What is the greatest good in which you comfort yourself? Whether today you awoke in sorrow or in a normal state of mind, your thoughts were upon something when you awoke. Your life flowed out of some source. What was it? Was it money, family, work, earthly pleasure, thoughts of yourself? In Psalm 16 David said, these were his thoughts: “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (vv. 5, 6).
David awoke with the wonderful thought that the Lord God was his portion; that the Lord God had given to him a heritage of the truth. Jehovah, the ever living God, had revealed Himself to David in mercy; had established with David an unbreakable bond of friendship and fellowship called the covenant; had sworn to David that He would be faithful to him; and had revealed to David the greatest good that a soul can ever possess. He had revealed Himself to David. He had revealed all of His glory, mercy, faithfulness, justice, and truth through Jesus Christ the Lord.
When he thought of all of these things, David’s heart leaped with joy – even though he stood yet in the Old Testament and saw them all only in their shadow. The Lord is my heritage! I have a heritage of His truth. I have a heritage of His covenant. I am a friend of God. Is that what thrills your heart? Is that the source of your life, the source out of which you live each day?
The sixteenth Psalm takes its place among those psalms written by David while he fled from king Saul who sought to kill him. We read in I Samuel 26 that often during that time David was driven out from abiding in the land of Canaan, his inheritance and the inheritance of his fathers. He was separated from his portion of land in Canaan, his place with his family and in his father’s house. His enemies would taunt him with the prospect that his inheritance would be lost to another.
David responds: “The Lord is my inheritance; the Lord remains my portion, my chief good. Though I am far from home and friends, my lot, my portion, is exceedingly beautiful. For God Himself is my portion. I have a heritage of His truth.”
Is this true for you? Do you rejoice in it? Do you understand the pure graciousness of it and the excellency of God Himself, the excellency of God in His truth? You ask, “What is His truth?” That truth, revealed in the Scriptures, rich and powerful, may be summed very simply: God is everything and man is nothing. God is the eternal wonder, whom to know, said Jesus in John 17:3, is life eternal. And the greatest wonder is for God to show mercy out of pure grace, to give us to know Him, to reveal to us His wonderful truths, and to swear to us His faithfulness. This is life!
When we look at this psalm, we see that David begins the psalm with a prayer for preservation. “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” He then goes on to confess that God is all-sufficient. He says to God, “My goodness extendeth not to thee” – that is, Thou art all-sufficient. Thou dost not stand in need of anything that I could give to Thee. No, my goodness extendeth not to Thee, but, he says, “to the saints that are on the earth and to the excellent in whom is all my delight.” David means to say that the only way of serving God correctly is to endeavor to do good to His saints. The psalmist says that he will unite himself unto God’s people, to God’s holy ones, to God’s companions. And he will give his all for their spiritual benefit and good.
Then he goes on to confess that God is sufficient for his happiness. In God, he says, are all the ingredients and all the fullness of a life of peace. He thinks of the many sorrows of those who hasten after another god, who worship and live for anything and anyone other than the true God. He says, “I will not participate in their errors. I will not join them as they pursue the gods of wood and stone, money and fame, greed and pleasure, lust. No, I will not lay down my life in sacrifice to the vanities of the world. But I will cleave to God, to His church, and to His people. The Lord, he says, is my inheritance. The Lord is my full portion. I rejoice in His covenant faithfulness. I rejoice in that the living God, out of mere grace, has established with me a bond of friendship through the blood of Jesus Christ and in that He has sworn that He shall be faithful to me and that He will reveal Himself to me. This is all my good, my comfort, my joy.”
Is that true for you? Oh, how wonderful!
The inspired psalmist makes use of a figure which was well-known in the Old Testament – that of an inheritance or lot. That referred to the portion of ground that each believing family received in the land of Canaan. Recall that Joshua, after he had conquered the land, divided the land among the twelve tribes. To each family and to each tribe and to each household was given a lot or portion of the land of Canaan. That is what is referred to when David speaks of “inheritance,” and “thou maintainest my lot,” and “the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places.” We know from the Scripture, especially Hebrews 11, that this inheritance to them represented something spiritual, something eternal. It represented to them their place in the covenant of God. And, ultimately, it represented to them their inheritance in the land of glory itself.
The words that David uses to describe this are very significant. He says, “The Lord is my inheritance.” That word means, literally, smoothness. It refers to a section of cleared land, a field emptied of stumps and wood. The land which they inherited as the children of Israel was, for the most part, not overgrown and wild but it was fully prepared of God. The Canaanites had dwelt there. When God gave Israel the land, it was a land ready for enjoyment. It was already filled with houses and good things which they did not build, vineyards and olive trees which they had not planted. The Lord is my inheritance, He has provided all things for me in Christ Jesus.
He says, The Lord is my lot. That refers to how the land was divided. He means to say that it was sovereignly appointed. It came from the hand of God Himself. The lot referred to the two precious stones in the pocket of the breastplate of the high priest. They were called the Urim and Thummim. The high priest, after prayer in which he appealed to God for His will to be done, drew out one of those two stones, indicating a yes or no according to which stone was taken. Therefore, the portion of land that was given to them was given to them directly of God, by God’s control. It was not a mistake, it was not a chance. It was from the hand of God.
Therefore, he goes on to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places.” That refers to the fact that each inheritance was carefully measured and recorded. There were set ancient landmarks or stones at the corner of the inheritance which could not be removed. Therefore, David is saying, Thou maintainest my lot. The Lord has given to me specifically this heritage of His truth and covenant. And the Lord will also maintain it.
For Israel, that meant that the portion of land that was given to them could not be sold but was to be handed down from generation to generation. It was something so precious that it must stay in the family always. We read in Leviticus 25, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land” (vv. 23, 24). The land could not be sold because the land was God’s. And each household held its portion of land as the steward of Jehovah.
Now, let us take it all together. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. David is saying: Jehovah Himself is my inheritance. All my good is to be found in God Himself. Knowing Him, who He is, that is my inheritance. That is blessing. The blessedness of God’s covenant which, once again, means the bond of fellowship that God makes with His people in Christ, the blessing of the covenant, is God Himself. Very often salvation is viewed simply as deliverance from one place to another place – from hell to heaven. Now that, in itself, is true. But that is not the essence of salvation. Salvation, being delivered from sin and being brought to Christ and to glory, is only a means to serve a higher end. For the great blessing is God, God in His covenant. The great blessing is to know the living God in truth.
That is why the church’s calling is to preserve and to know the truth. That truth is represented in the Reformed faith which ascribes all glory to God alone, which boldly takes its stand where the apostle took his stand in Romans 11: “For of him, and to him, and through him are all things.” That is, of Him: God is the source of all. Through Him: God is the power by which all things take place. To Him: God is the ultimate end, the goal of all things.
Our inheritance is good because one who has God as his God lacks nothing which is needed to constitute a happy life. You may be behind iron bars someday or live on clay floors. You may be in a nursing home or in a wheelchair. God’s people have been burned at the stake. But with God all of these places are pleasant places. Though it be sickness, death, sorrow, poverty – if you have God, if you have God truly as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures, in all of His majesty, power, and grace, then you have everything. You may not have marble floors, a sixty-foot sailboat, mutual funds, a thriving business, a happy family. You may even be alone. But if you have God, you have all things. For, you see, if you would have all of those other things that I just listed and have not God, then the Bible says you are naked, destitute, and poor. And your sorrows are multiplied.
David is able to say, “Though I am far from home and friends, and though the earthly land is taken from me and I wander in the hills, I am rich. I have all. Kings have their kingdoms and men have their wealth, but having God, I have everything. And I glory in it. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup. He is my portion. He is the One who sustains me, because out of the knowledge of God, out of the knowledge of His perfections and faithfulness, mercy and grace, out of the knowledge of His works and names, out of the knowledge of His power and majesty, out of all of these things is food sufficient, spiritual food, abundant for the provision of eternal life. He is my cup.” Now a cup of wine or milk for the Israelites was the satisfying drink that refreshed them. David says, “I drink from God. I am refreshed in God. Not a God of my own imaginations, but a God of truth and love and grace and glory. In Him I have all things.”
Do you know this? This is the blessing of the covenant of God. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
David is confessing that all of this is of God. It was sovereignly given to him of God. It was clearly marked out by God. For, you see, the truth of the covenant is not that the covenant is some agreement between us and God in which, so to speak, we have sat down and done some bartering with God, God saying, “I will if you will”; and we saying, “We will if Thou wilt.” No. The covenant is not an agreement or a meeting of two who inch towards each other. But the covenant is all of God. God comes down to us who are dead. What do we have to give to God? With what are we to barter? What is our collateral? We have nothing. We are dead. And even those works that are performed in us as children of God, these are not our own. But these are the workings of His wonderful grace and love in us. These are our privilege to do.
The reward, therefore, is not of merit, that we have earned something by those deeds. The reward is of grace. God has made us willing, in the day of His power, says the Scripture. It is God who has worked in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Yes, as friends of God, we want to obey Him, we want to keep His truth. We want to know Him, we want to preach Him as He is, we want to walk faithfully as the church of God in the world. But none of these things constitute the power whereby the covenant is either made or continued. No, the covenant is entirely of grace. The Lord preserves our inheritance. Oh, the wonder of this.
This speaks to us, does it not? It speaks to us as young people. What are your plans? What do you think the best thing in life is? Is it to grow in the knowledge of your God? Is it to trust Him, to seek Him without shame? Is this the great joy that is yours? David wrote this as a young man, perhaps twenty years old, when all of the world would be saying to him: “You have to make your own way, you have to make your spot on the earth. You have to put up your mark, make your own star. You have to get ahead. You have to get in front of others.” David says, “The Lord is my inheritance. He maintains my lot.”
God does this in us. He works in us a love for Him. God maintains the heritage of His covenant with us by causing us to appreciate it, to defend it, to live it, and to cherish it. So it was with Israel. When the people of Israel went a whoring after other gods and chose no more to serve the living God but their own carnal appetites; when they expressed that they had no appreciation for what Jehovah had done; then God gave them over to the heathen to chasten His elect among them, to bring those people of God, His elect, back to an appreciation of His grace because that is the sin of our nature. Our sin which is so grievous is that we do not appreciate the wonder of God’s graciousness and faithfulness to us. We fail to understand the sheer wonder of grace. When we do that, things go bad. They go bad because God is faithful to Himself and faithful to us. And He will have us live in this wonder: God is everything to us. Therefore, when that does not live in our heart as it ought, God brings severe chastenings to us.
God maintains His covenant by grace. He maintains that covenant within us. He works within us a holy appreciation, a dedication and a zeal for the truth of His covenant. How beautiful this is: to have God, to have God Himself. Then our heritage is, indeed, pleasant and beautiful. David says, “I have a goodly heritage that shines.” Literally, “I have a polished heritage, one that is polished and beautiful. I’m not ashamed of it. The knowledge of my God given to me, given to me in the truth, given to me in the Reformed church, given to me from the holy Scriptures – I am not ashamed of that. That is everything to my eyes.”
Let not the psalmist David outdo us. The thought of our heritage, the thought of God’s church, the thought of God’s covenant – all of these things must compel us to lift up our hearts with thanks unto Him.
So must it be: Jehovah is our God for ever and ever. The glorious God of grace and truth, the faithful One, He is our God! We may walk before Him and find in Him, all our days, a full sufficiency.
Then we may say with David: “I have set the Lord always before me: He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
May God bless these words to our hearts.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the truth of Thy covenant. We pray, O Lord, that Thou wilt continue to preserve that truth of the covenant, the heritage among us. Give it, O Lord, to dwell in our heart richly by faith, in Jesus’ name, Amen.