Online Text Sermon - The Believer's Inheritance, Psalm 16 vv.5-11
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Believer's Inheritance|
|Text||Psalm 16 vv.5-11 |
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"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" (Psalm 16, 5-6).
At the end of this very famous and well known Psalm, the psalmist - David - tells us about his reasons for being happy as a believer. He explains to us that he is happy really I think for three reasons. At least that is the way it appears to me just now. He talks about these three reasons for his happiness in God.
The first reason he tells us is because of what God is to him now in this life. The second reason he gives us for being happy as a believer is because of what God will be to him when he comes to die and when he enters into a state of death, as of course he knew very well he would have to do. It is the same with you and with me.
The second thing he rejoices in here is the way in which God is related to him, even in a state of death and of the grave.
But then there is a third thing. It is the way in which God will be the source of his happiness, even beyond death and even beyond the grave, in that glorious eternity which lies at the end of history when Jesus Christ returns and a new heaven and a new earth appear.
He talks about this happiness that he has. My very dear friends, it is good to be happy as Christians. It is good to rejoice in God. It is a good thing to remind ourselves as the psalmist does here that we are blessed indeed to have God. Mind you, his religion is not sentimentality. There are religious people who are sentimental. They talk like this: "Religion is a good thing in itself you know. It is good to believe in God. It is good to go to church." With some people everything is good - it is good to be in the Free Church of Scotland, its good to be a Baptist, its good to be Church of Scotland or England, it's good to be Roman Catholic, it's good to be Muslim and so on. That is not the spirit in which the psalmist is writing. He's not being sentimental about religion and about God; quite the reverse in fact. If you were reading carefully as we went along in one of these earlier verses he tells us he absolutely refuses to have anything to do with other gods: "Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips" (Psalm 16, 4). He wasn't even prepared to mention the names of these other gods and other religions, or false gods and false religions. He wouldn't participate in their worship. He would have nothing to do with the offerings which were offered to them. He wanted in no sense to be associated with any kind of worship or religion which was not the Truth of the true and living God.
I don't know whether you agree with me but I will put it to you. This is how it seems to me. An unbeliever says that all religion is bad. A false Christian will say that all religion is good. A true Christian says that no religion is good except the truth of the Word of God. You think about that. If you mediate and pause upon that a little I think you will agree it's true. I repeat - an unbeliever would abolish all religion, churches and so on. He would do what they did during the French Revolution when the humanists and the atheists took over the cathedrals and stabled their horses in them as a sign of contempt. That is what the unbeliever would do; he hates religion. All religion is bad he says. The false Christian says that all religion is good. Listen to them, these political Christians. They say Christianity is good, Islam is good, Judaism is good - they are all good. That is no way for a true Christian to talk. David here is not talking with sentimentality like that. He tells us at the very beginning of the psalm what he means by God and what he means by true religion. He says he wouldn't dream of taking the names of these gods up in his very lips. He wouldn't associate with their offerings of worship (Psalm 16, 4). For those who follow these other gods he says, "Their sorrows shall be multiplied" (Psalm 16, 4). They will have trouble in this life and if not much in this life they will surely have troubles in the life to come. David's view was that false religion was worthless. He doesn't dwell on that. We have to be negative but we mustn't be merely negative. There are some people who are too negative. He gives the negative and the positive; here is where the balanced Christian mind is to be seen. The Bible is so balanced - the negative and then the positive.
Having dealt with the negative, he now comes to what I am going to deal with under the three points I gave you before.
First of all, his happiness in God in this life. Secondly, his happiness in God in the face of death and the grave. Thirdly, his happiness in God in light of the eternal state, which is beyond death and beyond the grave in the new heavens and the new earth wherein wells righteousness. He is jealous for God.
My first heading is this: God is the Christian's heaven on earth. For the true Christian there is nothing that much matters but only his relationship to God. There is no mistaking his meaning: "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" (text).
David was a man of immense wealth and power. He was king over the land of Israel and what a king he was: he flattened his enemies on the right and on the left. Nobody could stand up against David; he was as it were, invincible. He was a type of Christ who will destroy all His and our enemies. There wasn't an enemy standing by the time David's campaigns were over. They were all as it were, dead men. So it wasn't as though David didn't have much in this life. He wasn't talking as somebody who was tucked away in an orphanage, who hasn't got anything, God is all he has got - I speak with respect and reverence. David is a king. He had wealth, food and drink, servants, armies, kingdoms, prestige, honour, respect. There was very little of this world he didn't have. But this is the way David talks - God, he says, is "mine inheritance": God is my "portion": God is "my cup"; "The Lord" is all I want. That is what he says and that's the way he puts it. God is all that he wanted in this life.
My dear friends, how very different this is from the spirit of this world. People who are not Christians want everything but God. How many did you see going to God's house today? How many Bibles did you see tucked under people's arms. How many were dressed to go to worship today? It cannot be said of the people of this world what David says here about himself: "The Lord is the portion of...my cup" (Psalm 16, 5-6). However it is said by the true Christian. It is for you who love Him; it is for those of you sitting here today in whose heart God reigns supreme; for those of you who have tasted the sweetness of the love of Jesus Christ poured upon your hearts; those who know the forgiveness of sins; those who have come to have your eyes opened to all that God in Christ has done for you. David had seen all of that.
I feel so sad for the people of this word, don't you? They are missing the wood for the trees. We have boys and girls here and we mustn't let them go to sleep. I want them also to understand a bit of this. Let me use an illustration boys and girls that I hope you will understand and which will help bring you into the spirit of what I am trying to preach today. Here is my little story briefly. Two men were walking through a beautiful part of the country. I think it might have been in America but that doesn't matter. As these two men walked along one of them found a beautiful tree covered with apples. He took an apple and he began to eat it. "Oh," he said, "this apple is delicious. I must go home and get a basket and fill the basket with apples for my family" - which he did. He said, "I have apples now for many days for my family." Then the second man came along. He looked at the apple tree and tasted the apples. "Oh," he said, "this tree is so good. I must go home and get a spade." When the winter came and the apples were all fallen from it he dug up the tree and planted it in his own garden. "Now," he said, "I have apples for ever more for my family." That is the difference between a non-Christian and a Christian: the non-Christian wants the apples off the tree and nothing more but the Christian gets the tree. God is the sources of all our joys and all our happiness. He who has God has everything. And so you have my beloved friends - God is your cup: the source, the joy, the centre, the fulcrum; He is the universe of our happiness. That is what David says: "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup" (Psalm 16, 5).
I must explain one or two words here. What do we mean by an inheritance or a 'heritage'? Both the words mean the same thing. In the days when David was living, they were still thinking about the way God had led them out of Egypt, through the desert, into the promised land. When they came into the promise land in the days of Joshua, you recall what Joshua had to do. He had to divide up the land for the people. They got surveyors I suppose you would call them, or architects, who new about land and the division of it. They used long lines or ropes to mark out an area; I suppose they would put a fence up and stake it out. They would give so much land to one tribe and so much to another. The land was so subdivided between the people. All their inheritance, or heritage, was given to them in that way. It was all marked out for the different tribes. You can see it on the maps at the end of your Bible. It was then subdivided again for families and for individuals. That is what the psalmist is talking about in our text: What is my heritage, he asks? "The Lord" himself is mine inheritance, he answers! He talks about the lines falling to him in pleasant places. Here it is, these ropes that were used for dividing up the territory. The lines were used to measure who got what. As it is today, boundaries are very important. You can't just push a person's fence and lay claim to someone else's land. The land belongs to the people whose name is on it. boundaries are sacred, if you like, to the law. If a man tries to move your boundaries you can take him to law for encroaching on your territory. David says, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places". That is to say, when God was measuring out the land - not the temporal but the spiritual land - God gave him a rich pasturage. When land was divided up in these times, you never really knew how the lines were going to fall. One family got a rich pasture whereas another may get a stony patch. Another may get a mountainside - only useful for a few sheep. The next one may get something beside the sea; when salt gets into the earth it is not so fertile. Yet another may inherit a wonderful pasture. It all depends how the lines fall. That is rather like life itself: one person gets more money than another, one gets more good looks than another, and one is more successful in business than another. What we get in life is all part of God's secret providence. David knows what he has: "the Lord is my portion". What ever else he has or hasn't got, he has the best of all; the choicest part of his life is God. That is what he says - God is his heaven on earth.
I put it to you dear Christian, as I know all this resonates with you, you would say the same. You may have a house, a car, some money in the bank, gifts, qualifications, and friends; but if you had to put God on one side and all the rest on the other, you would sweep it away - God is all you want! The rest is all right as far as it goes but it is nothing compared with the heritage we have in God. "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" (Psalm 16, 5-6).
I remind you of this dear Christian, if you have your eyes open today, you won't be looking at the things you haven't got but at the things that you have got - Christ, forgiveness, hope, peace, everlasting life. You can't buy these things with money. What do the other things matter? You might have been born into kings palaces, you might be the richest person in the world but you can't buy these things with money. When you go all the money in the world will do nothing to preserve them for you. But if you have God, you have heaven upon earth - heaven now, heaven begun, heaven in your soul. You have the joy of the Lord in your very innermost soul. I say you have reason today, like David, to be glad, thankful and happy.
But wait a minute; am I speaking to you all? Are you all in this happy place or are some of you still thinking about the apples on the tree and not the tree itself? Do some of you protest that you want to get on, you want money and pleasures and happiness in this world. If that is the way you are I feel very sorry for you because you're simply getting the basket and taking the apples off the tree. That's all very well as far as it goes. No harm in any of these things in and of themselves, but of you make them your god, they will let you down. Earthly things are all right in their place but their place is not God. You must see that they are simply apples on a tree and not the tree itself. The blessings of life are given to you by the gracious God, how foolish then to pluck the apples and to forget the tree from which they come. Says David: God is his portion.
My dear friends we are here to tell every one of you - boys, girls and older people - don't forget that God is the only one who can make you truly happy. I love those words of Augustine at the beginning of his famous confessions in which he is speaking to God and he says, "Thou hast made us for thyself O God and our heart is restless until we find our rest in Thee." Somebody once put it another way: "Man's heart is three cornered. The only way to satisfy it is to be filled with the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Nothing will satisfy the human heart but the holy three Persons of the Godhead dwelling within the soul. That is what David is talking about. Can you say the same? I know many of you can, and say it better than I dare say it - and more worthily too. But I want you all to come to that place in which you are able to say nothing else matters to you but having God.
My second point is that, not only is God the psalmist's choicest possession on earth, but God is his hope in death and in the grave. You will find this in the Psalm here: "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Psalm 16, 9). He is thinking now of the grave surely. His flesh when it is put into the grave will rest there in hope because - "thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16, 10).
There are deep and wonderful mysteries in the Bible and I am absolutely certain that this v.10 goes far beyond David to our Lord and Saviour Himself, Jesus Christ. It is a prophecy concerning Christ. How do I know? Well, Peter the apostle in Acts 2, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, quotes these words in reference to Christ and his death and resurrection from the dead. I ask one or two questions about these words here. If these words refer to Christ, when did Christ's soul suffer hell? See what he says: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" (Psalm 16, 10). We must get this right, if we don't we will be confused. Christ entered into hell pains before He died, not after. It is a superstition of the Roman Catholic Church and of many Church of England people that, after Jesus died, His soul went into hell pains. There are all sorts of different variations on the theme but without being minute just now in detail, it is all wrong. We know it is wrong because when Jesus was about to die He said to the dying thief, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23, 43). So wherever our Lord's soul went it certainly was not into hell. When did our Lord suffer hell pains? He suffered hell pains for us on the cross before He died. God did not allow Him to go on and on suffering; once He had finished dying for our sins, He entered into physical death and His body was placed in the grave for three days before the resurrection. God did not leave Him there - He came back.
So the second question comes to our mind. Where was Christ in danger of seeing corruption? That is the question in v.10: "Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16, 10). At what point in His experience was the Lord Jesus Christ in danger of seeing corruption? The answer is, in a state of death. When His body was placed in the bandages or cloths, bound up by Joseph of Arimathaea and by Nicodemus at the end of Matthew 27; they wound Him up and put spices on His precious body. They placed Him in the grave which was a cave and put a stone in the front of it. Our Lord's body was as it were, in danger of entering into corruption. That is what happens to bodies normally: as soon as they are put into the grave they begin to decay and return to dust - but not our Lord's body! There was a miraculous presence of God with His body in the state of death which meant that He saw no corruption. There was no tendency to putrification at that time. Our Lord didn't even begin to decompose or to decay in any way. There was no smell; His body was preserved by supernatural power - a reward of His obedience as our Saviour, a reward for what He was and for having done faithfully what He had done.
There is a secondary sense in which that is true for Christians. It is not identical for us of course; we don't enter into hell at all. The believer's soul enters into death certainly, but never into hell. Thank God. There is no call for it. The justice of God is satisfied the moment we believe in the Lord and Saviour. His blood is able to cleanse away past sins and His righteousness, upon which we believe, covers our nakedness in life and in death. As soon as we die our soul enters into glory and our body enters into the grave. Our body, in our case, does decompose and return again to dust. But, God will recompose it in the resurrection. Our mouldering bodies which lie in the grave and decompose, God will recompose; He will bring the bits together again. Though you chop a Christian's body in a thousand pieces and scatter them on every continent, in the resurrection day the pieces will come together and He will raise the dead in glory. David knows this to be true - so did Job in his day: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 19, 25-27). He knew of the resurrection of the body just as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 15. So David knowing these things - resting as he did upon Christ who would come - knows his flesh will rest in hope (v.9).
Some of us are grey-haired. We are coming to our last end; we shall not be here for a further fifty years, or perhaps even another fifty days - we do not know. We are hastening to another world. Even the youngest of us here may be the first to go - nobody knows. Here though is the happiness of the Christian - he knows that because our Lord has accomplished His magnificent work of redemption upon the cross and risen again from the dead, we are certain that because it is a finished salvation, we who believe have this comfort of hope: "my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Psalm 16, 9). If you are looking for something to put on your tombstone, there is a good one. Have you thought by the way what you will put on your tombstone? I know what I want on mine: "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19, 25).
I love to go round old cemeteries and see what Christians have put on their tombstones. A favourite as you know is - 'Asleep in Jesus'. That is beautiful. I recommend that one to those who are looking for something. Let me give you another one: 'At home with the Lord'. In this life we are absent from the Lord but present in the body. In death we shall be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Or again, "Till the day break, and the shadows flee away" (Song of Solomon 2, 17). I can't speak those words without feeling emotion. O friends what words there are in the Bible, what hope, what comfort, what assurance. Listen to those words again: "Till the day break, and the shadows flee away" (Song of Solomon 2, 17). That is our hope: when Christ returns this body of ours will rise triumphant over the grave - deathless, beyond death, on the other side of death; when the last enemy has been crushed under the heel of Christ for ever. David knew all this and he says so. He puts it in these words: "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Psalm 16, 9). I think 'my glory' is another name for the soul. The word 'soul' has many parallels in the Bible. Take the word 'darling' which is in the Bible (Psalm 22 and Psalm 35). The word 'darling' there is used in parallel with the word 'soul' because the 'darling' is the most precious thing we have. Our soul is the most precious thing we have so it deserves to be called our 'darling', and the Bible does that. So it is with the 'glory'. A Christian's 'glory' is his soul. His soul is right with God and so he calls it his glory: "my glory'", he says, "rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Psalm 16, 9). Both his soul and his body are full of happiness. Why? Because God will be with us in death and in the grave! He will deliver us from death and from all the power of the grave, and we shall never see hell.
O my friends, why don't people believe this message? Why are people so attached to this world? Is there anything in all the universe so important as words like this. Ransack the libraries and find if you can a better message that the message in this Book. Go to all the encyclopaedias and the wise men and the philosophers - they can't tell you a single thing comparable to what the Bible tells you here: the hope of glory when we enter into death and see the Lord face-to-face. What a message! Therefore, he says, the Christian is happy. Well, are you happy today? What about those of you who are not yet Christians, at least you are not able to say so? Isn't it time dear friends you gave your soul and body and everything to God? I don't know what you are waiting for. Think about it as you go home and ask yourself - Is it reasonable for me to refuse Jesus Christ any longer? Have I anything to gain by refusing to give myself and my all to such a God who has done such marvels for sinners in His world.
We have one further thing to look at. The third thing is this: not only is God our heaven on earth now, not only is God our hope of deliverance from death and hell, but God Himself will be our heaven in heaven. That is what he talks about at the very end of the Psalm: "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16, 11). "The patch of life"! "In thy presence is fulness of joy" - look at that; what a word, what an expression. He is talking about heaven in his final manifestation, when the Lord returns. "At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore"! The right hand of God, which is referred to here, is a place of honour. That is what we do when we have a feast or banquet: the most honoured guests sit on the right hand side of the head of the table. Our Lord is there already: He is at the right hand of the throne of God - the place of supreme honour with God. He is there ruling the universe. In the day of Judgement remember, it is those on the right side who will be brought in and those on the left will be dismissed and cast out. These therefore are references to the place of joy in heaven. All the Lord's people will be placed on the right hand side in heaven.
God will show us the way to heaven: "Thou wilt show me the path of life" (v.11). He shows us the path in the Bible, but we also need to be shown it providentially from day to day. "How am I, a poor sinner, going to get to heaven? Look at me, no better than a worm or a maggot. And there is God in heaven - how am I going to get there? It seems impossible." The answer is that He will show us this way: He will show us the path of life (v.11). He will get us through this dark world and He will receive us into glory at last. We believe that. David believed that therefore he was a happy man."In thy presence is fulness of joy" (Psalm 16, 11). God deliberately has not given us this fulness of joy here and now. If God gave us this fulness of joy and happiness here and now, do you know what we would do? We would make an idol of it! We would fold our hands and we wouldn't want God Himself any more, we would be so pleased with our happiness we would forget God. We are terrible creatures, we are terrible idolaters. Give us a little blessing and we make an idol of it and forget the one who gave it. Isn't that so true of us? So God doesn't give us the fulness here; He waits till we get there, in the everlasting kingdom when Jesus Christ returns. O but there is a fulness to come: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard..."(1 Corinthians 2, 9). We know a little about through the Bible; it is revealed in a measure in the Bible; "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13, 12). Christian, I can't tell you what this fulness is, but I can tell you it will be ecstatic happiness. It will be such billows of unspeakable joy that you will be eternally elevated to unutterable gladness and happiness: to be with God and be in God, to see God and to talk to God, and to enjoy God through the endless ages of eternity - that's heaven! And it's yours now in Christ, in prospect.
He winds the whole thing up with his wonderful phrase: "At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16, 11). Who on earth could preach such words, yet we know that when Jesus Christ is manifest, we shall enter into the full enjoyment of all of these things. Not simply for a million years - that's only a blink of time, a million years is nothing. For ever more we are to see and enjoy the great and holy God. Don't go away and tell me after that that you are not happy. If that doesn't make you happy then you must be made of stone.
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