Written by Joel Limpic, Pastor of Liturgy & Arts at Park Church in Denver, CO
Read: Psalm 16
As humans living on this beautiful but broken planet, we all look and long for two things: pleasure and protection. We hunt for pleasure because we were created for it. In the beginning, God created a breathtaking world and declared it good… However, in our search for joy and pleasure, things went terribly awry. We sought to find pleasure apart from God, in the very things that were never created to satisfy us. Sin entered the picture, and with it difficulty and death. This pleasure-laden world became a thorn-infested land where bodies break down, finances fail, loves leave, seas storm. In the midst of these harsh realities, we seek refuge. What can we turn to in this life?
In Psalm 16, David reminds us of two powerful truths that speak directly to our pursuit of pleasure and protection: every false god will fail us, but the true God fulfills us.
Every false god will fail us. In verse 4, David tells us that those who run excitedly and urgently after any god other than God Himself will be met by sorrows. While these false gods promise joy, what they truly deliver are sorrows. These sorrows are similar to the painful spots found on Job’s body while he was afflicted. The gods allure us by claiming they will satisfy us, but the truth is they eventually will inflict pain on us! False gods always over-promise and under-deliver.
Before you say you do not have gods or idols because you don’t have a literal physical statue of a god, think again. These gods we run to and after are simply created things that we elevate to God-like proportions that we think will either fulfill us or keep us safe. Things like sexual prowess, a full bank account, positions of power, a prestigious degree, the freedom and finances to travel to exotic places or eat at the best restaurants, physical health or beauty, some version of success, a happy family or relationship, even religion itself. We can easily identify the gods of our age and our hearts by looking honestly at our Google searches, how we structure our days, our bank transactions, and our social media feeds. Our gods are the very things that fuel our imagination and consume our time, energy, and money. The truth is anything can become a god to us. Psalm 16 takes up a bull horn and breaks the news to all of us today: any god other than God Himself is a false god that will fail us! They cannot truly satisfy or save us.
The true God fulfills us. David rejects the pursuit of these false gods with a different pursuit; he places his trust somewhere else. Verse 1 tells us he has made God his refuge, the place he runs to for help! David’s portion and contentment wasn’t found in whatever version of happiness the gods were dangling in front of him, but rather his portion was God Himself. In God was his only good; he had found a pleasant place and a beautiful inheritance. What a contrast from the harvest of sorrows that false gods yield! This is the promise of Psalm 16: circumstances might change, life might be unfathomably hard, but if God is our portion, our inheritance, and our treasure, then ultimately our joy can’t be stripped away from us. Even death itself loses its power in the presence of the God who is the God of life!
How do we know that God can follow through on His word to not abandon our soul to death? In the New Testament (Acts 2), Peter quotes the last four verses of this psalm in his Pentecost speech and ties them to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. While David who wrote the words in Psalm 16 did die, Jesus was not abandoned to death but was powerfully raised to life! What God did for His own Son, He promises to do for all those who put their trust in His resurrected Son. Jesus was ultimately the holy one found in verse 10 who did not see corruption but made a way for us from death to life.
Friends, may we reject all false gods and false refuges other than God Himself! May we find ourselves running to Him day after day as our refuge and joy. Only God is the one with the credentials to offer us true pleasure and lasting protection in this life.
1. What is your “chosen portion”? Functionally speaking, who or what are your gods? Where do you run to when times get hard? What do you think will satisfy? List them.
2. Do you look at God in the same way as David does in Psalm 16? Spend some time writing a prayer of confession over your false gods, and asking God to be your joy.