As a pastor in my mid-20s, I was immersed into the world of funerals quite early. Within three weeks of becoming a pastor, I helped officiate two funerals in the same day. I noticed that sometimes the process of dying can have an anesthetizing effect, which can help people care for the bereaved. I also noticed that some people held to the secular belief that death is a part of life or the belief that death is natural. It’s important for Christians to remember that death and sorrow are normal, but they aren’t natural or final. Psalm 16 makes that truth clear.
In this series, we’ve looked at psalms exhorting us to the blessed path in life (Psalm 1), celebrating God’s anointed King, Christ (Psalm 2), and crying out to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy (Psalm 6). The next two chapters we are looking at give us insight into the character of Jesus in different ways. Psalm 16 begins with an expression of devotion to God. If we pray or sing this psalm, we first express our dependence on Him (16:1) and then our devotion to Him (2). We recognize the fact that ultimately our only true good is Him. A devotion to God, moreover, leads to a devotion to His people. The Psalmist, therefore, expresses a delight in God’s people (3).
If God is our only true god, then idolatry completely removes that which makes life worthwhile. This psalm also, in verse 4, recognizes the fact that idolatry is the fundamental evil (see also Exodus 20:2-6). The Psalmist then returns to the blessedness of knowing God. God is our inheritance and hope, and we could have no better hope in life (5-6). He gives us the guidance we need (7) and is, therefore, worthy of our praise and devotion (7-8). Verse 8 shows us that as we hold Him in our heart, we can have confidence that He will never allow us to fall away (see also Romans 8:31-39).
The last three verses provide the climax of the psalm. These truths fill the Psalmist — and all who sing and believe these truths — with what Peter would call “inexpressible joy” (compare verse 9 with 1 Peter 1:8). Verses 10-11 express confidence that the Lord will never allow the Psalmist to experience destruction; he will instead delight in the Lord’s presence forever.
At this point, it is important to remember that Jesus said the Old Testament points to Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27). This psalm, as Peter notes in his sermon at Pentecost, isn’t talking about David, nor is it speaking of us. The psalm is about the Christ (Acts 2:25-28). He is the one who never saw decay or corruption. Unlike David, Christ rose from the dead. He is the one who perfectly trusted in His Father (Psalm 16:1-2, 5-8), shunned idolatry (4), delighted in the saints (3), and never saw corruption (10). If by His grace He has saved us, we are now in Him. So as I mentioned earlier in this article, we can pray and sing these verses, but only through Christ our Savior.
Since God fulfilled these verses literally in the life of the Lord Jesus, we can place our hope in the fact that He will fulfill these for us as well. Our hope is that God will raise our bodies when the Lord returns so that we may live bodily with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). We can also expect to live joyfully forever since in His presence is unconquerable life and unconquerable joy.