The One Who Did Not Fail

Psalm 16
A Miktam of David.
1Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
4The 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.
5The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If asked for the opposite of “failure”, we would probably say, “success.” But that is not how God the Father measures the consequences of our sin. He’s not interested in our success, but in our redemption, which came at a tremendous price, the blood of His Son, Jesus. Our failure demanded His sacrifice. This Psalm is spoken from the perspective of the Messiah. The lens through which we look at this psalm changes the way we see these words. When seen through the Cross, this prayer takes on a whole new shade or hue. All Scripture is clarified when seen through the saving work of Christ.

The first verse speaks to a time when the Messiah was looking for preservation, for suffering was His lot. In the midst of His pain, He declares that He has no good apart from the Father and His delight is in us, the saints in the land. Jesus measures success differently than we do.

This Psalm also figures prominently in the sermon that Peter gave on the Day of Pentecost, as he spoke through the power of the Holy Spirit. When he was finished, 3,000 people were saved by hearing the Gospel. In his sermon, he quotes Psalm 16. Especially prominent was the last verse of this prayer of David’s.

Acts 2:25-28
25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.
28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Despite our own knowledge of personal failure, all of us can claim verse 28. We now know the paths of life and we can be glad in the presence of the Lord. Our failure is turned around and we are changed. During Lent, we spend time remembering that while we are all – ALL – miserable failures at creating our own righteousness, Jesus did not fail. Our salvation comes from the fact that He lived a perfect life. Had He not done so, His death would have had no power to save us. He would have died for His own sins. But instead, where we failed, He succeeded. His life was perfect, and His innocent maintained. His death could only be substitutionary for our own because He didn’t have to die for Himself. He did not fail. So the opposite of failure in God’s economy is righteous.