By David Bester

Your heart is a complex mix of desires, thoughts and intentions (Prov 20:5). It can be complicated to discern and it requires the careful application of scripture (Heb 4:12). Psalm 16 gives us insight into two desires that all of us have. Firstly, we all desire satisfaction. That means we seek to have enjoyment out of life. Many pursue possessions, wealth and success to meet this desire. Secondly, we all desire security. That means we want to be safe from death and we avoid danger.

As South Africans, that means we buy a safe car, pepper spray, a 9mm handgun, an alarm system, an electric fence and a good life insurance policy. These desires are not necessarily a bad thing, but how we choose to meet them is the issue that Psalm 16 discusses. In fact, where we find our satisfaction and security decides whether we are joy-filled believers or sorrow-filled idolaters. There are two preliminary questions you might want to ask yourself. The first question is: who or what do I really trust for my security? The second question is: what satisfies my heart the most?

According to Psalm 16, the Lord himself is our greatest source of satisfaction. In verse 2 David paints a picture of his joyful dependence on God, by calling him “my” Lord. He declares that nothing else causes him to be satisfied except God alone (Ps 16:2). This is significant since King David was a man of wealth, success, influence and wives (yes, that’s a plural) – things that the world runs after. Yet, he has no good apart from the Lord. Naturally, David delights in those saints who also delight in the Lord (Ps 16:3). To David, true excellence is not defined by our academic success or career progress, but our identity as a saint of the Lord.

Then, he turns his attention to those who run after another god. Another god is a broad designation for anything man makes as an idol besides God (Delitzsch & Keil, 2000-2003) . Those who pursue another god may think they are in the pursuit of happiness, but they are actually pursuing sorrow. David declares that their sorrows shall multiply (Ps 16:4). Next, David uses the language of daily provision and inheritance. Surprisingly, instead of referring to possessions, he is referring to a person – the Lord (Ps 16:5-6). David found his greatest satisfaction in the Lord.

Christ modelled satisfaction in the Lord when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11). The three temptations recorded by Matthew related to hunger, pride and power. Firstly, Satan tempted Christ to turn stones into loaves of bread. This would be going against the Spirit’s leading to go and fast in the wilderness. Secondly, Satan tempted Christ to test God by throwing himself off the highest point of the temple complex. Thirdly, Satan
tempted Christ to worship him, promising him the power over the kingdoms of the world and the glory that comes with them. In all three temptations Christ called scripture to mind – specifically the Law (Deut 8:3; 6:13, 16). In all three cases Christ remained satisfied in the Lord. He was satisfied in the words of the Lord, not bread. He was satisfied in trusting the Father, not testing him. Finally he was satisfied in the glory which comes from the Father, not from Satan (Jn 17:5). Christ’s chief satisfaction was found in the Father.

These biblical truths should be applied in the following ways. Firstly, we need to realise that the Lord is more satisfying than anything this world has to offer (Psalm 73:25-26). This will require a change in our minds. Secondly, if we want to seek the Father, we should be seeking the Son. In Christ, the fullness of God dwells in one person (Col 1:19; Heb 1:3; Jn 1:18; 14:9). Come to Christ in the gospels. Pray to him. Enjoy him. Be satisfied in him. Thirdly, if we are finding our joy in idols, we need to repent as soon as possible. Running after another god only ends in multiplied sorrow. Fourthly, after Christ’s example, we should counter the lies of Satan through memorizing and calling to mind scripture. Finally, we should have hope for the future (Psalm 16:11). For the believer, the future holds full joy and pleasures that last forevermore.

According to Psalm 16, the Lord himself is our greatest source of security. In verse 1 the Psalmist makes the only request of the whole psalm: “Preserve me!” In light of verse 10, we see that this preservation is from death. How could David make such a bold request to not die? It has to do with the greater theme of the Lord’s presence from verse 7-11. David looked back to a past time where he set the Lord before him (Ps 16:8). From that time onward he experienced the Lord’s presence (Ps 16:7, 8, 11). He also looked forward to the Lords presence in eternity (Ps 16:11). The Lord’s presence meant that David’s life was secure. He could not be shaken (Ps 16:8), his heart remembered the Lord’s presence in the night (Ps 16:7). His being rejoiced and even his physical body was secure (Ps 16:9). Instead of his path leading to death, it lead to life in the Lord’s presence (Ps 16:10-11). But then… David died! What an anti-climax.

It is not until Acts 2:22-36 that we see the full significance of this Psalm. At Pentecost, Peter preaches to the Jews concerning the Christ. He cites Psalm 16 as a prophecy. Peter declares that Psalm 16 is a prophecy about the resurrection of Christ. Christ is the promised descendant who would reign from David’s throne. His soul was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his body see decay.

The hope for the believer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26. Christ was raised from the dead first as an example of what will happen to us. If we are Christ’s, although our bodies may die, they will be raised again. They will be raised imperishable – never to die again. Christ will reign in the future and he will defeat every enemy. The final enemy is death. Spoiler alert: Christ wins! We don’t have to fear death. If we die, our souls go to the Lord. If our bodies are buried, they will be raised again better than before. Both in Psalm 16 and in Acts 2 the point is clear: The Lord is our security.

These truths should be applied as follows. Firstly, if you do not belong to Christ, then these promises do not belong to you (1 Cor 15:22-23). To belong to Christ you must repent of your sin and believe in Christ. His sacrifice is enough to cover your sin; his perfect life is your only source of righteousness; his resurrection is your only hope of eternal life. Only those who belong to Christ have no need to fear death. Secondly, since we belong to Christ, we should not fear death. Paul said that, to him, it was “very much better” to die (Phil 1:21-24), but remaining in the flesh was necessary for those whom he served. Death is only a change of location. When we die, we go to be with Christ. Thirdly, we should believe the promises of scripture concerning the Lord’s presence and our resurrection. Fourthly, we should live in the awareness of the Lord’s presence. Finally, we should not look to another god for security. The Lord himself, is our greatest source of security.


Psalm 16 outlines the human desires for satisfaction and security. It shows us that God himself is our greatest source of satisfaction and security. At the beginning of the article there were two questions: Who or what do I really trust for my security? And what satisfies my heart the most? In light of Psalm 16, how would you answer them now?


Delitzsch, F. &; Keil, C., 2000-2003. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament.