Psalm 16: Keep Me Safe!

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)

We’re going to spend this next week listening to how the songwriter David worshipped God in Psalm 16. I wish we could hear the music, but the words – written under the inspiration of the subject of the song – hold deep secrets about what it means to trust him and enjoy the life he gives to us.

jump_350Ever wonder what the most popular prayer in history might be? My guess is that these words would make the top 5: “Keep me safe!” David spent years at war, in battle, and on the run for his life from powerful enemies. Aside from armed conflict, I bet this request gets used a lot in heavy traffic, in hospitals, and even in sleepless bedrooms.

David was convinced that God’s answer was loud and clear: “Yes!” And that faith provoked him to put all of his eggs in one basket, all of his hope for safety in the hands of one loving, powerful, and good God.

Think: When are you most likely to feel the least safe? Is your first instinct to ask God for help? Are you convinced that he hears and answers that prayer?

Pray: Ask God for the courage to put all of your hope for safety in his hands. Thank him that he is trustworthy to provide for all of your needs in every kind of dangerous situation you might face.

Do: Make a quick list of 3 of the most dangerous moments in your life up until this point. Think about how God protected you in those moments.

Psalm 16: No Good Thing

“I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ ” (Psalm 16:2)

One of the major growing-up steps in the Christian life is to be able to say – and believe (much harder) – the statement David makes to God in this verse.

jump_350It’s a dangerous faith statement. To believe it is to leave all the false self-hope behind. To believe it is to say, “Everything I thought I’d given to myself was actually God’s gift to me.” To believe it is to say, “Every good thing I don’t have right now is something my loving Father didn’t give to me – so I must not need it in this moment.”

To believe this statement – and all the implications it brings – is to step into the deeper end of the faith pool. It’s an idea that should fill us with gratitude as we notice all the good things we have. But it’s also one that will challenge our willingness to trust the powerful Father who knows us best to give us what he decides is for our good in his timing.

Think: How convinced are you that you have no good thing apart from God? Is there a difference between agreeing with this idea on paper and actually living like it’s true?

Pray: Thank God that he is the source of every truly good thing in your life. Ask him to help you to trust his timing to provide you with good things in the future.

Do: Read another expression of this idea in James 1:16-18.

Psalm 16: I Will Not

“As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. 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.” (Psalm 16:3-4)

To get the full impact of today’s passage, it helps to read the one before it again: “I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ ”

jump_350David describes two big differences between people who are willing to agree with God that without him they “have no good thing” – and people who look everywhere else but God for good things.

The first difference is emotional. Those who chase false gods (of all kinds) in hopes of finding good things for themselves will end up sad. And then sadder. And then sadder still. Those who enjoy good gifts from the one true God will have, well, enjoyment.

Two, David refuses to hedge his bets. He refuses to add any other gods to his worship playlist just in case the God of the universe didn’t come through for him, after all. He was convinced that God never fails. He put 100 percent of his hope in the God who is One.

Think: Most of us don’t worship idols or practice other religions. Our worship is for God alone. But do we sometimes disobey or ignore him in hopes of finding good things without him? What are some of the things modern Christians are tempted to turn into “other gods”?

Pray: Thank God that he is the only source of goodness in your life. Ask him to help you to notice when you start hoping for good things from false sources.

Do: Make a quick list of 10 good things God has given to you that you will enjoy today, and then take a minute to thank him for each of them.

Psalm 16: J.J. Abrams and the God of Time

“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.” (Psalm 16:5-6)

Are you a fan of writer/director/producer/entertainment philosopher J.J. Abrams? If you have seen some of his work – the “Star Trek” movies, “Lost,” “Fringe,” “The Force Awakens,” etc. – you may have noticed that he wants you to think really hard about time travel.

jump_350More specifically, he wants you to wrestle with the ages-old debates about whether our paths are predetermined or whether we might be able to change our destiny. It’s a fun bone to chew on, but it’s also one that leaves us asking some difficult personal questions.

If I could go back and change my past, would I? Is my “present reality” good enough? What is good? Should I accept things as they are or make every effort in my power to change my reality? If I had unlimited free will and unlimited power to change everything, would I make it better – or far worse? And, finally, what does any of this have to do with Psalm 16?

Only this: David said to the one true God: “You are the only source of good things in my life. I will choose to be content with whatever you give me today – to enjoy it, even – and to look forward to all the good things you’ll give me forever.”

Whatever the answer to all those sticky questions, David focused in this psalm on tuning his heart to God’s goodness – and left the past, present, and future up to his powerful, loving, trustworthy Father.

Think: Tell yourself the truth: Are you willing to trust God with how your life turns out today, with the good things you do and don’t end up with? Do you think you are a source of good; do you think you could create more good things in the universe if you could change the past, the present, or the future?

Pray: Thank God for what he has provided for you today, for your lot in life right in this moment. Ask him to help you to trust him to provide exactly what you need – and much much more – tomorrow and forever.

Do: Read Hebrews 13:4-6 and think about what sexual purity, contentment, and the love of money have to do with trusting the God of time.

Psalm 16: Always Before Me

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:7-8)

If you’ve been following David’s train of thought in Psalm 16 this week, today’s passage should seem like the next logical stop. If you’re convinced that all good things come from God, that those who put 100 percent of their hope in him are happier, and that he is providing for you today – and forever – then:

jump_350You wouldn’t stop thinking about him, listening to him, talking to him, learning about him. So why do so many of us do exactly the opposite?

We gather on Sunday morning and sing words like, “My only hope is you!” and “Great is the Lord and worthy of glory!” and “You are my rock and my salvation!” And then we walk out the door and think about him as little as possible until the next Sunday, maybe checking in with him in our minds once or twice a day as an act of duty.

I can think of three reasons I sometimes try to move thoughts of God off of my daily playlist: One, I want to spend some time doing things I know he doesn’t like (sin). Two, I’m not fully convinced God is God in my life, that he really is the source of all good things. Or, three, I’m crazy in the head, behaving as irrationally as someone who has forgotten that one and one is two.

Think: Why do you think anyone would avoid learning about or responding to the one source of all good things? How often do you ignore God? Why?

Pray: Thank God that he counsels you through his Word. Ask him to help you to set him always before you.

Do: Notice this week what percentage of your thoughts involve God in one way or another, even if he’s just “there” while you’re thinking about other things.

Psalm 16: Will Not Abandon

“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.” (Psalm 16:9-10)

Today’s passage is true on three levels:

jump_3501) While writing this, David was likely in some kind of danger. But he rejected anxiety because he was convinced God would save him. He chose to sleep soundly, trusting God to keep him safe in spite of his scary circumstances. He was even happy and singing!

2) Both Peter and Paul quote these verses in the book of Acts (Acts 2:25-28 and 13:35-37), and both show how David’s words pointed ahead to his descendent, Jesus, the ultimate Holy One. They explained that David’s words rightly predicted that Jesus would not rot away in a tomb but come back to life instead.

3) All Christians can claim these words, in a sense. We may die physically, but God will not let death keep us rotting in the ground, either. As his saints, his “holy ones,” we will be resurrected, too, just as he was. (See 1 Corinthians 15:22.)

Think: Does knowing that God is with you in hard times – and that he will ultimately keep you safe forever – help you to have a glad heart and happy tongue? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God that he was able to keep David safe, that he raised Jesus back to life, and that he has given you eternal life, as well. Ask him to help you to be happy about that.

Do: If you haven’t, yet, read how Peter explained these verses in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.

Psalm 16: Pleasure Forever

“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.” (Psalm 16:11)

How important is heaven to you? I’ve got a good friend who is dying, and he knows it. He has always been a joyful guy, and he might be even more so today. He’s convinced of the reality of what we tend to call heaven – that God will fill him with joy and eternal pleasure in his presence forever.

jump_350I get why heaven is important to people who are forced by leaky life to deal with the reality of death. But I also know many believers who hold on to heaven like a consolation prize. They’re not all that excited about the experience; they’re still putting a big chunk of hope in fulfilling their dreams in this life.

It’s hard to blame ourselves for feeling that way; heaven is a tough place to imagine – and our desires for good things here are so powerful. Ultimately, though, we’re built to be with God. Nothing good he gives us in the life will even come close to matching the eternal pleasures and endless joy of heaven.

Good days here are fine gifts from our good God. But the good days there – with him – are the point of it all.

Think: How often do you think about heaven? Would you say that you’re looking forward to it? Do you expect that being with God will be the ultimate experience, the moment when everything missing will finally be complete?

Pray: Thank God for the hopeful certainty of heaven for all who are in Christ. Ask him to help your anticipation for being with him there to build.

Do: Read Colossians 3:1-4.