because of that, he trusts that he is secure and that no matter what comes his way, the Lord is with him. This is what provides David stability in unstable times. Because he has made Yahweh his foundation, he knows his footing is secure no matter what happens in and around him. All of which leads him to joy,

Vs. 9 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”

Therefore...I once heard a teacher say, "What is the therefore there for?" This is such a helpful tool when reading the Bible. The word "therefore" usually comes at the end of a persuasive argument or persuasive point. So we should retrace our steps whenever we see "therefore" in Scripture. What point was the author trying to make? What evidence did he use in previous verses to make his point? For David, everything he has said about Yahweh up to verse nine leads him to conclusively and wholeheartedly rejoice. He is strengthened in his whole being—mind, body, heart, and soul. He is settled in his inmost parts; he has peace regardless of his circumstances because he knows and trusts that the Lord is with him and for him.

He continues,

Vs.10 “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

Sheol is word Bible writers used to refer to death, the grave, and the underworld or dwelling of the dead. In this verse, David expresses his trust that the Lord will never abandon or forsake him to the grave. And yet, we know that David did die, and he did see corruption. This verse is, ultimately, a prophecy of the one true holy one, the only one who is pure and incorruptible, Jesus. He is the one the Lord did not abandon to the grave but raised up. And now, because of Jesus, the Lord will never abandon us to the grave; we will live with him for all eternity. This is part of the generous inheritance God has stored up for us. For this generous gift, we can bless him!

David concludes with a final word of blessing for Yahweh,

Vs. 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.”

The word for make known in this verse, yada, is the same word used in Scripture to express the sexual knowing between a husband and wife. This is intimate knowledge that can only happen between two people who share a close, personal bond. And how much more intimate can it get than the Lord personally revealing the way to life and fullness of joy with him through his Holy Spirit?! And in his presence, in the face of our Lord, we find enduring, everlasting, never-ending satisfaction, delight, wholeness, and joy. Now and forevermore.

This psalm steadies me. It reorients my heart and mind toward Yahweh. It strengthens my feeble hands and weak knees. It roots me in the goodness of God and the inheritance he has given me — both here and the one yet to come. Because the Lord is my portion and my cup, even in suffering, trials, frustrations, grief, loss, and uncertainty, I can confidently say that the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Until next week.

In love and gratitude,


As a side note: If you enjoy memorizing Scripture, this is a good one to consider.

Here is Poor Bishop Hooper's song for Psalm 16.

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