We’ve been walking through Psalm 16 a few verses at a time. So far we have seen that God is David’s Refuge (Part 1) and his Greatest Joy (Part 2). To return to an illustration from the first post, Psalm 16 is like a building in which the bottom floor is David’s despair. He is meditating on the character and work of God for the purpose of bringing his soul from despair to joy. Each truth about who God is moves David up one floor, closer to the rooftop of delighting in God. As we continue the journey with David up through the building, we see next that God is his counselor. Verse 7 says:
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;in the night also my heart instructs me.
David seems to be in a good place as his plea for help in verse 1 has turned into blessing God in praise in verse 7. He goes on to say that this blessed God is the one who gives him counsel and his heart instructs him. David is teaching his heart with the Word of God. He is meditating on God’s truth, filling his mind and heart with it constantly. In doing so, he is being directly counseled by God himself. This theme of meditating on God’s word permeates the Psalms ( 1, 19, 119), and the psalmists are known for taking the truth of God and speaking them to their own souls (42:11, 62:5).
Meditate on God’s Word
David models for us a very important habit of the Christian life: hear the word, know the word, study the word, memorize the word, and meditate on the word so that you can counsel your soul. When you prayerfully engage with God’s word in this way, you will be counseled by God. Your heart will be pulled from the depths of despair to the heights of treasuring God.
George Mueller, a pastor known for his commitment to meditating on God’s word, writes of his daily Bible habits:
The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.
Preaching to Yourself
In addition to meditating on God’s word to get our souls happy in him, we also learn from King David that we are to instruct our hearts with God’s truth. Some have called this the art of preaching to yourself. While publicly proclaiming God’s word is the task of pastors, privately proclaiming the word to the heart is the task of every Christian.
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones reflects on the example of Psalm 42 and preaching to yourself:
The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment (Psalm 42) was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.
Meditate on God’s word. Learn the art of prayerfully preaching to yourself, and you will find God to be your counselor.