Followers of the Lord are not exempt from injustice, false charges, and threats. Through David’s example in Psalms 16–18, we learn to respond to such trials with prayer, assurance that God is always present and active, and believing and acting on the promise of our resurrection.
Today we begin with Psalm 16, but before we get to verse 1, there’s another superscription at the top that says, “A Miktam of David.” There are six psalms with this same heading. The meaning of miktam is hard to nail down, and Hebrew scholars are divided. Some believe it’s a musical term of some sort; others believe it means to engrave, as if David wanted to engrave the truths of this psalm on the hearts of his people. What we do know is that every one of these six miktam psalms were written when David was facing difficulty and hardship and even danger.
David doesn’t tell us what the danger is, but this psalm opens with a prayer here in verse 1: “Preserve me, O God.” That is his prayer. It’s a short one. God doesn’t require a lot of words—just a transparent heart.
David goes on to remember that he has a “beautiful inheritance” ahead (verse 6); and on the way to that inheritance, he delivers this amazing prophecy in verse 10: “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
Sheol is the Hebrew word that refers broadly to death, or the place of the dead, the graveyard. Through some means, maybe through Nathan the prophet, the Lord has assured David that the danger he currently is experiencing is not going to end his life. So, this psalm essentially ends with David living to fight another day.
But consider this: Over in Acts 2, the apostle Peter is preaching, and in verse 27 he applies Psalm 16:10 to the resurrection of Jesus. Peter sees Jesus’ empty tomb as the fulfillment of David’s words here. God did not allow His Son to remain in the grave to experience the corruption and decay that follows death.
David was speaking prophetically of the Son of David, who would destroy the power of death and the grave and give to His followers everlasting life. He was looking forward to a resurrected Savior. You and I are looking backward at that same resurrection, and by faith in the risen Savior, we are heading to a glorious inheritance—life beyond the grave.
Now here at Psalm 17, David is being falsely accused. We are not told what the accusation is, but he’s about to pray for God to do something about it.
Maybe you have felt the same pain of David’s heart as he prays to the Lord regarding his accusers:
They close their hearts to pity; with their mouths they speak arrogantly. They have now surrounded our steps; they set their eyes to cast us to the ground. . . . Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him! (verses 10-11, 13)
Maybe you’re saying, “Yeah, David! I’m right with you. Lord, confront my accusers and subdue them.” But hold on. David is not actually asking God to crush them. In fact, the word “subdue” here means “to cause to bow down.” David is asking God to make his accusers bow down in worship to the Lord. That would be like you and me today praying that our enemies would get saved and worship the Lord along with us.
I have to admit, that’s not how I feel like praying for my enemies. I don’t think I want them coming to church with me. I would rather they get squashed than saved, while I’m vindicated in the process.
So how do we develop a heart more like David’s? Well, David gets this gracious perspective through the promise of a coming resurrection. He writes in verse 15, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” The assurance of his own future resurrection gives him a patient, gracious heart toward others. When we realize that this life is so brief and our eternal life is just ahead, that will change the way we view people and the problems of life.
Let me illustrate it this way. Suppose you get a call from your bank, telling you to come down and sign a form regarding an inheritance you have just received. It’s an inheritance of ten million dollars that is going to be deposited into your bank account. You had no idea Uncle Henry was going to leave you all that money. You would have gotten him a nicer Christmas gift if you had known.
So off to the bank you go. Well, suppose on the way to the bank, a guy pulls in front of you, and you have to swerve out of the way. Are you going to honk at him for the next two miles? No, you’re going to the bank.
But then you pass somebody you recognize from work. It’s someone who doesn’t like you and you have pretty much stayed out of his way. He looks over at you, and you find yourself smiling and waving back. How did that happen? You’re on your way to the bank.
Then you get a flat tire. And while you are changing that flat, are you asking God why He allowed this difficult delay? Not at all. You’re out there thanking God for what is just ahead—at the bank.
Recognizing what is just ahead of us—in heaven—should change our attitude along the way. We tend to forget our inheritance in that city of gold, surrounded by the glorious presence of God. It’s just ahead, down the road. So, keep pressing on.
Now let’s look briefly at Psalm 18, where we have a long superscription:
A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.
Now this psalm covers a time span of almost forty years. It is a memorial of praise to God for deliverance, time and time again, over the course of David’s life.
David begins with these words:
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer . . . in whom I take refuge . . . I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (verses 1-3)
Notice, these verbs are all in the present tense: “I love you, O Lord”; “I call upon the Lord”; “I am saved from my enemies.”
David’s testimony is not all about when he was a young boy or thirty years later. His testimony—as yours and mine should be—is as fresh and meaningful in the present as it was in the past.
David describes God’s deliverance in verse 10: “He came swiftly on the wings of the wind.” And again, in verse 19 he writes, “He rescued me, because he delighted in me.” We know, of course, that deliverance does not always arrive immediately. God is more interested in developing us than He is in delivering us—or so it seems!
But when your eyes are on the future and you are thanking the Lord for your future—that day when you arrive and sign the papers, so to speak, on your eternal inheritance—the world around you is not nearly as distracting or troubling.
After almost forty years, this was David’s testimony. He failed, he sinned, he confessed, and he pressed on. And eventually, he did see his Lord, face to face.
So, let’s live a little more like David. When you get cut off in traffic or you get a flat tire or your enemies seem to get the upper hand, keep pressing on. You are closer to home than you know.