Psalm 16
6. The God Who Lives

Songs of Jesus
The God Who Lives Dan Bidwell, Senior Pastor Psalm 16 31 July 2022

A couple of years ago my family got to go on a mission trip to Fiji with our church’s Year 12 school-leavers. They needed chaperones and somebody had to do it.

It was a great trip – we served in an orphanage and at a women’s shelter, and then we all did a homestay in a Fijian village.

We also got a little vacation at the end. And Fiji doesn’t disappoint. We took the team to an island resort for 4 days, basically a tiny desert island with white beaches in the middle of crystal blue waters... You could walk all the way around the island in about 20 minutes and we had the entire island to ourselves. It was totally idyllic.

Even better, our family got to stay on one side of the island in this cute little hut (bure) on the beach, and all the students were on the other side of the island!

The only catch was that, to get there, you had to go through a narrow jungle pathway for about 300 yards or so.

During the day it was ok – there were vines and bananas and pawpaws and some shade from the hot Fijian sun.

But at night-time? Well, the Fijian guy who showed us the path to our room said, “You can never go on the path at night-time. You have to go around the outside of the island.”

We were a bit concerned. What was in the middle of the island that came out at night? What might be waiting on the pathway if you did venture down it in the dark???

Spiders? Giant mangrove crabs? Sea snakes? For those of you who’ve seen Lost, perhaps polar bears?

What was waiting down the pathway to Sunrise Beach at night?
We’re not sure, because we never found out...
In today’s passage, from Psalm 16, the Psalmist talks about
the path of life.



We all know that life’s path is not always smooth, and that sometimes there are nasty surprises hiding around the corner.

But in this Psalm, we hear the way that David entrusts himself to God, no matter what the path of life might hold.

So why don’t we pray, then we’ll open Psalm 16 in detail.

Our heavenly Father, as we open your word now, help us to hear you speak. Will you calm our fears and help us to trust you, no matter what our life’s path might hold. Help us to take these words into our own prayer life. Through Jesus Christ we pray, amen.

Well, we are right in the middle of our summer sermon series in the Psalms – we’re calling it Songs of Jesus. That’s partly because the Psalms have been around for a long time – the one we’re reading today was written about 1000 years before Jesus was born, and Jesus would have sung this Psalm as part of his worship, just like generations had done before.

But they are not songs of Jesus just because he sung them. Actually in these Psalms we find word of prophecy that help us identify and understand who Jesus was, and what he came to do. Word which point us to deep truths that are fulfilled in Jesus, and we’ll see that in our Psalm today.

Just so you know, I have three big ideas from the Psalm today – danger, desire and destiny. There might be a fourth one, but you’ll have to wait and see what it is!

So... danger.
The psalm starts with David, in some kind of danger: (verse 1)

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

What kind of danger was David in? We don’t really know. And the psalm doesn’t give any further detail.

But it seems to have been life-threatening danger. In v10, David speaks about being abandoned ‘to the realm of the dead...

This is a real and present danger for David. And coming to God in prayer, he seeks refuge in the only one who can help, that is, his God.

For David, his life was full of dangers.


  • -  As a young shepherd boy, he had been alone on the hills with the sheep, and he’d had to protect them from wild animals, even bears and lions.

  • -  He’d faced the giant Goliath as a teenager

  • -  He had spent months on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him. Later in his life David had had to flee from his son Absalom, who wanted the throne. Perhaps that’s the context for this psalm.

  • -  Or maybe it’s the prayer of an old man facing the final enemy, death...

I’m not sure.

But I’m sure if it mattered, David would have told us what danger he was facing.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, for the rest of the Psalm we see how processes his response in the face of danger. And we get an insight into the inner workings of David’s mind as he convinces himself that God is his refuge...

So let’s look at the second section – desire (verses 2-6). Desire

A few years ago a book came out called, ‘You are what you love’. It’s by Jamie Smith, a Christian man and philosophy professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

In this book he argues that we are built for worship, and we’ll worship whatever we set our love upon.

The problem, he says, is this:

God has created us for himself, and our hearts are designed to find their end in him, yet many spend their days restlessly craving rival gods, frenetically pursuing rival kingdoms. The subconscious longings of our hearts are aimed and directed elsewhere; our orientation is askew; our erotic compass malfunctions, giving us false bearings. When this happens, the results can be disastrous.

James K. Smith, You Are What You Love Our problem, Smith says, is that in our sinful nature we have set our love on things other than

God. And so we desire the wrong things, and we worship the wrong things.


But he argues that we can retrain our hearts to love God, and we do it by forming habits of right worship towards God.

I think David knows this too.
And that’s why he reminds himself in this prayer, of
who God is to him, and what God has done. Look at v2.
David says to the Lord,

“You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.” (Psalm 16:2)

David starts the retraining of his heart by reminding himself who God is – his Lord. His master.

That makes David a servant (or a subject) of God. This is a bold thing for a King to say, one who has great power in his own right. Instead here he reminds himself who the true king is. The Lord.

His own Lord, who gives him everything he has.

Apart from you I have no good thing. (Psalm 16:2)

David reminds himself that all he has comes from the Lord – whether we are talking about David at the height of his kingship, or David hiding in a cave while Saul pursues him...

Wherever he is, whatever life throws at David, he knows that he has nothing except for what God has given him. In feast and famine, David reminds himself who it is that provides for him.

David teaches us an important lesson here.

I need reminding every day that I no longer belong to myself, but that I belong to the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, I was bought at a great price, and I am no longer the master and commander of what happens in Dan Bidwell’s life. I am a servant. A slave of Jesus Christ.

And all the good things in my life, all my achievements – whether it’s my job, or my intellect, or my possessions – I don’t have them because I am somehow special. I have them because God has given them to me.

And as I say this again and again, as I speak this truth to myself again and again, I am remembering that the universe doesn’t revolve around me.

Instead God is refocusing my heart, refocusing my worship, retraining me to take refuge in Him. 4


Sometimes when we look around us, it seems like other people have all the good things. The rich, the famous, the successful, the tycoons. The tech billionaires. There is something about them that we wish we had.

Wealth. Status. Power. Sex.

There’s something attractive about those things. David had them all. And he could have surrounded himself with the wealthy, the powerful, the beautiful.

The problem, though, is that those people are seeking something different in life than David. They chase after other gods (v4). And they suffer for it.

I grew up in a world where we chased after wealth, power, status. That was my whole identity. But there’s not much room at the top. For all that seeking after fame and wealth and status, most of us just end up with crippling debt; crippling work hours; the crippling cost of trying to stay young and attractive. Lots of our peers, perhaps even some of us, in chasing after those other gods, end up sacrificing everything to get that promotion, to get that house, to get that illicit moment of sex...

David almost came unstuck because of that last one.

But here he swears that he will not sacrifice at that altar again. He won’t take up the names of those gods on his lips. He won’t entertain the fantasy of wealth or status, he won’t fixate on the object of his illegitimate desire.

Instead v3, he finds his delight in those who are holy.

Not wealthy foreign kings, alluring foreign princesses. Instead he says to himself, these very normal people – the ones who are trying to live holy lives for God, servants not celebrities, they are my delight. The salt of the earth. That’s who I want to be with. That’s who I want to be like.

It’s a picture of church, isn’t it? Because church is not a red carpet event, it’s more like a kids birthday party with the cousins. This is where life is – here in church is where you find true relationships, deep relationships, true and deep satisfaction. Life is here, in this room, not at some red carpet event with strangers...

Maybe you’ve been running after those other gods, worshiping at the wrong altar... Is God speaking to you today?

David uses this prayer to keep reminding himself of what is truly important in life... 5

One of the things I notice about vv2 and 3 and 4 is the power of our words. I don’t know if you’re like me. I love watching the tennis! I love the drama.

In those dramatic moments you often see the players speaking to themselves. Sometimes they’re reminding themselves of their game plan. Other times their self-talk is pretty toxic. Nick Kyrgios is a prime example.

But either way, self-talk is part of how we focus our minds on either good things, or bad things.

And in these verses David seems to be rehearsing what he knows is true. Perhaps in the moment of temptation, he speaks truth to himself – “I say to the Lord, you are my Lord!” (v2)

David rehearses the truth that he wants to find his delight in holy people, rather than pagans. He speaks these truths, rather than speaking tempting words that will lead him into sin.

Because words are powerful, and they can help us keep our focus on what is real and good and true.

V5 and 6 follow in a similar vein – David literally had a delightful inheritance in the promised land, with literal boundary lines, and he reminds himself not to covet what the neighbours have, another tribe’s allotment. David’s portion and cup – his blessings – they come as the gift of God.

So that rounds out vv2-6. David refocuses his desires on the Lord, remembering what God has already done for him.


Now in v7-10 David focuses on what God will do for him in the future, his destiny. This section starts with David looking to the Lord.

7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Remember David is writing this psalm because of some sort of danger. Despite the danger, David praises God because he has the sense that God is guiding him, counselling him, even in the valley of the shadow of death.


Perhaps he wakes in the night worrying sometimes – that happens to me – but even in the night, God calms David’s heart.

With his eyes fixed in the right place, David will not be shaken. And that’s the second big lesson to take out of Psalm 16.

Our God is with us, right by our side all the way. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, our God is walking with us through all that this lifetime holds in store for us. And with our eyes fixed on him, we need not fear. We will not be shaken.

That is David’s experience. (v9) His heart is glad, his tongue rejoices and his body can rest (or sleep) securely.

(v10) and I think this is the high point of the psalm...

10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. (Psalm 16:10)

Now how do we understand this verse? Because it sounds like David is saying that he is confident that he will not die.

Did David have a messiah complex? Well David is portrayed as a kind of messiah in the Old Testament. Does he just take it too far at this point, does he think himself immortal?

I don’t think it’s that.

To get to the meaning, we have to understand the concept of the realm of the dead – Sheol. The OT refers to Sheol a number of times in Ezekiel, Job, Isaiah and in other places in the Psalms. It sometimes means the grave, sometimes the underworld, and sometimes it refers to the state of the dead. But the prevailing idea was that in Sheol, the dead were cut off from God.

That’s how it’s put in Psalm 88:5

I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,

whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

In the realm of the dead, people were cut off from God, separated from him.


But David understands his God as the one who shows us the path to life (v11). God helps David to understand that there is more to come after death than just decay.

In God’s presence (v11) David knows joy now and eternally. Even in the face of his own mortality, he could pray this psalm confidently.


More than one thousand years later, both Peter and Paul would apply these words to Jesus, the true messiah (in Acts 2 and 13). Jesus, the one who could pray this psalm even more truthfully than David. The one who faced his own death, yet was not shaken. The one whose body was laid in a tomb, but came back to life again three days later. The one who is even now seated at the right hand of God.

The one who shows us the path to life in him. Who will one day raise our mortal bodies to be like his immortal body...

I said there might be a fourth idea for today. Here it is...


David finds his heart’s delight in seeking after the Lord. We see that in vv2-6. And for him, the greatest joy in life is to be in the presence of the Lord (v11).

You make 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)

I’ve thought a lot about when David finds his joy in the Lord. If you look closely at v11 (the second line – you will fill me with joy in your presence) , it might seem like David is anticipating the day when he is finally face to face with the Lord, when he is finally in the presence of the Lord, and on that day he will be filled with joy.

But what about when danger surrounds us?

Sometimes the Christian message can sound like pie in the sky when you die – that is, trust in Jesus and one day you’ll have eternal life. In the meantime life will be pretty terrible.

I don’t think that’s what this passage is teaching us. David finds joy in the Lord despite the danger he faces.


Jesus delighted to do his Father’s will despite the pathway it would take him on. Paul speaks about understanding joy in the midst of suffering.

Why? Because for all of them, true life can be found nowhere else but in the presence of the Lord.

To live without God is to wander around in the realm of the dead, cut off from God and cut off from life.

But God has made known to us the path of life. And that is life in God’s presence, coming to him through his son Jesus Christ.

Do you know the path of life? Do you know Jesus? Let’s pray