Psalm 16 ~ Refuge In Life and Death Part 2
In the five years that I have been married to Kyla, we have dealt with a lot of death. When Abigail was six weeks old, my father died after battling cancer for two and a half years. Kyla’s grandfather passed away just two weeks later. We were at Kyla’s grandfather’s funeral on a Wednesday in New Mexico. We were then at my father’s funeral in Minnesota that Saturday. When Timothy was six weeks old, Kyla’s father, Larry, passed away. Last September, Kyla’s twenty year old cousin passed away very unexpectedly. In the winter, she had another cousin with two adolescent children pass away. In January, Kyla’s Grandmother passed away. And this last one isn’t a human death, but it’s a death that we dealt with nonetheless. Last fall, the Claycamp`s were in Texas for two weeks. While they were away, we looked after their beloved dog, Dusty. Dusty was very old and very sick and she passed away under our watch. So we’ve even had death in our home. The pain and confusion of death has been unavoidably intertwined with the circumstances of our life, even in times of joy and new life. Even for our young children, their lives have been marked by death. Their parents were affected by death. We could not hide it from them or ignore it or try to pull the wool over their eyes as if nothing happened. Death is bitter and hard. Even though death comes at the end of life, it changes the way you actually live life itself.
Our text for this evening is Psalm 16:9-11. It’s been several weeks since we looked at the first part of this Psalm so we’ll read the entire Psalm, starting in verse one to refresh our memories before we dive into this evening’s text. [READ PSALM 16] David begins this Psalm with a plea. Save me, O God, save me! You’re my refuge, so you should save me, because that’s what a refuge is. Rescue me. Save me. We noted last time that it is not immediately apparent what David is actually seeking refuge from, but he declares God as His refuge. Next, he showed that God was his supreme treasure for the fact that he had absolutely nothing good except for God Himself. Even in his language, he used three different words and names for God to show that even though he was a king, that God was his king, the King of kings, Adonai, his sovereign ruler. God was David’s refuge, treasure, and sovereign. Throughout the first 8 verses, he gave more evidence of these claims through his refusal to take part in worship of other Gods, through his delight in God’s people, his contentment and submission to God’s control, and his reliance on God’s counsel. Verse 8 serves as the climax. As he recounted the ways in which he took refuge in God his plea transforms into a declaration. He no longer pleads “Save me!”, but rather “God is my refuge, I shall not be shaken!” From hope to confidence. From a plea to certainty.
Verse 9 moves us into some different territory. “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” Therefore. This is a signal. It refers back to a previous statement or truth. I shall not be shaken, THEREFORE, my heart is glad! I have set the LORD before my, THEREFORE, my whole being rejoices! Even his flesh. He has joy in his heart and soul, body and mind. As we know, joy is far deeper reaching than happiness. True joy is present even in the absence of happiness. Joy goes hand in hand with peace as it is a true contentment regardless of the circumstance.
We make trade offs every day. We resist buying the newest trendiest gadgets so we can pay our bills. We work multiple jobs to provide for our families. We give up our hobbies and pass times to be a present help and support for our children, family, and even our friends. We put knicks and scratches and dents and stains on our vehicles and in our houses in order that our possessions may be a blessing to others. These are some of the trade offs we make for security. But look at refuge in God. We give up things, certainly. We deny ourselves. But look at how much deeper the result of refuge is. Joy! Peace! The pursuit of ourselves can never result in that. It’s empty. We see the implications of that right here. Refuge is no trade off. It’s a win win. When God is our refuge, we gain confidence of a sovereign ruler and counsellor, we gain the pleasure of our God being our supreme treasure. We gain unshakable joy and peace. When we get true perspective of this gracious and undeserved win win, yes, our whole being should rejoice.
Now that we see the unshakeable joy and confidence that has sprung up in David, we need to return to our initial question, what was shaking him? What was causing the insecurity and fear in his heart and his flesh that is no longer there? Verse 10 “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” So let’s make sure we’re tracking with David’s train of thought here. Help me, you are my refuge, treasure, and sovereign. I will not be shaken, therefore my heart is glad. Verse 10, FOR; BECAUSE you will not abandon my soul to Sheol. Because you will not abandon me at the grave. My heart is glad because I cannot be shaken be cause I know that death is not the end. David’s foe in Psalm 16 is no mere man. It is not the jealous pursuit of Saul. It is not the cutting slander of his son. It is not the temptation of giving into selfish lies and living. He’s afraid of dying. God, you are my life and my refuge, but is this it? If it is, I don’t want it to end. How can you remove your protection year by year? I see it. I see it in my wrinkled face. I feel it in my aching bones. I am moving closer and closer to corruption. You are my refuge, how can you let this happen? You love me, how can you let my love for you die with me?
Turn with me to 2 Samuel 7:11. David told the prophet, Nathan that he wanted to build a temple for God. Nathan's response was “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” That night, God spoke to Nathan. Here is part of the message that Nathan delivered to David starting in the middle of verse 11. [READ vs11b-13] David was never promised that he wouldn’t die; just the opposite. Nathan prophesied (promised from God) that David would most certainly have numbered days, that those days would have an end and that he would lie down with his fathers. Just like Jesse, just like Samuel, just like Moses, like Jacob, like Isaac, like Abraham, David would surely die. His breath would leave his flesh. His flesh would be buried in the ground and see corruption. In this verse, in this whole passage in Samuel, we see dual meaning and promise. God is talking specifically about Solomon and that he would build the temple, but God did not establish Solomon’s throne forever. That offspring with the eternal throne is none other than Jesus. David could have been narrow minded and stay put in the grief of his certain death, as we read Psalm 16 we see that certainly he made the connection from this prophecy. David knows that all have sinned. He knows that all die as punishment for sin. He knows that corruption is unavoidable. You’re born, you live, you die. Your life is done and it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do because the grave has swallowed your flesh along with all value and meaning of your existence. God chose David. He was God’s king for Israel. He was a man after God’s own heart, and yet the cycle of meaningless which David’s son Solomon will write about is unbroken. So when God promises that He will establish the throne of his kingdom forever, then David knows that there is no way that could be possible without the cycle of meaningless being broken. The unconquerable grave will be conquered! The grave isn’t the end of the story, it’s only the end of chapter 1! His flesh dwells secure because he knows that God’s refuge extends beyond the flesh but rescuing his soul even from the clutches of the grave!
Verse 11”You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” David knows that the messiah will not escape death alone but conquer the grave for all. God is refuge in life and God is refuge from death.
For some of us, the idea that God is a refuge from death becomes so familiar that we forget about and underestimate the sting of death. On one hand, that’s good. We know that the sting of death with not reign over us who are in Christ. On the other hand, this can be dangerous. To disregard the sting of death is to disregard our utmost need to be rescued from it. This disregard is evidenced in such notions that God’s will for us and purpose for salvation is merely so we can experience heaven on earth, or have our best life now. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we certainly get glimpses of heaven. In the rejoicing of baptism, in the comfort of fellowship, in the unity of marriage, in the care and protection of our children. Those are all fruits of the gospel and real glimpses of heaven. But God’s purpose of faith and salvation is not to have heaven on earth. That would ignore the cost of conquering the grave so we could experience heaven in heaven. In that place there will be no sin. In that place there will be no death. On this earth, death, even temporal death, still awaits us. Sin still lurks everywhere. Satan is still prince. In this place of sin and death, it is not a heaven on earth. This is hell on earth that God rescues us from and delivers us to heaven. This heaven on earth idea sets us up as gods whose main responsibility is to enjoy and ignores the work and suffering we are to endure and even embrace as we glorify God in contrast to the death that infects this world.
David’s son, Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes about his search for meaning on this earth, under the sun. In chapter 1, He writes this about his search; “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?...What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun… There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” In this life that we live under the sun on this earth, all the sum of the physical things we can do and experience, although they can bring momentary surface level pleasure, are ultimately meaningless; vanity of vanities. And we know that Solomon was the richest and the wisest and therefore had every means to pursue the full extent of anything that might bring meaning in this life. So no one could ever say to him, you just need to do this one thing more. Whatever that one thing could be, Solomon did it, or had it. And not just a little bit, but all of it, as much as could be had and still he calls it vanity. Meaningless. In chapter 12, he concludes with these words, “The end of the matter; all has been heard/ Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” The whole duty refers to the whole, as in the essence of our existence is to fear God and obey Him BECAUSE it matters, because judgment will come. SO forget the things under the sun, Solomon says, you have to get over, get beyond the sun. Meaning in this life is established by the meaning and value of sinless eternal life with no separation from our Father.
Paul speaks to the matter in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19. If this life is all there is, then your devotion to God is reason to be pitied. If this is all there is, then your sacrifice is a waste. But Jesus did in fact conquer the grave. He is our refuge from death. As David points out, that refuge from death is interwoven and inseparable from our refuge in daily life. Jesus spells this out for us in Mark 8:34-38. You deny God, He denies you, no refuge from death. David is assured of his refuge from death because He also knows that God is his refuge in life.
I mentioned earlier that death affects the way you live. The sadness and effects of death on mine and Kyla’s life have been great. There would be no way for us to hide those affects from our children even if we wanted to. I mean, when you’re all just sitting down together for a movie night and Daddy bursts out in sobbing, anyone is going to notice that, especially little ones. They notice how it wears on mommy and daddy. They notice that they don’t have a Grandpa or Grampy. So we’ve embraced it. We talk about it. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to talk about these deaths will full assurance of their salvation and their refuge from death and their new life in heaven. We have a number of children’s books around the house that talk about heaven. Death has even changed our vocabulary. We don’t say that our phones die. If your phone dies, you recharge it. So when your two year old asks if Grampy can be plugged it, you realize you have to be more mindful. So our phones run out of battery juice. Death is something reserved for living things. The joy has been that we regularly talk about the difference of this earth and heaven and the hope of heaven.
In the well known passage in Philippians 1:21-22, Paul writes “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me”. If our refuge from death does not affect the way that we live, then we do not have a refuge from death. There is no such thing as fire insurance that allows you to live your life as you did, as you want. If Christ is not our active refuge, treasure, and sovereign in this life, then what obligation would he have to be our refuge in death? Death is the consequence of sin. If we embrace sin, we embrace death. You can’t embrace death but still attain life. We must embrace life. We must actively pursue fruit in our lives. Our refuge from death mandates that we take refuge in Christ in life also. As I said before, that refuge is no trade off. We don’t earn refuge by our great sacrifice. We receive refuge by God’s great strength and sacrifice and his mercy to extend it to us. That is no trade off. As we close, let’s remember the words of David, “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”