THE PILGRIM PATH – JOY FOR THE JOURNEY Psalm 16 – A Song of Trust
Philippe R. Sterling
A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a place of spiritual significance. In the literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim may refer to the experience of life in the world. The great classic Pilgrim’s Progress allegorized the spiritual journey of a Christian in the world from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. John Wayne many times used the term “Pilgrim” in his movie dialogues.
Main Idea: When we make God our portion in this life, He makes known to us the path of life. Psalm 16 portrays the pilgrim path. The superscription categorizes it as A Mikhtam of David. The meaning of “Mikhtam” is uncertain. Some rabbis surmise it to mean “a golden poem”. Luther gave the meaning as “golden jewel”. The psalm reveals David’s trust in life and hope in death, and so we could call it “David’s Golden Key to Life”.
The Psalm divides into three sections. We can label them the pilgrim’s prayer, the pilgrim’s priorities, and the pilgrim’s prospects.
The Pilgrim’s Prayer: Take refuge in God and ask Him to preserve you through life (16:1).
What’s the current mood around our world? Gloom and doom.
Shaking times are captured by sample headlines. Somebody said, “If you go to the sports pages first, you are sports-minded; skim business pages first, you are money-minded; but go to the front pages first, you’ll lose whatever mind you once had!”
Not feeling very well, we look the world over for sources of stability. “Only gold is divine.” An ad by the World Gold Council calls people to buy gold regardless of its price. Why? Gold is considered the ultimate safe-asset during socio-political and financial chaos. Gold has become an idolatrous option—along with a hundred man-made deities.
Facing ominous times, people rush to safe-havens. We all need a safe-haven. In Psalm 16, the Psalmist claims to possess the ultimate safe-haven, the only stable reality in a shaken world. “Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken,” (v 8); he declares. “My flesh will also dwell securely” (v. 9).
He first requests the preservation of his life, for he takes refuge in God (v. 1).
Refuge – what comes to mind when you hear that word? Do you think of safety, comfort or relief, particularly in a time of trouble?
David experienced difficult times. But he knew who provided his protection, and David sought his refuge there. What does taking refuge in God involve?
The Pilgrim’s Priorities: Taking refuge in God involves a commitment to God and His people (16:2-6).
The Lord—Our Confession: Make the LORD your Lord – there is no good besides this (2).
The Psalmist’s security, stability and solace are in the Lord as his personal safe-haven (v. 2a). God in Himself, not just what He can give or do, is his earthly good (v. 2b).
Do you value God more than anything else? Announce your faith in the LORD alone. There is no good beyond this. Note the names for God:
The name God is El as in El Shaddai. It is the title used of the supreme deity and indicates His strength and power. “LORD” = Yahweh, some pronounce it Jehovah. It is the divine title that points to the covenant relationship that God has with His people. “Lord” = Adonai. It speaks of the sovereignty and authority of God.
The Saints—Our Companions: Delight in God’s people and not those who choose other than God (3-4). Our Commitment — Avoid other gods.
Next, David delights in the fellowship he experiences with fellow believers. However, he scorns those who “bet” on other gods to deliver them.
Have you ever noticed, when you meet someone for the first time and through the conversation of getting to know one another you each discover the other is a Christian, it’s as if there’s this instantaneous connection that occurs? And that specific, unique connection simply doesn’t happen in other relationships. Secular friendships can be good and positive, but there is a genuine delight that can only be found in the fellowship of other believers. Delight in life with other believers.
God’s saints are “majestic”; they reflect His shining splendor to us. Many believers have majestically reflected God to me.
I would not trade God for anything. Those who choose other than God are overwhelmed with sorrow. The word is the same as that in the first line of Genesis 3:16. This was true of the pagans of the psalmist’s day. This is true of any today whose focus is on something other than God such as adulation, career, family, security, alcohol, sex.
The Inheritance: Make the Lord your portion in life (5-6).
The “lines” are boundary lines, surveyor lines, property lines. The imagery is from the division of the land among the tribes. When the “lots” of life were cast and portions assigned, he received something beautiful.
What is it that he’s been given? What has he inherited that so captivates and delights him? The answer is in vs. 5 – he has received the Lord. When the lots were cast and the shares were given, when he looked at the portion that would be his – it was “the Lord.” The assignment that came to him was a life filled with God.
Look at vs. 6. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. Boundary lines, heritage – this is the language of a man who understood his relationship to God as being part of the Mosaic Covenant. God had chosen them as a people and had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. They eventually inherited that promise and David reigned as king in that land.
Today our heritage isn’t so much about a land promised to our forefathers, but we can still relate to the idea that David is communicating here. When we choose to walk in the way of God the boundary lines of life fall in pleasant places. No, it doesn’t mean that the path will never be unpleasant. Sometimes God leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. But walking in God’s way protects us from so much – the consequences of bad choices and untimely death. Those who walk in God’s way through this life will reign with Christ in the life to come.
The Pilgrim’s Prospects: The pilgrim who takes refuge in God can trust God to preserve him through life and through death (16:7-10).
A. Prospect in Life’s Path (7-9)
God provides guidance (7).
David speaks of the Lord’s guidance. Note that it is counsel and instruction.
Have you ever been going through a difficult time, or facing an important decision, and you go to someone in your life you who trust to get their advice? And you know how much of a help it is – even if the advice itself may not lead to a solution – just to be able to talk to that person and seek their counsel. David says, ‘you know who I go to for counsel?’ The LORD –the great I AM.
God provides protection (8).
Our confidence will never be shaken. A verse in an old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” sums up the point:
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes: That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
We experience joy and confidence (9).
Our heart is glad. We approach the future secure in our hearts.
B. Prospect at the End of Life’s Path (10)
God will not leave his soul in Sheol. God will not allow His Holy One to see corruption. God will not abandon David or God’s promised “seed” in the grave. The second half of the verse could have been fulfilled only by the Messiah (see Psalm 49:7-9).
The Apostles Peter and Paul use verse 10 for the Lord Jesus and His resurrection (Acts 2:22-36; 13:32-37). Peter indicated that David understood the reference. Paul tied it to the covenant with David.
As the grave advances, we do not fear. We need not be afraid of death because of Jesus’ resurrection. If I don’t’ fear the ultimate threat of death, the possible consequence of all crises, there’s nothing before death that is going to shake me and break me.
Summary Affirmation (16:11)
David sums up his thoughts in the final verse. You will make known to me the path of life.In Your presence is fullness of joy.In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
The God David knew was all these things to him. That same God is here today, and offers the same kind of relationship to anyone who would receive it.
God will show us the path of life. In His presence we experience fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. God doesn’t want you to become a fearful, doubtful, anxiety-ridden worrier who trusts deficient objects of refuge and shelter. You will multiply your sorrows.
When our lives are filled with God, our confidence and joy can never be shaken. The future is bright in spite of the dim present realities. God will make us experience life. We will find fullness of joy and pleasures from God.
Pray Psalm 16
God, keep me safe and faithful (v. 1). You are my Lord. Teach me obedience (v. 2). Thank You for Your counsel (v. 7). Thank You for being with me and strengthening me (v. 8). Lord, show me the path of life and give me joy (v. 11).