June 29, 2020
Daybreak: Psalms 14:1 through 17:15
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
What do you need to survive? Beyond that, what do you need to feel fulfilled? Most people would answer the first question similarly: food, water, and shelter. To the second question, however, the answers would vary.
In the 1950s, American psychologist Abraham Maslow studied a group of mentally healthy individuals to develop his theory regarding man’s supposed “hierarchy of needs.” First, basic physiological needs for food, water, and shelter must be fulfilled. When those have been satisfied, Maslow asserted, human needs progress to safety, then love and belonging, then esteem, and finally, to “self-actualization” — a desire to fully realize one’s potential, becoming everything one is capable of becoming.
However, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totally ignores the most fundamental need of all — the need for a relationship with God and the “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore” that are found only in God’s presence. From Maslow’s humanistic perspective, fulfillment of one’s potential is a purely human endeavor; he makes no reference to God’s involvement. However, mankind was created to know and worship our Creator, so a godless existence will never lead to long-term satisfaction. In contrast, a life directed by God and lived in His presence will be full of joy, even during hard times.
The Hebrew words translated “fullness” and “pleasures” in our focus verse can also be translated as “satisfaction” and “delightfulness.” These are not merely casual, transitory feelings that momentarily make life more bearable; they describe what we were made for! The deep satisfaction found in God’s presence supersedes any feeling or contentment that we could generate within ourselves or that could result from external sources or achievements. Work, family, money, power, influence, and fame will never fill the God-shaped void inside each of us; that place can only be filled by God himself.
God’s promise is to show us the path of life. Not only will He satisfy the desires of our hearts in this life, but His path will also lead us to eternal life in His presence. And without question, eternity with Him will be “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore”!
This psalm is virtually identical to Psalm 53, which is a teaching psalm that was set to a tune known as “Mahalath.” There is some debate regarding whether Psalm 14 was authored by David, or by someone else during the time of the captivity. The superscription directs it to the chief Musician, so it may have been used by the Levites in the context of corporate worship. The theme is the foolishness of rejecting God. In Scripture, the word translated folly does not refer to mental limitations, but to moral perversity.
The psalm begins with an indictment of Israel and all of humanity. The verb translated filthy in verse 3 means “tainted morally.” The psalm concludes with an impassioned cry for the salvation of Israel, a proclamation of David’s confidence that God would indeed bring His people back from captivity, and the response expected to spring from grateful hearts at that occurrence.
Psalm 15 is a didactic (intended for instruction) wisdom poem that establishes guidelines for living a blameless life. It is also classified as a liturgical psalm, as it was connected with public worship. Since the first verse references access to the Tabernacle and the Holy Hill (interchangeable words denoting the dwelling place of God and the focal point of Jewish worship), it may have been sung as an entrance liturgy. Written by David, some commentators feel it was composed around the time when the Ark of the Covenant was restored to Jerusalem. (See 2 Samuel 6 for a description of that event.)
The psalm opens with a question. Verses 2-5 provide the answer by describing the person who may dwell with God, offering both positive and negative characteristics. The psalm concludes with the assertion that an individual who fits this character profile will prove to be steadfast.
Psalm 16 is the first of six psalms designated as a “Michtam of David” (the other five psalms are 56 through 60). The word michtam is derived from a root word meaning “gold” and may indicate that these songs are jewel-like in their beauty. Other commentators suggest the word refers to a hidden or mysterious meaning.
The psalm indicates great distress, which probably was a result of Saul’s persecution following David’s anointing as king. While it opens with a cry for preservation, and includes a meditation on saints and sinners, the general tone is that of triumph and hope.
This psalm is characterized as a Messianic psalm, as it points prophetically to Christ. It was quoted by Peter in his Pentecost sermon (see Acts 2:25-28) and by Paul in Antioch (Acts 13:35). Peter and Paul both pointed back to Jesus, not David, as the fulfillment of the prophecy in verse 10, Peter by saying, “For David speaketh concerning him,” and Paul by noting that David died just like every other person.
The title of Psalm 17, “A Prayer of David,” is found only on two other psalms (86 and 142). In this petition, the psalmist called upon God to come and preside as Judge while he presented his cause, and pleaded for protection, vindication, and judgment against his enemy (presumed by most scholars to be Saul). According to verse 11, David’s dangerous plight in this case was shared by others, so it may have been written in the context of 1 Samuel 23:25-26, which describes David and his men as being surrounded by Saul. Deliverance came when Saul’s pursuit was interrupted by a Philistine invasion.
The sincerity and desperation of David’s plea is immediately apparent in verse 1, where the Hebrew word translated cry means “a shrill, piercing shout or outcry.” David confidently based his plea upon two facts: that his cause was just (meaning “legally right”) and that he himself was innocent of wrong purpose (verse 3).
The Hebrew phrase translated “apple of the eye” in verse 8 referred to the pupil, or central part of the eye that is protected by the eyelid, eyelashes, and eyebrows. David understood that God had set hedges of protection around him, despite his frightening circumstances.
In verses 10-12, David offered a descriptive catalog of complaints against his enemies. The phrase “inclosed in their own fat” (verse 10) meant they were in prideful rebellion against God and resistant to all influences for good or compassion.
As in many other psalms, David concluded his prayer with a confident statement which reflected his deep trust in God and his assurance of a blessed life hereafter.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 14, what are three ways in which David described the ungodly?
- What are some of the advantages of a “goodly heritage” like the one David referenced in Psalm 16:6?
- In what way do you enter God’s presence, and what do you enjoy most about being near to God?
True fulfillment is found only when we have a right relationship with God. He is the ultimate Source of joy and satisfaction, not only in this life but for all eternity!