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Psalm 16: The Sufficiency of God in a Decaying World

July 11, 2011

We live in a culture infatuated with preserving youth. From 1998 to 2009 the money spent at health and personal care stores doubled. From 2000 to 2010, the number of cosmetic surgery procedures in the U.S. rose by 77%. And yet the problem is not so much that we long for a full and lasting life—we were wired to desire eternal satisfaction. The problem is our tendency to look for it in things that are just as prone to decay as we are, all the while ignoring the sufficiency of God and the hope of the resurrection.

It is into this decaying world that Psalm 16 speaks with fresh hope of God’s sufficiency. God alone is able to preserve us, and we have no good apart from him (16:1-2). Unlike the insufficiency of the idols we tend to turn for lasting satisfaction (e.g. money, power, education, sex, perpetual youth, cf. 16:4), God is sufficient to guide us and keep us safe, preserving our lives and satisfying us with himself (16:5-11). And the ultimate expression of God’s faithfulness to preserve and satisfy us is our future resurrection in Christ.

After all, as exhilarating as these promises are (e.g. “you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,” v. 10), they don’t seem to actually stop the suffering in our lives or the processes of decay in our bodies or our worlds. The truth is, if we limit their scope to this life, we will find ourselves sorely disappointed.

Yet they were never meant to be limited to the scope of this world. As Peter attests in Acts 2, these promises were at the same time a prophecy of what God would do for Jesus in preserving and satisfying his life—not by avoiding the grave, but by carrying him through it and raising him victoriously over it (Acts 2:22-36). For those who believe in Christ and have been united with him in his death and resurrection, we have that same hope. We have tasted the eternal life and joy of the resurrection already through what the New Testament calls our “regeneration” (or having been “born again”—that’s resurrection language, cf. John 3:1-15; 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:3).  But the best is yet to come, when Christ returns and transforms our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21; cf. 1 Cor. 15:21-26; 1 Pet. 1:3-7). With this hope in clear view—our confidence that God alone will be faithful to preserve us and satisfy us—we are able persevere through our present trials, following the pattern of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

If you’re in the Boston MetroWest, join us Sunday, July 17, 9:30 a.m. at Westgate Church as we explore this further.

Update: You can find the sermon manuscript here: Psalm 16 Westgate 7.17.11

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