Scripture: Psalm 16
Prayer is a beautiful blessing that we should continually be engaged in but which too many of us do not use effectively. Too often, we will pray to God only in times of distress or crisis. Prayer is the “last resort”, because everything else has failed. I wonder how many times people have done that during lockdown, rather than seeing prayer as a way of rejoicing in God’s presence, thanking Him for the good things in life, for the faithful people and being able to have relationships with each other and God, praising Him for His guidance, security, protection, and love.
Prayer is more than just asking for help. Prayer is the primary way that we communicate with our Lord. We know from Psalm 16, that David understood all the different ways that prayer could be used. Much of Psalm 16 is a prayer of praise over what God had done for Him, and all of His people.Verse 2 is very significant, “I say to the Lord, You are my Lord; all the good things I have come from you.” I can’t help thinking how all people need to understand and follow this! In spite of everything, we want to be in charge. We may pray for specific things that we need, but the rest of the time God should stay in his place, because we feel we can handle things by ourselves and have no need for God.
Fortunately, the Lord does not work that way. God is not some waiter, or servant, that is waiting for us to “beckon” to Him to fulfil some little need. Instead, we are expected to serve Him and please Him. We are expected to give God our trust, our lives, and, yes, our prayers.
Becoming a Christian involves a change – a major change in life. We may profess that we want to change for the Lord, but too often, what we really mean is that we want that change to be relatively small and painless. However, when we obey the Gospel, accept the Lord as our Saviour, and become part of God’s family, we are cleansed and healed and live our lives putting Him first. Sometimes the process is painful but, like David, we should say with thanksgiving “Apart from you I have no good thing.”
Verse 3 also points out another important truth that says something about David’s character: “How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them”. It is especially important that Christians have close friends that are also Christians. Christians cannot cut themselves off from the world, but genuine friendships must be carefully nurtured with believers. Christian friendships will build up faith and encourage. Our Christian friends can be like the wind that fills the sails of a ship and propels it forward. Good Christ-centred friends will help a Christian face the trials of life with strength and courage.
In verse 6, David writes: “How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are!”. As you consider this passage, think of all the great trials and hardships that David had to face. Yes, he was a king with great wealth and power, but look at what he suffered! In spite of all that, David looked beyond the trials of life to the eternal reward that awaited him. That clearly demonstrated the great faith of David. Today, the good news of Jesus Christ has been plainly proclaimed, but for David, that message was still the “mystery of the ages”. Only through his faith in God’s love and mercy could he look forward to his inheritance. We are blessed to know that God’s invitation is available to everyone through Jesus Christ.
Not only was David’s spirit given to God, but he also knew that life was found in God and he felt secure because He remained in God and so God protected Him, “… my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay”. Many Jewish teachers studied in vain to find the answer to those words of David. They knew that David had died and had been buried in a tomb. How could he have said that he would not see decay?
The answer would not come until centuries later when a simple fisherman stood up on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and proclaimed the first Gospel Message concerning Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:25-28, Peter used the passage from Psalm 16 to prove that David was speaking of the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Only in Christ could David’s body truly not see decay. Today, as Christians, we know that we will face death just as David faced it. Yet, we KNOW that the grave will not hold us, and we will be raised again to an eternal life. What joy! What peace! What blessings are ours through our Lord!
The beautiful verse at the end of the psalm says simply, “You will show me the path that leads to life.” Jesus’ own life gives us a pattern to follow in many ways. He was born into a family, tended by parents, had brothers and sisters, learnt a trade and earned a living, and gathered around Him a community of friends. At some stage He discovered the calling on His life and then fulfilled it to the best of His ability. It wasn’t always easy and along the way there were difficult decisions to be made. But at the end He had fulfilled His calling and purpose. Jesus opened the ‘Good’ way through His own life and death into eternal life as the forerunner of the redeemed.
Jesus also is the Path of Life, He is the Light of the World that illuminates the path that we should take. That path will be completely unique to each one of us and different from everyone else’s. We are uniquely made and gifted with different constraints to follow a unique path for a unique calling. There are different seasons to the calling, it may change over time. The thing we must do is keep praying, asking God to show us we are on His path and not our own, and ask Him to prepare and equip us for changes ahead. If we stick close to Jesus and follow where He leads, we won’t miss the path, or the works (Eph 2:10), that God has prepared for us.
Yes, David wrote through the inspiration of the Spirit; but today, our spiritual vision is much clearer, and we can truly echo the final words of the psalm, “You will show me the path that leads to life; Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure for ever.”