In studying the Messianic Psalms it will be noticed that several of them speak about Messiah throughout the entirety of the psalm—every verse of the psalm is in some way prophetic of Christ. Psalm 16 is of that variety; Christ is in view in every verse.1 Although only verse 10 is quoted in the New Testament in reference to Messiah, the psalm needs to be understood as a whole. Psalm 16 presents Christ in His pathway on earth, a path that led up to His death, resurrection, and present session at God’s right hand.
The Manhood of Christ
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust (v. 1).
Messiah prays for preservation—His trust is in God.2 Psalm 16 presents the Manhood of the Lord Jesus and His dependence upon God in a walk that ends in resurrection joy. We believe that Christ is God manifest in the flesh.
However, it is sometimes hard for us to understand that Jesus was fully human, spirit, soul, and body; that He walked in daily dependence upon God. There appears to be a tension between these two revealed truths: that Christ is both God and Man. The reality is that we are not called to understand it, but rather by faith we are to believe it. It is not given for us to analyze but by faith to confess and rejoice in its wonder. In fact we are warned about prying into this divine mystery, which is the very foundation of the Christian faith: God and Man in one blessed Person. “No man knows the Son except the Father”3 should be a sufficient guard for our hearts.
This little poem sums it up well:
God and man, one blessed Person,
I dare not take apart;
Tis darkness to my intellect,
But sunshine to my heart.4
The Excellent Ones
O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.” As for the saints who are on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (vv. 2–3). A similar feature we found in Psalm 2 and Psalm 8 is also observed here: both Jehovah and Adonai are mentioned in the same Psalm: You have said to the LORD, You are my Lord.5 Messiah confesses that Jehovah (the Eternal One) is his Adonai (Supreme Master), again showing His real Manhood as the faithful witness to God.
In His prayer Messiah says, “My goodness is nothing apart from You” (v. 2).6 This expression may be difficult to understand coming from the lips of a divine Person but He speaks as the obedient Man. He seeks not a place for Himself but for the saints, “the excellent,” the saints who are on the earth, those with whom He associates (v. 3). Very few of the Lord’s disciples were from the upper classes or from the religious leaders.7 His followers were the “poor of the flock” whom He gathered about himself. He identified with the godly remnant in the “days of His flesh,” when He was baptized by John to “fulfil all righteousness” (Mt. 3:13–17). It was not sin that brought Him to the waters of baptism (as it was for His followers) but it was righteousness that brought Him there. Nevertheless He identified with them, calling them the “excellent ones in whom is all My delight.” The Father found delight in His Son, and Christ found His delight in the disciples.
Separate From Sinners
Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take up their names on my lips (v. 4). The Lord Jesus was always the true and faithful witness to the Living God. Indeed there was always grace to the sinners but also solemn condemnation of wickedness and of evil doers of whom He could say: “Their sorrows will be multiplied.” We need only recall the withering series of “woes” He announced during the closing days of His ministry.8 Yet at the same time, sinners heard Him gladly and were attracted to the winsomeness and authority of His words—and He received them. When His enemies said that He “receives sinners” they meant it as a criticism but He used the occasion to tell a parable about God’s grace (Lk. 15:1–2).
He was always the separate Man, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners”9 (Heb. 7:26 DBY); He would not “take up their names” on His lips (v. 4). There is a wonderful mix of absolute holiness and gracious seeking of sinners which was always seen in Him—may we follow His example!
1. Psalm 2 and Psalm 8 which we have already considered have this feature of being completely messianic in character; we will also see that Psalm 22 and Psalm 110 have this feature as well. The remaining Messianic Psalms which we will look at in this study have predictions of Messiah in one or several verses but not the entirety of the Psalm.
2. “El” – the Mighty One. It is the most essential name for the deity in Hebrew. The God that the pagan nations recognized in their ignorance: the Creator.
3. Matthew 11:27.
4. Attribution unavailable. It appears to be a variation upon a hymn by Frederick W. Faber
5. See Psalm 2:2, 4; 8:1.
6. The ESV translates this verse: “I have no good apart from You.” It is an expression of total trust and dependence. “My goodness [extendeth] not to Thee” – DBY. It is a difficult verse to translate and some interpretation is involved.
7. A few exceptions were: Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s servant (Lk. 8:3; and Joseph of Arimathea (Mt. 27:57).
8. Nine “woes” recorded in Matthew 23.
9. “Separated from sinners” can also be understood to refer to His present place at the right hand of God in heaven.