Sermon for 25 Pentecost Yr B

25 Pentecost Yr B, 14/11/2021

Ps 16 

Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson 

“Trusting God”

The superscription of Psalm 16 is: “A Miktam of David.” Some think that the word Miktam refers to an instruction or rubric for musicians. Martin Luther referred to it as a golden jewel—perhaps as a metaphor for a golden or highly valued teaching. Yet others think it means a mystery poem referring to mysterious aspects of life, like a mystical relationship with God. In truth, most likely the word remains uncertain. 

The Lutheran Study Bible gives Psalm 16 the following title: “Song of Trust and Security in God.” The Good News Bible has a similar title: “A Prayer of Confidence.” Indeed, trust and confidence definitely describe Psalm 16, as it seems to be a commentary on the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God…you shall have no other gods besides me.” Psalm 16 is a very upbeat psalm, and reflects David’s trust in God. 

Starting with verse 1, the psalmist’s trust and confidence in God comes through, especially in the REB translation: “Keep me, God, for in you have I found refuge.” Notice that in this rendering the psalmist has already found refuge, therefore he is confident that God will keep him. 

Verse 2, adds to this trust and confidence, which comes across quite clearly in the Good News Bible rendering: “I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;, all the good things I have come from you.” This verse then, once again emphasizes the blessing of trusting God and keeping the first commandment. 

In verse 3, the psalmist turns to God’s faithful people and compliments them with an expression of gratitude in the Good News rendering: “How excellent are the LORD’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them.” This is often true in your life and mine. We look forward to being with one another to encourage and receive encouragement in our faith journey. We are a blessing for one another. This verse is also a reminder of the joy we have in “the communion of saints” as we confess in our creed; as well as what the writer of the Letter to Hebrews says in our second lesson today, exhorting God’s people: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24-25).

Then, in verse 4, the psalmist contrasts God’s faithful people who keep the first commandment with people who commit the sin of idolatry and worship other gods. The REB renders verse 4 like this: “Those who run after other gods, find endless trouble; I shall never offer libations of blood to such gods, never take their names on my lips.” The reference to “libations of blood” may possibly be to human sacrifice. In any case, whenever Israel was guilty of violating the first commandment, they did have, as the psalmist says, endless trouble. When they fell into the temptation to worship other gods, the consequences were tragic—famines, destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, exiles into Assyria and Babylonia, and so on. 

Verse 5 once again contrasts the psalmist’s trust and confidence in God with those guilty of idolatry in verse 4. The Message renders it like this, once again emphasizing the first commandment: “My choice is you, GOD, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice!”

Once again verse 6 underscores the blessings of trust and confidence in God, as the NRSV translates it: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” “The boundary lines” here may refer to the dividing up of the promised land when the Israelites settled in Canaan. However, it can have additional meanings too. For example, those of us who have children know how important it is for them to learn boundaries. Even as adults boundaries are important for our own protection and well-being. In being faithful to God’s ways and accepting our place and calling in life can certainly bring us many blessings within the boundaries in which we live. Such boundaries in life can indeed bepleasant places.

There is a story told by Israel ben Eliezer of a Jewish man who loved God and rejoiced in serving God. This man was so devoted to God that, it was believed he learned the Torah from the lips of the Almighty. He was so pious that he could do anything he wanted. The archangels became offended that a mere mortal had such power, and they decided to try him for impinging upon their territory. He was found guilty, and an angel was sent to deliver the sentence: he was to be deprived of the world to come. When the man heard this, he was ecstatic. The angel asked him if he understood the seriousness of his sentence, and the man replied: “Yes, I’ve always wanted to love God without hope of reward, but everything I’ve always done was rewarded so greatly. Now I can love God with the knowledge of no reward. I’m free!” Of course, the decree had to be revoked because it had no power over him.1 The joy of loving and trusting God is its own reward, which results in blessings exceeding any of our expectations. 

Turning to verses 7 and 8, a careful reading indicates that they are an affirmation of verses 2, 4, and 6. I like the way The Message renders these verses, which once again emphasise trusting and confidence in God: “The wise counsel GOD gives when I’m awake is confirmed in my sleeping heart. Day and night I’ll stick with GOD; I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.” 

I also like the colourful language of The Message in rendering verses 9 and 10: “I’m happy from the inside out and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed. You cancelled my ticket to hell—that’s not my destination!” In other words, faith and faithfulness blesses one’s whole being—body, mind, and spirit. 

Medical studies have suggested that all cholesterol is not the same. There is “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.”

Good cholesterol consists of high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs. Bad cholesterol consists of low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs.

Bad cholesterol clogs arteries and leads to heart attacks.

“Good cholesterol,” writes Rita Rubin, “seems to carry cholesterol out of the coronary-artery walls, thus preventing blockages. Studies show the rate of coronary heart disease falls as HDL levels rise.”

Just as all cholesterol is not the same, the Bible says all pleasure is not the same. There is good pleasure and bad pleasure. Good pleasure is healthful, self-controlled, and obedient to God’s commands. Bad pleasure is self-indulgent, addictive, and disobedient to God’s commands.2

The closing verse of Psalm 16 also emphasizes confidence and trust in God, that God will lead and guide us where we need to be in our lives. The NRSV translation puts it like this: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The phrase “In your presence” reminds me of Eric Clapton’s song, “Presence of the Lord.” Here are some of the words: “I have finally found a place to live/Just like I never could before/And I know I don’t have much to give/But soon I’ll open any door/Everybody knows the secret/Everybody knows the score/I have finally found a place to live/In the presence of the Lord/In the presence of the Lord.” 

Eric Clapton wrote this song, which is a testimony of faith. Clapton called this a “song of gratitude.” It was one of his first songs to explore spirituality, which he did on some of his solo tracks in the ‘70s. He said the message of this song was to “say ‘thank you’ to God for whatever happens.” 

Clapton has hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival over the years, to raise money for his substance abuse centre in Antigua.

But his road has seldom been smooth. From the age of 9 when he learned that he was born out of wedlock to his “auntie” and an unknown Canadian soldier, he struggled to find a safe place. Feelings of isolation and insecurity haunted him throughout life, drawing him to the gritty alienation of the blues. But there is a spiritual side of Clapton that was scarcely known. It almost always influenced what he thought and did, and the kind of music he wrote and played.3

So, may we like David, Eric Clapton, and a host of God’s faithful people down through the ages, right up to our day, have confidence in God, always trusting him for everything in life, and finding our greatest joy in his presence. 

1 Stephen Homer, “Upholders of the Faith,” in Equinox, March/April 1986, pp. 46-47. 

2 Craig Brian Larson, Editor, Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Co., 1996), p. 176. 

3 <https://www.songfacts.com/facts/blind-faith/presence-of-the-lord> and John Powell, “Eric Clapton, In the Presence of the Lord,” at: <https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/aprilweb-only/115-32.0.html>.

About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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