A Delightful Inheritance
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Today’s psalm text functions in worship much like the Apostles’ Creed as it confesses confidence and trust in God. The key to this section of the psalm is language drawn from God apportioning the Promised Land after the twelve tribes settled in Canaan, recorded in Joshua 13-17.
David uses land-settlement and possession words: “portion” (Joshua 19:9), “lot” (Joshua 18:6,8), “boundary lines” (Joshua 17:5), and “inheritance” (Joshua 14:3; 17:4). In doing this David spiritualizes and re-reads God having given a share of the Promised Land to each individual, family, and tribe as God’s saving work in his life. Just as God had distributed each “portion” of the land by “lot” with “boundary lines” indicating the “inheritance”, so David knows that God has apportioned to him blessing in “pleasant places”.
David delights in God as his “portion”, better than the best piece of real estate anyone could inherit. His joy is not in God’s gifts but in God Himself. God is David’s “cup” in that He is the refreshment and provision of life. In Psalm 23 David exults that God’s cup of goodness for him “overflows”. And God makes David’s “lot” in life “secure”. He who is David’s inheritance will guard that inheritance.
God is not only David’s portion and inheritance; God is also David’s counselor. David makes himself open to the Lord’s instruction, which comes to David through his heart in the night. His mention of God’s “counsel” and “instruction” in the night brings to mind Psalm 1 that commands meditating “day and night” on God’s torah, i.e. instruction. Having treasured God’s Word in his heart (Psalm 119:11), David receives God’s instruction during the night as he meditates on it. David may be alluding to the “watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6; 119:48) when he purposefully awakens to think about God. Or, we can imagine David meditating on God in the sleepless nights as he tosses and turns. Either way, David recognizes that the nighttime is especially good for listening for God.
Because David knew the Lord as his portion and inheritance, he made the resolve to “keep my eyes always on the LORD”. David trained himself to think frequently about God, to meditate on His goodness, and to wonder at the glories of His Kingdom. Since David had made the Lord the focus of his life, he knew that God was there at his right hand, and that he “will not be shaken”.
Franz Delitzsch, in his commentary on the Psalms, provides this good summation of Psalm 16:
There reigns in the whole Psalm, a settled calm, an inward joy, and a joyous confidence, which is certain that everything it can desire for the present and for the future it possesses in its God. (Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes)
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