Psalm 16 Good God!

Standard
Questions: Do we only call out to God when we’re afraid? In whom do we delight? Is God worthy of our trust? Is it mercenary to enjoy God’s gifts? Is God a golden goose? “Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms .

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 16:1-11

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

Though David doesn’t identify any specific trouble, this sounds like another one of those “Help Me” prayers (not that there’s anything wrong with that :-), since he’s asking for protection. Or, is the focus on “I trust” rather than “you protect” —

[O my soul], thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou [art] my Lord: my goodness [extendeth] not to thee; [But] to the saints that [are] in the earth, and [to] the excellent, in whom [is] all my delight.

This certainly reads more like a meditation on why God is worthy of trust, than justification for why David needs protection. In fact, the wicked are portrayed as more pathetic than scary:

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.

David is drawing a sharp distinction between the set-apart-ones he delights in, and the idolaters he shuns. Why? Is this a merely parochial prejudice of “us” vs. “them” — Is he just trying to curry favor with a jealous divinity?

Well, maybe:

The LORD [is] the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant [places]; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Certainly, David owes a lot to God, and isn’t shy about giving God credit for what has happened to him. And not just material blessings, but wisdom:

I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

and security:

I have set the LORD always before me: because [he is] at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

and joy:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

forever:

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

I know this is a favorite passage for those who like to debate the afterlife — and rightly so — but I don’t know if David is particularly focused on that. Rather, he is focused on God Himself, and His incredible goodness to David in every sphere of life:

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.

Now, here’s a radical thought (at least to me). At one level, David is admitting that he loves God because God is good to him: more than admitting, he’s wallowing in it! But he comes across more like a valedictorian at graduation extolling the virtues of his parents, rather than a salesman or a mercenary. Why?

Well, it goes back to verse 2, which is perhaps clearer in the NIV:

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

I remember talking about this at Caltech once with my friend David Lin :-(a sadly un-Googleable name, so I’ve lost track of him). There’s really two questions:

* Is God really the source of every good thing?
* Do we see God through His gifts, or do His gifts eclipse Him in our eyes?

If the first is not true, then we (like the idolaters) are to be pitied indeed, as we are pouring out or lives for an illusion that will never pay us back.

But if that is true, then the fool is the one who steals the golden eggs instead of a building a relationship to the goose. For it is only in relationship, not gold, that we find true joy.

Prayer

God, If anything, I’m the one lacking “the sense God gave a goose.” At least geese know where they are going and, to the limit of their ability, pursue what its helpful for them with their whole heart. I, on the other hand, too easily give my devotion to things less real than you, which only multiplies sorrow — for myself and others. Father, grant me the gift of gratitude, that I might never lose sight of the GIver. In whose name i pray, Amen.

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