Psalm 16

Psalm 16  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Christ formally takes His place in dependence among the remnant on earth
With Psalm 16 we begin a very important series of psalms- those in which the connection of Christ Himself with the remnant is brought before us by the divine Spirit. In Psalm 16, Christ takes formally His place among the remnant. It is quoted by the Apostle Peter to prove His resurrection, and the principle of it is referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews to show His participation in human nature.1 After examining many critical authorities, I adhere to the English translation of the second verse. The third leaves the sense obscure, from not changing the preposition. “But to the saints” answers to “said unto the Lord,” not to “extendeth not to thee.” He says to the Lord, “My goodness . . . to the saints, . . . in whom is all my delight.” Thus this psalm has a most important and deeply interesting place. It is Christ taking His place in grace among the poor remnant of Israel-of the servant to tread the path of life which none as in flesh had found in this world, and that leading through death to beyond it, where there was fullness of joy. He takes the place of dependence, of trust, not of divine equality. And He who says He does not, must have had title to do so, or need not have said it. He was taking another place. He takes the place of servant, and calls Jehovah His Lord. Nor was this all. He takes a place, however alone He might be in perfection and perfect in doing it, with the saints on earth. And this He does, not merely as a fact, but with the fullest affection. His delight is in them. He joys to call them the excellent of the earth.
(1. The quotation in Hebrews 2 is literally from the LXX of Isaiah 8.)
Note further, it is not with the heavenly saints He associates Himself, nor are those of whom He speaks here united to Him in heaven, but He associated with them. Some may go to heaven by that path of life of which He has Himself left the track, but His association with them, and theirs with Him, is under the title of the excellent of the earth.
We may further remark, that the whole psalm breathes this spirit, and takes this place, of dependence, so precious for the poor remnant. It is not, Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days-that was taking a divine place. His body was a temple; He raised it up Himself. Here He leans as man on Jehovah- in both perfect. “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” Let us now consider the contents of this psalm in more detailed order. We have already noticed the first verses; but the principles are of the last importance, as presenting Christ taking this place, so that I return to them.
Messiah taking the place of a man with God
Messiah looks as man to God to preserve Him. He takes the place of man. It is not merely a Jew already there calling on Jehovah, but a man with God. He puts His trust in Him. The principle of trust Paul alleges in Hebrews 2 as a witness that Messiah was the true man. Next, He takes the place of a servant. He says to Jehovah-for now He takes His place before Him- “Thou art my Adon, my Lord.” This is a definite and distinct place. He moreover takes His place, not in divine goodness towards others, but before God in a man’s place. My goodness, He says, extends not to thee. Thus He said to the young man who came to Him, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” But though in truth alone, looked at in His relationship to man, for all were sinners, He takes His place with the remnant, the excellent of the earth. This He did historically, when He went to the baptism of John Baptist, with those whom the Spirit led to God in the holy path of repentance. They went first there. He associates Himself with them in grace. Still, we look on to the full result in the last days even here. He will not hear of any God but Jehovah. The sorrows of those who did should be multiplied. Jehovah Himself was His portion, and He maintained Him in the sure enjoyment of that which He was to enjoy in the purpose of God, and pleasant was the place where the lines had fallen to Him. It was Jehovah’s inheritance on the earth that was His portion, and this is specially in Israel. Such was His portion; but then there was His path first. Here He blesses Jehovah too. His counsel was always His guide. He walked by it. The secret of Jehovah was with Him to guide Him; and away from men, when all was brought into the silence of His heart and its inmost feelings, His own inmost thoughts were light and guidance. It is ever so when we are in communion with God; for, though in the heart (such thoughts are always His light in it, the fruit, and the moral fruit, of the working of His Spirit) there was the positive direction and guidance of Jehovah, and those inward apprehensions of His soul, the result of divine work in it.
The perfection of Christ as a man
In Christ of course this was perfect. It is well, while judging of all by the Word, not to neglect this working of the soul, as moved and taught of God. The mind of the Spirit, in moral discernment, is found in it. Besides this guidance, there was positive purpose of heart. He had set Jehovah always before Him. This only direction did He follow, and because of His being near, and at His right hand, He would not be moved. It was not self-dependence, but trust in Jehovah. This was indeed the path of life, though as yet unmanifested in visible power. (Compare Romans 1:44And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:4).)
Hence He would rejoice through all, and pass through death with unclouded hope; His flesh should rest in it; as a man He did not fear it. Jehovah, whom He trusted, would not leave His soul in hades, nor suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Soul and body, though going respectively to the place of departed spirits and the place of corruption, would not be left in the one or see the other. Jehovah would show Him the path of life through, but beyond, death. How blessedly He did so! It led up to brighter joys than Israel’s blessing, among whom He had come to sojourn. There indeed the excellent of the earth could not follow Him (John 13:33,36; 21:1933Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. (John 13:33)
36Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. (John 13:36)
19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:19)
). He must first dry up the waters of Jordan for them, and make it the path for them also where He was gone. For that path, since it led through death, must lead, if it was indeed the path of life, to what was beyond it-the presence of Him, in whose presence there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Resurrection, the blessed issue and result of the Lord’s path here
Such is the blessed issue and result of the Lord’s path across this world, where He took His place among the saints, and trod, in confidence on Jehovah (into whose hands He committed His spirit), the path which, if He took us up, must lead through death, and then found the path again in resurrection, and so as man up to Him with whom is fullness of joy. The Spirit of holiness marked the life of the Son of God all through. He was declared to be such, with power, by resurrection; but, being man, passed up into the presence of God. The holy confiding life found its perfect joy there. He is (blessed be God, and the name of that blessed One who has trod this path!) our forerunner.1
(1. Compare as to a special aspect of this, John 12:23-2423And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:23‑24); and the Lord’s consequent place, in chapters 11-13, as we have seen, had given testimony to His place according to Psalm 2. See note, page 64.)
Christ’s position in the midst of Israel; the difference between Israel’s associations with Christ and those of the assembly
Let us dwell for a moment on the connection of this with other scriptures, partially referred to. It is of importance, as showing Christ’s position in the midst of Israel, and the difference of their associations with Him, from those of the saints of the assembly. And besides that, we get the divinely perfect feelings of Christ Himself in this position: He is in association with the saints in Israel; only He voluntarily takes it (that is, that into which they are called out in witness of their return to God). We see (Heb. 2:1313And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. (Hebrews 2:13)) that this association is with those that are sanctified. He makes one company with that pious remnant manifested thus for God. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, having taken up their cause and consequently become man, become flesh and blood, because the children whom God had given Him partook of it.
We see that He really became man, but to identify Himself with the interests, and to secure the blessing of the saints,2 of the remnant, of the children whom God was bringing to glory, and who are distinguished from the mass of Israel, to whom they were to be a sign. (See Isaiah 8:1818Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18).) In this passage the condition of this remnant and the expectation of better days are considered. Leaving aside the assembly which is not the subject of prophecy, the passage passes, as we often see, from Christ’s personal connection with the saints in Israel to the position and portion of these saints in the last days. This is with sufficient distinctness given us in this passage of Isaiah to help us much in understanding the way in which the Spirit of God does pass from the previous history of the saints in Israel over to the last days, leaving out the assembly altogether. Christ, in spirit, contemplates these only-His connection, that is, with the remnant of Israel, and so far with the nation, and thus passes over the whole history of the assembly, to Himself again in the same connection with the nation in the last days.
(1. Thus, becoming man, and through glorifying God in His work as man, He has also title under God’s gift over all flesh.)
“Bind up the testimony,” He says (Isaiah 8:16-1716Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:16‑17)), “seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait1 upon Jehovah, who hideth his face from the house of Israel, and will look for him.” This was when He had become the rejected sanctuary and the stumbling-stone.
(1. This is the passage quoted in Hebrews 2: “I will put my trust in him.”)
Trust alone in Jehovah ending in the highest joy- the presence of God
To return to Psalm 16, the reader will remark the reference to idolatry (one of God’s great controversies with Israel) in the fourth verse. From Matthew 12:43-4543When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43‑45), and Isaiah 65 we learn that the Jews will fall into idolatry in the latter days. Jehovah alone is acknowledged by the prophetic Spirit of Christ. It is after this is all done away that He will rejoice, in the days that are to come, in the portion which Jehovah has given Him with the excellent of the earth. The certainty of this hope is connected with the resurrection (which is a necessary condition to its fulfillment, and which the favor of Jehovah secures to His Anointed) in all the virtue of that power which will not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Hence the Apostle refers to the sure mercies of David; that is, to the accomplishment of all God’s promises to Israel, as a proof that Christ was to rise from the dead now no more to return to corruption. Nothing can be more beautiful (if it be not His death) than the expression of the Lord’s feelings given us in this psalm-the expression by Himself of the place He has taken, and that with the saints. Jehovah is His own portion. How truly was it so! What other had He? Yet His delight was in the saints. Do we not see it in His disciples? With the first step of spiritual life in the remnant, shown in their going to John’s baptism of repentance, He identifies Himself who surely had no need of repentance. So, as a faithful man, an Israelite, He sets Jehovah always before Him. So, even in death, He rests, in confidence, on Him for resurrection, that path of life through, and in spite of, death (and which He has opened for us), and there Jehovah, God, His Father’s presence, is (He knows) the fullness of joy; at His right hand pleasures forevermore. This is the highest proper joy of the mind and Spirit of Christ; not glory, but the presence of God.