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Messianic Psalms – Psalm 16 (Part 2)


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.

[Continued from Messianic Psalm 16 (Part 1) (Ed.)]

Messiah’s Cup

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance. (vv. 5–6). Messiah speaks of the “portion of mine inheritance and of my cup” (v. 5). His “cup” was His inheritance in Jehovah; this was His “portion.” To Him it was a “pleasant” heritage” (v. 6). This is a remarkable statement in light of another “cup” that the Father asked Him to drink. Unlike the “pleasant” cup of His “inheritance,” the other cup He took from the hand of His Father for the salvation of sinners. The Lord Jesus could say, “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

He went about doing good, doing the will of the Father, this was His food, the joy of His heart and for Him that pathway (“the lines”) was “pleasant places.” The will of God was not a drudgery to Him but “pleasant.”  

The “lines” or portions (allotments) in “pleasant places” can be understood also as David’s own confession and may be appropriated by faith for the believer today. Surely in possessing Christ, we possess all things2 and this knowledge strengthens us in the pilgrim pathway. But the Messiah Himself was the model Pilgrim. When it comes to the pathway here, Christ was the Forerunner who entered within the veil. If there was a forerunner there must be “after-runners”—His portion will be ours as well.    

Messiah’s Night Seasons

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved (vv. 7–8). On earth Messiah was the devoted Disciple who meditated day and night in the Scriptures: “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned,3 that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4). He was instructed in “night seasons”; see Him in the Gospels spending all night in prayer (Lk. 6:12–13), ever the dependent Man, never taking a step apart from the will of the Father. He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). His dependence, though a divine Person, is a mystery to us but how it amazes and attracts our hearts!  

His dependence upon God is declared in this way: “because He (God) is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” This is striking because in the concluding verse of the Psalm we see Christ at the “right hand of God.”4 The Lord Jesus could say on earth “the Father is with Me” (Jn. 16:32); God was always at His right hand. But having finished the work on the cross He ascended, as Man, to the right hand of God.

The Path of Life—Resurrection

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (vv. 9–11). Next, we get the great prophecy that God would not leave Christ’s “soul to Sheol”5 (DBY), but show Him “the path of life” (vv.9–11). This is why Psalm 16 is sometimes called, “The Resurrection Psalm.”  Only verses 10–11 of the Psalm are applied to the Lord Jesus in the New Testament  These verses are quoted by Peter to the Jews in the book of Acts6 to prove the resurrection of Christ by showing that Psalm 16 did not apply to David personally, but rather to the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:25–31). Peter declared that David wrote this prophecy “being a prophet.” It “was not possible” that death could hold Christ (Acts 2:24). Peter’s point was that the Psalm was not fulfilled in David himself, because his tomb was still in their midst—David was still dead. The prophecy applied to another, and that other was Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The apostle Paul also quoted Psalm 16:10 to prove the resurrection of Christ. He did this when declaring the gospel in the synagogue of Antioch7 (Acts 13:35–37). His argument is very similar to Peter’s: that these verses of Psalm 16 could not have been fulfilled in David himself. After David had served his generation he “fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption.” The prophecy could only be fulfilled by Messiah and it was accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth.  

Some interpreters have misunderstood the words of verse 10 to support the strange and unbiblical doctrine that after Christ died, and before His resurrection, He visited the wicked dead in order to preach the gospel to them. This doctrine is largely drawn from a misunderstanding of 1 Peter 3:19–20. Psalm 16:10 is sometimes added for reinforcement to that doctrine; but neither of these texts supports such a teaching as implied.8 

“The path of life” led through death and resurrection; to Him it was “fullness of joy” in heaven. It would lead Him to the right hand of God where there “are pleasures forevermore” (v. 11). This was the “joy” set before Him. (Heb. 12:2).  His joy to be in the presence of God and to have us there with Him.

When we come to Psalm 110 we’ll see Christ at the right hand of God as well, but there it is His position that is the focus in relation to His enemies, and to God’s purpose.  But here it is the fullness of Christ’s joy that is the main point.

In fact there are four Messianic Psalms which show Christ’s place in heaven after resurrection:

(1) Psalm 8:5 – Crowned with glory and honor (cf. Heb. 2:8–9)

(2) Psalm 16:11 – fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore

(3) Psalm 68:18 – ascended on high and led captivity captive

(4) Psalm 110:1 – seated until enemies are made His footstool

When we think of Christ in the Psalms, our thoughts are often automatically drawn to think of His sufferings. However in these psalms just quoted, we find plain instances where we get Messiah’s present position at God’s right hand predicted by the Holy Spirit.9 Thus we will see in studying the Messianic Psalms that it is not just His sufferings and death which are portrayed, but also His life, ministry, glory, second coming, and glorious kingdom.10 


Endnotes

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.  1 Corinthians 3:21–23.

3.  Literally “the discipled”; “instructed” (DBY).  

4.  Interestingly in Psalm 110:5 we also find God at the right hand of Messiah—there it will be when He judges His enemies on the earth. Both Psalm 16 and 110 also show Christ’s present place at the right hand of God. The more one explores these connections in the psalms, the more the divine design and inspiration of the psalter will be appreciated.

5.  It is important to note that this is not “hell,” as incorrectly translated by the KJV. “Sheol” is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament “hades.” The words are simply used to denote the invisible world of the dead.

6.  Paul also quotes these verses as proving the resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:35).

7.  This was in Pisidian Antioch, not in the Antioch of Syria.  

8.  For the reader who is interested in a detailed study of this subject, I recommend Preaching to the Spirits in Prison by William Kelly (available through Believer’s Bookshelf USA and Canada). The teaching that Christ went to “hell” is repugnant and entirely unbiblical.  

9.  Some of these Psalms were written a thousand years before Christ was born.

10.  Or Millennium. It is popularly called the Millennium because in the Book of Revelation Christ’s kingdom is described as lasting for a period of 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2–7). Biblically it is the “age to come.”

By Brian Reynolds

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