If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to the 16th Psalm. David says:
3 As for the holy people who are in the land,
they are the noble ones.
All my delight is in them.
4 The sorrows of those who take another god
for themselves will multiply;
I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
and I will not speak their names with my lips.
5 Lord, You are my portion
and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord who counsels me—
even at night my conscience instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord in mind always.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad
and my spirit rejoices;
my body also rests securely.
10 For You will not abandon me to Sheol;
You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay.
11 You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
This is the word of the Lord.
If you’re not familiar with that long, winding middle-section of the Bible, some of this might be news to you, but the man who wrote today’s Psalm eventually became the king in Israel, but only after a long series of “Three Stooges”-style misadventures where he narrowly avoids getting murdered by the powers that be.
He starts out as a shepherd boy in the backwoods of Israel, but eventually a prophet named Samuel comes and finds him because God spoke to him and told him to anoint the shepherd boy, David, as king. But that created a bit of a problem, because when God told Samuel to anoint David as the king, there was already a king. There was already a man occupying the throne of Israel, named Saul. And he was bigger than David, and stronger than David, probably more popular than David. And as a general rule people don’t give up their power without putting up a fight.
And so when Saul learned that God had anointed a new king in Israel, he decided to take his best shot at stopping God in his tracks by stopping David in his tracks, and he turned the full weight of his power as king towards putting David to death.
And so if you read through the books of first and second Samuel, you see that for years, David would hide out in the countryside, trying to stay under Saul’s radar so he wouldn’t get Jeffrey Epsteined by Saul’s men, and while he was hiding out he would do whatever he could to help the peasants in the villages.
And over the years, as David hid from Saul, God worked in the hearts of the people of Israel and gradually caused nearly everyone David met to come around on him. Without doing anything to try and forcibly take over the kingship that was rightfully his, David slowly became what everyone in Israel longed for.
And so by the time Saul finally imploded under the pressure of trying to hold onto a kingship God had taken away from him, and purposefully fell on his own sword, the God of the Bible had already won over the hearts and minds of the people and they received David as their king, not begrudgingly, but with gladness.
That’s the story of the early parts of David’s life. A lot of us remember it from Sunday School. But our Psalm, this morning, gives us, kind of, a glimpse inside his head.
And so looking at verse 2, David says, “I said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides You.” That makes sense enough: Because when David’s on the run from Saul, all he’s really got is whatever the village folks decide to give him out of the kindness of their hearts. So he’s got no permanent home. And he’s got no real guarantee that he’ll be safe till morning when he goes to sleep. And he’s got no idea where his next meal is coming from. All he has is the Lord.
But as David frames it, that’s cause for rejoicing, not mourning. He says “You are my Lord. I have nothing good beside you.” And what you’re hearing in his voice is not dejection. He’s not lamenting that he has nothing good besides God, he’s celebrating. He’s rejoicing like you would if you had everything on planet earth because he does.
Because when you’ve been reconciled to the God that we’ve been talking about this morning, something happens to you. Something happens inside you. This renewed relationship you have with the Lord becomes your one joy.
It doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy other things. You still like sports and you still like your kids and you still like hunting or cooking or sewing or watching Murder, She Wrote, or whatever. Right? But your relationship with those things changes.
Because you no longer simply enjoy those things for what they are, you start to enjoy the Lord through those things. You start to enjoy God through hiking, if that’s your thing. You enjoy God through taking care of your children. You enjoy God throughfishingor going to the gun range, or whatever. They start to remind you of your Father in heaven. Everything you do starts to point back to him. He’s become your one joy. He’s become your one good. And that’s what’s happened with David, so he says, “You are my Lord. I have nothing good beside you.”
And yet he’s not just saying that because there’s an illegitimate King who’s after his head. Because eventually this same David becomes the King in Israel. He becomes the wealthiest man for 1000 miles, and he just gets wealthier and wealthier as he gets older. And yet even as his riches pile up, David continues to say, “You are my Lord. I have nothing good besides you.” The wealth he amasses as a ruler in Israel has nothing for him except in the sense that he is able to use it to glorify the God in whom he finds his joy.
That’s why in verse 5, David says, “Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing.” Pay very close attention to the language he just used. He doesn’t do that things celebrities do, where they’re like, “I would like to thank Jesus for this Oscar, also I would like to thank the woman I’m cheating on my wife with, who’s in the audience over there.” David’s not paying lip service, here.
God is not an obligatory “trimming” that he just kind of throws on at the end of everything out of some weird superstitious habit. He says “Lord, you are my portion.” God is his portion. He’s not “coating” the rest of his life in religious language and religious imagery, God is his life. This is what his life is about. This is the thing he’s chasing after. Everything else in David’s life is about his pursuit of the Lord. His life is not simply about God’s glory, in some abstract sense. His life is about this God. He says “Lord, you are my portion.”
So he’s the King, and his kingship is about God. David is a husband. And his husband-ness is about God. He husbands his wife as somebody who belongs to God and wants to reflect God’s goodness as a husband. He’s also a father. His fatherhood is about God. He fathers his children as someone who belongs to this God and wants to image the goodness of this God. The Lord is his portion. This God is what David’s life is about.
Now, in our day and age, that probably sounds boring. But apparently it isn’t: David says “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices,” verse 9. David is not a captive in his own house. David is a captive in his own skin, begrudgingly doing the will of some God who kidnapped him and won’t just leave him alone. David says “My heart is glad.” “My spirit rejoices.” God is his one joy.
This is where his joy comes from. This is the joy that everything else points back to and David has found it. And David has grabbed hold of it. And David is holding it close. And David will never let it go.
And David never has to worry about being let go. Because God has grabbed hold of him, too, and he holds him close, and David takes that joy and lets it fill out everything else in his life. David takes the joy of being reconciled to God and lets that fill out everything else in his life. And the result is that his heart is glad and his spirit rejoices.
But there’s more. Because it turns out that when the Lord is the thing that “makes your heart glad” and “your spirit rejoice,” it changes everything else about your life, too. Look at what David says here:
He says, “You reveal the path of life to me.” David was on one path, but then the Lord grabbed hold of him and he showed him another one. His life is different because the Lord is the thing that makes his heart glad. His life is different because the Lord is the one who makes his spirit rejoice.
His life is different. But it’s not worse. He says, “In your presence is abundant joy.” Whatever he lost when he left his old life behind, look at what he gained: “IN your presence is abundant joy.” God’s presence is where joy is.
The things that David lost when he turned away from his sin and threw himself at the mercy of the God he is describing here held nothing for him, because they aren’t where joy is. Right? Doesn’t that track? There is no joy in any of the things you have to leave behind when God gets ahold of you and starts to change your heart. Don’t get me wrong, when you finally submit and start following Jesus, it’ll be painful. It’ll feel like giving up everything. It’ll very much feel like dying and coming back to life, because it is. And yet, all you have to lose is your misery.
That’s why David says in verse 4, “The sorrows of those who take another god for themselves will multiply; I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood, and I will not speak their names with my lips.” He says, “The sorrows of those who take another god for themselves will multiply,” and that is not a threat. That’s a promise. That’s a warning. But it’s barely even a warning. That’s David telling us what we already know.
You know that. You know fully well that “the sorrows of those who take another god for themselves will multiply,” because there have been times in your life where you were the people who took another god for themselves.
Now, this is rural North Carolina, this is not exactly a bastion of paganism. I strongly doubt that you formally changed religions. It is extremely unlikely that you abandoned Christianity and converted to Harry Potter, or something like that.
But there’s more than one way to “take another god for yourself.” Because like we’ve said before, whatever it is that actually drives your decisions, that’s your god. Whatever it is that runs your life, that’s what you actually worship. Whatever it is in your life that’s so important to you that it drives you, time after time after time, to willfully disobey God’s will for you and chase after bankrupt things you think will make you happy instead – that’s your actual god.
Now, if that hit a little too close to home, know that you’re not unique. That’s very much what we do. We take other gods for ourselves.
To quote one old, dead theologian, “The human heart is an idol factory.” The human heart is an idol factory, because the human heart creates idols. Your heart creates little-“g” gods that you worship. You worship gods you created yourself.
And the reason that I know that you do it is that I also do it, and everybody I’ve ever met does it, because everyone who’s ever lived on planet earth at anytime, anywhere, ever has always done this. We are idol factories. We take other gods for ourselves. And when we take other gods for ourselves our sorrows multiply. Right? It’s inevitable.
Maybe you neglected your kids during some season of your life, because you idolized work, and you idolized work because you idolized the security that you hoped it would bring.
Or maybe you left your spouse, because you didn’t feel like they paid enough attention to you. Because you idolized the feeling of being admired. Or you idolized the attention that you wished that they would give you.
Or maybe you cheated on them because you found somebody else who was young enough and dumb enough to admire you in ways that your spouse knows you too well to, right?
The list goes on, and on, and on – taking another god for ourselves doesn’t always look like bowing down to a statue you bought at a souvenir shop on vacation. Most of the time it just looks like choosing our will over God’s, but it always causes our sorrows to multiply. Right?
Doesn’t that ring true? Level with yourself: Looking at the idols that your heart has produced, can you genuinely say that any of them have made you happy? Have any of them brought you joy? Have any of them made you whole? Have any of them made you feel complete?
Of course they haven’t. They can’t. That’s the problem with idols. You created them, so they cannot complete you. Because they are not where joy is.
But David has found the place that joy comes from. David has found the thing that joy comes from. He says, “I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Joy comes from the God who created us. That’s where it comes from. And so, like all of us, David’s soul reaches back toward the God he was separated from in the Garden, and the good news of the gospel is that that God reaches back for us, too.
So we have entered the point in the service that we usually refer to as the altar call. And at this point, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t brought up Baby Jesus in our Christmas sermon. And that’s a very good question, but the very simple answer is that I have. We’ve been talking about Baby Jesus this whole time, just this year we didn’t put him on house arrest and lock him in the manger. What we are celebrating, this week and every week, is that the God David sings to in this Psalm is the child that was born in the manger on the first Christmas.
That’s half of what we exist for. We exist to celebrate the God that David talks about in today’s passage, and we exist to introduce you to him. And so the question that we have for you is do you know this God? Do you know Jesus Christ? Is Christ where you find your joy? Have you been reconciled to God, like Colossians 1:20 says, through the blood of his cross? I’m not talking about praying some magic prayer that somehow safeguards you from going to hell, I’m talking about throwing yourself on the mercy of Jesus. Submitting to the God of the universe. Confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, like Romans 10 says, and believing in your heard that God raised him from the dead. If you do not have a relationship with this God, that David tells us about, but you would like to, then I would like for you to come talk to me. I’d like to walk you through the process of throwing yourself on his mercy to be reconciled to God.