The Search for Security

Series: The Search for Significance, Security, and Satisfaction

Sermon by David Strain on May 14, 2017

Psalm 16

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Do allow me to welcome you once again. We are so very pleased to have you with us this evening, especially if you are a visitor tonight. We have been thinking, beginning last Sunday evening and running for three Sunday nights, about three of the big quests, the big things that all of our hearts are searching for. And so last Sunday night, we thought a little about our search for significance. We want to know why we’re here, what we’re for, and why we matter. Our search for significance. Then next week, God willing, we hope to think together about the search for satisfaction. We want to be fulfilled. So we’ve looked at the search for significance, then next week we’ll look at the search for satisfaction. Tonight, however, we’re going to be focusing our attention on the search for security. The longing of the human heart to belong, to be safe – the search for security.

Now you may find after I’m done talking – I won’t blame you for this at all – after I am done talking, you have more questions than you did when you came in. Or, you might wish to talk to someone informally about some of the things that you have heard. Or you might even find it helpful to process things quietly while other people ask questions. If that’s the case, we would love to invite you to join us after the service in Lowe Hall, right behind me here. The easiest way to get there is to exit through this door to my left and then turn left and follow the corridor and you’ll find your way to Lowe Hall very easily. We’ll have a light supper together and an informal time where you can ask any question at all. And let me emphasize that – any question at all. I’m not going to promise that I can answer your questions, but you’re welcome to ask them. If you would like to join us, we would love to have you and play host to you.

Now if you would please, go ahead and take a copy of the Scriptures in your hands. There are copies of the Bible in the pew racks in front of you. And turn with me to page 453; page 453. We’re going to be thinking about Psalm 16. Page 453; Psalm 16. Before we read it together, let me ask if you would please bow your heads with me as we pray.

O Lord, we praise You that You speak to us in Holy Scripture. So we pray for ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to His Church. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Psalm 16 at verse 1. This is God’s Holy Word:

“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.

 

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

 

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 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. 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.”

Amen, and we praise God that He speaks to us in His holy Word.

Psalm 16 is a prayer for security. It was written almost 3,000 years ago by King David. He is asking God to protect him and deliver him from threatening circumstances. “Preserve me, O God?” he prays in verse 1. “My flesh dwells secure,” he is able to say in faith in verse 9. David is looking for security from God. And what I want to do as we consider Psalm 16 together tonight, is to look at the causes of David’s insecurity, and ours; why he’s praying this prayer. Then I want to think about one wrong place to turn as we try to find security, and show you why it won’t work. And then finally, I want to follow King David to see where he finds his security, extraordinary security that characterizes him in Psalm 16. Okay? So the causes of insecurity, the sources of false security, and the only true source of security.

The Causes of Insecurity

Let’s think about the causes of insecurity first. David starts the psalm-praying for preservation and protection. So it’s worth our while to ask, “What is it he wants protecting from? What is it that makes him search, as he does here, for security?” He doesn’t say explicitly in Psalm 16, but if you work through the major themes of the psalm and some of the big issues that David is navigating, I think we can tease them out and infer them. There are three in particular; three sources of insecurity that David has to face. I rather suspect that they will be all too familiar to most of us.

The first of them you’ll see if you look at verses 3 and 4. Verses 3 and 4. We might call it the pressure of his peers; the pressure of his peers. There are two groups in Israel. There are the “saints in the land,” verse 3, and then there are “those who run after another god,” verse 4. Now if you know anything about the early history of Israel, you will know that idolatry, the worship of other gods, of idols, was a constant problem. Israelite society was almost always a divided society between those who are faithful to the Lord, who brought them out of bondage in Egypt and those who preferred the pagan gods of the nations all around them. Ironically, that problem is nowhere seen more clearly than in the history of Israel’s monarchy itself. In each generation after David, starting with his own son, King Solomon, the line of David found it really very hard to resist the pull of idols. So it’s remarkable that David here, very clearly, sides with those who worship the Lord. He says he delights in the company of the saints, the excellent ones in whom is all his delight. But he refuses to participate with those who worship pagan gods.

Peer Pressure

Now it’s hard, I think, for us to understand the attraction of that kind of paganism current in David’s day. We are pulled away to idols of a slightly different kind. More about that later. But for David and his peers, pagan idolatry was an intoxicating and powerful draw, and great sways of Israelite society were swept away by it. But not David; he resists the pressure to join them. The first source of insecurity from which David is preserved in this psalm is the pressure from his peer group to turn aside to idols.

The Uncertainty of the Future

Then if you look down at verses 7 and 8, you will see another cause of potential insecurity that David seeks to avoid or manages to avoid by the grace of God. It is the uncertainty of the future; the uncertainty of the future. “I bless the Lord,” he says, “who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” One of the great sources of insecurity in our lives has to do with the future. Doesn’t it? It is utterly unknown to us. We can’t control it, we can’t predict it, and we can’t avoid it. Many of us live in the dread of an unknown tomorrow, but not David. He faces tomorrow unafraid. “I shall not be shaken,” he says.

The Inescapability of Death

Peer pressure, an uncertain future; then there’s the inescapability of death. The inescapability of death. That’s the theme that occupies his attention from verse 9 to the end of the psalm. “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.” Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place or the realm of the dead. David faces death and he does not quake. “My heart is glad,” he says, “and my whole being rejoices.” We all fear death. We spend billions of dollars as a society every year trying to avoid death at all costs. Let’s be honest. Nothing quite strikes our hearts the way the words “cancer” or “car accident” or “I’m afraid I have bad news” can. Right? Death brings all our plans to nothing. It is no respecter of persons. Death is moving towards us all with an inevitability that is frankly hard to think about.

So those are three causes of insecurity. I wonder if you recognize them? The pressure of our peers pushing us to conform to fit in, to go with the flow, to join the crowd. The uncertainty of the future. We try to build stability economically, psychologically, emotionally, into our lives. We plan and we work and we strive to anticipate what’s coming. But the truth is, we just don’t know. And then the inescapability of death. In 1960 when JFK accepted Lyndon Johnson as his vice-presidential running mate in the forthcoming election, there was an uproar. There were many in the Kennedy camp who were not at all fans of Johnson. But JFK mollified one of his aides with this. “I am forty-three years old. I’m not going to die in office. So the vice-presidency doesn’t mean anything.” We can deceive ourselves. We can tell ourselves we’re going to live forever. But death makes fools of us all in the end. Three sources of insecurity. The pressure of our peers, the uncertainty of the future, the inescapability of death. They can shake our confidence; they can rob us of security. Haven’t you found that to be true? Well, what can we do about it? What can be done?

The Sources of False Security

Before we try to answer that, let’s look at one wrong turn we could make first. Look at verse 4 again. Here’s the response of some of David’s society to the pressure of peers and the uncertainty of the future and the inescapability of death. They ran after idols. Look at the text; Verse 4, “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.” The gods of the ancient world were the gods of sex and fertility, the gods of war and power, the gods of harvest and the weather and so on. And they worked quite simply – if you wanted a good harvest for your crops, you gave the fertility gods the appropriate and required sacrifice. If you wanted success in battle, you appeased the war gods. If you wanted money or power or health, you turned to the relevant gods, you performed the appropriate sacrificial rite to buy them off. That’s what this language, by the way, about drink offerings of blood is all about. They would make a sacrifice in an attempt to manipulate the gods of money, sex, and power into giving them money, sex, and power!

Now we may sit back a little smug in our sophistication and tech-savvy culture disdaining the obvious folly of the primitives amongst whom David lived. But not so fast! Sure, for the most part, we don’t make statues or perform rites to appease our idols, but money, sex, and power remain every bit as compelling to us as they did in David’s day. And we run after them with every bit as much energy as they. “We may not believe in literal divine god-beings of beauty, wealth, pleasure, or fertility,” writes Tim Keller, “but we must all live for something. And if we live for and love anything more than God Himself, we are trapped. They become the things we have to have, so we run exhausted after them. But this leads,” citing verse 4 of Psalm 16, “this leads to increasing suffering, for life inevitably takes them from it.”

So actually, though at first glance verse 4 may appear rather outlandish to us, it is describing a very familiar response to the sources of insecurity in our lives after all. Wouldn’t you agree? We are under pressure to conform from our peers. We fear the future. Death’s dark shadow haunts the horizon so we run after power, we run after wealth, we run after pleasure, we run after family, we run after love. We expend ourselves in the pursuit of our idols. But the more we run after them, the more we find ourselves enslaved to them. Someone once asked John Paul Getty how much money was enough. You know his answer? How much money is enough? He said, “Just a little bit more!” It’s never quite enough. The more we chase our idols, the more they enslave us and the deeper our suffering becomes as our hope for security eludes us. Life takes our idols from us in the end. “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply,” David says.

The Only True Source of Security

So where should we turn to find our true security? Where does David find his? The answer really isn’t really very hard to see. If you’ll look at the psalm, it’s all over the place. Isn’t it? Look at the psalm with me. Verse 1, “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.’” David looks to the Lord alone for security. But he doesn’t look to God in the same way that we tend to look to our idols. He doesn’t think that God is a cosmic dispenser of security and all David needs to do is say the right words or do the right things or perform the right rituals and hope that the results will follow. He doesn’t want God for what God will give him. He says, “I have no good apart from you.” What he actually says is, “Above you, beside you, beyond you, nothing good. No good other than you. you are the sum and the apex and the fullness of all the good that I seek.” The Lord Himself is his security, not merely its giver.

And that comes out in other ways as the psalm develops. You see it, for example, if you look at verses 5 and 6. Verses 5 and 6. In stark contrast to his peer group who are running after another god to get what they need or at least in the hope that they will get what they need, David says, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.” “Portion” there referring to wealth, to inheritance; “cup” referring to pleasure and satisfaction. And so he’s able to say, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” The lines are the boundary lines that identify the allotment of his property in the land of Israel. But David is saying the Lord is his true allotment; the Lord is his portion more than money or pleasure or material wealth or power. The Lord Himself is sufficient for him and God Himself is all that he needs.

God Himself Is Our Security

Or look down for a moment at verse 11. After expressing his confidence in the face of death, verses 9 and 10, David says, verse 11, “You make known to me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Even beyond death, David tells us, he will know the fullness of joy and pleasures forever, but only because God will be at his right hand; only because David will be in God’s presence forever. Now you get the message! It’s not difficult to see, though it is remarkable. David isn’t saying to us that we are basically correct in the way that we’re trying to find our security, but we’re just looking in the wrong places. He isn’t saying God is simply a better way to get what you need than money, sex, and power could ever be. No, he is saying God Himself is your security, your pleasure, your inheritance, your joy. Get Him and He will be enough.

And that becomes still more remarkable when you understand that verses 9 and 10 don’t really apply to King David at all; they apply to Jesus Christ. In the first Christian sermon ever preached in Acts 2:25, Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and he told everyone this psalm is really all about Jesus Christ. He quotes Psalm 16 and he says it’s really about Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead. He is God’s holy one that did not see corruption, unlike David who died, was buried, and his remains decayed. But on the third day, Jesus could say, in a way that David only barely glimpsed, “You make known to me the path of life.” Because remember on the third day the stone that covered his tomb was rolled away and the Lord Jesus, great David’s greater Son, stepped from the grave alive again. Jesus Himself defeated death and now He presides over the future as King, never having once given way to the pressure and demands of His peers to turn aside from His devotion to God, though it cost Him His life.

Jesus dwells securely in the presence of the Father. He lives amidst pleasures forevermore at His right hand. As Paul puts it in Philippians chapter 2, “God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name. So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” And that means that God the Father has appointed Him to be the one in whom we may find our rest, our peace, our security. He reigns over the future; He triumphs over death. And whatever the idols that our peers pressure us to follow may offer, Jesus Himself is enough, more than enough, to satisfy. He is our wealth, our pleasure, our joy. He is our portion and our cup. He is our inheritance. Beyond Him, beside Him, we have no good.

The great Jonathan Edwards’ earliest extant sermon that we know of is called, “Christian Happiness.” Most people only know Edwards from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It might help you to know about Jonathan Edwards. The first sermon we know that he ever preached was called, “Christian Happiness,” preached some time in the early 1720s. His basic thesis is that the Christian, “is happy in whatsoever circumstance he is in.” And then he offers three reasons why that should be so. I recently read them paraphrased like this. Reason number one, “If you know Jesus Christ, your bad things will work for your good – Romans 8:28.” Reason number two, “If you have Jesus Christ, your good things – your adoption into God’s family, your justification in His sight, your union with Jesus Christ – your good things cannot be shaken – Romans 8:1.” And thirdly, “If you have Jesus Christ, your best things – life in heaven, the new creation, the world to come – they are yet to come.” Now did you hear that? Your bad things work for your good, your good things cannot be shaken, they cannot be taken from you, and your best things are yet to come. Which is simply another thing to say, the great causes of our insecurity need no longer shake us if we have Jesus Christ? He Himself is our security. Besides Him, we have no good, but in Him, we have all we need.

So let me ask you if tonight you have been running after another god – haven’t you found it enslaving, your pursuit of money, sex, power? Exhausting as you run after what never really delivers but demands more and more of you? The more you’ve pursued it, the more enslaved to it you have become. “The sufferings of those who run after another god,” David says, “shall multiply.” Haven’t you found that to be true? Money, sex, and power cannot answer the insecurities that peer pressure and an uncertain future and the inescapability of death push in upon us. But Jesus Christ has triumphed over them all. So get Him, David is saying; run to Him, rest in Him, and you will be able to say at last, as David as able to say, “My heart is glad, my whole being rejoices and my flesh also rests secure.”

Let’s pray together!

God our Father, we confess to You that in our insecurity we often run after the idols of the world – money, sex, and power – hoping, in them, to find relief but finding by them only that we enslaved. And the more we pursue them, the more our suffering increases and the more bankrupt we feel. And so as we read the words of the sixteenth Psalm, we stand in wonder and awe that the psalmist, David, should find such rest and such joy and such security in You alone. Help us to hear Your call and invitation for ourselves tonight to turn to the Man whom You have appointed, Your Son, the only Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ, who presides at Your right hand as the great King, Lord over the future, the Victor over death. The One who is a satisfying Redeemer to all who turn to Him. Help us to go there, to give up our exhausting pursuit of empty idols and to find our true security in King Jesus alone. For we ask it in His name, amen.

© 2017 First Presbyterian Church.

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