I love the Psalms and whenever I feel devotionally dry or I don’t know how to pray, I return to the Psalms. Psalms are after all actual prayers of people in Old Testament times. That may have been thousands of years ago, but people at the core really haven’t changed. The psalms which is like a prayer journal reveal that they struggled with the same kinds of things that we struggle with.
God where are you, feelings of abandonment, God, why are you so silent? How many of us can identify with this?
Related to that, loneliness, God, everyone has left me, you are all I have. How many of us can identify with this?
Where is justice? So many good people suffer, so many innocent people experience hunger or injustice or sickness? And why do the rich and the arrogant seem to be prosperous? Lord, I am trying my best to remain faithful to you but it’s so hard. Why do I need to struggle with my sins and my bad character, why do I have to struggle to love people around me when so many people around me seem so carefree and abundant? How many of us can identify with this?
Psalms is real life and that’s what I love about it. It’s about real people with real struggles and I think many of the topics they prayed could be the exact same things we pray today.
Some people have a misconception about praying to God. They think God is holy and awesome and we need to get our act together and do major acts of penance and beating ourselves before we can approach the throne of God.
Or others think since God is all about joy and goodness and so we need to sanitize our prayers and only tell God the kinds of things you think he wants to hear. These are the people who dress up in suits and dresses for Sunday service and they always have a smile on their face. They could have had the worst week and were super cranky and just got into a fight with their spouse on the way to church, but as soon as they enter the church, they say, Hello, Pastor. Isn’t God good?
I just want to say, God will never be scandalized by our prayers. Nothing we say will ever shock or disappoint God. In our prayers, we can say, God, I’m angry with you. Lord, where are you? How come you let me down back then? If you have a hard time praying, I encourage you to pray through the Psalms.
God wants to hear our honest, sincere prayers. We don’t need to dress them up like we do in our public prayers. Instead of just thinking through life, can we pray through life? I realize I think and process my life all the time but so little of that gets translated to prayer. Can we try this? Whenever a thought enters, instead of just allowing it to remain as a thought, can we turn it into prayer?
Psalm 16 is a famous Psalm from one of the most famous Christian prayer warriors in the Bible – and of course, it was written by King David. But he wasn’t a king when he wrote this.
Read Verse 1 – God as refuge
When is David at his best? Have you ever thought about that? That’s arguable but was it when he was king? He did some admirable and inspiring things as king, to be certain. But when he had the respect of a nation and he was a successful military general and he was living in a palace and everything was going well in his life, that’s also when he fell into adultery and the murder of a very honorable soldier as part of a shameful cover-up.
So when was David at his best? I think one of David’s brightest moments was the time when he wrote this psalm. Saul was king and David was a rising star, the front runner to be the next king. And Saul in his jealously and insecurity wanted to kill David. And David is fleeing for his life, he’s living in caves. And out of that struggle, he wrote one of the most treasured psalms in all Scripture.
David’s starting point is — God, I need you to be my refuge. Lord, I am tired of running. I am tired of trying to be faithful when there is so much opposition. Lord, I just want to go home. Why do I have to live in a cave? Lord, please shelter me under your powerful wings. I need some shelter. I need some rest. I need some protection.
And I think God is really pleased with this kind of prayer. David knew his power and wisdom were nothing and he had to rely entirely on God to deliver him and fulfill his promise that David was going to be king.
Have you recently prayed this kind of prayer and asked God to throw his arms of love around us? God is waiting to be our refuge. So much happens in life that is simply beyond us. The economy tanks. You lose a job. A loved one gets sick. Someone you love rejects your love. Not to mention all the inner guilt, fear, anxiety and restlessness many of us feel on a daily basis. These are all burdens too heavy for us to bear.
That is why God gives us the tremendous privilege to pray. God is our refuge. Our mighty fortress. He is the only who can carry all of our burdens.
So if this morning, you are feeling that you need a refuge from life, then you are truly blessed. Like David, that is exactly where God wants us to be so that we can depend on him and grow in our trust.
I believe verses 2 and 4 are closely linked. Read verse 2 and verse 4.
Why is God alone the only true good? And why does sorrow increase for those who chase after other gods? There are many good things in life. Having money is a good thing. Having a healthy, loving family is a good thing. Having a comfortable life is a good thing. Yet I find that when you have all these good things people start to rely on these good things. And in the process of having so many good things, you end up missing out on the best and you forget God.
These good things start to enslave us and our greed takes over and you say, I have good things but there is always something slightly better. I have a nice home but my neighbor’s home is better. I have a good job but there must be a better job out there. This kind of person always feels like they need to upgrade to the latest and greatest.
And the result is increasing sorrow as you chase after these other good things.
We were never meant to live this way. God is our ultimate good. Why? Because He cannot be upgraded. He is already the best thing in the universe. We will never find someone or something more beautiful, more interesting than God. Amen? What can compare to our God?
Verse 3 – In addition to God being our greatest good, what else is good in this life? David has already prayed about God being his refuge. Then he prayed about God being his greatest good. Now he gives a real practical insight into his spiritual life. In this verse, David mentions the saints in the land.
David must have been thinking about his best friend Jonathan when he prayed this verse. Jonathan, the son of King Saul and heir to the throne. Yet Jonathan knew David was God’s anointed and gladly gave up his rightful position and was David’s biggest supporter.
How do we know God loves us? Through answered prayers, yes. Through reading his word, yes. Through various emotions and impressions we get here and there. Yes. But perhaps the greatest way we know God loves is through the saints who are in the land, the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
All those times when David must have wavered in his faith in God, there was Jonathan right there by his side, reminding him, David, don’t worry, God said you will be king and nothing can stop it. Not even my crazy father. Remember, God is good.
We all need friends like Jonathan in our lives. If you have such a person, let’s remember to give thanks to God for them. It is my prayer that this kind of godly friendship can develop in this community.
Verse 5 and 6 – These verses depict David’s complete trust and peace in God. Is this your view of life?
It is so natural for us to compare with those around us. How come that person has an easier life? Why do I have to suffer?
I love Peter’s reaction in John 21. That’s when Jesus was reinstating Peter and Jesus foretold the kind of life of suffering Peter would have to undergo and Peter’s reaction was, what about that other disciple?
We do these kinds of calculations all the time.
David had a tough life, too. David had to confront a huge Philistine named Goliath, he had to flee from Saul, he fell in the deep pit of failure, and his family suffered the consequences of his sins. That’s a hard life. But this was David’s lot and David was learning early on that he needs to cultivate a heart that is quick to accept his portion and his cup.
Whatever portion and cup, in other words, whatever happens in my life, the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. It is not an easy prayer but if we believe God is in control and He works for the good of those who love him, then we have to learn to pray this prayer.