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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Psalms 16

Verses 1-11

It is in the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke that we read of our blessed Lord overtaking those two disciples on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and He entered into their conversation as they were speaking together of Him, without at first giving them to know who it was that was walking with them. They were sad and He inquired the cause of it, and they told about Jesus and their hopes and how those hopes had been shattered by His crucifixion; but then they also added that certain women of the company who had been to the sepulcher that morning declared that they had seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was now alive, but it was very evident they did not believe this; and then we read in verse 25, “He said unto them, O fools.” The word there does not have quite the obnoxious meaning that our word “fool” has. It really means “simple ones.” “O simple ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” I never read that but I think what a wonderful privilege those disciples had that day, and what a marvelous thing it would have been if that Bible reading of the Lord Jesus Christ had been delivered to a large audience with a stenographer sitting to one side so that we today could read that wonderful opening up of all the Scriptures that have to do with the things concerning Him. Why did He not give us such a book as that? It would have made a wonderful volume. Is not the reason this: He would have each one of us study the Word for ourselves in dependence on the Holy Spirit. He has just given us enough here to let us know that He is the theme of all Scripture, that wherever you turn in the Word of God, the subject is Jesus. And one thing I am sure of-on that day as they walked along, among the many portions of the Word that He expounded to them, was this sixteenth Psalm.

I suppose you have noticed the place this Psalm had in the ministry of the apostles afterward, in the book of Acts. In the second chapter of Acts, where we have Peter’s great sermon on the day of Pentecost, you find him quoting from it and applying it to our Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 25). “David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the way of life; Thou shalt make me full of joy with Thy countenance.” And then listen to Peter’s comment on it: “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried.” Why does he speak of David? David wrote this Psalm, but he pointed out that David was not writing of himself. Verse 30, “Therefore being a prophet.” Many do not realize that David was a prophet, but the Psalms are all prophetic, and that in a most marvelous way. “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on His throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

And then if you turn over to the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will see how the Apostle Paul refers to the second Psalm in verse 32: “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Now that Psalm we have already looked at, and we have seen its application to Christ. Notice how this links up with what follows: “And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore He saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” He is referring to the sixteenth Psalm. “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” So we may be quite sure that our Lord Jesus opened up this Psalm to His disciples that day. And later on during the forty days that He was with them after His resurrection and before His ascension, expounding unto them the things of the kingdom of God, we can be certain He went through all these Old Testament scenes and gave them an explanation of these Scriptures such as they had never had before, and this accounts for the fact that from the day of Pentecost on, these disciples seemed so quick in applying them. They quoted again and again from the Old Testament, and to no book did they delight to refer so much as to the book of Psalms.

Now in the first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus we have five distinct offerings, which present in various ways the perfection of the Person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is an interesting fact that there are five Psalms which link in a special way with those five offerings. For instance, the first offering is the burnt offering. When you turn over to the fortieth Psalm, you find that is the Psalm of the burnt offering. Then for the moment passing over the second offering, the third is the peace offering; and if you turn over to the eighty-fifth Psalm you have the Psalm of the peace offering. That is followed by the sin offering, and Psalm twenty-two is the Psalm of the sin offering. And then that of the trespass offering. Psalm sixty-nine is the Psalm of the trespass offering.

I have passed over the meal offering or food offering. According to the old English way of speaking, the word “meat” took in all the repast. Our forbears would say, “They sat down to meat.” It did not mean simply flesh. The meal offering did not have any flesh in it. The burnt, the peace, the sin, and the trespass offerings-in all these, animals were sacrificed, but not in the case of the meal offering. It was an offering made of fine flour mingled with oil, and it spoke not of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of the perfection of His glorious Person, and it was the food of the priests of God. With all the other offerings the people were to bring the meal offering, and all these meal offerings were cakes or loaves made of fine flour. You housewives know the feeling of fine flour, not a coarse grain in it, and that typified the perfect Humanity of the Lord Jesus. So it spoke of the Lord Jesus’ perfect Humanity. I think if the Lord wanted to make a meal offering typical of me, he would have to make it of old-fashioned, Scotch, steel-cut meal, because there are so many sharp edges to me, and that would picture me perfectly. But when it was the Lord Jesus Christ, there was no roughness, no sharp edges, no eccentricities; everything was perfect in His wonderful character. The meal offering was made of fine flour mingled with oil, and oil is a type of the Holy Spirit of God, and you remember that Christ was born of the Spirit. The angel told His mother Mary that the power of the Highest would overshadow her and she would bring forth a Son, and from the moment Christ came into the world you have the mingling of the oil and the fine flour. This offering, as I said, was the food of the priests. And what is our food as believers? We are to feed upon Christ in the presence of God. You say, “Well, I do not understand it.” We feed on Christ by meditating on Christ Where do we get Christ? Right in His Word and therefore we feed on Christ as we read His Word and meditate on the precious things which are revealed concerning His perfections and His matchless glory. Now this sixteenth Psalm may appropriately be called the Psalm of the meal offering. For this is the Psalm that brings before us the perfection of the Humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever stopped to consider this: the Lord Jesus, though He was God over all, chose in grace to become a dependent man down here in this world? You say, What do you mean by a dependent man? Well, I mean that He chose to come down here and set aside His own will and just be dependent on the will of God. In other words, He came here to live a life of faith. He is called “the author and finisher of…faith.” There is a little word in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “finisher of our faith.” But that is not what the Apostle said. He said He is the “author and finisher of faith.” He chose to be a man of faith. That comes out in the scene in the wilderness when Satan came to Him, when He had a true human body, and it was sustained by food as ours. After those forty days he must have been very hungry indeed, and Satan said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3). Could He have made bread out of stones? Oh, yes; but He had no word from the Father to do it, and He had chosen to be dependent on the Father in everything. He was not going to make bread out of stones in obedience to a suggestion from the devil. So He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He was a lowly Man of faith in this scene, living on the Word of God that proceeded out of the mouth of God.

In the sixteenth Psalm we hear Him speak to His Father. What did He have to pray about? Well, we know what He said on one occasion. In the seventeenth of John we hear Him praying for His own. Many of these Psalms were the prayers of Jesus. It has been said, “The strings of David’s harps are the chords of the heart of Jesus.” And as you read these Psalms you are listening to the breathings of the heart of Jesus. Listen to Him: “Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” Now in the Epistle to the Hebrews that is applied to Him. He is the Man of faith here on earth. He went through this scene for thirty-three years in perfect subjection to the Father’s will-never attempting a step, never professing to give a revelation until He heard the Father’s voice, and He chose as Man on earth to learn from His own Bible what the mind of God was. They were surprised when on one occasion the Lord said, speaking of His second coming, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). What did He mean? Did He not know all things? Yes, as God, but He chose to lay aside the use of His own omniscience; He chose not to draw on His infinite knowledge, but to learn from the Scriptures and to get the word from the Father from day to day; and because there was nothing in the Scripture that told when His second coming would take place, He could say: “Of that day…knoweth no man.” That helps us to see how truly He became Man, and how truly He lived a life of dependence on God.

The second verse is very striking. “O My soul, Thou hast said.” Now you must notice the different words for “Lord.” Wherever it is in small caps as here in the first instances, it translates the word “Jehovah.” When it is lower case, it is the Lord and Master. Read it like this: “O My soul, Thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art My Master.” Who is speaking? The Lord Jesus Christ, and He is addressing His own soul. He says, “O, My soul, Thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art My Master.” In other words, “I am Thy servant.” He came to the earth to be the Servant of Jehovah, the Servant of the Godhead. “My goodness extendeth not to Thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight.” What does He mean by that? Well, as God the Father looked down on the Lord Jesus, as He walked through this world, what did He see in Him? Absolute perfection. He was perfect in goodness; He was righteous in everything, in thought and word and deed. Scripture says “He knew no sin,” “He did no sin,” “in Him is no sin”; and yet He looks up to the Father and says, “My goodness extendeth not to Thee; But to the saints that are in the earth and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight.” What then did He mean by that? Is it not this: “My Father, I am not pleading My goodness for Myself before Thee, but I am here on earth to do Thy will and to walk the path of righteousness on behalf of others. My goodness extendeth to the saints, the excellent in the earth, in whom is all My delight.” Who were these saints, who were the excellent in the earth? Well, strange as it seems to say it, they were people who knew they were sinners and confessed it. When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness “Repent ye,” he called on the people who owned their sin and guilt to be baptized with the baptism of repentance for the remission of sin. What did it mean? It meant this: the King is coming, and you have been waiting for Him, but you are not ready for Him. A lot of you are living in sin; many of you are selfish and proud; many of you are hypocritical. Get right with God; face your sin. If you own yourself a sinner, come down to the Jordan and let me baptize you. Poor sinners came to John and said, “John, you are right. God is righteous and we are unrighteous; you baptize us as confessed sinners.” As John put them down beneath the waters of Jordan, it was just another way of saying, “These people deserve to die and they are confessing that they deserve to die; they are making confession of their sin; they are repentant.”

And now look, John is baptizing, and Jesus comes; and when John gives the call for repentant sinners to come down to be baptized, Jesus walks down to the Jordan, and John says, “O Lord, not this, I cannot baptize You: I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” It is as though he would say, “I am baptizing sinners; You are not a sinner. I cannot baptize You. I am a sinner; You might well baptize me, but it is not for me to baptize You.” But Jesus said, You “suffer it to be so now: for thus it be-cometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” What did He mean by that? It is just as if He said: “What you say is perfectly true; I am not a sinner; I have nothing to repent of, but I am going to fulfil every righteous demand of God, and I want you to let Me be baptized with them, because I am taking the sinner’s place.” In other words, He says to the Father, “I am not going to plead My goodness to Thee as an exemption from death, but My goodness I present on behalf of others and I am going to die for them.” Those are the people in whom He delights, those who confess their sins. Some have an idea that saints are people who have no sins to confess. But it is the very opposite. Saints are those who come before God confessing their sins, and He constitutes them saints. I plead My goodness, says He, not on My own account, “but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight.”

And in the next verse He contrasts the people who turn away from God with them that walk in obedience to the Word of God. “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god.” How we need to remember that today. Well, you say, we do not go to other gods now. We know too much. I do not bow down to gods of gold, stone or brass or iron, But anything you put in the place of God Himself, anything you allow to dominate or control your life short of God Himself, is another god. Self is another god; money is another god when it takes the place of God; fame is another idol; and love is another. I have known some cases of the last named. I get lots of queer letters. A man wrote me like this: “My dear pastor: I want your advice. I am interested in a divorced lady whom I intend to marry, and I would like to know if it is scriptural.” And then in writing him I said, “What difference does it make to you whether it is scriptural or not, if you intend to marry her anyway? And yet you write to me for advice.” They make up their minds they are going to do a certain thing, and these things become gods that they worship. What is the result? Nobody every yet found peace of mind or joy of heart by going after anything that is contrary to the mind of God. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god.

And now, says the Lord Jesus, “Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into My lips.” I will never put anything before My soul but My Father God. “The Lord,” that is, Jehovah, “is the portion of Mine inheritance and of My cup.” You love the twenty-third Psalm, do you not? Do you know the real speaker in the twenty-third Psalm is the Lord Jesus Christ? You say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” But Jesus said, “Jenovah is My Shepherd; I shall not want.” And it was Jesus who said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with Me.” And He went to the Cross. It is Jesus who said in that Psalm, “My cup runneth over.” “Jehovah is the portion of Mine inheritance and of My cup.” Now connect the twenty-third Psalm with it. “My cup runneth over.” If you can say, “Jehovah is the portion of my cup,” you will soon be able to say, “My cup runneth over.” You begin to apprehend something of God’s wonderful love and grace, and your cup will soon be filled right up and running over.

“Thou maintainest My lot.” You know when Israel came out of Egypt, God gave them different lots for their inheritance. What was Jesus’ lot? The lot of perfect subjection to the Father’s will. “Thou maintainest My lot. The lines are fallen unto Me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Who said this? The Man who is called the Man of Sorrows. Did it ever strike you in this way? As you read those four Gospels you never have the account of the life of a sad Man. He was characteristically a Man of gladness; He was a joyful Man but not a jolly one. You know there are some of us who either go down into the dumps or else we go over to the other side, and we become clowns and buffoons and are real jolly. But He was a glad Man, a joyful Man, a peaceful Man, because He was a Man living in fellowship with the Father, and all the sorrows He had to go through could not interfere in .any way with His Father’s love.

“I will bless the Lord, who hath given Me counsel.” In the book of the prophet Isaiah we read, “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned” (50:4). What do I learn from that? I learn that my blessed Lord as a Man here on earth studied His Bible every day, and every morning He got something fresh from it He was a normal Child and a normal young Man and a normal mature Man. He was getting something from God every day, and He was passing it on to others. I learned years ago that if I am to be of any use to others, I must go quietly before Him and let Him open my eyes, let Him tell me something of His secrets, and when the time comes I will have something to pass on to other people. That is what our Saviour did. He learned from the Father. They are the words that the Father gives Him. What perfect subjection! I will bless the Lord, who hath given Me counsel: My reins also instruct Me in the night seasons.” In other words, my inward being shall instruct me during the night seasons. The blessed Lord had many a sleepless night out there on the mountainside, alone with the Father. He knew what was before Him. He was the only Man in all Israel that understood the significance of all the sacrificial system. He could look at the Temple, He could see that sacrifice on the altar, and He knew He was the true Lamb of sacrifice. He could watch the passover lamb and knew it typified Himself. He could read the Word and He knew that all the Word had to do with Him. Just think what it was to Jesus to ponder over Isaiah 53:0, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” and to know that all applied to Him.

But now see the perfection of His obedience. “I have set the Lord always before Me.” The best I can say after half a century of service is, “I have set Jehovah sometimes before me.” I wish I had done it more. But to be able to say what He said, “I have set Jehovah always before me,” I have never had any other motive than to please Him, I have never had any other thought than to honor Him, we cannot say that. But here was One whose heart was perfect. The One who can say, “I have set the Lord always before Me,” can say in perfect confidence, “because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved.” God was at His right hand before Herod, before Caiaphas, and even when the face of God had been hidden from Him on Calvary, still God always was at His right hand.

Now notice how He can look at the Cross. He knows all the anguish of the Cross, but He goes to that Cross in perfect confidence, knowing that He is coming through in triumph. “Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoiceth.” He is speaking of His tongue. Now James calls the tongue a deadly evil. David calls his tongue a glory. The tongue is a glory when it is used to bless the Lord. “My flesh also shall rest in hope.” I will go into that tomb in perfect confidence, knowing that Thou wilt raise Me up. “For Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell.” The word translated “hell” means Hades. It is the place for disembodied spirits between death and resurrection, that is, the unseen world. But He says, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in Hades, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” “My soul,” that is the inward man. His body will not be allowed to corrupt. He knew that His Father would bring Him back from the dead. “Neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” This could not refer to David, though David wrote it. David has not been raised; his body corrupted. But great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus, never saw corruption. And so, looking on to resurrection, He said, “Thou wilt shew Me the path of life,” that is, resurrection life: “in Thy presence is fulness of joy.” He is looking on to the glorious ascension when He will take His place again at God’s right hand in heaven. “At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Those pleasures He lives to share with those who trust Him. What a difference between pleasures of sin and pleasures for evermore! “At [God’s] right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Psalms 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.