Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing”. 

David begins this psalm by asking God to keep him safe and recognizing that no good thing comes in his life except from God. Here David reflects on what is good in life and how we attain it. In our lives, what do we consider as good: a good job, financial security, a home, professional status? 

When we have these things it is natural to say things are going well. On the other hand, striving for these things when we don’t have them brings stress and anxiety to our lives. But what good thing is David talking about here? He sets the stage by first declaring, “You are my Lord”. Then the good he refers to is that which emanates from God. “Apart from you I have no good thing.” The good David strives for is not from what he can accomplish for himself, but from what God gives him. Remember, David was an extremely successful king. He conquered territory from the Euphrates River, now Iraq, to the Mediterranean Sea. He commanded a powerful army and received tribute from many of the surrounding nations.   

He does not however, refer to this success as the good in his life. In verses 5 through 7, David identifies two good things that come from the Lord. One is faith that his destiny is in God’s hands.  “Lord . . . you make my lot secure”. What makes us successful and secures our future? For David it was the assurance that, despite being persecuted for seven years by Saul, despite a civil war with his own son, he had an inner confidence that God was in control of his future. 

The second good thing is in verse 7. David is thankful that God is right beside him, giving him counsel. “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me”. It is not a matter of now and then getting counsel from God. For David continues in verse 7, “even at night my heart instructs me”. His mindset of seeking counsel from God so permeated his being that it seeps into his being even in his sleep. A spirit of gratitude and praise puts him in a frame of mind where God is walking beside him through life. These are the good things in his life.

How does this kind of walking with God happen? David sums it up in verse 8: “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”. It is a conscious decision to focus his mind on the Lord, of always keeping his eyes on the Lord. Looking to God takes our “eyes” off of ourselves, enables us to focus on Him, and lets us walk confidently in peace with God.

Keeping our eyes on the Lord is a spiritual discipline. Like any discipline, it is something we have to practice and cultivate. Paul uses the analogy of athletics when he talks about the discipline it takes to get in spiritual shape to run a race. One of the spiritual exercises we can use to develop the discipline of keeping our eyes on the Lord is memorizing Scripture. Repeating Scripture to ourselves throughout the day focuses our mind on God and reminds us of our dependence on Him. 

Another exercise to develop the discipline of keeping our eyes always on the Lord is to set aside specific times to be with Him during the day. How many times do we say “I’ve got to exercise today” and not get to it? An athlete sets aside specific times each day to exercise. The same applies to us in developing spiritual disciplines. We need to have specific times when we meet with God. Monks have times throughout the day when they stop what they are doing to worship God. While most of us don’t live in a monastery, one of the things we can do is set an alarm on our phones for various times during the day to remind us to take a moment to be with God. We can recite a verse, say a few words to God, and then continue on our day. Develop the discipline of walking through the day with God.

However we work it out for ourselves, David reminds us that apart from the Lord we have no good thing. So, go through the day keeping our eyes always on the Lord and rejoice in His counsel and loving care for us.

Psalm 4

The Psalms, while poetry, are full of problems and concerns of daily life, and give us practical guides in how to overcome them. I want to begin this series with Psalm 4, which speaks to something we all face from time to time in life, sleeplessness. In this Psalm, David ends with a prayer, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” To be able to lie down and sleep in peace is something we all wish for but it does not always happen. Tossing and turning in bed at night is an all too often occurrence.