David wrote, prophetically, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 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. (Psalm 16:9-11; ESV)”
In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter made a point about this passage, saying, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32; ESV)”
David was writing, not about himself, but about Christ. Through inspiration, God was instructing David as to the truth of the resurrection. But consider what else David foresaw. “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices,” says the Psalm. A few verses earlier, we likewise read the beautiful sentiment, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:6; ESV).”
From the vantage point of the world, Jesus had a short life, filled with poverty, persecution, and hardship. He did not own a home to call his own. He died young, being in his thirties, betrayed by a close friend. His death was painful, preceded by torture, mockery and a sham of a trial. Concerning this, the Scriptures likewise prophesy, “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind (Isaiah 52:14; ESV).” Presenting the viewpoint of the world, Isaiah adds, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:3-4; ESV)”
Yet, though the world esteemed him not, Jesus was satisfied with His life. More than satisfied. Jesus could say, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,… I have a beautiful inheritance,… therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices.”
Concerning this Psalm, and these verses, Charles Spurgeon wrote in his Treasury of David, “Jesus found the way of obedience to lead into ‘pleasant places.’ Notwithstanding all the sorrows which marred his countenance, he exclaimed, ‘Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.’ It may seem strange, but while no other man was ever so thoroughly acquainted with grief, it is our belief that no other man ever experienced so much joy and delight in service, for no other served so faithfully and with such great results in view as his recompense of reward.”
The ”lines” referred to in Psalm 16:6 refer to the division of land and property, and Jesus is saying, through the voice of the prophet, that He considered the “land” He was inheriting to be both beautiful and a cause for joy, even in the midst of suffering. Jesus had treasures laid up in heaven, which the world with all its sorrows and tribulations could not hide. He, for the joy set before Him, was willing to endure the cross, with hope, optimism, trust in God, and faith that all was well with His soul (cf. Hebrews 12:2).
Among those treasures that Jesus could declare to be beautiful, were all the precious souls that Jesus was willing to die for. “Behold,… the children God has given me,” declared Jesus, considering those who would obey His Gospel (cf. Hebrews 2:13; Isaiah 8:18). And elsewhere,
“No greater love has a man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends; you are my friends if you obey my commands. (John 15:13-14).”
Jesus saw life, not through the prism of the material, but through eyes of love and faith.” The things that made life beautiful for Jesus were not wealth, land or power… rather it was the salvation of souls, the preaching of God’s word, and a right relationship with God. What mattered to Jesus was not so much how His life would end, even if that end be a cross, but what would come after.
One who strove to see the world the same way was the apostle Paul, who wrote, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… (Philippians 3:7-8; ESV).” Because of this perspective the apostle could have joy, hope and contentment in all physical circumstances, knowing that no matter what befell him, he had a “beautiful inheritance,” and would overcome (cf. Philippians 4:10-13).
How often do we focus on the triumphs and tribulations of this world, viewing all things through the prism of the materialism, and in doing so, find constant reasons for unhappiness? Jesus offers us a path of joy, one which He Himself walked (cf. Psalm 16:11). Jesus offers us treasures in heaven, and a beautiful inheritance which cannot be taken away (cf. Matthew 6:20; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Let’s join Jesus on that path.
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Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.