Psalms Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 16, Preserved By God


  1. The sixteenth psalm is one that poses much trouble in trying to understand. It does not take but one or two readings of this psalm to begin to wonder who this psalm is speaking about. There are quite a few different views that have been advanced concerning this psalm and its subject.
  2. Some scholars believe that the psalm is referring strictly to David and no one else. Some liberal commentators have a problem with David being a prophet of God (Acts 2:30 ) and cannot accept that David could be speaking of the Messiah to come. Others contend that this psalm is speaking completely of the Messiah and has no personal references to David at all. Still others believe that this psalm speaks of both David and the Messiah to come.
  3. As we read this psalm, I would like for you to determine which seems most accurate to you. I am going to present my understanding of this psalm, but I in no way want to hinder you from drawing your own conclusions concerning this psalm.

I. Relationship to God (16:1-4)

A. Preservation and refuge

  1. The psalm begins, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” This first word in the psalm is the overall message of the psalmist. God has the power to preserve those who are His. Therefore, David begins by expressing his desire for God to keep him safe.
  2. This concept of preservation and refuge has also been a common theme that we have seen expressed by the psalmist so far in our studies. God is the one to turn to in all situations, whether good or bad, joyful or turbulent. To the righteous the Lord is a refuge, a solace to those who are hurting and suffering.

B. My Lord

  1. David then writes, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.'” Our English language blurs what is actually being said by using the same word “Lord” twice in the passage. Some versions have tried to show that these are different words by capitalizing the first “Lord” and not capitalizing the second “Lord.”
  2. The first “Lord in verse 2 is the name Jehovah or YHWH in the Hebrew. This is the proper name, if you will, for the Lord. However, David writes that he says to God, “You are my adonai.” This Hebrew word means “master.” Therefore, we ought to understand David writing something like this: I say to the Lord, You are my master. David confesses that God is the ruler of his life. Even more, consider that in verse 1 David called out to “God” or El in the Hebrew. This is the abbreviated form of elohim which expresses God as the all-powerful one in strength and might.

C. Goodness from God

  1. The writer also says to the Lord, “I have no good apart from you.” There are a couple of different ways these ideas can be expressed depending upon the manuscript source one uses. The Septuagint expresses the phrase this way, “You do not need my goodness.”
  2. This must be the realization of every person: apart from God we have no goodness. We like to think that we can be these “good moral people” and such is acceptable to God. We hear people ask whether good moral people will go to heaven even though they have not been obedient to the Lord. What we must realize is that we have no goodness apart from obedience to God. There is no such thing as being a good person if we are not serving the Lord. Anyone who is a violator of God’s law is not good. Instead, the person is ungodly, evil, and stands condemned, not good.
  3. Further, the Septuagint tweaks the perspective that we ought to have even further. God does not need our goodness that we do work. Shall we think that God will be compelled to let us into heaven because we have performed some good moral works? Do we think that there is anything we can do that would cause God to say, “Because you have done such and such, I must let you in?” God does not need our goodness. God does not need us. God did not need to create us. God was whole without us before time as we know it began. Lord, you are my master; you do not need my goodness.
  4. This verse eliminates in my mind the possibility that these first seven verses are referring to Christ. Most commentators understand this whole psalm to be referring to the Christ because of the information found in verses 8-11. But I simply cannot see how verse 2 can be applied to the Christ. I cannot see the Christ saying to the Father, “I have no goodness apart from you.” Such words would suggest that the Christ is not God. To understand this referring to the coming Messiah causes great complexities and difficulties, which are quickly resolved if we simply understand David to be speaking these words. Because of these two verses, I will continue our study assuming that David is speaking these words and not the Christ.

D. The Effects of a Relationship With God

  1. First, we see that those who are the holy ones of God are the excellent ones in the earth. David recognizes that there are others who are trying to serve the Lord, and in them he is able to find delight. We must remember that we are not the only ones who are trying to serve the Lord. It can be very easy for us to adopt an attitude like Elijah who believed that he was the only one left who was faithfully serving God. What a delight it is to worship and serve with others who have the same goal and intentions in life. We cannot see eye to eye with others who do not have a zeal for the Lord. While we may be friends and close companions, there is always something that is missing. What joy there is in fellowshipping with those who have a common goal and common love for God.
  2. Second, David also expresses a sorrow for those who run after other gods. He knows that those who seek after other gods will only find more sorrows and he refuses to run with them. How important it is for us to realize that the chasing after other gods will only cause greater sorrow in our lives. Too often we believe that seeking after the money god, the possession god, the comfort god, the television god, the work god, or any other thing that is important to us will bring us happiness. These pursuits only perpetuate our sorrows.

III. Present Blessings Due to a Relationship With God (16:5-8)

A. Assigned me my portion and my cup

  1. David will now describe in these next few verses the blessings that he has because of his relationship with God. The first point made is that God has assigned his portion and this cup. One’s portion can either refer to one’s land or to one’s food. Since this sentence is tied to the cup, it is likely referring to the portion of food that is given by God.
  2. Essentially, David writes that God has taken care of him when it comes to food and drink. God has provided for him daily. We simply do not understand that type of appreciation and thanksgiving because we never have had concern for where our next meal would come from. Our greatest concern is usually what we will eat, not if we will eat. We must remember that God has given us such blessings today and give thanks.

B. My lot is secure

  1. David further says that God has made his lot secure. This statement alludes to the fact that God has taken care of him through every circumstance. Regardless of what may happen in life, he is made secure by God.
  2. All followers of God have this same hope and promise. God will provide for us and keep us secure when we are with Him. This is not to say that nothing bad will ever happen, for bad things happened to David and happened to Jesus. But this does remind us that God will never forsake us or let us go.

C. I have a beautiful inheritance

  1. David further describes the beautiful inheritance he has been given by God. David is content with what God has given to him. There is no statement of needing to have more than what he has. David does not say that this is not enough…give me more. David is content with what God has given and gratefully accepts these things.
  2. Dare I say that such an application is necessary for us today. How easy it is for us to always be looking for how to attain more and never be content and grateful for what we do have. We need to be thrilled with what has been given to us. While things may not be as we perfectly envisioned in our minds, we have been given so much and must always receive what God has given us with thanksgiving.

D. The Lord gives counsel

  1. Furthermore, the Lord is his counselor. David needed counsel that he could trust and follow. David allowed the Lord to lead him and instruct him. David listened to the direction of the Lord and followed Him with all his heart.
  2. Do we not also need counsel that we can trust? We make decisions that will affect the outcome of our lives and determine if we will receive reward or grave consequences. Should we not consult God? We must make decisions that affect those who we love most and those who are very close to us. Will we look for God’s advice and direction or will we follow our own wisdom? We are fools when we do not pray for God’s wisdom (James 1:5). We are stubborn when we do not ask for God’s direction. We are mindless when we do not let the scriptures instruct the way for our feet.

E. I shall not be shaken

  1. What a beautiful thought that David concludes with in verse 8. David has made a decision to always set the Lord in front of his eyes. Because he has made God first in his life, he shall not be shaken.
  2. This ties back into psalm 15 which we studied last time. Notice how David ended the psalm, “He who does these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15:5). David makes the same point here. When we are in a relationship with God, we cannot be shaken. Though we may endure the great turbulences of life, we will be like a tree firmly planted by the waters (Psalm 1). We will be steady and firm through whatever life throws at us or whatever Satan may use to try to destroy us.

IV. The Future Hope (16:8-11)

A. Resurrection–David speaks of another

  1. The passage now takes a dramatic turn as we read this psalm. Still writing in the first person, the psalmist writes of things that could not apply to himself. In fact, Acts 2:25,30 tells us that David was speaking of someone other than himself. David was not referring to himself when he penned the final words of this psalm. Peter tells us that David was a prophet (Acts 2:30 ), therefore David uses this as an opportunity to prophesy concerning the coming Messiah. This passage becomes a central part of the apostles’ teaching.
  2. First, consider the argument Paul used when preaching from this psalm in Acts 13:35-39. Paul is in the synagogue on the Sabbath day in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. Paul gives a synopsis of the history of Israel , beginning with the exodus and concluding with the death of Jesus. Paul then goes on to show that Jesus raised from the dead, fulfilling the prophecy found in psalm 2 and then quotes a fragment of psalm 16, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 13:35). Paul continues with his argument, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.” Paul asks the Jews in the synagogue if they think these words were fulfilled by David. Of course they could not be, for David died and saw corruption. This is the first argument presented to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, for He did not see corruption, God raising Him from the dead. Now, forgiveness of sins is offered to everyone who believes.
  3. Peter also used a similar argument, but a fuller argument, from Psalm 16 as well. In Acts 2:24 Peter argues that God raised up Jesus from the dead. His proof that this was God’s doing is the quotation of this psalm. Here, Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11 and says that David was speaking of the Christ. Jesus would not be shaken because the Lord was ever before Him. May I make a side point that this again proves that Jesus was not forsaken by the Lord on the cross, just as we have pointed out from Psalm 22. I encourage you to look at that study again which can be found on the website. In Psalm 16, David is speaking of the Christ and says that the Lord would ever be before Him.
  4. Therefore, the Christ would rest in hope of this because the Christ would not remain in Hades. In Psalm 16 we read “you will not abandon my soul in Sheol.” Sheol is the Hebrew word used to describe the grave, the pit, or the abyss. So also, Hades is simply the Greek word of that same concept, the final resting place when we die. David says that the Christ would not remain there. Furthermore, the Christ would not experience decay or corruption.
  5. In Acts 2:29 Peter goes further to say that David is dead and buried, and his tomb was still with them to that day. In verse 31, Peter quotes Psalm 16:10 again further illustrating that David was speaking of his descendant who would sit on his throne. Not only does the prophecy prove that Jesus is the chosen one of God, but Peter offers two other proofs. In Acts 2:32 Peter goes further to say that they are eyewitnesses of Jesus being resurrected. They saw Him arrested and they saw Him die. Then all the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus. The final proof Peter offers is in verse 33 that Jesus has now ascended to the right hand of God, received the promised Holy Spirit and has poured it out upon the apostles, of which the multitudes were witnesses. All people were to know that Jesus is the Lord and Messiah.
  6. Jesus raising from the dead is the central importance of our faith. This event is something that the apostles declared to be fundamental to every follower. If Jesus raised from the dead, then He is the Lord. We should not be surprised that Jesus raised from the dead, since the event was predicted by David over 1000 years earlier. Further, the apostles were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and miracles that the apostles performed were evidence of the risen Jesus.

B. Resurrection–hope for us

  1. But there is hope for us in the prophecy of David that we have studied from psalm 16. First, the reason we shall not be shaken is through the resurrection of Jesus. He is the proof that we will be preserved by God. Just as God preserved and protected Jesus as He promised, so that His body did not see decay or corruption and His soul was not left in Hades, so we also will be preserved by God.
  2. The writer of Hebrews argues this very point in Hebrews 10:35-39. The writer encourages us not to throw away our confidence and to exercise endurance so we may receive what is promised. What has been promised? First, the coming one will not delay. Therefore the righteous will live by faith. Notice how the writer concludes in verse 39, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
  3. While our bodies will decay, our souls will be preserved by God if we will live righteously by faith. God’s fulfilled promises give us confidence. Since God raised Jesus from the dead according to His promise, then God will preserve our souls according to this promise. Though Jesus stared death in the face, suffered a horrible death, and knew He would die by lawless hand, He could still say “therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices” (Psalm 16:9). Our hearts can be glad and we can greatly rejoice because we see through the resurrection of Christ that we will not be shaken and God will not forsake us.


  1. We are in the presence of God and because of this fact, there is great joy. The psalm concludes with the words, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” We have great delight because the path of righteousness has been revealed to us and we are able to obtain immeasurable joy in God’s presence. In fact, at God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore.
  2. Let us not waiver or let go of our confidence. The path we are on is worth the work. The sacrifices we may have to make are well worth the reward we will receive. Let us always remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how His actions prove the hope we have within us. This hope belongs to those who live by faith, obeying the Lord with all our hearts. (ESV)
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