Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Context
And the end of his meditation in Psalm 16, David expresses that he is satisfied with God because he believed that he would enjoy God forever. Verses 9 through 11.
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 shew me the path of life:
in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
What Does Psalm 16 Verse 11 Mean?
So, here Psalm 16 ends with another very difficult section to interpret. And it’s not difficult primarily because of what IT says. It’s difficult because of what the NEW TESTAMENT says ABOUT it. The difficulty comes from trying to reconcile the way that an Old Testament Hebrew would have read this psalm with how the New Testament Jews – Peter and Paul – interpreted it.
Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Is it Speaking of David?
If I were a Hebrew reading this psalm in the Old Testament period, I would think this is David speaking of his belief that he would be with God forever.
Verse 9 starts with David kind of summarizing all the things he’s said about his satisfaction with God. He says “therefore” – because of all these reasons that give me satisfaction with God – I’m rejoicing and glad. And I personally hope that’s your reaction to the things we’ve considered so far – joy and gladness.
David goes on to say that his flesh will “rest in hope” or “dwell securely”. He’s not afraid of the future. Why?
Because God in the future will not abandon his soul in “hell” – or in “Sheol”. This is where dead bodies go – the “grave”. God won’t leave David’s body in the grave.
Neither will God in the future allow David – his holy or godly one – his hasid – to “see corruption” or to see the “Pit” – another reference to where dead bodies go and where they then undergo decay as the body breaks down.
David would seem to be affirming that he isn’t going to be left in the grave or the pit. Well, how would that happen? Because all that we can see and experience suggests that all bodies do die eventually and that they are abandoned to the grave in which they’re placed. Well, God, verse 11 will show David “the path of life”. God is going to make known to David this path. And do you know where that path leads? Next statement – right into God’s presence – where there is an abundance of joy and pleasure. And that will be the case FOREVER.
Do you believe that? Isn’t that one humongous reason to be satisfied with God – even when life is hard here on earth? You are going to be with him forever – where pleasures will be in abundance. Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for his people.
And so, if I were a Hebrew reading this psalm originally, I would think that David is just generally speaking of his confidence that God would raise him from the dead some day to be with the Lord forever. And this would be the crowning reason why David is satisfied with God.
Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Peter
But then Peter preaches on Pentecost starting in Acts 2:24. He says that the Jews crucified David’s SON – Jesus. But death could not hold its power over him. Why? Well,because of what David says in Psalm 16:9-11 right here! And then Peter says – “listen folks, David’s body is still in the grave. He HAS experienced corruption in the pit. And his body is still there to this day.” So, how do you reconcile the fact that David appears to be saying that his body won’t see decay… and yet, that his body saw decay? Well, Peter says that David was a prophet and he knew that God had promised to seat one of his descendants on his throne forever. And so, according to Peter, David was actually looking ahead to and speaking of Christ’s resurrection.
And that IS what David’s speaking of anyway – resurrection. And eventually David WILL be raised. But even before David’s resurrection – Christ, his descendant would be raised. And Christ’s body would not be like David’s. Christ’s body would not undergo any decay. Why? Because God raised him from the dead before that could happen.
Psalm 16 11 Meaning According to Paul
And now, it’s not only Peter that interprets this psalm as referring to Christ. Paul does it too in Acts 13:34. There Paul is arguing that Jesus was raised from the dead and that the Scripture had predicted that that would happen. He FIRST takes a passage from Isaiah 55 that Paul interprets as God promising to give to Christ the promises that were made to David. So, Christ inherits all the promises that were originally David’s. THEN Paul says that one of those promises is found in Psalm 16 – the second line of verse 10 – that God wouldn’t allow his holy one to undergo decay. Paul says pretty bluntly that indeed David DID undergo decay after he died. But – he says – the one whom God raised up – Jesus – he did not undergo decay.
Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Ultimately Christ, not David
So, PETER says that David spoke of Christ’s resurrection in Psalm 16. PAUL says that Psalm 16 contains a promise to David that Christ rightfully inherited. BOTH are in agreement that the last three verses of Psalm 16 apply directly to Christ and that they couldn’t possibly apply to David in any immediate sense because his body DID experience decay, but Christ’s did NOT.
Psalm 16 11 Meaning: Be Satisfied with Jesus
And so we’re given yet another reason to be satisfied with God. Here it is. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he didn’t leave Jesus in the grave. His body didn’t experience decay. He’s alive and because he lives you will live. He’s alive and now he always intercedes for you – praying to the Father for you.
What a satisfying God! I trust we’ll be fully satisfied with him today – and all the more so today on the first day of the week when we remember that God raised his son from the grave, never to experience decay.