David’s opening words in Psalm 16 form the foundation for many prayers we utter, though we probably do not even realize it. The great king of Israel cried out for the LORD’s protection with an intensity that deserves emulation: “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust” (Psa. 16:1). Whether we have thought about it or not, every time we have asked God to keep us safe while traveling, to protect us during the midst of a violent storm, or to help us recover from a surgery or disease, our pleas simply echoed this inspired sentiment. However, moving beyond this introductory request, we find a greater subject and a deeper meaning than we would have normally anticipated.
The contemplation that follows moves far beyond need to focus instead on blessings that characterize life. Life, it appears, is a blessing that gives us opportunity to reflect the goodness of God (Psa. 16:2). Those who sanctify themselves accordingly not only understand life but appreciate its purpose (Psa. 16:3-4). However, at the root of all these lies a relationship with God that interprets life in terms of God’s blessings and promises (Psa. 16:5-6). These are sufficient reason to accept God’s inspired guidance and give ourselves over to obeying Him (Psa. 16:7-8). For this reason, David writes, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope” (Psa. 16:9). Joy in life is always possible when viewed through what God has done for us and the hope He has given us. Always.
This perspective does not seem extraordinary on its face; however, the closing of the psalm reveals just how deeply faith should affect our view of life and our understanding of joy. Just after saying “My flesh also will rest in hope,” he elaborates to demonstrate his real meaning: “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” (Psa. 16:10-11). The key, then, to appreciating God’s preserving us does not lie in our escape from difficulties, disease, and death but rather our ultimate deliverance from them. This psalm provides the perspective—not of a ruling King—but of a crucified Messiah, as demonstrated by Peter (Acts 2:25-28). And yet, this gives it a far greater application than the words of David could ever have done. Faith brings joy to life now, but it is also always seeking the greater joy that follows the end of this life, however it may end. So while we often ask God to preserve us in this life to enjoy the presence of our friends and family, our real focus, like Christ’s, should be on being preserved to enjoy the presence of God in eternity.