The biblical book of Psalms shares a God-approved collection of poetic journal entries from creatively oriented believers in ancient Israel. They put aside pretense and got real about how they were feeling. In fact, the Psalmists may have closely resembled today’s “geeks” who also value authenticity in our creative works!
Some Psalms also stand out to me as being especially applicable to geeks, given our strengths, weaknesses, and temperaments.
In our summer 2019 issue, we looked at Psalm 16:1–6. This time I thought I’d walk us through the rest of this Psalm, verses 7–11, and offer some reactions and observations.
Psalm 16:7 reads, “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.”
For over a decade of my ministry, I’ve repeatedly heard various forms of geek entertainment offer advice like, “follow your heart.” Every time I’ve expressed caution and frustration with this sentiment. It’s a vague bit of direction that seems to tell us “just do what feels good,” or “do what you really want to do, deep down inside.” This is a horrible motto to live by. After all, the worst human atrocities in history were the result of someone “following their heart.”
But there is actually one good reason to follow our hearts. That’s when our hearts have been shaped by the counsel of God.
Here, the Psalmist says that even at night, maybe when he is lying awake in deep thought, or perhaps even while he’s dreaming, his heart is instructing him. But this reality only comes after the LORD, Yahweh, gives the Psalmist counsel.
In the same way, I want to develop a heart I can trust, because it echoes what I have already heard from God’s word.
Verses 8–9 say, “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”
As an imaginative introvert, I can easily stew in my own internal worries. My feelings about my life so easily depend on my circumstances, or whatever I fear my circumstances might become.
But here, the Psalmist shares an antidote to this lifestyle of worry. He makes an intentional choice to keep Yahweh in mind at all times. This Psalmist has become unshakable because of his disciplined and constant recognition that God is always with him. Now his hope is not on the temporal, but on Someone who is eternal, all-powerful, and all-loving.
I’m not only challenged by the Psalmist’s confidence in God, but in how his “whole being rejoices.” Personally, I don’t rejoice a lot, much less with “my whole being.” This limitation could result from my personality. But I suspect it’s also because I have a long way to go in developing the kind of confidence and spiritual self-discipline the Psalmist is modeling for us here. Instead, I jadedly ask myself, “Why is he so excited about God?”
In verses 10–11 the Psalmist answers:
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The Psalmists didn’t have the benefit of New Testament teaching on the afterlife. They often spoke of death simply in negative terms of the grave or “Sheol,” as the writer does here. But the Psalmist rejoices with his whole being, and he is confident his flesh is secure, because of his expected ultimate future in the presence of God.
This life holds so much uncertainty. We can fill our moments with imaginative worry in our attempt to prepare for the worst, or to gain control over our circumstances.
But the Psalmist completely gives up on that endeavor. He recognizes it’s futile to hope in some certainty in life. Instead, he fixes his mind on the reality that this life will not go on forever, and when it ends God will not abandon him to some kind of eternal death. Instead, the God who provides instruction that enriches our lives will one day welcome us into his unfiltered presence. There we will experience our greatest capacity for joy through a variety of pleasures in God that do not become dull with familiarity, but retain their excitement and vibrance forever.