Psalm 16 teaches us about building confidence. Paul quotes this psalm in Acts 13:35 as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. But let us not forget that David wrote this in the context of his own trials. While God inspired David’s words in such a way that he prophesied Christ, he did not have Messiah in mind when he wrote. In the face of significant challenges, he wrote Psalm 16 as a means to talk himself back into a place of confidence in the Lord. If you have felt your confidence shaken in time of turmoil, the lessons David learned will no doubt be of help to you.
David began by reflecting on God’s past faithfulness to him (vv. 1–4). As he reflected on God’s grace to him in the past, he recognised that God had always proven faithful to him and he had no reason to assume that would change.
God had been faithful with his security, protecting him from his enemies (v. 1). God had been faithful with his provision, proving to be the ultimate source of David’s well-being (v. 2). God had graciously provided him with godly friends and companions (v. 3). God had graciously shown him the folly and emptiness of pursuing other gods and protected him from that folly (v. 4). David used these past mercies to talk himself into a right frame of mind. Whatever his present concerns were, surely he could trust the always-faithful God to be faithful again.
In light of God’s past faithfulness, David put some basic strategies into place to help him build and maintain his present confidence in the Lord (vv. 5–11).
First, he recognised the Lord as his daily portion for the present and the future (vv. 5–6). The language in this verse speaks of inheritance—that which, in Old Testament thought, provided security and even identity. The Lord had specifically stated that the Levites would receive no inheritance because they should find their security and identity in him (Numbers 18:20). David claims the same here.
Those who wish to build their confidence in God must find their security and identity in him, realising that he is their provider. The CSB translates the second half of v. 5 as “you hold my future.” Because God held his future, he could confidently assert, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” He realised that his security, hope, and provision did not lie in his own power or favourable circumstances but in the Lord alone. Even when the future looked bleak, the Lord knew the future and held his inheritance in his hand.
Second, David committed that he would listen to godly counsel (v. 7). The Lord might choose to give David counsel in a variety of ways—the counsel of godly friends, the comfort of the Scriptures, the prompting of the Holy Spirit in his life, etc.—but he was thankful that the Lord was his counsellor.
God still speaks to his people in a variety of ways, and our confidence in him is dependent, to a large degree, on our willingness to listen to such counsel. This means that we must commit, among other things, to time meditating on the word, time in prayer, and fellowship with godly people if we will grow in confidence. Our confidence will be shaken if we do not commit to receiving and submitting to godly counsel.
Third, David rejoiced in God as the author and finisher of his eternal security (vv. 8–11). His security began in this life (vv. 8–9). God was right by him at all times and in all circumstances. He could rest securely in the Lord in tumultuous times. But his security did not end there: Even in death the Lord held him securely (v. 10). As a child of God, death did not have to terrify him. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of man’s natural fear of death (2:15), but David knew that the Lord would not abandon him in death. His confidence went beyond death as he reflected on the truth that “life,” “fullness,” and “pleasures” would be his “forevermore” (v. 11).
Christians, of all people, should have a robust theology of death. Our ultimate confidence as we face death lies in the fact that there is a day of resurrection to eternal reward. Even death—that last enemy, yet to be defeated—holds no ultimate power over those whose confidence is in the Lord. The Christian’s confidence is one that begins in this life, continues with Christ throughout life, and travels beyond the grave in hope of resurrection and eternal life. With that promise before us, what reason is there for us to lack confidence in the Lord in our present circumstances?
Let us together look confidently to the God who has proven faithful in the past, is faithful even now, and will be faithful to the grave and beyond.