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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Believers should have joyful confidence in God facing both life and death
Text:Psalms 16 (View)
Topic:Death Defeated

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 31

Psalm 130

Psalm 16:1-3

Psalm 16:4-5

Hymn 37

Scripture reading:  Acts 13:13-43

Text: Psalm 16

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our risen Lord Jesus,

Today we’re celebrating the resurrection of our Saviour.  Did you know that a way has been found to bring back people from the dead?  Over the last few years, some famous celebrities have been resurrected, including Audrey Hepburn, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, and Michael Jackson.  These dead celebrities were brought back to life for TV advertising campaigns.  Their resurrections took place through the technological wizardry of CGI – computer generated imagery.  But in reality, their bodies are still in the grave and will be until Christ returns.  That’s the best resurrection human beings can come up with.  It may look convincing on the TV screen, but it’s still a fabrication.  It’s a digital fake. 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not fake.  It really happened in time and history.  On the third day after the cross, the eyes that had closed in death on Friday suddenly popped open again.  The heart that had stopped beating on Golgotha took to thumping again in the garden tomb.  The arms that hung limp as he was carried to the tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph, those arms suddenly regained all their strength.  Jesus was alive again, for real.  That this is true was witnessed by over 500 people.  It didn’t happen in a corner somewhere, only seen by one or two people.  No, the resurrection of Christ had heaps of witnesses.  After he ascended into heaven, those witnesses went out with his good news.  They spread it everywhere and they were even prepared to die for it.  Some of them did – that’s a fact.  And why would you go and die for something you know isn’t true?  No, Christ really did rise from the dead.  It’s as sure a thing as any other fact of history.  Nobody doubts that the Titanic sunk in 1912.  Nobody doubts that a campaign took place at Gallipoli in 1915.  No one should doubt the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead and is still alive today.  His tomb was well and truly empty.        

According to the apostles in the book of Acts, all this had been prophesied in the Old Testament already.  One of the passages that the apostles saw coming to fulfillment in Christ’s resurrection was Psalm 16.  In Acts 2, Peter was preaching his Pentecost sermon.  He quoted from Psalm 16 at length.  He said that the part he quoted can’t be about David, because the location of David’s tomb is well-known and it’s not empty.  Psalm 16 is ultimately not about David, but about Christ.  Similarly, in Acts 13, Paul was preaching in the Jewish synagogue in Pisidia.  He too quoted from Psalm 16.  Paul too pointed out the obvious.  Psalm 16 speaks about resurrection, but David is dead, his body is still in the grave.  Psalm 16 was pointing ahead to Jesus.  And so, this morning we’re going to focus our attention on this psalm.  The psalm speaks about the resurrection of Christ, but it also says more.  It’s a psalm of exuberant trust in God.  That worshipful and exuberant attitude of trust is fitting for us as Christians today on Easter, and indeed every day.  So, I preach to you God’s Word from Psalm 16 with this theme: 

Believers should have joyful confidence in God facing both life and death

We’ll see:

  1. How the believer relates to God
  2. How God relates to the believer

Before we get into the text of Psalm 16, I just need to explain how we’re going to approach this.  Psalm 16 is a piece of poetry and it has a structure.  When David wrote this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he had a method.  Now the problem is taking that method into what we normally do with sermons.  Normally, we have a theme and two or three points, and those two or three points follow each other consecutively.  When we’re finished with point one, we go to point two, then when that’s done, it’s on to point three.  When point three is finished, the sermon concludes.  That’s not going to work here.  You’ll have to listen carefully.  As I just mentioned, there are two points for this sermon.   We’re going to through the psalm from beginning to end, but we’re going to see that point 1 is not finished after verse 4.  There’s going to be a part 1 to point 1, and a part 2.  Part 1 is verses 1-4; part 2 is verses 7 and 8, and the first part of verse 9.  With point 2, there’ll also be two parts.  Part 1 is verses 5 and 6, and part 2 is verses 9 to 11.  So we have two points with two parts each.  As we go along, I’ll make it clear where we are and what we’re doing.     

So, to get started, we’re first looking at verses 1-4.  This is about how the believer relates to God.  The believer who originally wrote this Psalm was David.  It says that at the beginning and we have no reason to doubt that.  The Psalm is a Miktam and if you look at the note at the bottom of your Bible on that, it says that it’s “probably a musical or liturgical term.”  That’s about as far as we can go on what a Miktam is.  No one is quite sure exactly what it means, but since it’s not part of the body of the Psalm, it’s not crucially important either.

The Psalm begins with a prayer, “Preserve me, O God…”  There’s some kind of danger threatening, though the danger is not laid out.  The Holy Spirit did that on purpose.  It means that believers can make this their prayer when they’re facing any kind of threat or danger.  We can call out to God and plead with him for our protection. 

That’s what David does, he makes this prayer, because it’s in God that he takes refuge.  God is the safe tower into which he runs for safety.  That’s how he relates to God – he looks to God for his security. 

And he constantly speaks to Yahweh, to the LORD.  He confesses, “You are my Lord.”  He says that Yahweh is his master, his owner.  When he says that Yahweh is his Lord, that’s showing how he relates to him.  He relates to him as a servant to his Master.  When the Master speaks, the servant listens and obeys. 

The servant also finds all his welfare supplied by his Master.  David says, “I have no good apart from you…”  As the Holy Spirit says in James 1:17, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”  When we have good stuff happening in our lives, when we experience blessings and joys, it all comes from God.  We give him thanks.  We give him praise.  And we realize that apart from God, we wouldn’t receive anything good.  All of our blessings are bound up in him.  So the Psalmist relates to God as a servant to his Master, and the Master in this picture is the fount of every blessing. 

And relating to God necessarily also involves relating to his people.  That’s what verse 3 is telling us.  It refers to the “saints in the land.”  That’s simply referring to David’s fellow believers.  These aren’t super-believers, but just regular people who also place their trust in Yahweh for salvation.   Their excellence, their worth and value, comes from who they are in relation to God.  They are saints – that means that God is the one who has set them apart.  David finds all his delight in them.  He sees his fellow believers loving God and following God and that’s something he finds beautiful.  This is about the communion of saints.  The believer doesn’t exist all on his or her own.  God has a people, and believers love to be with other believers.  Believers love to see what God is doing with and through other believers.  They find that encouraging, they find delight in that. 

David did, and so does Christ, the one to whom David pointed.  Our Saviour also takes delight in his people.  They are his bride, his beloved.  Naturally a husband takes delight in his wife.  So Jesus also takes delight in his church.  The church is the apple of his eye.  Now what about us?   If we’re Christians, the Bible tells us that we’re united to Christ.  What he loves is what we’re supposed to love.  Have you ever heard of people who say things like, “I love Jesus, but I really don’t love the church”?  I’ve heard people talk like that.  But if you love Christ, you’re also supposed to love what he loves.  You’re united to him.  His loves are supposed to be your loves.  We should say with David and with Christ, “As for the saints, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.  I love the church!”  And if you can’t say that right now, pray for the Spirit to work that love in your heart.  What you read here in verse 3 is supposed to be a vision of who we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to love.  As we relate to God, as we relate to Christ, we’re to love God, love Christ, and love his church.

Verse 4 presents us with a contrast.  Verse 3 was about the believers in the land.  Verse 4 is about unbelieving idolaters.  There are those who run after other gods.  The Hebrew for this expression is intriguing.  The word that’s used is related to the word for a bride price or dowry.  Running after other gods seems to be compared to chasing after a wife.  There’s a link here between idolatry and adultery.  This makes sense, especially if those mentioned in verse 4 are Jewish people.  Israelites had a covenant with God, they were in this relationship with Yahweh, a relationship compared to marriage.  To run after other gods is spiritual adultery.  It’s true for us too.  When we make other things more important than God, we’re not only idol-makers, we’re also philanderers.  We’re unfaithful in our relationship to God.  And that has consequences according to verse 4.  Sorrows will be multiplied.  When idols have a place in your life, you think that good things will come out of it.  That’s a lie.  The truth is right here.  The truth is sorrows shall multiply.  You’re not just getting one sorrow, but multiple, many sorrows.  Lots of pain and trouble come from finding your comfort or pain-relief or any other good from anywhere other than God.  It’s a warning.  It’s the same warning found in Proverbs:  the way of the wicked is hard.

But David affirms that he’s not going in that way.  He won’t pour out those offerings of blood.  That refers to offerings from guilty hands.  He won’t even mention the names of these idols – in obedience to what God had commanded in Exodus 23:13.  In short, David is going to relate to God properly by relating to him exclusively.  He won’t let anything or anyone come between him and Yahweh.  This is all about following the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” 

That’s something David aimed to do, but he was imperfect and inconsistent in doing it.  You can think of how he succumbed to the idol of lust in the Bathsheba episode.  David was a failure.  Christ came and he did it perfectly.  He never had idols in his heart or life.  His obedience is ours when we believe in him.  Loved ones, it’s credited to us and that’s good news.  But we also want to live in union with him on this score too.  Like Christ, we want to see idols gone in our lives.  We desire that what’s here in verse 4 is true of us in our daily lives – that we would have nothing to do with idols.                      

Now we’re moving to verses 5 to 6.  Here we’re under that second point of how God relates to the believer.  You can see that from the fact that the subject here is God.  David writes of what God has been doing for him. 

In verse 5, he says that Yahweh is his chosen portion and cup.  This is a metaphor or word picture.  The picture is of food and drink.  The chosen portion is food, the cup is drink.  The picture points us to how God provides.  As God relates to believers, he provides them with food and drink and all they need for life before him.  This is about God’s providence. 

It’s the same in the second part of verse 5, “You hold my lot.”  God has assigned a destiny for every believer.  Our lives and where they’re heading are in his good and loving hands.   In his relationship with us, he sovereignly and graciously controls everything.  Everything, both the things we experience as good, and the things we experience as difficult.  Both in prosperity and adversity, “You hold my lot.”  And, brothers and sisters, because we belong to him through Christ, all these things will work out for our good.  Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  That’s how God relates to the believer. 

He also relates in providing an inheritance.  David writes about that in verse 6.  He says, “The lines have fallen for me in in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  Every Israelite had a portion in the Promised Land.   There was one tribe that didn’t and that was the tribe of Levi.  They were the priestly tribe and their inheritance was God himself.  David was from the tribe of Judah, so he had an inheritance in the Promised Land.  That’s the first reference here.  David looks at what God has providentially given him in Judah and he sees how beautiful it is – he’s contented with that.  But all of that talk of inheritance in the Old Testament was meant to point to a richer reality in the New Testament.  The richer reality is the inheritance laid up for us in the new heavens and new earth.  Through Christ, we are God’s adopted children and heirs.  Through Christ, we stand to receive an inheritance.  We have a heavenly Promised Land waiting, where we’ll be living in communion with God forever.  God relates to believers by giving them this rich blessing of an inheritance.  We can say, “Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance because I am God’s child through Jesus Christ.  I can say with joyful confidence that I have so much to look forward to in the age to come.” 

Verses 7 to 9 bring us back to the first point of how the believer relates to God.  David’s been reflecting on God’s providence and inheritance, and he’s going to relate to God with praise.  It’s enthusiastic praise that we find here.

“I bless Yahweh,” David says.  It means that he praises God.  He heaps up words that speak of Yahweh’s greatness.  And the reason is that Yahweh gives counsel to David.  In other words, God shows him what to do in difficult circumstances.  An extraordinary example of that is found in 1 Samuel 23.  Saul was pursuing David.  David was holed up in the city of Keilah.  Saul was on his way, and David needed to know if the people of Keilah would give him up to Saul.  So David sought counsel from God.  He did it through the Urim and Thummim.  These were special stones in the ephod or vest of the High Priest.  Through these stones, God would give answers to the questions asked.  God told David that the men of Keilah were going to betray him, so David left right away.  God had given him counsel through the Urim and Thummim.  At other times God also gave counsel to David through his Word, and through prophets like Nathan. 

Today, we don’t have things like the Urim and Thummim.  But we still have the Word of God, and it’s through the Word that God also directs our lives.  God gives us direction for how we ought to live in the Scriptures.  When we receive that direction, like David, we can and should praise God for it.  It’s wise and good instruction that we find in the Bible. 

Going on in verse 7, David adds that God’s counsel rings in his inner being even at night.  As he’s lying in bed, his heart reminds him of what God has said.  Through the Word driven into our beings, we reflect on God’s Word day and night.  David did that, Christ did that, believers today do that.  That’s how believers relate to God and grow in joyful confidence.  It’s through the Word. 

We also live life coram Deo, which is Latin for “before the face of God.”  David says in verse 8, “I have set Yahweh always before me…”  David relates to God by living his life with God in mind at all times.  If you’ve got a pen, underline that word “always.”  That’s a crucial word in verse 8.  He doesn’t say, “I have set Yahweh before me some of the time.”  He doesn’t say, “I have set Yahweh before me most of the time.”  No, it’s “always.”  That’s what David aimed to do.  Did he do it consistently?  We’ve already heard that he was an imperfect believer.  There were moments in his life when he clearly lost sight of God’s presence, where he wasn’t living coram Deo.  There was that Bathsheba incident, but there was also the census in 2 Samuel 24.  David was supposed to place his trust in God and not in the number of his soldiers or potential soldiers.  He sinned by taking a census.  He got stuck on the horizontal, forgot about relating to God in the vertical.  Verse 8 of Psalm 16 may have been true of much of David’s life and it was the ideal he strove for, but he obviously fell short.  But his great descendant Jesus never did.  “I have set the LORD always before me” -- that was absolutely true of Christ.  He related to God his Father perfectly – and through grace that’s credited to us too.  And with his Spirit living in us, uniting us to him, we aim for this to be true of us too.  We pray for the Holy Spirit to work it in us so that we are those who are always mindful of the vertical, always mindful of the God with whom we have to do.  We’re mindful of his presence, and his will for our lives.

And with God at the believer’s right hand, with God at the position of might and power, we will not be shaken.  By ourselves, we are awful shaky.  By ourselves, we are feeble and frail.  We’re prone to fall at the slightest hard thing that comes our way.  But when we relate to God in joyful confidence, living with the firm conviction that he’s present and he’s on our side, we can stand with great security.        

That leads us to the words of high praise at the beginning of verse 9.  The believer relates to God with a glad heart.  His whole being, everything in him rejoices because of what he has in God.  Our Bible translation says, “and my whole being rejoices,” but you could also translate that as “my whole being shouts in exultation.”  These words have a lot of feeling behind them, heaps of passion.  David is filled with a desire to make much of God – that’s how he wants to relate to him.  And remember that David only knew God in the limited ways that an Old Testament believer could.  When it came to God’s plan for our salvation, he was in the shadows.  We’ve come into the full light of what Christ has done.  We know the full picture.  If David praised God like this in the shadows, how are we to praise God in the light?  Looking at Christ’s perfect life, his death on the cross in our place, his resurrection victory – all of that should stir up our hearts to even more passionate praise!   

Finally, we’re looking at the second part of verse 9 up to the end.  That brings us back one more time to how God relates to the believer, to the second point.  This is where we find the hope of the resurrection prophesied in this Psalm.  This is where the Holy Spirit tells us of a coming holy one whose body would not see decay.

The security that the believer has in God not only pertains to his soul, but also to his body.  That’s why the last part of verse 9 says that “my flesh also dwells secure.”  God takes care of both soul and body.  The whole person is God’s concern. 

Verse 10 brings that to fuller expression.  The soul of the believer is not going to be left in Sheol.  “Sheol” here is the realm of the dead.  You could say that the soul of the believer is not going to be left in death.  Death does not have the final say for a believer’s soul.  There’s something beyond death. 

The second part of verse 10 refers to the body of the believer.  The body of the believer, the holy one is not going to see corruption in the grave, not going to see decomposition or decay.  Again, this is emphasizing that the security God brings is also there for our bodies.  When God saves us, he doesn’t just save our souls, he has a saving concern for our whole being.  That understanding was already there when David first wrote Psalm 16.  The Holy Spirit revealed to David that God was going to do something amazing for believers.  There would be a bodily resurrection for all who place their joyful confidence in Yahweh and his promises.  The grave does not have the last word for us.  The grave is not a dead end.

This is where Christ comes in as the first fulfillment of these words.  This is where Christ comes as the first fruits of the resurrection of all believers.  This is where Christ comes in as the guarantee that, just as he rose from the dead, so will David, and so will all of us.  The apostles saw that and that’s why Peter quoted from these words in Acts 2 and Paul quoted these words in Acts 13.  They saw that these words can’t and don’t apply directly to David.  They only apply to David through Christ and his resurrection.  They only apply to us through Christ and his resurrection. 

The body and soul of our Saviour Jesus were broken apart at death.  That’s the same thing that will happen to each one of us when we die.  We’re made up of two parts.  There’s a material and physical part we call a body.  There’s an immaterial and spiritual part that we call a soul.  When we die, these two are ripped apart.  It’s an unnatural thing.  We were created to be whole beings, body and soul always together.  But sin brought death and this disruption of the unity in our being.  Christ experienced it too.  From his death on Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning, his human soul and body were existing separately.  His soul was in heaven, his body in the tomb.  But God did not allow that state of affairs to go on.  On that Easter Sunday morning, the soul of Jesus was reunited with his body.  Christ’s soul was not abandoned to Sheol.  His body did not see corruption – it was not allowed to continue to decay.  The process was halted and reversed.  Jesus’ body was raised and glorified, perfected, never to die again.  Verse 10 predicted it. 

What’s true of Christ will be true of us too.  Because Christ has been raised as the first-fruits, as the guarantee, we can be joyfully confident that we too will be raised.  We will live forever in the new heavens and new earth with our physical human bodies reunited with our souls.  What a glorious future we have to look forward to!  God relates to us here by holding out this incredible gospel promise of bodily resurrection through Christ. 

The last verse serves as a summary of how God relates to the believer.  God makes known to us the path of life.  He did that for David through the promises for a redeemer.  Christ came and fulfilled those promises.  Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no other path to life, no other way to life with the Father, except through him.  In God’s presence, there is fullness of joy.  When you’re in a relationship of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, you know about joy.  That’s not a happy smile plastered on your face every waking moment come what may.  Instead, it’s a deep sense of contentment and peace.  It’s not controlled by your circumstances.  Biblical joy is a rich and full sense of belonging to God, being bound to him in love, a love that will never run out.  Finally, verse 10 says that at God’s right hand are pleasures forever more.  When you’re at God’s right hand, you’re in a privileged position.  It’s a position where there’s nothing but pleasure into eternity.  Now think for a moment about who is at God’s right hand.  Who?  Ephesians 1:20 tells us.  The Holy Spirit says that God raised Christ from the dead, “and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places...”  Christ is in that privileged position.  Our “pleasures forevermore” are in Christ.  As we look to our risen Saviour in faith, we find our confident joy in him.  In Christ, we find eternal delight.

Loved ones, facing both life and death, this Psalm shows us how to have joyful confidence.   As we live, we know our lives are in good hands.  When we face death, we know that death is defeated.  Christ has risen and we share in his victory.  We can be defiant in the face of death.  Is your heart glad to hear this?  Does your whole being rejoice at the news you’ve heard this morning?  Brothers and sisters, we have a great God and a wonderful Saviour in Jesus Christ.  He lavishes us with so much richness – he relates to us in such a gracious and compassionate way.  Let’s also pray for the Holy Spirit to help us to relate to him in a way that praises him, loves him, and fully depends on him.  AMEN. 


Merciful God and Father,

We take refuge in you and in your gospel promises.  We treasure what you give to us in your Word.  We know that you are our chosen portion and cup, you supply our every need.  You hold our lot – our lives and destinies are in your good loving hands.  Through you, we have an amazing inheritance waiting in the new creation.  You also promise us resurrection.  And as the first fruits and guarantee, you raised your Son Jesus.  You brought him back to life and announced the defeat of death.  Our heart is glad!  Our whole being rejoices, O God.  We love you and we want to serve you, we want to have you before us always.  Please help us with your Spirit to do these things.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to believe your Word, to believe what you promise.  Help us all to relate to you in faith and love.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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