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Psalm 16: Fulness of Joy Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 October 2011

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God made us to be a people who pursue pleasure and joy. We are actually commanded in the Bible to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4). Yet, the Fall has completely distorted our pursuit of joy. The Fall did not make us lovers of pleasure. No, the Fall made us lovers of pleasures not found in God. It is not wrong to have joy and seek joy (again, the Bible commands it). No the problem is where we seek our joy and what gives us joy. Because of the Fall we seek it in all of the wrong places. C. S. Lewis states it well when he writes: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 1 We settle. Over and over again we settle for inferior pleasures when infinite joy has been offered. We do not have too much longing for joy, we have too little.

The Bible corrects our misguided pursuit of pleasure in worldly things.  It repeatedly calls us to consider where true, lasting, infinite joy is found.  And how does it answer?  The Bible makes it plain that our greatest joy is found in the Lord.  Everything else is inferior.  Psalm 16 is a psalm about finding joy in God.  David introduces the theme in verses 1-2.  Look at those with me.  David confesses that God is his refuge, his shelter and protection.  Then he tells the Lord: I have no good apart from you.  Wow!  That is a big statement for the King of Israel to make.  He has palaces and armies and lands and people and pleasures all around.  Yet, he understands an important truth: any good that we have in this world is ultimately traced back to the Lord.  He is not only the supply and provider of all our good, He is the source and substance.  We might be tempted to respond: ‘Yeah well I see a whole lot of people finding a whole lot of pleasure apart from God.’  That is a fair objection, for in one sense, who could deny it.  All around us we see the ‘joy of the wicked.’  So then, how does David go on to explain and defend that true joy can only be found in the Lord?  Let’s consider his argument together.

The comparison (v. 3-4)

David begin his argument for joy in the Lord by contrasting those who worship God with those who worship idols.  Look at what he says about those who worship God in verse 3.  David writes of his delight in the saints of the land.  He describes them as the excellent ones.  The world may look at those who worship God with derision and slander, even as we saw in Psalm 14.  But God’s people know the truth: they are the blessed.  They can delight in one another as followers of God.  But what about those who worship idols?  How does David describe them?  Look at verse 4.  People in the world who are running after selfish pleasures found in sex and money and drunkenness and whatever else you want to put there may seem like they are genuinely happy.  They look good on TV and in the movies.  They wear smiles and act as if they have no care in the world.  They are envied and their status is pursued.  Yet, David pulls back the veil and shows us what is really taking place: the sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.  In other words, you can run after other pleasures and worship other gods, but you need to know the truth: it will only lead to sorrow.  David is so convinced that he wants to have nothing to do with them and their worship of other gods.  He will stay away from such pursuits.

Now we still may struggle to see that what David is saying is true.  I mean the wicked really do prosper.  The righteous really do suffer.  How can David make such a comparison?  Again, David is able to see beyond our simple perceptions.  What may look like joy and pleasure may actually be desperation and frustration.  The joy is nothing more than a façade.  It looks good on the surface, but is rotten to the core.  A humorous (and sad) example of this is VH1’s show “Behind the Music.”  The common theme of that show is that whatever seems like a great life on the stage is not real when you get ‘behind the music.’  No, behind the music is addiction and anger and lives spiraling out of control.  Things are not always what they seem.  Thus, we can either listen to our faulty perceptions or to Scripture.  I pray we choose the latter.

The blessings (v. 5-8)

But there is another reason why David knows that those without God and simply piling sorrow upon sorrow.  What is it that he knows?  He knows the blessing that is our God.  He uses some different ways to describe this blessing.  First, he calls God his portion.  Look at verse 5a.  What is notable about the language is that David is not necessarily talking about the gifts that God can give.  God is not a means to an end.  He is the end.  He is the treasure.  He is the gift.  He alone should satisfy us and give us joy.  Yes, we will find pleasure in the good gifts that He gives (like spouses and children and jobs and everything else), but even in our enjoyment of them we must be lead to the true fountain of our joy, namely God Himself.  Calvin comments: “This passage teaches us, that none are taught aright in true godliness but those who reckon God alone sufficient for their happiness…Let us therefore learn, when God offers himself to us, to embrace him with the whole heart, and to seek in him only all the ingredients and the fullness of our happiness.” 2  For David, God was his portion and cup.

Second, David calls God his beautiful inheritance.  Look at verses 5b-6.  The language here reflects that used in the division of the land in Joshua.  David is simply pointing out that like the priests, his only inheritance was the Lord.  The analogy is that God is like a rich, lavish inheritance of land and money and wealth.  David is satisfied in what he has received (the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places).  With God, he needs no other inheritance.

Third, David calls God his counsel.  Look at verse 7.  For a King, good counsel is important.  It can be a crippling position to be ruling over a people and not know what to do.  Wise counsel is desperately needed.  For David, his wise counsel comes from the Lord.  When he needs wisdom and direction he looks to the Lord and trusts in His counsel.

Fourth, David describes God as his security.  Look at verse 8.  David is determined to keep the Lord always before him.  He does not want to lose sight of God and His protection and provision.  For in God, David knows that he shall not be shaken.  Like the blameless man in the presence of God (see Psalm 15:5) David dwells secure with God.  He does not have to fear or be anxious.  David can trust in the Lord to take care of him no matter what he faces.

When you add all of these blessings together you begin to get a picture of why David believed that God was his greatest treasure.  God was his portion and his inheritance.  God was his counsel and security.  And these blessings are just the beginning of God’s greatness.  He is eternally sufficient, which is the conclusion David draws at the end of the psalm.

The conclusion (v. 9-11)

Beginning with verse 9 David draws some conclusions about what he has said about his joy in God.  Look at what he says in verses 9-11.  God makes David’s heart glad.  He causes his whole being to rejoice.  God causes David to dwell secure.  God leads David on the path of life.  David does not just find some joy in God.  No, in God David finds fullness of joy.  And the joy is not temporary or fading.  No, it is pleasures forevermore.  It is everlasting, eternal joy.  It is all sustaining, overflowing, overwhelming joy. 

Tozer wrote: “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.  Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.  Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.” 3  David concludes that fullness is joy is found in God and God alone.

So then, David makes a great argument for us to understand and believe that our greatest joy is found in God.  Yet, even after the life of David, the evidence continues.  In fact, verse 10 points to something even greater than what David knew.  Look at that verse.  David had some understanding of God’s purposes for men even in death and the pleasures of God that we would enjoy beyond the grave.  But his life and death were not the ultimate fulfillment of this psalm.  As Peter argues in Acts 2:22-36, David’s words point to another.  They point us forward to Jesus Christ.  It was God’s plan to send Jesus and for Him to be crucified on a cross for our sins. 

Yet, it was also God’s plan that Jesus would not see corruption, that He would be raised from the dead, victorious over the grave.  David’s words point us in this direction and Jesus’ resurrection fulfills them.  And as we have seen each of the last few weeks, David’s words in the psalm point us forward to belief in the work of Christ.  In Christ, we find victory over our sin and depravity (Psalm 14).  In Christ, we find the mercy and strength to be blameless and dwell in God’s presence (Psalm 15).  And in Christ, we find the embodiment of joy in God.  Through Christ, through His death for our sins and resurrection from the grave, we can find fullness of joy.

The only remaining question is will you believe.  The world is not going to stop trying to convince you that they have all the pleasures and the joy in this life.  They will parade before you and put on a good show.  They will give you a taste and tell you that it only gets better.  But here is the truth: There is no good apart from God.  Those who seek the pleasures that the world provides will see their sorrows multiply.  The Lord is a beautiful, satisfying inheritance.  In Him we are secure.  In Him our hearts are glad.  In Him we find the path to life.  In Him is found fullness of joy.  The world thinks it can offer you true joy, but it is a lie.  The Lord is the only true Source for joy.  And He is an overflowing fountain.  So drink deep.  Enjoy the Lord.  Find all your pleasure and all your joy in Him.  Never settle for anything less.  May we believe with David that at the right hand of the Lord are pleasures forevermore.  Amen.

1 Quoted in John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996), p. 17. 
2 John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), p. 224, on the Psalms.
3 A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), p. 19.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 November 2011 )

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