Psalm 16

Many Viewpoints, Many Priorities

Have you ever felt alone in a room full of people? Why did you feel that way?

Let's face it. We live in a world where even our closest friends and family members can have different viewpoints and priorities than we do. They may even have a different world view than we have. In the past, those differences could be divided into us vs. them, black vs. white, right vs. wrong. Today, however, many differences are measured in shades of gray. We might not be sure of our own moral or faith compass, much less those of others close to us. We're tempted to cry out to God for direction in the face of so much uncertainty.

If you feel this way, take heart; so did the author of Psalm 16. He was a Levite who competed with pagan cults for the loyalty of the populace around Jerusalem. In such an atmosphere, his reputation and income was undercut, but his faith was not.

Psalm 16 can be divided into two sections: prayer for safety (16:1-6) and blessing of confidence (16:7-11). The prayer for safe harbor was not only personal, it was institutional. The author represented the true Levite who would not abandon his place and his commitment to worship YHWH.

A Poem by David.

1 Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge.
2 My soul, you have said to YHWH, "You are my Lord.
Apart from you I have no good thing."
3 As for the saints who are in the earth,
they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied who give gifts to another god.
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
nor take their names on my lips.
5 YHWH assigned my portion and my cup.
You made my lot secure.
6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

World English Bible

16:1-6 formed a quasi "A-B-A" structure. Verses 1-2 and 5-6 shared the same themes of sure faith. In the Lord, the author found security and blessing. Verses 3-4 described the curse that lay outside that faith (multiple sorrows) and the decision of the Levite (16:4b described sacrifice and prayer to idols). In this structure, the curse and the decision of fidelity stood out.

7 I will bless YHWH, who has given me counsel.
Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
8 I have set YHWH always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices.
My body shall also dwell in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul in Sheol,
neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life.
In your presence is fullness of joy.
In your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

16:7-11 celebrated the results of the fidelity found in 16:4b. The faith decision led to blessing God at every moment in life (16:7b). The spirit was at peace and the body had strength (16:8-9), even in the face of death (16:10). The road to the Lord was full of joy, for he was present (16:11). 

We live in a marketplace of ideas, and a marketplace of values. We can choose our viewpoint "cafeteria style" if we wish, and create a world view that is self-serving. But, is that wise? The lure of the easy way may distract us but it will not bring us true happiness. Sometimes we must disagree even with those close to us about priorities and values, but instinctively we know what will bring us joy: the presence of God in our lives. He will be with us, even if we find we are out of place in a room full of people.

When have you felt your faith and values threatened by competing interests? How have you remained faithful, despite the opposition?