April 2, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Psalmist’s Relationship to God (vv. 1–2)

The opening verses begin with a statement of the psalmist’s relationship to God. The essence of that relationship is in the names for God he uses. The first word is el, translated simply “God” in verse 1. El is the most common name for God. But the unique quality of this name is that it delineates God as “the Strong (or Mighty) One.” It is appropriately chosen in verse 1, for it is in God as the Mighty One that the psalmist takes refuge.

The second name is Jehovah, translated “Lord” in the first part of verse 2. This is the personal name of the great God of Israel. It was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’

“God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you” ’ ” (Exod. 3:13–14). Since this name is the covenant name for God in relation to his chosen people, it is appropriate that David’s confession, “apart from you I have no good thing,” is in this verse, where the name is mentioned, rather than in verse 1.

The third name for God is Adonai, translated “Lord” in the first part of verse 2. Adonai can designate an earthly Lord as well as God. So when the psalmist says, as he does, “I said to the Lord [Jehovah], ‘You are my Lord [Adonai],’ ” he is saying that the God of Israel is his master. That is, God is not only the strong, powerful God in whom he can take refuge but also the one who is able to—and does—order his life and direct what he should do. We have an equivalent of this in our common New Testament way of speaking when we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Savior corresponds to el, since it is as “the Strong One” that Jesus saves us. Lord is the equivalent of Adonai. It means that Jesus is also Master of our lives.

Is Jesus your Lord and Savior, your Master? If he is, you should be able to say, as David does, “apart from you I have no good thing.”

This means that God is the source of all good. James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). It means that if we do not have God himself, even the best things of life will be valueless to us. Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). It means that, having come to know God as our refuge, redeemer, and Lord, nothing hereafter can ever mean as much to us as God does.[1]


2 The psalmist approaches God as “my Lord” (Adonai) and as “my good” (NIV, “I have no good thing”). The designation “my Lord” reveals the psalmist’s submission to him as “Master” and “Ruler” (see 8:1), in contrast to those who run after other gods (v. 4). Hence his confidence is in God’s care for him. He further describes his relationship to his God as the source of all of his benefits (cf. 23:6; 73:25). The sovereign God is “my good,” i.e., the reason for his existence and joy (cf. v. 11). Weiser, 173, contends, “The relation to God dominates the whole of human life because God lays claim to the whole man.” The spirit of joy and confidence in God’s sovereign care is also stated in 73:25: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (cf. v. 26).[2]


16:1, 2 As the perfect Man, completely dependent on God, Christ cries out for preservation to the One who is His only refuge. Throughout His thirty years of life on earth, the Savior not only acknowledged God as His Lord but joyfully confessed God as the absorbing passion of His life. The words “My goodness is nothing apart from You” are not a denial of the Savior’s sinlessness, but are simply a moving testimony that Christ found all His sufficiency in God. This testimony is comparable to the worship of Psalm 73:25: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.”[3]


16:2 I have no good besides You. I.e., “My well-being is entirely dependent upon You.”[4]


16:1–2 The Lord Is My Refuge. The Lord is the only one on whom the psalmist relies for well-being (no good apart from you, v. 2).[5]


16:2 apart from you The psalmist finds contentment and sufficiency in Yahweh. The psalmist of Psalm 73 makes a similar statement in response to the prosperity of the wicked (73:25).[6]


[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 131–132). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 187). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 565). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 16:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 955). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 16:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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