Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 16
on the Whole Bible
This psalm has something of David in it, but much more of Christ. It
begins with such expressions of devotion as may be applied to Christ;
but concludes with such confidence of a resurrection (and so timely a
one as to prevent corruption) as must be applied to Christ, to him
only, and cannot be understood of David, as both St. Peter and St. Paul
For David died, and was buried, and saw corruption.
I. David speaks of himself as a member of Christ, and so he speaks the
language of all good Christians, professing his confidence in God
his consent to him
his affection to the people of God
his adherence to the true worship of God
and his entire complacency and satisfaction in God and the interest he
had in him,
II. He speaks of himself as a type of Christ, and so he speaks the
language of Christ himself, to whom all the rest of the psalm is
expressly and at large applied
&c.). David speaks concerning him (not concerning himself), "I foresaw
the Lord always before my face," &c. And this he spoke, being a prophet,
1. Of the special presence of God with the Redeemer in his services and
2. Of the prospect which the Redeemer had of his own resurrection and
the glory that should follow, which carried him cheerfully through his
|Believing Confidence; Consecration to God.
Michtam of David.
1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I
put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my
Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;
3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the
excellent, in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after
another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer,
nor take up their names into my lips.
5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:
thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I
have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins
also instruct me in the night seasons.
This psalm is entitled Michtam, which some translate a
golden psalm, a very precious one, more to be valued by us than
gold, yea, than much fine gold, because it speaks so plainly of Christ
and his resurrection, who is the true treasure hidden in the field of
the Old Testament.
I. David here flies to God's protection with a cheerful believing
confidence in it
"Preserve me, O God! from the deaths, and especially from the
sins, to which I am continually exposed; for in thee, and in
thee only, do I put my trust." Those that by faith commit
themselves to the divine care, and submit themselves to the divine
guidance, have reason to hope for the benefit of both. This is
applicable to Christ, who prayed, Father, save me from this
hour, and trusted in God that he would deliver him.
II. He recognizes his solemn dedication of himself to God as his God
"O my soul! thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord, and
therefore thou mayest venture to trust him." Note,
1. It is the duty and interest of every one of us to acknowledge the
Lord for our Lord, to subject ourselves to him, and then to stay
ourselves upon him. Adonai signifies My stayer, the
strength of my heart.
2. This must be done with our souls: "O my soul! thou hast said it."
Covenanting with God must be heart-work; all that is within us must be
employed therein and engaged thereby.
3. Those who have avouched the Lord for their Lord should be often
putting themselves in mind of what they have done. "Hast thou said unto
the Lord, Thou art my Lord? Say it again then, stand to it,
abide by it, and never unsay it. Hast thou said it? Take the comfort of
it, and live up to it. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, and let
thy eye be ever towards him."
III. He devotes himself to the honour of God in the service of the
My goodness extends not to thee, but to the saints. Observe,
1. Those that have taken the lord for their Lord must, like him, be
good and do good; we do not expect happiness without goodness.
2. Whatever good there is in us, or is done by us, we must humbly
acknowledge that it extends not to God; so that we cannot pretend to
merit any thing by it. God has no need of our services; he is not
benefited by them, nor can they add any thing to his infinite
perfection and blessedness. The wisest, and best, and most useful, men
in the world cannot be profitable to God,
God is infinitely above us, and happy without us, and whatever good we
do it is all from him; so that we are indebted to him, not he to us:
David owns it
(1 Chronicles 29:14),
Of thy own have we given thee.
3. If God be ours, we must, for his sake, extend our goodness to those
that are his, to the saints in the earth; for what is done to them he
is pleased to take as done to himself, having constituted them his
(1.) There are saints in the earth; and saints on earth we must all be,
or we shall never be saints in heaven. Those that are renewed by the
grace of God, and devoted to the glory of God, are saints on earth.
(2.) The saints in the earth are excellent ones, great, mighty,
magnificent ones, and yet some of them so poor in the world that they
need to have David's goodness extended to them. God makes them
excellent by the grace he gives them. The righteous is more
excellent than his neighbour, and then he accounts them excellent.
They are precious in his sight and honourable; they are his jewels, his
peculiar treasure. Their God is their glory, and a diadem of beauty to
(3.) All that have taken the Lord for their God delight in his saints
as excellent ones, because they bear his image, and because he loves
them. David, though a king, was a companion of all that feared
even the meanest, which was a sign that his delight was in them.
(4.) It is not enough for us to delight in the saints, but, as there is
occasion, our goodness must extend to them; we must be ready to show
them the kindness they need, distribute to their necessities, and
abound in the labour of love to them. This is applicable to Christ. The
salvation he wrought out for us was no gain to God, for our ruin would
have been no loss to him; but the goodness and benefit of it extend to
us men, in whom he delighteth,
For their sakes, says he, I sanctify myself,
Christ delights even in the saints on earth, notwithstanding their
weaknesses and manifold infirmities, which is a good reason why we
IV. He disclaims the worship of all false gods and all communion with
1. He reads the doom of idolaters, who hasten after another God, being
mad upon their idols, and pursuing them as eagerly as if they were
afraid they would escape from them: Their sorrows shall be
multiplied, both by the judgments they bring upon themselves from
the true God whom they forsake and by the disappointment they will meet
with in the false gods they embrace. Those that multiply gods multiply
griefs to themselves; for, whoever thinks one God too little, will find
two too many, and yet hundreds not enough.
2. He declares his resolution to have no fellowship with them nor with
their unfruitful works of darkness: "Their drink-offerings of blood
will I not offer, not only because the gods they are offered to are
a lie, but because the offerings themselves are barbarous." At God's
altar, because the blood made atonement, the drinking of it was most
strictly prohibited, and the drink-offerings were of wine; but the
devil prescribed to his worshippers to drink of the blood of the
sacrifices, to teach them cruelty. "I will have nothing to do" (says
David) "with those bloody deities, nor so much as take their names into
my lips with any delight in them or respect to them." Thus must we hate
idols and idolatry with a perfect hatred. Some make this also
applicable to Christ and his undertaking, showing the nature of the
sacrifice he offered (it was not the blood of bulls and goats, which
was offered according to the law; that was never named, nor did he ever
make any mention of it, but his own blood), showing also the multiplied
sorrows of the unbelieving Jews, who hastened after another king,
Cæsar, and are still hastening after another Messiah, whom they
in vain look for.
V. He repeats the solemn choice he had made of God for his portion and
takes to himself the comfort of the choice
and gives God the glory of it,
This is very much the language of a devout and pious soul in its
1. Choosing the Lord for its portion and happiness. "Most men take the
world for their chief good, and place their felicity in the enjoyments
of it; but this I say, The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and
of my cup, the portion I make choice of, and will gladly take up
with, how poor soever my condition is in this world. Let me have the
love and favour of God, and be accepted of him; let me have the comfort
of communion with God, and satisfaction in the communications of his
graces and comforts; let me have an interest in his promises, and a
title by promise to everlasting life and happiness in the future state;
and I have enough, I need no more, I desire no more, to complete my
felicity." Would we do well and wisely for ourselves, we must take God,
in Christ, to be,
(1.) The portion of our inheritance in the other world. Heaven is an
inheritance. God himself is the inheritance of the saints there, whose
everlasting bliss is to enjoy him. We must take that for our
inheritance, our home, our rest, our lasting, everlasting, good, and
look upon this world to be no more ours than the country through which
our road lies when we are on a journey.
(2.) The portion of our cup in this world, with which we are nourished,
and refreshed, and kept from fainting. Those have not God for theirs
who do not reckon his comforts the most reviving cordials, acquaint
themselves with them, and make use of them as sufficient to
counterbalance all the grievances of this present time and to sweeten
the most bitter cup of affliction.
2. Confiding in him for the securing of this portion: "Thou
maintainest my lot. Thou that hast by promise made over thy self to
me, to be mine, wilt graciously make good what thou hast promised, and
never leave me to myself to forfeit this happiness, nor leave it in the
power of my enemies to rob me of it. Nothing shall pluck me out of thy
hands, nor separate me from thy love, and the sure mercies of David."
The saints and their bliss are kept by the power of God.
3. Rejoicing in this portion, and taking a complacency in it
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Those have
reason to say so that have God for their portion; they have a worthy
portion, a goodly heritage. What can they have better? What can they
desire more? Return unto thy rest, O my soul! and look no
further. Note, Gracious persons, though they still covet more of God,
never covet more than God; but, being satisfied of his loving-kindness,
they are abundantly satisfied with it, and envy not any their carnal
mirth and sensual pleasures and delights, but account themselves truly
happy in what they have, and doubt not but to be completely happy in
what they hope for. Those whose lot is cast, as David's was, in a land
of light, in a valley of vision, where God is known and worshipped,
have, upon that account, reason to say, The lines have fallen to me
in pleasant places; much more those who have not only the means,
but the end, not only Immanuel's land, but Immanuel's love.
4. Giving thanks to God for it, and for grace to make this wise and
"I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel, this counsel,
to take him for my portion and happiness." So ignorant and foolish are
we that, if we be left to ourselves, our hearts will follow our eyes,
and we shall choose our own delusions, and forsake our own mercies for
lying vanities; and therefore, if we have indeed taken God for our
portion and preferred spiritual and eternal blessings before those that
are sensible and temporal, we must thankfully acknowledge the power and
goodness of divine grace directing and enabling us to make that choice.
If we have the pleasure of it, let God have the praise of it.
5. Making a good use of it. God having given him counsel by his word
and Spirit, his own reins also (his own thoughts) instructed him
in the night-season; when he was silent and solitary, and retired from
the world, then his own conscience (which is called the reins,
not only reflected with comfort upon the choice he had made, but
instructed or admonished him concerning the duties arising out of this
choice, catechized him, and engaged and quickened him to live as one
that had God for his portion, by faith to live upon him and to live to
him. Those who have God for their portion, and who will be faithful to
him, must give their own consciences leave to deal thus faithfully and
plainly with them.
All this may be applied to Christ, who made the Lord his portion and
was pleased with that portion, made his Father's glory his highest end
and made it his meat and drink to seek that and to do his will, and
delighted to prosecute his undertaking, pursuant to his Father's
counsel, depending upon him to maintain his lot and to carry him
through his undertaking. We may also apply it to ourselves in singing
it, renewing our choice of God as ours, with a holy complacency and
|Prophecy Relating to the Messiah; Sufferings and Consequent Glory of Christ.
8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my
right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh
also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou
suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is
fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for
All these verses are quoted by St. Peter in his first sermon, after the
pouring out of the Spirit on the day of pentecost
and he tells us expressly that David in them speaks concerning Christ
and particularly of his resurrection. Something we may allow here of
the workings of David's own pious and devout affections towards God,
depending upon his grace to perfect every thing that concerned him, and
looking for the blessed hope, and happy state on the other side death,
in the enjoyment of God; but in these holy elevations towards God and
heaven he was carried by the spirit of prophecy quite beyond the
consideration of himself and his own case, to foretel the glory of the
Messiah, in such expressions as were peculiar to that, and could not be
understood of himself. The New Testament furnishes us with a key to let
us into the mystery of these lines.
I. These verses must certainly be applied to Christ; of him speaks the
prophet this, as did many of the Old-Testament prophets, who
testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that
(1 Peter 1:11),
and that is the subject of this prophecy here. It is foretold (as he
himself showed concerning this, no doubt, among other prophecies in
that Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead,
1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.
1. That he should suffer and die. This is implied here when he says
I shall not be moved; he supposed that he should be struck at,
and have a dreadful shock given him, as he had in his agony, when his
soul was exceedingly sorrowful, and he prayed that the cup might pass
from him. When he says, "My flesh shall rest," it is implied
that he must put off the body, and therefore must go through the pains
of death. It is likewise plainly intimated that his soul must go into a
state of separation from the body, and that his body, so deserted,
would be in imminent danger of seeing corruption--that he should not
only die, but be buried, and abide for some time under the power of
2. That he should be wonderfully borne up by the divine power in
suffering and dying.
(1.) That he should not be moved, should not be driven off from his
undertaking nor sink under the weight of it, that he should not fail
nor be discouraged
but should proceed and persevere in it, till he could say, It is
finished. Though the service was hard and the encounter hot, and he
trod the winepress alone, yet he was not moved, did not give up the
cause, but set his face as a flint,
Here am I, let these go their way. Nay,
(2.) That his heart should rejoice and his glory be glad, that he
should go on with his undertaking, not only resolutely, but cheerfully,
and with unspeakable pleasure and satisfaction, witness that saying
Now I am no more in the world, but I come to thee, and that
The cup that my Father has given me, shall I not drink it? and
many the like. By his glory is meant his tongue, as appears,
For our tongue is our glory, and never more so than when it is employed
in glorifying God. Now there were three things which bore him up and
carried him on thus cheerfully:--
[1.] The respect he had to his Father's will and glory in what he did:
I have set the Lord always before me. He still had an eye to his
the will of him that sent him. He aimed at his Father's honour and the
restoring of the interests of his kingdom among men, and this kept him
from being moved by the difficulties he met with; for he always did
those things that pleased his Father.
[2.] The assurance he had of his Father's presence with him in his
sufferings: He is at my right hand, a present help to me, nigh
at hand in the time of need. He is near that justifieth me
he is at my right hand, to direct and strengthen it, and hold it up,
When he was in his agony an angel was sent from heaven to strengthen
To this the victories and triumphs of the cross were all owing; it was
the Lord at his right hand that struck through kings,
[3.] The prospect he had of a glorious issue of his sufferings. It was
for the joy set before him that he endured the cross,
He rested in hope, and that made his rest glorious,
He knew he should be justified in the Spirit by his resurrection, and
straightway glorified. See
3. That he should be brought through his sufferings, and brought from
under the power of death by a glorious resurrection.
(1.) That his soul should not be left in hell, that is, his human
spirit should not be long left, as other men's spirits are, in a state
of separation from the body, but should, in a little time, return and
be re-united to it, never to part again.
(2.) That being God's holy One in a peculiar manner, sanctified to the
work of redemption and perfectly free from sin, he should not see
corruption nor feel it. This implies that he should not only be raised
from the grave, but raised so soon that his dead body should not so
much as being to corrupt, which, in the course of nature, it would have
done if it had not been raised the third day. We, who have so much
corruption in our souls, must expect that our bodies also will corrupt
but that holy One of God who knew no sin saw no corruption. Under the
law it was strictly ordered that those parts of the sacrifices which
were not burnt upon the altar should by no means be kept till the third
day, lest they should putrefy
which perhaps pointed at Christ's rising the third day, that he might
not see corruption--neither was a bone of him broken.
4. That he should be abundantly recompensed for his sufferings, with
the joy set before him,
He was well assured,
(1.) That he should not miss of his glory: "Thou wilt show me the
path of life, and lead me to that life through this darksome
valley." In confidence of this, when he gave up the ghost, he said,
Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit; and, a little before,
Father, glorify me with thy own self.
(2.) That he should be received into the presence of God, to sit at his
right hand. His being admitted into God's presence would be the
acceptance of his service and his being set at his right hand the
recompence of it.
(3.) Thus, as a reward for the sorrows he underwent for our redemption,
he should have a fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore; not
only the glory he had with God, as God, before all worlds, but the joy
and pleasure of a Mediator, in seeing his seed, and the success and
prosperity of his undertaking,
II. Christ being the Head of the body, the church, these verses may,
for the most part, be applied to all good Christians, who are guided
and animated by the Spirit of Christ; and, in singing them, when we
have first given glory to Christ, in whom, to our everlasting comfort,
they have had their accomplishment, we may then encourage and edify
ourselves and one another with them, and may hence learn,
1. That it is our wisdom and duty to set the Lord always before us, and
to see him continually at our right hand, wherever we are, to eye him
as our chief good and highest end, our owner, ruler, and judge, our
gracious benefactor, our sure guide and strict observer; and, while we
do thus, we shall not be moved either from our duty or from our
comfort. Blessed Paul set the Lord before him, when, though bonds and
afflictions did await him, he could bravely say, None of these
things move me,
2. That, if our eyes be ever towards God, our hearts and tongues may
ever rejoice in him; it is our own fault if they do not. If the heart
rejoice in God, out of the abundance of that let the mouth speak, to
his glory, and the edification of others.
3. That dying Christians, as well as a dying Christ, may cheerfully put
off the body, in a believing expectation of a joyful resurrection:
My flesh also shall rest in hope. Our bodies have little rest in
this world, but in the grave they shall rest as in their beds,
We have little to hope for from this life, but we shall rest in hope of
a better life; we may put off the body in that hope. Death destroys
the hope of man
but not the hope of a good Christian,
He has hope in his death, living hopes in dying moments, hopes that the
body shall not be left for ever in the grave, but, though it see
corruption for a time, it shall, at the end of the time, be raised to
immortality; Christ's resurrection is an earnest of ours if we be his.
4. That those who live piously with God in their eye may die
comfortably with heaven in their eye. In this world sorrow is our lot,
but in heaven there is joy. All our joys here are empty and defective,
but in heaven there is a fulness of joy. Our pleasures here are
transient and momentary, and such is the nature of them that it is not
fit they should last long; but those at God's right hand are pleasures
for evermore; for they are the pleasures of immortal souls in the
immediate vision and fruition of an eternal God.