The Book of Psalms is arranged carefully and purposefully. We do not have in this book 150 separate psalms randomly thrown together. We have in the Psalms one book; and like all books, this one has a beginning, middle, and an ending.
The first two Psalms form the introduction to the book, and here we are introduced to the godly man, the blessed man; he who loves and meditates on God’s Law day and night. In Psalm 2, this blessed man is also described as God’s king. All those who find refuge in this king will be blessed of God forever.
The book of Psalms reveals the praises, the sufferings and the devotion of this blessed king in his relationship to God. As we move through the Psalms there is a progression from suffering to glory. Most of the Psalms in the first half deal with the king’s suffering; the king is calling out to God to rescue him from his tribulations and place him on his throne. When this event occurs His people will indeed be blessed with full redemption.
You will notice as the Psalms end the suffering psalms transition into psalms of praise. As a matter of fact the last five Psalms contain no cries of suffering at all, and the last psalm is the song of the entire created realm offering praise to God; “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
On one level we are to recognize David as the writer of the Psalms, for most of the Psalms were written by him and express his sufferings and praises as the OT king. But when we come to Psalm 16, we are somewhat surprised. Most of the psalms up until 16 are lament psalms; the king crying out in the midst of his suffering for God to bring about His kingdom promises. But in the midst of the suffering psalms comes this song where the Psalmist declares his contentment.
Now it is not as if David’s trials have ended, for David begins in v. 1 with a cry for God to preserve him. But the Psalmist does not then catalogue his sufferings, as in previous psalms, but declares his contentment in the midst of his sufferings.
So what enabled David to declare such contentment in the midst of his trials? Well, according to v. 2, first and foremost it was the fact that God was his God. You are my Lord. The word translated Lord of course is “Yahweh,” God’s covenant name. Through the covenant of grace God had made David His own and thus God had become “his Lord.” This affords David much peace.
David continues, Oh my soul, you have said to the Lord, You are my God, I have no good apart from you. At the center of the David’s life was his relationship to God. He had no good apart from God. In the covenant of grace our treasure, our inheritance, is God Himself. David understood this.
David then lists those benefits that come from being in covenant with God, and how those benefits afforded him great contentment. In v. 3 David considers his fellowship with others whom God has made His own.
As for the saints who are on the earth, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight. In a kingdom where the majority worshiped political might, David had a different view of who were the mighty ones in the land. The glorious ones were the simple saints. Do we demand too much of our fellow believer? Are we content with those we worship and fellowship with? Is it a delight to be with them? Could it be that the lack of contentment with our brothers reveals a lack of contentment with God himself? That is what connects v. 2&3 – contentment with God will bring contentment with the people of God.
The Psalmist moves on to another area of great contentment, and that was true worship. Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god, their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take their names on my lips. David watched the idolaters around him and considered their end; the many sorrows awaiting them in judgment. He vows not to participate in their worship; which is what he means by not taking the names of their gods on his lips. Thus David found contentment in the privilege to worship the true God and that God accepted David’s worship. We are to find contentment in the simple fact that we can gather and worship the true God, and he received our worship when it is given through the mediation of His Son.
David moves on and considers God’s providence to him in this life. Oh Lord, you are the portion of my inheritance and my cup, You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, yes, I have a good inheritance. Verses 5&6 employ language from the conquest of Joshua. When the families of Israel were given their inheritance in Canaan they were each placed within established boundary lines. Not every tribe and every family received the same amount of land. Some received more land with underground springs for water, some more difficult land lacking in underground water. Each tribe and family was to be content in the lot that the Lord had specifically parceled out for them.
David calls the lot given to him pleasant and good. David said this even as his enemies and his supposed friends sought his destruction. David was content because he knew it was His God who had allotted out that portion to him. But it was not this lot in itself where he found his security. David’s focus is not on that which was given him in this life, but that which could not be taken away by this life. You are the portion of my inheritance and my lot. Riches come and go; God himself is our inheritance, and this is the source of our peace and contentment.
Like the Book of Psalms as a whole, this Psalm has a progression. David looks from his present lot towards his future. From one perspective the picture was not so bright. He knew more trouble was coming. And like all stress and trial, it kept him up at night. I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
Of course it is at night when we worry the most. Our sleep tends to escape us as the difficult cares of this world overwhelm our minds in the silence of the night. But it was in those times David remembered the promises of God, and he was encouraged. This encouragement caused him to persevere in the midst of his coming trials. Thus, as v. 8 states, I have set the Lord before me because God is with him; I shall not be moved. What else can you count on in this life?
But God’s presence is not only for this life. God promises to be our God even after death. So David looks beyond the grave and his contentment turns to joy. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory, or my tongue rejoices, my flesh will also rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, Now will you allow your holy one to see corruption. As the Apostle Paul wrote, if we are as those who only hope in Christ for this life, we are the most to be pitied.
So in confident faith David looks ahead to that time when all the promises of God to him will be fulfilled, when after his resurrection he will stand in the presence of God in full joy. God will show him the path to life. You might consider that David considers true life that life which is spent in the presence of God. We need not be ashamed of having a heavenly mindset. There is the fullness of joy. It is only by considering this life as nothing compared with the glories to come will we find true Christian contentment through our trials.
Now this Psalm does present us with a problem, specifically in v. 10. How can David declare that God would not allow his body to see corruption or undergo decay? Does anyone want to suggest from this that David’s body has already been resurrected from the dead; that his bones are not in the process of decay at this very moment? Peter provides the answer to this dilemma in his Pentecost sermon. In Acts 2:29, after quoting this section from Psalm 16, Peter challenges the Jews with this very problem.
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
David wrote Psalm 16, as he did all his Psalms, as a prophet. He wrote of the true and everlasting king who like himself would move from suffering to glory. This king God would raise up to sit on His throne forever. Thus according to the New Testament, David wrote Psalm 16 looking ahead to the life, death and resurrection of Christ. On one level David is speaking of himself, for typologically he is the Old Testament King who would enter into much suffering before receiving his kingdom.
But Christ was the king whom David pointed to. These words therefore are the words of our Messiah. In the midst of suffering under the law and the miseries of this life, Christ is proclaiming His great contentment in Psalm 16. Thus on the one hand Isaiah can describe Jesus as a man of sorrows and aquatinted with grief, but on the other hand He was the most content man to ever walk the earth.
This explains how David could take these words as his, and how we can take them as ours. David recognized that it would be the Christ who could confidently assert that God was always at his right hand, and that God would raise Him from the dead. Only the eternal Son of God become man could merit the Father’s constant presence in this life and everlasting life beyond the grave.
Psalm 2 had already promised that those who placed their trust in God’s king, this blessed righteous man, would find refuge, and be like a tree firmly planted by steams of water. David had believed in this Messiah as His righteousness and forgiveness of sins.
Thus David could take the Messiah’s words as his own. As Christ was guaranteed the Father’s presence, so that is now ours in Christ. And as Christ was raised, so shall we be raised. Thus we can boldly proclaim that God will not ultimately allow our bodies to undergo decay, for, as with our king, we also shall be led unto everlasting life at the Father’s right hand.
We live in the most prosperous nation in the history of the world, but do you see a lot of contentment out there. What about ourselves? Do you see much contentment in the church? We who understand the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Christ should be examples of contentment, but you know that isn’t always so.
Often the reasons we give for lack of contentment are only smokescreens. These excuses reveal the true nature of our tendency to complain and grumble. The real reason we so often are not content with our lot in life, or with our Christian brothers and sisters at church, is because we are not content with Christ Himself. We have been much more influenced by our prosperous age than we care to we admit. In other words, we are often simply spoiled. We want more, and we expect more.
But may the reality of God being yours through the gospel give you true contentment. May you rejoice in the fellowship you are allowed to partake of with those saints God has placed before you in the body. May they be to you a delight even as they our to our beloved Savior who died on a cross for them. May you find true contentment in the privileges of worship you have been given. May you not complain over the lot God has given you, whether it be riches or poverty, sickness or health, a long life or brief one.
You can be content because in Christ all that was His is yours, because you have sought refuge in Him. And where He is even now by faith you are with Him. Thus the progress of this psalm is the progression of the entire book of Psalms, from suffering to glory. The Lord Jesus would go from suffering to glory, and that now is our pattern as who are in Christ. We on this side of the resurrection still cry out in the midst of our trials, we still experience those sleepless nights.
But with confidence we cling to God as our inheritance, and we trust in His providential presence. We suffer patiently under all our trials now, and we are called not to grumble and complain, for the God of all grace, who has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle us at His right hand. This is the secret of contentment; may it be found in you and in our church even as you are found in Christ. Amen