Confidence — Psalm 16

Psalms of David

It is Hallowe’en. That strange day which is full of imagery from mostly Celtic sources, with other later additions from America, has its origins in the Christian festival of All Hallows’ Eve, from which it gets its name, the day before All Hallows’ Day, from which Hallowe’en gets its name, or All Saints’ Day. All the dressing up was not a way of celebrating evil and giving it power but of showing how weak it is. As they said in Ghostbusters, “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts.” I am not saying it is OK to trivialise evil, but I am saying that the power of evil is trivial compared to the power of God.

That’s all I have to say on Hallowe’en this year, but I am continuing my look at the psalms.

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are mostly personal songs, so I will be looking at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of psalms.

I have a confidence problem. Imposter syndrome is common in autistic people like me, even in things I have done hundreds of times I have an irrational fear that I am going to be found out and exposed as a fraud. Fear can stop me from doing what I want to do, especially if it’s something new.

None of my autistic traits is found in Psalm 16.

A halloween costume, a pregnany woman is wrapped in bandages as an Egyptian mummy.
Photo by Italo Melo on

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

A Miktam of David.

16 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16 ESVUK

Psalm 16 is first and foremost a song of confidence in God. It is quoted as a prophetic song in the New Testament. Acts 2: 25-28 is a direct quote from Psalm 6:8-11 and Paul hints at it in Acts 13:34. Yet I cannot see how this song of confidence in God became a song about the Messiah.

Sources say that the Hebrew in Psalm 16 is very old, which matches the attribution to David, but it is not until the restoration of Judah following the Babylonian exile that evidence that this Psalm was taken as being messianic can be found, which means that Psalm 16 probably started being seen as prophecy of the Messiah at some point in the exile. I say probably because lack of evidence of it being earlier does not mean it was earlier. Evidence from this far back in time is often missing.

Those who claim that early Christians made up that Psalm 16 pointed to Christ have it wrong, it had been around for centuries, but not the verses that were quoted, the Rabbinic claim was that verse 3a pointed to the Messiah. “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,” is seen through an apocalyptic reading as being about the latter days. No, I can’t see that either, but it is clearer in the Greek translation called LXX which is the one quoted in the New Testament I am told. Not knowing Hebrew or Greek I rely solely on what commentators have said in English, I am simply reporting what they have said, that Both Peter and Paul are quoted in Acts as using Psalm 16, which the Jews at that time took as being about the Messiah, to point to the Messiah is Jesus.

From my own reading and Lectio Divina time on this psalm, I can see the confidence in God even in the event of death is because David has an ongoing relationship or communion with YHWH, which is the intimate name of God. David has confidence in God because he has spent time in God’s presence so that his fear is gone. Have you spent enough time with God that when faced with children dressed as vampires and zombies. or even a heavily pregnant woman dressed in bandages, my favourite Hallowe’en pun, on your doorstep this evening you can smile and give them a blessing this evening because you ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts?

< Psalm 15 | Psalm 16 | Psalm 17 >
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