Learning from Psalms 16-24
16:1-11- ‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’(11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’(Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’(1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’(5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
17:1-15- Here is the prayer of a man whose earnest desire is to walk with God, to have a close walk with God in the centre of His will (5). His prayer is sincere. It ‘does not rise from deceitful lips’(1). He is painfully aware of ‘the onslaughts of the wicked’. His ‘enemies cluster round him, breathing hostility’(9). Whatever troubles we may encounter, we must learn to pray with the Psalmist: ‘Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer’(1). As we call upon the Lord, He gives the assurance of His protection. Through His Word and Spirit, He assures us that He will ‘keep us as the apple of His eye’(8). We are precious in His sight. He looks upon us in love. He does not see our sin. He sees us ‘in Christ’- ‘accepted in the Beloved’, ‘no condemnation’(Psalm 32:1; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1).
18:1-24- The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: ‘my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’(1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies’- did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). ‘The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...’(4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the ‘victory’ over ‘the last enemy...death’(1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into ‘a broad place’(19). Step into the future with Him. Don’t hold back! ‘Let go and let God have His wonderful way’.
18:25-50- ‘This God’ is ‘our God’. He is ‘the Rock’. He is ‘my Rock’. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: ‘You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty’. In our God, we have victory: ‘You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet’(27,39). Do you want to enjoy God’s blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, ‘Clothe yourselves with humility’. Together with His command, we have God’s warning- ‘God opposes the proud’- and God’s promise- He ‘gives grace to the humble’(1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? There is an answer which of us must give: ‘We are on the Lord’s side’(Church Hymnary, 479).
19:1-14- God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1,14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’(7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’(Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
20:1-21:13- ‘We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High’ we ‘shall not be moved’(20:7;21:7). We do not trust in things that ‘collapse and fall’. We build on ‘the Rock’(20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We ‘rejoice’ in our God. He has made us ‘most blessed for ever’(21:1,6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an ‘unfailing love’(21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us ‘a new song’ to sing, ‘a song of praise to our God’(Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: ‘Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength,! We will sing and praise Thy power’(13).
22:1-18- Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’(1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’(Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’(Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’(John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
22:19-23:4- Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’(22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’(Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(3; 1 Peter 2:25).
23:5-24:10- For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).