You may not know much about barnacles, but they are a problem. In fact, they have been an ongoing and costly problem for over 2000 years — really as long as boats have been in the water. Barnacles attach to the side of boats with a substance that is effectively cement. It’s crazy tough and holds on tight. They build up and slow the ship, making it too heavy and increasing its drag in the water. If not cleaned, they will not only cause damage but increase the fuel cost for normal operation. Barnacles make sailing difficult and costly.
And that is what it is like when we allow distractions and sin and doubt affect our faith. Sin and lack of focus on Jesus will make a joyous, Christian walk difficult and costly, potentially even dead in the water. Let’s shed some of the barnacles today as we look at Psalm 16.
If we were to boil Psalm 16 down into a short summary, I would do it like this: “God desires that we experience the fullness of joy in Him by setting our eyes on Jesus.”
Verses 9–11 really zoom in on the result of verses 1–8: joy. John Piper said that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” One of the passages that shaped him most in his theology of joy was Psalm 16:11. And like Piper did years ago, we must wrestle with the fact that God has joy and pleasures for us.
“James,” you may be thinking, “Why would the concept of joy be something that we need to wrestle with? Doesn’t it just make sense?”
Does it? When we talk about joy, we are quick to agree that we are meant to be joyful. But are we truly joyful? Because if you are like me to one degree or another, joy isn’t something that just happens. Often when we struggle with difficult times, both the daily moments of common difficulties or the longer seasons of ongoing hardships, we can default to a state of joylessness.
We need more than just will power though. Otherwise, joy would be a far more commonplace thing. We need preservation, keeping and safeguarding. And that is where David starts on his journey to joy in this Psalm.
Our depth of joy is directly related to the depth of our seeking God for preservation
“Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (Psalm 16:1–4).
The only petition found in this Psalm is “Preserve me, O God” (v. 1)
When we seek other things or places to keep us and preserve us, we lose the joy that God has for us. What other things might we be seeking to preserve us but are actually barnacles getting in the way of joy?
We want things to be easy, so as not to be difficult. We look to that to keep us. If things aren’t hard, then I will be happy and joyous. We have to wrestle with what James says in James 1:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (v. 2).
The heart desire of wanting easiness doesn’t really fit with “counting trials as joy.” Easy relationships, easy parenting, easy job responsibilities — these things won’t preserve us.
When we say financial stability, what we really mean is having free money in our budget to do what we want when we want. Remember, you can make a lot of money and still not actually be financially stable. However, we believe the lie that says more money means more stability on a regular basis. 1 Timothy 6:10 says”
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Money certainly can put food on the table, but God will provide according to His promise of birds and lilies.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
More money won’t preserve us.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Picture a cow sticking his neck out and through a barbed wire fence in order to get to the grass out there rather than enjoying the plentiful grass at his feet.
If I was married, I’d be more happy. If I had kids, I’d be happy. I’m stuck in a dead end job. I’d be happy if I had another job.
We are free in Christ to want good things like marriage and family and children and jobs. But we also must be content. In whatever situation, I am to be content, Paul says in Philippians 4:11. Where is contentment found? He says it a few verses earlier:
Philippians 4:4–7 ESV
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7).
Paul knows where preservation is found: in God.
“I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Psalm 16:2).
When we grow and cultivate our understanding of the goodness of God, when we grow in humility, when we grow in thankfulness, when we run first to God for refuge, we will be kept and safeguarded and preserved. And joy abounds from this place.
God, there is no one like you. You are great, you are good. Your kindness is everlasting. Your gentleness towards me in my sin is amazing. I couldn’t conceive of any good in my life in which your hand has not been bringing that good about.
David acknowledges something next though. Verses 2 and 3 seem to contradict one another at face value. David is essentially saying this: While we have no good apart from God, God displays His goodness through His people.
“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” ( Psalm 16:3).
Do you want to experience deep joy in the Lord and also communicate that deep joy to others? His people, the church is how we experience and communicate joy in the Lord. What a high and honoring view of the church is this: excellent ones, all my delight!
Do you believe this about the church? Would others look at the way that you organize your life and say “That person, they delight in the church”? Maybe you delight in the people of God, sure. But is all your delight in the church?
Does this mean that we can’t do sports or programs or have friendships with people outside the church? Not at all! I would say that it means we do it differently though. Shouldn’t we seek to include our church family? If I delight in my wife, but don’t seek to involve her in my daily activities, I’m positive that she would not count herself delighted in. If we truly delight in the church, then we will be seeking ways to invite them to our kids games or into other spaces like neighborhood and school friendships.
Verse 4 is a sobering reminder of what it looks like when God is not our refuge, when He is not our good, and when His people are not delighted in.
“The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (Psalm 16:4).
Anxiety and depression are at an all time high among those in the most affluent and seemingly connected countries. Why? I believe that it’s because they are having their sorrows multiplied. The gods of power, money, fame, and influence will never satisfy.
We cannot deepen our joy if we are pouring out their offerings and taking up their names. But God, He will preserve us. How deeply are you seeking His preservation?
Our depth of joy is directly related to the depth of our seeking God for preservation.
Next time, we will look at what leads to a completed joy.