Passage: Psalm 16
“You’re focusing on the problem. If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution.” Those were the words of the genius Arthur Mendelson in the film Patch Adams starring the late great Robin Williams. They are wise words aren’t they? After all it is so easy to just focus on what’s not right, what’s gone wrong, our lousy circumstances etc. However, this changes when we look at the solution, as Mendelson says- “See what no-one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see out of fear, conformity or laziness- see the whole world anew each day!” The script writer wasn’t coming up with a revolutionary new concept but one that comes straight out of the bible, especially the Psalms. This week we’re looking at Psalm 16 and how the Lord is our refuge so that in difficult circumstances which might stir us, we won’t be shaken.
A Prayer to God (v1)
The background to this psalm is thought to have been the time when David was made an outlaw by King Saul. God had withdrawn his blessing from King Saul and anointed David. Saul was so bitterly jealous of David and his military victories and popularity that he wanted him dead. During this time David was constantly on the run, like a refugee, no home, no comforts, day to day survival, living in fear for his life. So he prays, “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” David’s refuge is not a place or a thing but a person, a person he knows intimately, trust completely and is his security- his God. David doesn’t focus on the problem but looks to the solution. We may not face the life or death experience of David, but when we face difficult circumstances how do we normally react? Do we focus on the problem? Do we look for someone to blame? Do we always try to fix it? How often over the past 5 months of Lockdown have we bemoaned the situation rather than looked in faith to the Lord? We must learn to look to the solution- “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.”
In Praise of God (v2-7)
“I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (v2) To take refuge in God is to delight in Him and remind ourselves that He alone is our ultimate treasure. David then delights in the Lord’s people, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.” (v3) And then exposes the error of seeking refuge in anyone or anything else- “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.” (v4) Seeking the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ during difficult times is terribly important as we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Then come some of the most remarkable words from the lips of a man on the run, like a refugee- “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (v5-6) The cynic might say that David was just blessed with a positive temperament, a glass half-full guy. But it is nothing to do with his temperament but everything to do with where he was looking, not at the problem but the solution. And God is not silent during this time of trial as v7 makes clear- “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” The Lord fills David with wisdom and truth to carry him through. When we face difficult times, it is so easy to keep our Bibles shut, especially if our circumstances have made us a bit angry with God. However, if we’re not feeding on the truth of God’s word then we leave ourselves exposed to the lies of Satan who is in the faith demolition and destruction business. Get into the habit of daily feeding on God’s word.
The Presence of God (v8-11)
“I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (v8) This verse is the heart of the psalm because he knows that the Lord (his refuge) is at his right hand (as his helper) therefore, he need not be shaken. Whatever we might be going through, what great comfort it is to know that God is with us by His Holy Spirit. Then in the concluding verses, David looks beyond his present circumstances to resurrection and eternity- “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (v9-11) The New Testament makes clear that David was not speaking of his own circumstances here but those faced by his greater Son who was to come, the Lord Jesus. In both Acts 2:25-33 (Peter’s Pentecost sermon) and Acts 13:35-37 (Paul’s Pisidian Antioch sermon) both make clear that David spoke prophetically of the resurrection of the Christ and his subsequent exaltation and rule at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and His victory is ours through faith in Him. That is why Paul can say to the Ephesians- “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (1:3) So whatever trial we might encounter in life, if I am a Christian, I am united by faith to the one who has dealt with my sin once and for all time, has conquered death, rules over absolutely everything and in whom I am utterly secure for all eternity. I might be stirred, but I need not be shaken!
Points to Ponder
-Is there a situation that you a presently facing where you have been focusing solely on the problem and not looking to the solution? Why not speak to God about it today?
-If you’ve been struggling to read your Bible why not make a plan today. Perhaps start with a letter like Colossians or Philippians and read a section each day. Ask God to give you the desire and hunger for his truth and the perseverance to keep going.
-Is there a fellow Christian who is going through the mill who you could encourage?