Through the Bible in a Year: Psalm 16-20

This Week’s Reading Schedule

Today’s Bible Reading is Psalm 16-20.

Next week we will read Joshua, beginning with Joshua 1-5 on Monday.

The overall year’s plan is here.

Psalm 16

What a delightful Psalm this is! I have a lot of favorite passages in this Psalm. (Quotes are from NASB.)

Verses 2-3: For the Christian, these two verses describe everything we need. The Lord is our only good, and the saints are "the majestic ones," who are all our delight.

Verses 5-6: At this point David is living in the blessing of the Lord, having trusted him when things were bad (as we saw in earlier Psalms), and he is rejoicing in his good circumstances.

Verses 7-9: The Lord counsels me. My mind instructs me in the night. I’m always looking at him. As a result, I’m filled with gladness and rejoicing, and I won’t be shaken.

Verse 10: This verse is quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as a prophecy that the Messiah would have to die and rise again.

Verse 11: If we will remain in the Lord’s presence, we can have fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Truly, he can be everything for us, and the more we seek him, the more true this is.

Psalm 17

This is another Psalm that it is good to pray as well as study.

There are several important things to note in this Psalm.

Verses 2-5: David is not afraid to put himself in front of God for judgment. He does not just ask for mercy, but he points out that he has made choices to follow God, and he asks for rewards for his good choices.

God is a merciful God, and we are dependent on his mercy. Nonetheless, it is also true that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (Jam. 5:16). A righteous man is not a wicked man who is depending on God to overlook his sin. A righteous man is someone who actually practices righteousness (1 Jn. 3:7).

This will not be the only Psalm we run across where David appeals to his own righteousness. This is not because David thinks he is a good person in his own righteousness, but because he expects that obeying God brings rewards. Therefore, he points out that he has obeyed God.

We need to beware of being so humble that we make God’s promises of no effect and give ourselves no motivation to obey God.

Verse 14: The "men of this world" are those who have their portion in this life and worry about leaving an inheritance to their children. We should not be so, but as Psalm 16 has described so well, our portion is the Lord himself, who brings fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

Verse 15: David says he will be satisfied with God’s likeness when he awakes. His portion is not in this life, but in God (compare 1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Psalm 18

This is another of my favorite Psalms. When David cries out to the Lord, he is not simply rescued. There is a glorious description of God rising up on his behalf to destroy his enemies. On the other hand, when his enemies called out to God, there was no one to save them (v. 41).

This is another example of what we talked about in Psalm 17. David says he was repaid according to his righteousness and the cleanness of his hands (v. 24). He then goes on to explain that is true for everyone. God is pure to the pure, but those who are crooked will find God crooked with them as well (vv. 25-26).

David doesn’t say this because he is under the Old Covenant and confused about where real righteousness lies. He knows that he is righteous by grace (v. 32-36) and not in his own strength. Nonetheless, each of us has a choice whether to stand in grace, be good stewards of grace, and obey God through grace. There is a reward for choosing the blameless life, and there are consequences for not choosing it, even—and perhaps especially—under the New Covenant (compare 1 Pet. 1:13-19).

Psalm 19

What a treasure trove of Psalms we have run across today!

This Psalm is a celebration both of the works and the words of God. His creation speaks to us, and the Scripture speaks to us. I have heard them called the two Bibles.

As someone who has read and enjoyed the early writings of the church, I know that the primitive churches understood the first Bible, God’s creation, better than we did. They produced lesson after lesson from what they saw in creation.

For example, each winter we watch the earth slowly die, but each spring it rises again to new life. To the primitive Christians, God did this to testify that there is a resurrection and that we should believe.

Others pointed out that man is the only creature whose face points to the sky. We walk upright, with our eyes toward heaven, because we are made to look to the heavens and worship God.

Finally, there is a glorious description of David’s delight in the Law of God. I can’t add to his words, which are a joy to read over and over again. The praise group Maranatha made a song from the last half of this Psalm back in the 70’s or 80’s.

Psalm 20

My guess was that this Psalm was to be sung before going to war. It is both a prayer and a celebration of victory.

Again, this is a Psalm worth praying or singing as much as it is worth studying.

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