The Best Known Psalm – Psalm 23

The superlatives concerning Psalm 23 are numerous: Spurgeon calls it “the pearl of Psalms.” Alexander Maclaren says we would be better off losing many of the big fat books written than we would losing this single Psalm. James Montgomery Boice calls it the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.

Not only is Psalm 23 the best known & most loved Psalm; it is perhaps the best known & most loved chapter in all of Scripture. Millions of people have memorized it even tho it may be the only text they’ve committed to memory. It has dried the eyes of many brokenhearted saints; it has shaped many hearts; it has brought many peace. It has spawned Christian urban legends like the one about the two men who recite this Psalm – one reading it with great elocution to applause, the other citing it from the heart leaving the crowd in tears. When asked the difference, the first man replied, “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”

God is Shepherd of His people. What does it mean for YHWH to be my shepherd? Psalm 23 enables us to come to know the Shepherd.

YHWH My Shepherd (1a)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Sovereign: YHWH, the “I AM.” He is the infinite God (timeless), the self-sufficient one, lacking nothing & needing nothing. So…the One who needs nothing comes near to help the need. He condescends to be the shepherd of His people.

The Shepherd: As in other ancient societies (e.g. Egypt, Gen 46.34), shepherds were considered the lowest folks in society who engaged in the lowest of all work. Typically, the youngest in the family got the unpleasant assignment (e.g. David). It was unending, thankless work of nourishing, binding, caring, etc. some of the dumbest animals on the planet. No one choose to be a shepherd…no one except YHWH. The cosmic sovereign Ruler of the universe stoops down to care for His people. It was despised work, yet it is divine work.

“I Shall Not Want” (1b-6)

Or I have everything I need or I don’t need a thing. Come what may, I will not lack, not b/c of my skills or ability, not b/c of my wit or wisdom, but b/c YHWH is my shepherd. I shall not want…

2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Solace (2): Green pastures & still waters are pictures of peace. Laying down is a picture of rest. So with YHWH as my shepherd I have peaceful rest, solace. But for sheep to lie down, they need to be free from several things (see Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, 23) – fear, friction, flies, famine. In similar fashion, for us to rest in God/Christ we must be free from fear (“perfect love drives out fear”), friction (interpersonal conflict, “be at peace with one another”), spiritual “flies” (such as guilt, doubt, shame, bitterness), & famine of the Word. God is the perfect provider of all these so that we might find solace in the Savior.

3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Salvation (3a): “Restores my soul,” i.e. He saves my life. Keller (51-52) says the parallel is a “cast” sheep. How often do we end up on our back spiritually & yet the shepherd comes & stands us upright? For the purpose of walking in paths of righteousness.

A Standard (3b): He leads me in paths of righteousness. See Isa 53.6, left to our own desires, we end up on the wrong/crooked path. But with YHWH as our shepherd, He keeps us on the straight/right path. “For His Name’s sake” – i.e. to display His glory & grace; because He is good

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Security (4): “Valley of the shadow of death” see Keller 76-77:

It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ…The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Lo, I am with you alway” – yes, even in the valley of death.

But this also points to the shepherd’s ability to protect his sheep in times of danger. Fearless because He is with me. Note also, the valley is as much the right path as the green pastures & still waters. The rod & staff, one a weapon to fight off predators, the other designed to correct the sheep. Again Keller:

It was the rod of God’s Word that Christ, our Good Shepherd, used in His own encounter with the serpant – Satan – during His desert temptation. It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks of Satan (91-92).

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Supplies (5): A great feast is prepared with oil & wine (“cup”). Some see here a shift in imagery, but Keller sees continuation in the sheep imagery. First, the “table” are the high table lands, a mesa where the good food is. Second the oil would be used during summer time (“fly time”) to ward off bugs & infection. Third, wine would be used during the winter to ward off chill. Point: all year round God is there with exactly what His people need.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sanctuary (6): Out of God’s mercy comes His goodness. Thru black days & bright days, goodness will supply our needs & mercy will blot out our sins. Dwelling in His house forever. A heavenly home certainly, but in the here & now we have a “household,” that is, we are part of His flock. Why would we leave? We have everything we need. “I shall not want.” He is the good Shepherd.

Tho this imagery of God our shepherd is in the Old Testament, as New Testament Christians we must never forget that the same imagery is applied to Christ.

Jesus My Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:10, 14)

The Good Shepherd (Jn 10.11, 14): He promises self-sacrifice. He also promises to “know” us. That is, He is well acquainted with us. Jesus knows you & is always with you (Mt 28.20). So we can say, “You are with me.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)

The Great Shepherd (Heb 13.20): He equips us to do His will. Notice what He equips us with – “everything good.” Isn’t that what we have seen in Psa 23- solace, salvation, a standard, security, supplies, sanctuary, & more!

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)

The Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5.4): He will reward faithful under-shepherds with glory.

“The Lord is MY Shepherd,” but what happens when I am shepherd? Max Lucado helps us understand what that looks like:

I am my own shepherd. I am always in need.

I stumble from mall to mall and shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding it.

I creep through the valley of the shadow of death and fall apart.

I fear everything from pesticides to power lines, and I’m starting to act like my mother.

I go down to the weekly staff meeting and am surrounded by enemies. I go home, and even my goldfish scowls at me.

I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol.

My Jack Daniels runneth over.

Surely misery and misfortune will follow me, and I will live in self-doubt for the rest of my lonely life.

Now – which of these would you rather have? God as your shepherd who richly provides you everything good so you say “I shall NOT want” or you as shepherd which only gives you headaches & heartbreak. Kind of a no brainer… Let HIM be YOUR Shepherd.

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The Soundtrack of the Cross – Psalm 22

Young couples sometimes pick out a popular song as theirs. When the song comes on the radio, she may say, “They are playing our song.”

A common question asked these days when powerful people are interviewed: “What’s on your iPod?” What do you listen to when your in the gym, in the car, at home, in the office? What is the soundtrack of your life?

No one ever asks: What would be the soundtrack of your death?

Have you ever wondered: What song was playing when Jesus died?

For many of the Psalms of David it is possible to connect them with certain events in David’s life. However, the 22nd has no life event from David in view because it is a description of an execution, specifically a crucifixion. “Being therefore a prophet…” David spoke concerning Messiah’s execution on a cross (Acts 2.30). Over 300 years before crucifixion is invented as a mode of death, David pictures it here. The gospels record the facts; the Psalms the feelings of the cross. Psalm 22 captures the agony & glory of the cross of Christ.

This Psalm is typically divided into two (2) sections: suffering (1-21a) & salvation (21b-31), with verse 21 acting as the turning point of the Psalm.

A Gruesome Crucifixion – the Humiliation of Christ (1-21)

Alienated from His Father (1-5): During His life & ministry, Jesus had never known a moment without the Father’s presence; uninterrupted fellowship. But on the cross when He who knew no sin the Father made to be sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5.21), that changed. How lonely Calvary was for Christ!

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

“Eloi, Eloi” – the double name denotes close, personal relationship. “Why?” There was a reason for the agony of the cross; there is a reason for suffering.

2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

It seems prayers go unanswered, even unheard. Keep praying!

3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

The Psalmist is comforted by the holiness of God.

4In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob repeatedly trusted God & He never failed them.

5To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

“How you gonna do me like that, God?” These guys were heard; how about me?

Abused by His Foes (6-8, 12-18): From His youth, from His birth, from before His birth, the cross loomed & cast a dark shadow over the life of Christ. A millennium before God became flesh, David pictured the event. So graphic are David’s descriptions that it almost seems as tho he were present for the very crucifixion. Put down (6-7), scorned, despised, mocked; Poured out (14-15); pierced (16).

6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

Here is the “I AM” saying “I am a worm.” Surely He thought this & perhaps it was uttered tho unrecorded in the gospels. Certainly Christ was hated & hounded.

7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

See Matthew 27.41-43; Mark 15.29 for the fulfillment of these verses. How would you feel if in your darkest hour someone said this to you? Amplify it by infinity & you are coming close to how Christ felt.

12Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

Circling bulls, ready to charge & gore with their horns. Bashan was known for its fine cattle; here is pictured the raving, raging mob led by the leaders.

13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

His heart is “melted” under the heat of divine wrath; & if Christ’s heart melts under the full force of divine wrath, what about ours if we reject Christ!

15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

He is all dried up under the blistering heat of divine justice. Every drop of fluid is gone. Intense thirst.

16For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—

“Dogs” would be, prophetically, gentile Roman soldiers. Here crucifixion is described over 300 years before the first poor attempts at it are hinted & nearly 700 yrs before it is perfected & popularized by Alexander the Great.

Answered by His Father (9-11, 19-21)

9Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

10On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

“God, I need you here. Stay close” (11, 19). A present God is a present blessing!

19But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

20Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!

21Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Part prayer; part praise. “Save me! You heard/answered/rescued.” “It was the will of YHWH to crush Him…He shall prolong His days” (Isaiah 53.10).

A Glorious Coronation – The Exaltation of Christ (22-31)

All at once the tone shifts. From the darkness of Calvary comes joy…

Joy in Israel (22-25): “Praise Him.” “I will [proclaim]…I will praise…I will perform…” Future tense. How can He do this if He’s dead? Resurrection! Perhaps these words of the song comforted Jesus on the cross as He hung dying; He whispers them thru parched lips.

23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Note the three-fold duty – praise Him, glorify Him, revere Him.

Great Spiritual Feast (26-29): Rich & poor (26, 29) from all over the earth (27) gather to feast and be satisfied by what YHWH has provided thru the Christ. Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 45.22; 49.6); in Christ this is fully realized.

27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Herein is universal evangelism pictured – “all the ends of the earth…all the families of the nations…” Not merely Jew but Gentile shall prosper because of Christ’s crucifixion & resurrection. “Remember” is reflection on sin; “Turn” & “worship” are repentance & holiness.

Future Grace (30-31): For “Coming generation” – 71.18; 78.6; 102.18; do you get the feeling that God cares about the next generation, i.e. the kids. May I just say to those of you who work in the education department of the local congregation that you are engaged in the glorious work of dispensing grace to the next generation.

30Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Here also are the future prospects of the church: “They shall come” – converts are certain. “They shall…proclaim His righteousness” – those converted will join us in the work of evangelism. “To a people yet unborn” – future generations will be blessed. Christ will be exalted in all this! “He has done it” or “It is finished.” “The Lord” (adoni) has accomplished the work of redemption. This is the last word of Christ on the cross. It is the heart of the gospel we proclaim.

Per crucem ad lucem – thru the cross into the light. Without the darkness of the cross there cannot be the light of glory. Maybe the tune started like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before ending like Vivaldi’s Spring.

“It is finished” so respond to God’s grace.

God Still Speaks – Psalm 19

A college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get into that kind of thing.

The students opened their notebooks and wrote as much as they could think of for a while hour, some of them churning out 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an “A.” What did he write so quickly that turned out to be just the right answer? He wrote: “What chair?”

In the beginning, Satan used a single question to get Adam & Eve to doubt whether God can be trusted. Satan wants to get people to the point where they not only don’t trust God… but that God doesn’t even exist. He wants to get people to the point where they ask: What God?

Enter Psalm 19. The Psalm tells us that above the questions Satan poses, there is a better word which is spoken announcing that there is a God, He has spoken, and He continues to speak. The question we must ask is not “What God?” but “Are we listening?” If we will listen to the silent witness of the world & the spoken witness of the Word these will evoke a spiritual response in us, namely, worship

God’s still speaking; are we listening? The world & the Word combine to invoke worship from us.

The Works of God (1-6) – General Revelation

The Glory of the Sovereign (1-4a)

 

1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When we speak of glory of God, we are talking about “the sum of His perfection” or His character. So all of creation is “celebrating” the character of God. The sky “announces” His handiwork, or they are saying, “Hey, guess who made us!”

2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Everyday “gushes” speech & every night is revealing knowledge about where everything came from. So there is an abundant, continuous revelation from creation testifying to a Creator.

3There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

So here is the interesting thing: there’s no words being used. Creation is a silent witness to the Creator. It is divine sign language and everyone sees the pictorial message & therefore should draw certain conclusions, esp. there is a God.

4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 

Though there are no words, the “voice” of creation is universal going to “all the earth…the end of the world.”

The Glory of the Sun (4b-6)

David uses the sun as a specific example of God’s glory on display, the crowning achievement of God’s creative power.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

The “tent” for the sun may be night; the sun retreats there each night.

5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

What is pictured here is youthful vigor, energy, strength.

6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Though their knowledge about what the sun is was limited, they knew enough to give proper praise to the God who made the sun. Much more should we praise God!

The Word of God (7-11) – Special Revelation

Like the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its heat,” so the Word is likewise inescapable, “no creature is hidden from His sight” (Heb 4.13). The Psalmist gives 6 titles for the word; 6 qualities of the word; 6 effects from the word.

The Law of YHWH (7a): 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

The doctrine of God, the great body of truth used to instruct God’s people. The Law is “perfect” as a whole, lacking nothing & needing nothing. “It is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it” (Spurgeon). The law “revives the soul” or “converts the soul.” It brings back the spirit from death to life & is able to raise up children for Abraham from even the most hard of hearts.

The Testimony of YHWH (7b): the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

Divine declaration of right & wrong, truth & error, sin & righteousness. God’s testimony is “sure,” that is, it is a firm foundation & permanent. “All other ground is sinking sand” but God’s word is terra firma. It makes the simple wise, enlightens their moral judgments.

The Precepts of YHWH (8a): 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

Or statutes which indicate a specific duty. The precepts are “right” or straight & smooth path thru a dark woods. The heart rejoices in knowing that remaining on such a path will ensure it safe travel. Notice: the converted soul becomes wise and finds joy (progression).

The Commandment of YHWH (8b): the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

Rules to regulate the entire life. The command is “pure” and produces & promotes purity of life. How? By causing the light to shine upon darkened eyes (cf Eph 1.18). Sin & sorrow are driven away by the pure light of God’s word.

The Fear of YHWH (9a): 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

Reverence and respect produced by the word; awe & piety. The fear of God is “clean,” both ceremonially & ethically, for this reverence for God drives away the love of sin. “Endures forever” with God’s word is something greater than Pilate’s decree, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19.22). Or as Jesus, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my Word will no not never pass away” (Matthew 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Wise men still fear God.

The Rules of YHWH (9b): the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

His just decrees or “rules” against sin & in favor of righteousness; the right settings. These are “true,” not only in the sense that they contain no falsehood, but also that they are trustworthy & faithful words. So God’s judgments are just, in history or pertaining to sin. His justice is always above reproach to the enlightened mind.

Reward for Desiring God’s Word (10-11)

10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

cf. 119.72, 127. Greater than gold & sweeter than honey – that’s God’s Word! Better than profits & pleasure. Do we always desire God’s word like this, though? Consider Jerome, 5th century theologian who more readily desired the philosophers’ writings to the prophets’ writings:

Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. (Letter XXII – To Eustochium; see Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol 6. Pg.35)

How often do we desire to watch the latest TV show or sports match more than Scripture? But “there is great reward” in keeping or observing the Word. But to keep it we must know it; and to know it we must read it; and to read we must deny ourselves the various activities & things which would steal our attention away from the word. “Great reward” when? Someday, sure, in heaven. But today also & absolutely as we live life with God.

Our Worship to God (12-14) – The Revelation of Our Hearts

One cannot think about the Law without being reminded of disobedience to the Law. This led David to intense prayer to YHWH, his Rock & Redeemer.

Cleanse Me (12)

12Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

“Declare me innocent” is the language of forgiveness. “Hidden faults” are either 1) Sins practiced in secret or 2) Sins we commit which are secret even to ourselves. Both are grievous, but surely the former is most grievous. One of the saddest sights is when a long-time brother or sister or even a minister is found out to be engrossed in secret sin. Those kinds of incidents cause grief & astonishment. Which sheds light on the first clause: “Who can understand error?” Who can unravel the deceitfulness of sin? However, the latter category – sins God sees in us which we fail to see in ourselves – which David has in mind. No doubt we fail to love as we ought, being humble, judging to harshly, hastily, &/or ignorantly; we perform some duty while neglecting another more urgent tho uninteresting one; we fail to forgive as God forgave us. The list goes on and we know these are sins in need of God’s forgiveness because we feel guilty when they are pointed out. What a multitude of sins are hidden faults, hidden from our memory & imperfectly enlightened conscience! With David let us plead with God, forgive, cleanse, declare me innocent!

Correct Me (13)

13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

“Keep back your servant” thru the word. “Presumptuous sin” is also called sinning with a “high hand.” It is arrogant, self-willed sin. So grievous is this kind of sin that there was no atonement for it (cf. Numbers 15.30-31; Deuteronomy 17.12). This kind of evil was purged from the land. No wonder David prayed to be kept from this. And so also should we.

Commend Me (14)

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Let my words & thoughts be acceptable. David wanted what he thought & said to be pleasing to God. Here is a sweet prayer which every Christian ought to take up. Before words leave our mouth, we ought to meditate about it. In other words, think before you speak lest you say something which is unacceptable to God.

“Let the door of my lips by kept, that I utter no evil word, and the recesses of my heart be purged, that I think no evil thought” (Pulpit Commentary 130).

Natural theology (world), revelation (Word), spiritual experience (worship) – this is the successive course of this psalm. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon) God still speaks – through the world He tells us He exists; thru His word He tells us He loves us; and in our worship we tell Him we love Him.

A Golden Psalm – Psalm 16

Psalm 16 begins with the inscription “A Miktam of David.” Depending upon who you ask, miktam indicates how to sing the psalm or means “a golden psalm” (also 56-60). Either way, this Psalm contains the golden truth of the resurrection. According to Peter (Acts 2.25) & Paul (Acts 13.35), this psalm is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

“Preserve me” – keep me, protect me, guard me, save me. As shepherd with his sheep, a figure David would have identified with immediately. Here he is as a sheep calling out to the Shepherd.

2I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Without God, all is lost. Notice – three (3) names for God used in the first 2 verses: El, YHWH, Adoni.

3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

“the saints…are the excellent ones”: though they have no excellence in themselves; any excellence comes from God. “In whom is all my delight” – David finds his place among the people of God. On a more profound level, since this Psalm looks forward to Christ, Christ delights in His people.

Many people love God; but do they love being with God’s people? Do they love coming to church? Even among Christians, do you delight in being with God’s people? David did; Christ does – the Savior delights in the saints.

4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

Notice the contrast: with God & His people there is “delight;” but away from God with other gods is “sorrow.” Idolatry only breeds “sorrow,” woe, pain. “Run after” can mean wed. Those who “marry” other gods end up with a sorrowful marriage. “Drink offerings of blood” may allude to the sacrifice of Molech which required a child. David says he never sacrificed to another God.

5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

According to the Law (Num 18.20), the sons of Aaron (priesthood) and the tribe of Levi had no portion of the land. God tells them He is their portion. David says YHWH is his portion, He is more than enough. “My cup” which satisfies the thirst of the dry soul.

“You hold my lot” – “A minister may fill his pews…but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and nothing more.” – John Owen.

6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As David scoped out Jerusalem and surveyed the surrounding territory, he saw the “beautiful inheritance” of land God had given His people. On a higher level, Christ (Eph 1.18), when He surveys His people, His bride, the church, He sees His “beautiful inheritance.” Indeed, we, because we know Christ, consider the various blessings we now enjoy and how those will give way to something even more profound someday, we have a “beautiful inheritance.”

7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Counsel from the YHWH blossoms & grows in our heart & mind. David would meditate upon God’s counsels even at midnight, being instructed by them.

“Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night that fools can see by day with their eyes open” (Spurgeon).

8I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Perhaps at this point in his life the 1st part of this verse were true for David. “Always” had he set YHWH before him. However, you & I know the tragic episode in David’s life with Bathsheba where David set aside the Lord. But when you set the Lord always before you, He is close by and ready to save. While David is the type, Christ is the antitype. His is a life which never set aside the Lord, but truly kept Him ever before Him.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

“Therefore” since God is continually close…there is true joy & gladness that comes from the abiding presence of God. Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Lk 10.21). Brother Lawrence was a humble cook in a monastery, but his book on The Practice of the Presence of God is enlightening. “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (37).

10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

“Sheol” is the unseen realm of disembodied souls (New Testament counterpart is Hades). When a person dies, they go here as a waiting place for final judgment. When David died, that’s where his soul went and his body saw decay. How much did David understand about what he is writing here? We know it speaks of resurrection (dead body coming back to life), but that was wholly unknown to David. It will be a century or two before the first resurrection takes place (by Elijah, 1 Kings 17). He had some inkling (v.11a)…

11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The path to eternal life realized in Christ. Christ lived that He might die. Christ died that He might live again forevermore. Christ lives to make us partakers of His life. “In His presence” is where Christ is with all His glory & full joy.

Several generations of God’s people sang, read, pondered, and prayed this psalm. The temple was built by David’s son and then razed to ashes; the Israelites went into captivity, taking this psalm with them. 70 years later, the Israelites returned to the land, carrying this psalm with them. Temples were built, desecrated, and rebuilt. Empires rose & fell. And then, after nearly 1,000 years, one summer morning, when the feast of Pentecost was in full swing, Jerusalem was full of cheer & gladness, the time arrived to put the key in the lock & unlock the full meaning of this psalm. The same Spirit that had inspired it, interpreted it through apostolic lips.