A Prayer for Safety and Security from the Psalmist
June 26, 2022
Today's Reading from the Common Lectionary cycle of the Psalms (16) with my reflections (written some years back):
Psalm 16:1 - Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Never separate the two parts of this prayer or you will diffuse its power. The first part is a request made in faith. The second is a declaration of faith upon which every request is made and in which our confidence resides. Safety, in and of itself, is of limited value. We are safe from what and for what? The end and the means are the same here. We are made safe by abiding that we might safely abide in Christ. If God is our refuge, that is enough to say. It is an end in itself. To be in Christ is the end that brings every new beginning. Where is your principal residence in this life? Every anxiety and discomfort is addressed by the answer of faith. If you reside in God and take refuge in Him, then rest in Him and abandon all concern for safety from that which you cannot control. God is in charge.
Psalm 16:2 - I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
This is so very important! First, we must recognize that to say “Lord” is not just to utter a religious word or to speak with respect toward our chosen deity. In the naming of God as Lord is a relinquishment of every other value, treasure, and prize. It is to acknowledge Him as Supreme Master and to render everything else in our lives as valueless apart from Him. It is in acknowledging Him as the source of every good gift that those gifts have worth. It is in knowing Him that every other vision fades in importance and takes its place in His court as subservient to His will.
Psalm 16:3 - As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
One of the great privileges of the new birth is that we are born into a family of saint with whom we can associate and in whose fellowship we can delight. To be a saint is to be separate, holy, and dedicated to a particular function. That function, for the Christian, is the praise and glory of God. In one sense, it is not a mysterious or otherworldly thing to be a saint. In another sense, it is to profoundly embrace a mystery that we can never fully understand and be apprehended by a world far beyond our reach in these mortal bodies. If one is a saint indeed, one loves other saints because, in them, we see God’s face as clearly as possible in this life –even among those who dwell in the land.
Psalm 16:4 - 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.
Today, we join the eternal chorus of welcome as the Lord Jesus Christ enters into our consciousness as the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. He is the Prince of Peace and righteousness. His Kingdom comes with glory and praise, but also with a cross of pain and disgrace. Yet, He willing enters into the sphere of time, space, and judgment to face whatever stands between Him and His mission to bring all who welcome Him into eternal fellowship with the Father. Let us lift our voices in worship as we worship Him.
Psalm 16:5 - Lord, you have assigned my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
God is righteous. That means that everything about Him is fully integrated into His holy character – He is 100% pure truth, love, goodness, and holiness. There are no contradictions in God – except those that we contrive in our own misunderstanding of Him. He loves justice. His heart delights in seeing things set aright. He loves consistency in our lives. He takes joy when His truth is integrated into the loose dimensions of our lives and we come into right relationship with Him. There is a promise in this verse, that the upright will see His face. What a glorious affirmation! The more we seek Him, the more our hearts are changed by His power within us and the clearer our vision of Who He is becomes. We can see God. His grace in Jesus Christ removes the scales from our eyes so that we may have a glimpse in this life and the hope of full disclosure in the life to come. Let that truth sink into the pores of your being today and celebrate it as you walk through the maze of confusing messages and distorted truth. You can see God.
Psalm 16:6 - The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness? Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking? Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours? Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.” We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one. “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.” From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”
Psalm 16:7 - I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust? The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth. Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies. Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal. Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.
Psalm 16:8 - I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
First, consider this reflecting on Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said. Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial? Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes? Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves? We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. If possible, find a place this day to partake of communion with other believers and remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.
Psalm 16:9 – Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross. (Philippians 2) He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and deliverer from sin. God has always been the champion of the weak and needy. The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you. Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross. Do not let this day pass as any other.
Psalm 16:10 - because you will not abandon my to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Oh, precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light. On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours. After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection. We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.
Psalm 16:11 - 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.
What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised, we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).” We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." -- Saint Francis of Assisi