Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms      

Psalm 16 Part 2 – Hope in the journey through life and death

 

By I Gordon 

 

Introduction

 

We saw last time that Psalm 16 is like a Pilgrims Progress, with the believer journeying through life. Except this time the pilgrim is someone very special! It is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Himself and because of that there is no Bypath Meadow - there is no turning, no deviation, no wandering from the true path that God had for Him. Last time we looked at some of the tests that He had to face on this journey and saw how we face those same tests. Tests of where our goodness comes from, tests concerning the source of our dependency. There were also tests from materialism and finding our true purpose in God Himself. We often fail as we journey through life, but Jesus did not. Thank God He did not! The path that the Lord God had for His son, as shown in this Psalm, also went through not just the valley of the shadow of death, but death itself – and even that didn’t stop Him as we shall see! We will be looking at verses 7 – 11 today.

  

Vs 7 & 8 Show the focus of Jesus’ life.

Vs 9 & 10 Show Jesus anticipating His death.

Vs 11 Show Jesus anticipating His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God once again!

 

We will examine these things and also take in our own journey through life and death.[1]

 

The key ingredient in the Psalm 16 cake

 

Psalms 16:7-11   I will bless the LORD who has counselled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.  (8)  I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (9)  Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.  (10)  For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  (11)  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.

 

What is it that ties all these verses together? For me it is ‘Hope’. There is hope, a confident expectation, for the current journey through this life – even in what we could call the night seasons. There is hope for the Messiah (and his believers) as they pass through death. And this passage also speaks of the final realisation of that hope when we are finally in His presence.

 

Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that hope is a critical virtue for all of us on this planet (but I will anyway!). Hope is a powerful motivator. President Obama used it to get elected. What was his two word slogan or catch phrase? – That’s right, ‘Hope and Change’. Most didn’t know exactly what he actually stood for or what that change really meant but it sure sounded good, they desperately wanted hope, and with the media making Obama out to be some sort of Messiah figure, the people bought it hook, line and sinker. [2]

 

The fact is, the world promises much and delivers little, and Politicians are experts at doing the same. Not so Jesus. His hope is real and His change is lasting. The Christian should be filled with hope if they know the promises of God and the God of the promises. So let’s look again at this wonderful Psalm and see how the journey that our Lord undertook makes our path filled with hope and certainty.

 

Hope as you journey through the night seasons

 

Psalms 16:7 (AMP) I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.

 

Jesus knew all about the night or, as other versions say, ‘the night seasons’. Now there are literal nights. Some are good, some are not so good. There are nights where your bed feels like absolute bliss and there is no place you’d rather be. And there are nights where we toss and turn and lose our sleep, having already lost our peace! And then there are the night seasons. The world as a whole, it seems, is entering into a night season. It is a time of darkness. The night seasons are ongoing times of darkness and uncertainty. But there is a purpose in them for there are things that can only be learned in such times. You learn about yourself. You learn about the Lord. You learn whether your many words about faith and courage, and patience are just simply that – words, or expressions of a deeper reality? The Bible speaks about such times as ‘treasures’.

 

Isa 45:3 ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD...’

 

Jesus knew that the night was coming. He knew what it would entail. Rejection, loneliness, mocking, abandonment… this Psalm captures His prayer and thoughts as He pondered such things. Yet… it isn’t gloomy! Here we have the Lord Jesus speaking to the Father saying ‘I will bless the Lord who has counseled me!’ ‘My heart instructs me in the night seasons’. It is the presence and counsel of the Lord that gets us through the night seasons and even in them we have hope. But your mind can only instruct you in the night seasons to the extent that you have been, and are being, counseled by the Lord. Even one word from the Lord is enough to sustain if we allow it.

 

I’ll give you one example from my own life. In the late 90’s and a good part of the 2000’s I wasn’t very well. I went to a lot of different people but couldn’t find out what was causing my ill health. I began getting a lot of chemical poisoning and sensitivity (having obviously been blessed with a similar immune system or lack thereof when it comes to different chemicals, that my dear mother has). In 2006, almost 10 years into it, I had the opportunity to spend 6-7 weeks away in Europe and I thought ‘great… I’ll get away from everything. I’ll have a good break away from my job, from living here… I’ll just see if that will help and if I’ll feel any better.’ So I went to Europe and was having a fantastic time in Belgium, Italy, Germany etc… until a few weeks in when everything started, very suddenly, to go wrong. I got even worse over there. I became sicker.  I couldn’t sleep, I was feeling anxious, my head became some foggy spinning thing… it was terrible. I had all these things planned and my head was just a daze. I hardly even felt like I was there at times.  I remember praying in desperation and the Lord spoke a verse to my heart: “Psalm 18:14” – I had no idea what is was but desperately read it straight away!

 

Pro 18:14 The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?

 

I knew then and there that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride but there was hope. ‘Endure his sickness’ isn’t necessarily what a sick person wants to hear!  ‘Heal his sickness’ would have sounded better to me quite frankly!  But I knew that I had to keep going for God would enable me to stand up under it all. Now it didn’t make it all go away and I did have to ‘endure’. Nothing changed outwardly, but I knew that God could sustain me through His Spirit. I also knew that if I let this become too much, by taking my focus off God and onto how I felt, then, as the scripture says ‘a broken spirit, who can bear?’ It wasn’t easy. I was sick for months afterwards even when I got home. But we have hope in the night seasons for God’s counsel and instruction is there. And God uses such precious times. Not so precious to us at the time but precious to Him! Such times are used by the Lord to bring forth His treasure in our lives. I came across this little ditty that summed it up well:

 

‘For many a rapturous minstrel, among those sons of light, Will say of his sweetest music, "I learned it in the night."

And many a rolling anthem, that fills the Father's home, Sobbed out its first rehearsal, In the shade of a darkened room.

 

I like that. If you are after an even greater story that sums up this poem check the footnote.[3]
 

The cure for the shakes

 

(Psalms 16:8)  I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

 

Wow. Here is the source of the Lord Jesus’ ‘unshakeability’ – if that was a word! Here is the cure for the shakes. It is the overriding principle for the Lord Jesus’ entire life. He continually set His Father before Him and, knowing that His Father was with Him at His right hand, He was unshakable. If you Google it you’ll find lots of sites that say there is no cure for the tremors and shakes. That might be true for the body but what about the soul? There is a cure for the soul! Let me ask you – is there anything shaking you at the moment? Is there anything that is causing doubts, tension or hopelessness? Is there something that is increasing the mercury on your anxiety gauge or causes you sleepless nights and worry filled days? Have you set the Lord before you? Do you realize that as a child of God, the Lord is with you, at your right hand? There is always hope with God. The Psalmist once said that ‘I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’ That has been an important verse for me to remember and, on the odd time, to remind the Lord about!

 

For the Lord Himself, these verses begin to describe His greatest test of all. The biggest night season for the Lord Jesus was obviously in all that would occur on the cross, including, for the first time, separation from the Father. You may remember that verses 8-11 are specifically quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost concerning the Lord Jesus. In them you have four verses which detail what Jesus was thinking at this time. Within them you find that they speak of his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

 

The One Sheol couldn’t keep down

 

Psalms 16:9-10 Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

 

Here the Lord Jesus starts to consider His death. He will take on the sins of humanity and going down into death – into Sheol. Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning the unseen world. It is the place of the dead, the departed. It is often translated simply as the grave. Jesus would go down into the grave but there is a firm confidence here – in fact there is even gladness and rejoicing mentioned! These verses are filled with hope – they are filled with a confident expectation of what will occur. ‘My flesh will dwell securely for You will not abandon my soul to Sheol. You will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay!’ That is radical! For thousands of years before this men and women have died. Sheol, like an insatiable monster with mouth open wide, had swallowed up men, women, young and old. None had escaped its clutches. Their bodies had decayed and become food for worms. Yet something is anticipated in these verses, 1000 years before it actually happened, that describe a great change in the natural order. There was one coming  who will not be abandoned to Sheol and in fact, His body won’t even see decay. The grave is not going to be able to hold this one! Like Jonah in the heart of the great fish, yet not consumed, so Sheol would not be able to lay claim to the Lord Jesus for long! Awesome!  Let’s look at something great that Peter said when speaking about this very verse. This is real hope and change people! When we get to the New Testament we read these fantastic words:

 

Act 2:24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

 

Impossible! This is important. Why was it impossible for death to hold Him? Have a think before reading on. Come on… you haven’t stopped and thought yet. Think!  Alright, here are some thoughts that came to me:

 

  1. Because of God’s word. Bible prophecy declared that He would rise and God’s word cannot be broken. Scripture, such the Psalm 16 we are studying, declared that He must rise. God’s word must be fulfilled. 
    Isaiah 53:9-10  His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  (10)  But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting  Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see  His offspring, He will prolong  His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
    John 20:8-9  So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.  (9)  For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

  2. Because death comes through sin. Roman’s tells that ‘the wages of sin is death’ and that ‘through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. But the Son of Man had no sin! He died to pay our debt, not His, and having fulfilled the requirements of the law in His death, how could death continue to hold Him in its power? Impossible!

 

  1. Because He had the inherent power and authority both to lay His life down and also to take it up. There had never been a man before who had such power and authority.
    John 10:17-18 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  (18)  "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."

  2. Because He is Life itself! Jesus said ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ Could death overcome He who is Life? The Bible declares that He became a Priest forever on the basis of the power of an indestructible life! Such a life death could not hold onto!
    Hebrews 7:15-17  And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears,  (16)  one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.  (17)  For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

 

What does this mean for us?

 

It was impossible for death to hold Him. I love that!  Sheol bit off more than it could chew with the Lord Jesus! So what does this mean for us? What hope does this give us?

 

Hebrews 2:14-15  Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--  (15)  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

 

His victory over death is our victory. It says here that people were held in slavery to a fear of death all their lives. Death to this day holds great fear over unbelievers. But that has been broken for the believer. As we know more of what Jesus did, and realise where we are going when we die, we are filled with an ever increasing hope and expectation of what is to come. Here are a few quotes from well known Christian leaders that emphasise this thought.

 

Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains…Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot block a man’s pathway for even a moment. The shadow of a dog can’t bite; the shadow of a sword can’t kill.   C.H. Spurgeon

 

As I go into a cemetery I like to think of the time when the dead shall rise from their graves. … Thank God, our friends are not buried; they are only sown!   D.L. Moody[4]

 

When a believer dies, the Bible tells us that ‘we do not mourn like those who have no hope’. We have hope because of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and that changes everything.

 

The realisation of the Hope!

 

Psalms 16:11 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.

 

‘You will make known to me the path of life.’  We see here the anticipation of resurrection and life!  And not only that, but Jesus is anticipating also His ascension back to the right hand of the Father. It says ‘in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever more.’  Wow!  That is the realisation of the hope that we have. And hope, the Bible tells us, does not disappoint!  

 

Let me say that again – true biblical hope does not disappoint! Obama’s hope disappoints. The hope that Jesus gives never will. The former are the words of a man wanting your vote. The latter are the words of God wanting your trust. The Christian life is a path of life. It leads to His presence where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. These are not political promises. They are not exaggerated nor given by someone who cannot deliver. They come from Him who cannot lie and they are reality. I know of nothing more glorious and hopeful than the future for a believer.

 

Someone called Charles Kingsley said ‘It is not darkness you are going to, for God is Light. It is not lonely, for Christ is with you. It is not an unknown country, for Christ (and I will add – your home) is there.’   

 

The contrast between a believer’s hope and those in the world couldn’t be greater. Look at the last verses in the very next Psalm:

 

Psalms 17:13-15  Arise, O Lord, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,  (14)  With Your hand from men, O Lord, From men of the world who have their portion in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. They are satisfied with children, and leave the rest of their possession for their babes.  (15)  As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

 

This passage firstly speaks of the men of this world. Their portion is in this life… for better or worse! They get their bellies filled, they might have children and at the end of their life they may even have some money or possessions left over to leave to their kids. And that’s it.[5] In contrast, look at the hope of the believer – ‘As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness’. There are countless sermons in that one verse alone to explain all the wonder of what it means! But in short, here is the realization of the Christian’s hope: We will be with Him and we will be like Him. We will be with Him who is life and be like Him who is fullness of joy. That is the realisation of the greatest Christian hope of all: To be with Him[6] and to be like Him.

 

Conclusion

 

I’m glad I went and restudied these passages again even after I had written most of it up for that little persistent voice was reminding that I was missing the key ingredient! I was baking a cake and leaving the baking powder on the shelf. The result was sure to be a flop! That key ingredient that now jumps off these pages in Psalm 16 for me is hope. And hope, as I said, does not disappoint! It is hope in the midst of the night seasons. It is hope for this life when there is a shaking going on. It is hope for our coming death and resurrection. And it is the realisation of that hope when we, as believers, are changed to be like Him and in His very presence! That is the real promise of hope and change you can bank on. You can’t beat that!

 

 



[1] Now I wrote most of this study up but it seemed a little disjointed to be honest. While that’s not necessarily a new thing, I kept getting a nagging suspicion that I was missing a key ingredient, a key theme that ties it all together. So I prayed, went back and read it again. And I received a different perspective on it. I think I found the key to this passage. It is HOPE!

 

[2] And not much has changed. In June this year (2014) Obama said the following: “if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been...”

 

 I guess he was hoping that we weren’t looking at Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Egypt, Gaza, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Somalia, Pakistan, the Congo, North Korea etc. Not exactly less violent and tolerant than it has ever been. In truth he should have said that its values are more upside down than they have ever been. Its citizens are more self absorbed than they have ever been. Its young are more disrespectful than they have ever been. The persecution and killing of Christians is the worst than it has ever been and its wars and rumours of wars are as bad as they have ever been; in our lifetime at least. Many commentators responded by asking whether Obama lives in some type of parallel universe! As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 10 times... uh well... I deserve everything I get!

 

[3] Let me give you a far greater example than my own. It is of an amazing man. Many of you would have heard of his story. His name is Horatio Spafford and he was a godly man living with his family in Chicago. He was a friend of D.L Moody, the great evangelist. In 1870, his only son contracted Scarlet Fever and sadly, died. The next year, 1871, Spafford was ruined financially when the Great Chicago Fire wiped out the properties he had invested in. But he pressed on and in 1873 he decided to travel to Europe with his family to help Moody with some of his evangelical outreaches that were taking place in London and other cities. But Spafford was delayed with business so he sent his wife and 4 daughters on ahead of him. While crossing the Atlantic, their ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford travelled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write the words of one of the greatest hymns in Church history as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

 

Look up most ‘top ten hymns of all time’ lists and it will be there. ‘It is well with my soul’ - It is a hymn of tremendous hope and courage in the midst of the darkest night. Amazing -- I’ll just add the first verse but knowing the story gives these words far greater meaning.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
 

[4] In fact Moody’s own death was remarkable. It is written: On Thursday, December 21, 1899, D.L Moody had to cut short his Kansas City crusade and return home due to ill health. Moody told his family, "I'm not discouraged. I want to live as long as I am useful, but when my work is done I want to be up and off." The next day Moody awakened after a restless night. In careful, measured words he said, "Earth recedes, Heaven opens before me!" His son, Will, concluded his father was dreaming. "No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go." 

 

And this guy makes me laugh. I haven’t read any books by Vance Havner but I did read that he is one of the most quoted Christians ever. From what I have read he was a well loved country southern Baptist preacher known for his truth packed one-liners! : )

 

The hope of dying is the only thing that keeps me alive.   Vance Havner
 

[5] Like many, I was saddened by the suicide of Robin Williams this week. The suicide of anyone is terrible because it means they were living in hopelessness... even if they have a smiley face and can make people laugh. He had had all the fame and wealth yet, it seems, no hope for the future and no way forward without taking his life. Such hopelessness is incredibly sad.  

 

[6] A young Christian, at the deathbed of an aged saint, said to him, "Shall I read to you the sweetest verse in the Bible?" "Yes," was the reply. The young man read the verse in John 14: "In My Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." "No," said the dying saint, "that is not the sweetest verse. Read on." The young man read on: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." "That is the sweetest," said the dying man. "It is not the mansions—it is Himself I want."