Theme: Our Portion in Life and Death
In this week’s lessons we learn from one text how the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ resurrection.
Scripture: Psalm 16:1-11
Yesterday we concluded with the observation that this psalm can be divided into four parts, and that is was written by David, perhaps when he was fleeing for his life from King Saul.
1. The psalmist’s relationship to God (vv. 1, 2). The opening verses begin with a statement of the psalmist’s relationship to God, and the essence of that relationship is in the names for God he uses. The first word is el, translated simply “God” in verse l. El is the most common name for God. But the unique quality of this name is that it delineates God as “the strong (or mighty) one.” It is appropriately chosen in verse l, for it is in God as the mighty one that the psalmist takes refuge.
The second name is Jehovah, translated “LORD” in the first part of verse 2. This is the personal name of the great God of Israel. It was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Moses had asked, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exod. 3:13, 14). Since this name is the covenant name for God in relationship to his chosen people, it is appropriate that it is in this verse, where the name is mentioned, rather than in verse 1, that David confesses, “Apart from you I have no good thing.”
The third name for God is adonai, translated “Lord” in the second part of verse 1. Adonai can be used of an earthly lord as well as of God. so when the psalmist says, as he does, “I said to the LORD [Jehovah], ‘You are my Lord [adonai]’” he is saying that the God of Israel is his master. That is, God is not only the strong, powerful God in which he is able to take refuge but also the one who is able to order his life and direct what he should do—and does do it. We have an equivalent of this in our common New Testament way of speaking when we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. “Savior” corresponds to el. It is as the strong one that Jesus saves us. “Lord” is the equivalent of adonai. It means that Jesus is also Master of our lives.
ls Jesus your Lord and Savior, your Master? If he is, you should be able to say, as David does, “Apart from you have no good thing.”
This means that God is the source of all good. James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). It means that if we do not have God himself, even the best things of life will be valueless to us. Jesus asked, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). It means that, having come to know God as our refuge, redeemer and Lord, nothing hereafter can ever mean as much to us as God does.
The immediate result of the psalmist’s relationship to God (vv. 3, 4). Since God is the one by whom the psalmist measures all else, it follows that the immediate result of his relationship to God is its bearing on his relationships to others. This has two sides. On the one hand, the psalmist is drawn to the righteous, whom he calls “the saints who are in the land.” He says, “They are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.” On the other hand, he is turned away from the wicked. He says of them, “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.”
This is a very practical matter, for it is a way by which we can measure our relationships to the Lord. Do you love other Christians? Do you find it good and rewarding to be with them? Do you seek their company? This is a very simple test. Those who love the Lord will love the company of those who also love him. Those who find their “good” in God will also find good in those who likewise seek him. On the other hand, do you find it uncomfortable to be with those who sin openly? Are you troubled by their values, shocked by their desires, repulsed by their blasphemies? Are you at ease among them? If, like Peter, you have no difficulty warming your hands at the fire of those who are hostile to your Master, it is probably because you are far from him. You had best get back to him before you deny him as Peter did.
List and explain the three names of God used in this chapter.
How does our relationship to God affect our relationship to others?
Application: What specific blessings come from fellowshipping with other Christians?