Psalm 16 : 1,5-8 & 11
1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. 5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 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. 8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
In my pursuit of fishing I have very occasionally fallen into the lake; not serious usually but it makes a big splash and I end up standing knee deep in water. It’s a pattern that began many years ago when at the age of twelve or thirteen I fell into a river. The water wasn’t that deep, but the river bed was sloping towards the centre of the river and as I stood up I began to slip away from the bank into deeper water. The fact that I called urgently for help and had to be pulled out still, after almost fifty years, makes my brother and sister double with laughter. The call however was effective and rescue, such as it was, was swift as I was hauled out by my father.
In the bible the heading of this and some other psalms is “A miktam of David” the NIV study bible states that the term is not explained but that it always stands as a heading to prayers of David occasioned by great danger. If so then we could say that the element of urgency we see in the very first verse is the common feature.
After the urgent plea of the first verse the confidence of the psalmist grows quickly, he recalls the blessings of God, the fullness of his inheritance, the focus of his discipleship and his eternal hope. What a hope to have and hold that the Lord makes known to those who follow him the path of life; that we have joy in his presence of which we have a foretaste now through the gift of the Holy Spirit but which we will know in fullness in his kingdom. We could ask who would not take refuge in such a God but we know that many do not and so live life in their own strength and when that strength fails and life draws to a close they are without hope.
Writing in the 1950’s after the loss of two sons and struggling with grief the theologian Emil Brunner said “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life… take hope away and humanity is constricted … by a feeling of the senselessness and purposelessness of existence.” If that was true in the 1950, it is no less true today and maybe it is more the case now. In east Belfast we have known an epidemic of suicide in recent years. We shouldn’t simplify the reasons for that which are complex and individual but surely among the factors must be the loss of hope especially among young people. The gospel brings hope; hope for this life for despite the urgency of his prayer the psalm writer still recognises that for him the boundaries of life have fallen in pleasant places and that he has a delightful inheritance and hope for eternal life. For Christians hope rests secure in Jesus Christ and a Christian’s faith as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes clear “ is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Christian hope is more than simply close your eyes and hope for the best, a wish at best, but a certainty founded on the promises of Jesus, on his life and resurrection. That hope as every good BB members knows is “sure and steadfast”.