Psalm 16: A Textbook Example

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. – Psalm 16:1

More often than not, I read the Bible like a textbook. I’m always trying to dig information out of it, looking for some life application, expecting it to tell me what to do and how to do it . In my constant attempts to draw truths out of this book, I forget that the Bible contains the Truth that draws me into itself. It is the living word of God, the basis of my relationship with Him.

I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ Psalm 16:2

Recently, I’ve been reading and rereading Psalm 16. To be honest, I was disappointed, because it felt like I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I kept thinking to myself, “If I try harder, I’m sure I’ll be able to dig out one more fact about God, or me, or the world.” Sooner or later, though, facts run dry. Information itself isn’t infinite. But the beauty of a psalm is that it is a psalm, not a treatise, epistle, or a history book (though each is beautiful in its own right). My guess is that David’s primary intent in writing Psalm 16 wasn’t to convey some finer theological point, but to record an act of worship. Unlike an epistle, the addressee of a psalm is usually God rather than a human audience, but that doesn’t leave modern readers like us out of the loop. Instead, we’re invited to worship God with the psalmist through the psalm. We don’t draw out; we’re drawn in.

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. – Psalm 16:3

Now, I’m not saying that Psalms, or even the Bible, doesn’t contain information relevant to our lives, and I’m not spinning off into some mystical la-la land where it’s all about getting into some funky, irrational zone. There’s plenty of wisdom and truth readily available to those who are willing to dig deep. But even as I try to exegete a passage in my day-to-day reading, I’ve got to remind myself that I’m not dealing with a textbook. In the Bible, I’m encountering Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Communion with God is higher than knowledge and deeper than a feeling, and the way to get there is through His Word.

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