There is no specific date to Psalm 16, but it is quite clear that David’s life is in danger. He speaks about the fact that he refuses to offer unto other gods. The communion with God’s people. the saints and the excellent in the earth, is all his delight. Yea his flesh shall also rest in hope.
Our thoughts are directed to the circumstances of David’s life as they are described in the first book of Samuel. There was no rest for his feet. For years he was persecuted by Saul, who warned nothing less than his head. If there was a moment of respite, it never lasted very long. There was always somebody ready to betray his whereabouts. Then the business of hide and seek started all over again.
The inhabitants of the wilderness of Ziph came to Saul and said: “Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah?” Then Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph to seek David. David with a few of his men surprised the king while he was sleeping in a trench, but he did not stretch forth his hand to God’s anointed. Then follows the beautiful interview between Saul and David. David complained: “What have I done or what evil is in mine hand? If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering, but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.”
The only sanctuary that he can possibly find is outside the borders or Israel and that means that he cannot keep the communion with Jehovah and with His people. That is also the keynote of Psalm 16. His only good is the Lord and the saints, the excellent of the earth; in them is all his delight.
We have to appreciate the fact that David lives in the Old Testament period in which the worship of the Lord is tied up with the national boundaries of the nation. Departure from the holy land is equivalent to being cut off from the Kingdom of God. David is not a lucre exile; he is in spiritual exile first of all. The pursuers want to drive him into the arms of idol gods.
These two things, to break the communion with God and with His people, he strictly refuses. Because of this choice of faith, danger is lurking everywhere. That is why he begins his prayer with: “Preserve me Lord, for in thee do I trust.” David is not showing on or challenging Saul in a game of hide and seek, but he refuses to leave the country, because he refuses to leave His God. The two are inseparable for him. The possibility of meeting a violent death is not imaginary at all under these circumstances; he is practically inviting trouble.
At this stage the poetic prophet reaches out to the very heights of faith. “The Lord is always before me; I shall not be moved. My flesh also shall rest in hope. God will not suffer His holy one to see corruption.”
David does not say that he shall not die. He realizes full well that death may strike out any moment. The grave may swallow him up very soon. But that does not diminish his joy one bit. Life will triumph in the end, for God has shown him the path of life. The end will not be annihilation, but fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord, yea pleasures forevermore.
Concerning whom is the prophet speaking? Very definitely about himself. He, whose grave is with us until the present day does not speak about Jesus Christ, but about himself. Peter, on the day of Pentecost does not question the fact that David spoke concerning himself. The psalm speaks nowhere directly about Jesus Christ. The question is how does David speak about himself; in what way? He did that, says Peter, in the quality of prophet. “I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel…I have set the Lord always before me.” His faith clung to the Word of God, the oath with which the Lord had sworn that of his seed would sit all the throne forevermore. So had God, in the flesh of Jesus Christ, promised immortality to his flesh.
His own grave might soon be dug, but prophetically he saw the tomb of his Son open up. Thus his own flesh would rest in hope, for “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades.” In faith David attaches his uncertain throne, his misery and his dangerous existence to the throne of his Son, to his glorious victory and his kingdom without end. If therefore the grave of Jesus Christ remains closed, then David was suffering from hallucinations and his faith was in vain. With that logic docs Peter assail the unbelieving Jews on the day of Pentecost. Christ must rise or otherwise David is a liar.
Psalm 16 is not only comfort for David and his flesh. True, he spoke about himself, but he refused to be isolated from the saints, the excellent in the earth. He dared to remain inside the boundaries of the holy land, inside the communion of saints in whom was all his delight. “I and the people that Thou hast given unto me those…that were given unto Him, He loved them unto the end.” This psalm finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and thus in all those that live in covenantal Union with him. On Pentecost the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead was given to those whose mortal bodies must put on immortality. So shall our flesh rest in hope. Indeed!
There is one observation to be made yet. Verses five and six seem to be somewhat odd. “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” In the Orient parcels of land were distributed by casting the lot. In Palestine the available land outside the village or lawn was distributed yearly amongst the families of a given tribe in the same manlier. Every field is measured off with a cord or with a line and is given a number or a name (the field of the fuller, the field of the potter, etc.). These numbers of names are written on stones. These stones are put in to a cup or beaker and then, while a family name is being called off, the cup is shaken and one stone is picked out by a small boy. So does every family receive his portion of the cup. Now it all depends whether they have received a good parcel of land. If so, then they may weIl say: “the lines (of measurement) are fallen unto me in pleasant places.”
In these terms does David utter his faith and comfort. He has no inheritance at all, no place inside the holy land, flowing with milk and honey. Instead, he is chased around like a partridge on the mountains. But beyond the horizon of his daily existence, with all its dangers, sufferings of body and soul and poverty he sees the walls of the new Jerusalem rising, whose maker and builder is God. He has the best heritage any one could ever hope for, a goodly heritage that fadeth not away, but is maintained everlastingly by God himself: The Lord is his inheritance and the portion of his cup. In distributing the blessings God has given unto him the most royal gift, beyond all expectation: he gives himself, in the person of his Son.
Such is the consolation for the church of Pentecost. There may be blood, fire and vapor of smoke before that great and notable day of the Lord come. But he is our portion…Yea the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; my flesh shall also rest in hope. My flesh and heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and portion for ever. Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars and the end is not yet…but the path of life Thou showest me of joy a boundless store is ever found at Thy right hand and pleasures evermore.