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Easter [2017]: Full Joy and Eternal Pleasure (Psalm 16)

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April 16, 2017

Special Easter Message

The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, argued that all people without exception seek happiness and that this is the motive of every action of every person—even, he said, of those who hang themselves! (Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensées, trans. by W. F. Trotter [E. P. Dutton], p. 113, cited by John Piper, Desiring God [Mult­nomah Books], Tenth Anniversary Ed. p. 16.) The problem is, people think that sin will bring lasting joy and pleasure. But sin always deceives. It delivers pleasure at first (Heb. 11:25), but ultimately that passing pleasure rots into corruption (Gal. 6:8).

If I were to ask, “What word pops into your mind when you think of God, would you reply, “Joy!” “Pleasure!” You should! The Bible repeatedly teaches that full joy and lasting pleasure are found in only one place: in the presence of God. Psalm 34:8 invites us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Deuteronomy 12:12 commands, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God ….” Verse 18 repeats, “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings.” Deuteronomy 27:7 says it again: “You shall rejoice before the Lord your God.” In the New Testament, from prison Paul writes (Phil. 3:1), “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” So that we don’t miss it, he repeats (Phil. 4:4), “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” The Holy Spirit is the source of joy (Rom. 14:17; 15:13; Gal. 5:22). These and many more verses invite us to find full joy and lasting pleasure in God.

Psalm 16 is about experiencing joy and pleasure in God (v. 11): “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” The scholarly German commentator, Franz Delitzsch, wrote of Psalm 16 (Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes [Eerdmans], by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, p. 217), “There reigns in the whole Psalm, a settled calm, an inward joy, and a joyous confidence, which is certain that everything that it can desire for the present and for the future it possesses in its God.” The message of the Psalm is:

To have full joy and eternal pleasure, make the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ your supreme treasure.

The psalm divides into two main sections: Verses 1-6 describe how to make the Lord your supreme treasure. Verses 7-11 show the results that follow: you will be satisfied with full joy and eternal pleasure in Him. But, also, all commentators agree that verses 8-11 speak prophetically of Christ’s death and resurrection, because both Peter and Paul quoted these verses of Him (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). So I add a third point that all of God’s treasures are secured by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Make the crucified and risen Lord your supreme treasure.

The first section (Ps. 16:1-6) shows five ways to make the Lord your supreme treasure:

A. Make the Lord your refuge and Savior.

Psalm 16:1: “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.” David probably wrote this psalm when his life was in danger: He needed rescue and a refuge. Rather than trusting in a physical stronghold (although he may have taken refuge in one), David trusted and took refuge in God. The truth is, we all need a place of refuge and protection, both in time and for eternity.

Temporally, we instinctively try to protect ourselves from harm and danger. We avoid risks that could kill us. We wear seat belts when we drive. We avoid smoking and eating junk foods that can cause disease. While we should do all of these things, we also should take refuge in God to protect us. Fasten your seat belt, but pray for safety. Take proper care of your body, but pray for health. We need the Lord’s protection constantly in this life.

But far more than temporal protection, we need an eternal place of refuge. The fact is, we’re all going to die and stand before the holy God in judgment. How can we avoid condemnation on that day? All of the good works you can pile up will not erase the fact that you have sinned and that the wages of sin is eternal separation from God. If you were guilty of multiple murders, but you tried to argue in court that you’re a basically good person who devoted your spare time to helping the needy, you’d still be convicted. Jesus said that all who have been angry with someone else are guilty of murder in God’s sight (Matt. 5:21-22). I don’t know of anyone who can honestly say, “I’ve never been angry!” So we all need a way to take care of our many sins before we stand before God.

The good news is: God has provided Jesus Christ as the Savior for all sinners who trust in Him. He is the refuge from God’s wrath for all who flee to Him. Jesus bore the curse of God’s wrath that we deserve for our sins, so that God could be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Paul wrote (Rom. 10:13), “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That promise is for you! To have full joy and eternal pleasure, flee now to Jesus as your refuge and Savior. Then you will be safe on judgment day.

B. Make the Lord your Lord and your supreme good.

Psalm 16:2: “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” Scholars translate the last phrase of verse 2 in one of two ways. The New KJV renders it, “My goodness is nothing apart from You.” This would mean that God does not need our good works, because they can contribute nothing to Him.

But most scholars understand the verse to mean (as in the NASB), “I have no good besides You.” As Psalm 73:25 proclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.” It goes on to state (Ps. 73:28), “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge …” Sam Storms (enjoyinggodministries.com/article/satisfaction-psalm-16) comments: “Everything without God is pathetically inferior to God without everything.”

Can you truly affirm, “Lord, I have no other good besides You”? The only way you can truthfully say that is if you can affirm the first part of the verse: “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord.’” David was a part of the larger covenant people of God. But that’s not enough. In modern terms, it’s not enough to be from a Christian family or to be a church member. You must personally be able to say, “Jesus, You are my Lord.” Only when you know Jesus personally as your Lord can you begin to know Him as your only good.

Jesus explained this by two parables (Matt. 13:44-46):

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Being a Christian means that the Spirit of God has opened your eyes to see Jesus as that treasure in the field. He is the pearl of great value. The joy of finding Him makes it worth giving up everything else to gain Christ. As Paul explained it (Phil. 3:7-8):

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ….

Have you done that? Has God opened your eyes to see Jesus as your treasure and supreme good, so that you have said, “Jesus, You are my Lord”? That’s the only path to lasting joy and pleasure.

C. Make the Lord the center of your relationships.

Ps. 16:3: “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Making the Lord our only good (v. 2) does not imply becoming a monk in solitary confinement. Rather, it is to put God at the center of everything, including our relationships. David’s point in verse 3 is that his joy in God is enhanced because he has delighted himself in the company of God’s people, whom he calls “saints” and “majestic ones.” These terms describe God’s people as those set apart unto Him, whose character is excellent or upright. The idea is that the path to lasting joy and pleasure is not a solitary journey. We travel in the company of fellow pilgrims, growing in holiness and love as together we find joy in God.

Thus make the Lord your supreme treasure by making Him your refuge and Savior; by making Him your Lord and your supreme good; by making Him the center of your relationships.

D. Make the Lord the exclusive object of your worship.

David’s thoughts about God’s saints cause him to reflect on those who turn their backs on God and pursue idols (Ps. 16:4): “The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.” The Hebrew verb here can be translated either “bartered for” (NASB), or “run after” (ESV, NIV). Either way, the idea is that they have forsaken the living and true God to go after idols. But those idols never provide fullness of joy, but rather multiplied sorrows.

That’s always the case when we pursue the idols of this world! The false gods of financial success, sensual pleasure, or personal peace always promise fulfillment, but result in sorrow. So make the Lord the exclusive object of your worship.

E. Make the Lord your present and eternal inheritance.

Ps. 16:5-6: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” In the same way, Paul says that in Christ we have obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:17) and that in the ages to come, God will show us “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). It will take all eternity to discover our inheritance!

The idea behind Psalm 16:5-6 is that of God’s apportioning the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. But God did not give an inheritance of land to the priestly tribe of Levi. Rather, the Lord said to Aaron (Num. 18:20), “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.”

As David reflects on this, his thought is that having the Lord as his portion is better than the best piece of land that anyone could inherit. John Calvin comments (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], on Ps. 16, p. 226), “For he who has God as his portion is destitute of nothing which is requisite to constitute a happy life.” C. S. Lewis wrote (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996], p. 31): “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” David’s primary joy is not in God’s gifts, but in the Lord Himself (Willem VanGemeren, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Zondervan] ed. by Frank Gaebelein, 5:157).

Can you honestly say, “I have made the Lord my supreme treasure”? You make that choice when you trust in Christ as your Savior, but then you should be growing to treasure Him more and more as you walk with Him (Phil. 3:7-16). What happens when the Spirit of God enables you to do this?

2. When the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ is your supreme treasure, He will satisfy you with full joy and eternal pleasure.

Psalm 16:7-11 lists four blessings that result when you make the Lord your supreme treasure:

A. When the Lord is your supreme treasure, you enjoy His counsel and instruction.

Ps. 16:7: “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.” The Hebrew word for “mind” (lit. “kidneys”) refers to the innermost personal life (J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms [Zondervan], p. 194). “Night” is plural in Hebrew, so the thought is, “night after night the Lord has counseled and instructed me as I have meditated upon Him.” David may be referring to the night watches or to times when he woke up in the night and thought about the Lord. When you treasure God’s Word in your heart, you receive His instruction and counsel that will sustain you during nights of difficulty and trials.

B. When the Lord is your supreme treasure, you experience His stability in trials.

Ps. 16:8: “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Your responsibility is to set the Lord continually before you. In Paul’s words (Col. 3:1-2), “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” When you do that, Isaiah 26:3 explains the result: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” When you know that the Lord is at your right hand, even though you may be surrounded by powerful enemies, you will have the peace of knowing that they cannot touch you unless it is God’s will (2 Kings 6:8-17).

C. When the Lord is your supreme treasure, you experience gladness and joy because you are secure in Him.

Ps. 16:9: “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.” Glory refers to the soul. By adding, “my flesh,” David means that his total being, inward and outward, is glad and joyful because God has caused him to live securely. When you reflect on your security in Christ (as Paul does in Romans 8), you can’t help but be glad and rejoice in the Lord. If God is your treasure then you’re His treasure (Deut. 26:18), and God never loses His treasure! Rejoice!

D. When the Lord is your supreme treasure, you experience eternal joy and pleasure in God’s presence.

Ps. 16:10-11: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” As we’ll see in a moment, these verses find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But as applied to David, the idea is either that the Lord will preserve and prolong his life; or, although he will die, the Lord will not permit him to suffer eternal destruction. To undergo decay “is a metaphor for total isolation and abandonment from God’s presence” (VanGemeren, p. 158). Rather than that, by walking in “the path of life,” David had hope beyond the grave that he would enjoy full joy and eternal pleasure in God’s presence. That’s your hope if you know the Lord Jesus as your supreme treasure.

David’s satisfaction (seen in v. 11) stands in stark contrast to the sad experience of his son, Solomon. Solomon sought satisfaction in his work, but found it empty. He sought fulfillment through wisdom, but found it vain. He built a beautiful palace and landscaped it with a fabulous garden, but found no pleasure in it. He tried laughter and wine, but found these to be madness. He had sexual pleasures with 700 beautiful wives and 300 concubines, but they could not satisfy him. He had fabulous wealth, but it couldn’t buy him happiness. He chronicles all of this in Ecclesiastes. Al­though he finally found contentment in the Lord (Eccl. 12:13), he should have learned sooner from his father to make the Lord his supreme treasure!

But maybe you’re wondering, “If I don’t go after worldly pleasure and instead seek pleasure in God, how can I be sure of the eternal joy and pleasure that God promises? Maybe I’ll have a hard life of suffering and then die and that’s it. How can I know that I will have joy and pleasure forever with God beyond the grave?”

3. God’s promises of eternal joy and pleasure are secured by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ (Ps. 16:8-11).

Both Peter and Paul (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-37) cite Psalm 16 and assert that verse 10 did not find final fulfillment in David, in that he died and his body underwent decay. David wrote prophetically of his Son, God’s Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. After citing Psalm 16:8-11, Peter concludes (Acts 2:29-32):

“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.”

The consistent apostolic witness was that Jesus’ death and bodily resurrection proved Him to be God’s promised Messiah and Savior (Acts 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30). Even when the apostles suffered persecution and faced martyrdom, they kept proclaiming that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Paul went so far as to say that if Jesus is not risen bodily from the dead, our faith is worthless; we’re still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17). The entire Christian faith rests on the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection. That fact means that God’s promise of eternal joy and pleasure in His presence is secure for those who trust in the crucified and risen Savior!

Conclusion

The current movie, “The Case for Christ,” tells the true story of the conversion of Lee Strobel. He was an atheistic legal affairs reporter for the Chicago Tribune when his wife unexpectedly came to faith in Christ. At first, he vigorously opposed her faith. But eventually, he decided to investigate the claims of Christ and His resurrection by applying the investigative skills he used as a crime reporter. Although the movie only pictures a few interviews, Strobel’s book (The Case for Christ [Zondervan]) tells how for over two years Strobel crisscrossed the country, interviewing 13 scholars. Rather than disproving the claims of Christ, eventually Strobel came to realize that the evidence supports the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He put his trust in Christ.

More than a century before, the same thing happened to Simon Greenleaf (1783–1853). He was a law professor at Harvard, who wrote the three-volume legal masterpiece, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still regarded as “the greatest single authority in the entire literature of legal procedure.” The U.S. judicial system today operates on rules of evidence established by Greenleaf.

While teaching law at Harvard, Professor Greenleaf stated to his class that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was simply a legend; as an atheist he thought miracles to be impossible. In a rebuttal, three of his law students challenged him to apply his acclaimed rules of evidence to the resurrection account. Eventually, Greenleaf took up the challenge, attempting to prove that the resurrection account was false. Yet the more Greenleaf investigated the record of history, the more stunned he was at the powerful evidence supporting the claim that Jesus had indeed risen from the tomb. He was so persuaded by the evidence that he became a committed Christian. (Greenleaf’s story taken from http://y-jesus.com/simon-greenleaf-resurrection.)

God’s promises of full joy and eternal pleasure are secured by the fact that Jesus died for our sins and He was raised from the dead, as the apostolic witnesses uniformly proclaim. But those promises only apply to you if you turn from your sins and trust in Jesus as the one who died for your sins and was raised from the dead. God offers you full joy and eternal pleasure in Jesus Christ. Sell all that you have to buy the field with that great treasure of Christ and you will have full joy and pleasures forever in Him!

Application Questions

  1. Your friend claims to be a Christian, but is not experiencing joy in Christ. He asks your help. Where would you begin?
  2. Is it okay to enjoy things other than God (family, friends, possessions, etc.)? When do they become idols?
  3. Is it sin to be depressed? Why/why not? Defend biblically.
  4. Does Psalm 16 alter your view of God? How so?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

 

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