What do you get excited about? In August I took sailing lessons for the first time and I got really excited about sailing. Since then I have been thinking about how I can rig my canoe in order to make it into a sailboat. There are a lot of other things that I get excited about and I am sure each of us has something that we get excited about. Some people get excited about reading or tennis or shopping or music or the latest technological gadget.
When we read Psalm 16, we have to conclude that there is nothing more exciting, nothing more meaningful than a relationship with God. Yet I have to confess that all the things I enjoy sometimes distract me from my excitement about God. I have to confess that sometimes I can be much more enthusiastic about some of these other things than I am about my relationship with God. I suspect that I am not unusual in this. That is why I want to look at Psalm 16 with you this morning. I hope that as we think about this Psalm, we will open our hearts to allow God to draw us more deeply into relationship with Himself. I pray that as we hear God's Word in Psalm 16 something will change in our hearts so that our greatest joy will be God.
Perhaps the problem is that we have not fully grasped what a relationship with God is all about. Perhaps what has happened to us is what happened to the church in Ephesus when Jesus warned them in Revelation 2:4, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." Perhaps at one time we declared faith in God, but since then our life has become more about us than about God? Perhaps we are so overwhelmed by doubts about God's goodness because we believe He has not answered our prayers that we have a hard time entrusting ourselves to Him? If our commitment to God is nominal because of these or some other reason, it is no wonder that we are not excited about our relationship with God. Psalm 16 is the testimony of one who is excited about God and in the first 5 verses the writer gives us some great phrases which describe a commitment to God.
The Psalm opens with a prayer for help but it is not certain what the crisis was for which he was asking for help and, in fact, he does not mention it again. What is clear is that the request for help reveals his heart regarding his relationship with God. He prays to God because, as he says, "O God…in you I take refuge." He declares that God is the one to whom He goes for help. God is his hiding place of protection.
When I interviewed my grandmother in order to record some of her life experiences, she told me that her life verse was, Isaiah 40:11, "He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep." As a woman widowed and leading 4 children out of Russia during the second world war, she had personally experienced that God was her shepherd. Such examples inspire us to look to God as our refuge. If we do, we will rest in His care.
I received an email from someone the other day and the email began, "Hi Mr. Toews, I don't know if you remember me…" When Carla calls, the tone of her conversation is quite different. The difference is that the person who emailed was an acquaintance whereas Carla has a claim on my life that is closer than anyone else on earth. What is the nature of our relationship with God? Is He an acquaintance or is our relationship to Him much more intimate than that?
The Psalmist states "I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord." The two words for Lord in these verses in Hebrew are two different words. The first is the word which speaks about God as the one who has made a covenant with His people to show His everlasting love for them. The second is a word which means master. If we say that the one who has first loved us is the master of our life, we are saying something very important. We first of all acknowledge God's prior love for us and declare gratitude for it. Then we respond with a statement of deep commitment to God as the one who has the first claim on our life. Because God has loved us, we are called to obey Him in everything. Because of all He has done, He has invited us to live our lives for Him as the one who rules in all we do and think. If we treat God as a distant relative or a mere acquaintance, it is no wonder that we are not excited about our relationship with Him. If we declare that because of His love we will serve Him, it is much more likely that we will also be excited about our relationship to Him.
We will also get excited about our relationship with God if we recognize that there is nothing better than God in our life.
There are a lot of things in life that we can enjoy. At one level, we recognize that whatever we enjoy, whatever we are good at is a gift from God. Eric Liddell, the Scottish runner said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Sometimes, however, we stop at the pleasures we feel and the things which give us joy. The Psalmist goes further when he declares, "I have no good apart from you." It is OK to rejoice in all the blessings which God gives us, but it is much more important to recognize not only that our pleasures are a gift from God, but that our greatest good is Him. Surely if this is something that we choose and commit to, we will naturally be more excited about Him than about anything else.
In a Moody Bible Institute Devotional, we read, "This didn’t mean that David wasn’t thankful for his family, kingship, and other blessings. It simply meant that God Himself is incomparably greater than any of His gifts--that He was the all-sufficient, all-satisfying joy, truth, and purpose of David’s life."
When the Psalmist says in verse 3, "As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight." he acknowledges that there is a connection between our love for God and our love for others. It is another way of saying what is stated in 1 John 4:8, "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." Love for God is demonstrated in practical ways in our love for one another. If we do not love our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is evident that we do not love God. If we do love our brothers and sisters, it shows that we love God and if we love God, then we will also be excited about our relationship with God.
On the other hand, loving God means that we will not serve anyone else. Psalm 16:4 says, "Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips."
At the time when this was written, the nations around Israel served a host of other gods. Many in Israel were tempted to follow those other gods. They made offerings to them and they declared their allegiance to them. The Psalmist recognizes that such a path leads only to sorrow.
Today the same thing is true. If we follow the gods of materialism, secularism, consumerism and selfishness it leads only to sorrow. Excitement about serving God will come into our lives when we have a single hearted allegiance to Him.
In ancient Israel when the people entered into the promised land, the land was distributed among the people by lot. Everyone received a piece of land and they had to go and settle the land. The Levites, who were the priests and servants of God, however did not have any land given to them. Deuteronomy 10:9 says, "Therefore Levi has no allotment or inheritance with his kindred; the LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God promised him." It is likely verse 5 reflects such a blessing. There we read, "The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot."
God has chosen us as His people. If we embrace that choosing and declare that He is the one in whom we trust, the one we rejoice in and serve that is the way in which we will also come to a true and deep excitement about God.
If we know what it means to take refuge in God, to call Him Lord, to be thankful for His blessings, to rejoice in His people, to reject any other way and to accept His call in our life, then we will be excited about God and His way.
Is this your commitment? Do you want it to be?
The other thing which will get us excited about God is when we realize how much God has given to us, how much He has blessed us. The rest of Psalm 16 records some of the great blessings which God has given to us.
We have reason to get excited about our relationship with God because He is the one who has given us every good thing we have in life. God has blessed us so abundantly. He has given us a heritage of people who have taught us to follow God. God has also given us so many other good things. We have warm homes, good food, friendships, jobs that are meaningful and so much more.
A little attitude of thanksgiving will soon reveal that we are truly blessed by God. This is the meaning of verse 6, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage." James 1:17 says, "every perfect gift is from above." We are the recipients of so many of those gifts. Since God has blessed us so abundantly, we have every reason to get excited about Him.
Another blessing is that we never have to be bewildered about life's path because God directs our path. In verse 7 we are reminded about "the Lord who gives me counsel." and in verse 11, we are encouraged that "You show me the path of life."
How does God counsel us? He shows us the way to go through His Word. He shows us the way to go through His Spirit. He shows us the way to go through other believers. In verse 7 we have another way in which he directs our path when it says, "in the night also my heart instructs me." This can happen through dreams or when we are awake at night and quiet enough to actually listen to what God may be saying to us.
The way that God shows us is always the path of life. God does not lead us down the path that will lead to death or destruction. How exciting to know that if we are willing to follow God and accept Him as Lord, He will always lead us into those things that will bring about life.
With God before us, we also have the confidence that there is nothing that we need to fear. Some fears we have might be classified as irrational fears. Some as reasonable fears, but none of these fears need to overwhelm us. God is right beside us and therefore we do not need to be afraid.
When you see a young child hiding behind its mother you see fear, but you also see confidence that mother will protect. In a similar way, we have confidence that there is nothing that can shake us ultimately because God is near to us because He is always at our right hand.
Yet that confidence is conditional upon keeping the Lord always before us. If God is our choice and we keep our eyes on Him, then not only do we have no reason to fear, we also will not fear. What a great blessing which is ours in God.
If God is our God, then the blessing which God gives us, as stated in verses 9 and 11 are great joy. The Psalmist writes, "my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices" and "In your presence there is fullness of joy."
Why do we so often lack joy? I believe it is because we do not keep the Lord before us. We are trying to make our joy out of things that do not satisfy. If on the other hand, we will make the Lord our joy, then He will add joy to us of every kind and we will experience the gladness of heart spoken of here. I have found it to be very true, and unfortunately I am still learning what it means. When we pursue joy, there is often disappointment. When we pursue God, then He gives us joy. Our fear is that if we pursue God, it will be a life of discipline and hardship. That is Satan's lie and yet we keep on believing it. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, "“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." The God who cares about our rest, will certainly also be the one who gives us joy. This also is the blessing of being God's followers.
Some people believe that God is only concerned about our spiritual selves, and that our physical self is a curse that will be buried so that we can go to heaven as spiritual persons and serve God there. Yet this is not a Scriptural concept. Verse 9 says, "my body also rests secure." If the physical body was cursed, then how could Jesus have come to earth as a human being and how could he have been raised as a human being and how could the Bible promise a physical resurrection? So another blessing we have is that even our physical body is secure.
The problem is that we misunderstand that it is secure not from illness or death or earthly destruction. God does bless us with health and life and preservation, but ultimately everyone will die. The blessing of a body that is secure is that in the end we will be preserved from eternal destruction. Therefore, even though we may get sick and we will die, the promise is not lost. We still rest secure in the blessing of knowing that our physical bodies are in the care of God.
This eternal perspective is also declared in verse 10. There are not many verses in the Old Testament that speak of the hope of eternal life, but this is one of them.
This verse is quoted as Old Testament proof of the resurrection of Christ in Acts 2:25-28 when Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost. It was fulfilled in Jesus and because it was fulfilled in Jesus, it also is a promise that pertains to us. This is the final blessing which we have in God, the hope of eternal life.
"Since Jesus is mine, I'll not fear undressing,
but gladly put off these garments of clay;
To die in the Lord is a covenant blessing,
Since Jesus to glory through death led the way."
Is God the delight of our life? Do we get excited about God. Do we live our life with a manifest joy in God?
Sometimes we get distracted or doubtful or fearful or filled with sadness, but Psalm 16 shows us the way so that we can have full joy and great excitement about God. There are two things which we need to do.
First of all, we need to put God first in our life. When we recognize that He is our refuge, our Lord and our delight then we will have our greatest excitement in Him.
Secondly, we need to recognize all the blessings which we have in Him. He has blessed us with life and He keeps us secure and He gives us great joy and ultimately He gives us eternal life. With all of that, how can we not get excited about God.
Are you excited about God? If you are not, I invite you to take the steps which Psalm 16 shows us. Confess that these things have not been true and choose God and recognize His blessings. Will you take that step today?