Psalm 16:2-3

2. Thou shalt say unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord, my well-doing extendeth not unto thee. 3. Unto the saints who are on the earth, and to the excellent; all my delight is in them.


2. Thou shalt say unto Jehovah. David begins by stating that he can bestow nothing upon God, not only because God stands in no need of any thing, but also because mortal man cannot merit the favor of God by any service which he can perform to him. At the same time, however, he takes courage, and, as God accepts our devotion, and the service which we yield to him, David protests that he will be one of his servants. To encourage himself the more effectually to this duty he speaks to his own soul; for the Hebrew word which is rendered Thou shalt say, is of the feminine gender, which can refer only to the soul.1 Some may prefer reading the word in the past tense, Thou hast said, which I think is unobjectionable, for the Psalmist is speaking of an affliction which had a continued abode in his soul. The import of his language is, I am, indeed, fully convinced in my heart, and know assuredly, that God can derive no profit or advantage from me; but notwithstanding this, I will join myself in fellowship with the saints, that with one accord we may worship him by the sacrifices of praise. Two things are distinctly laid down in this verse. The first is, that God has a right to require of us whatever he pleases, seeing we are wholly bound to Him as our rightful proprietor and Lord. David, by ascribing to him the power and the dominion of Lord, declares that both himself and all he possessed are the property of God. The other particular contained in this verse is, the acknowledgement which the Psalmist makes of his own indigence. My well-doing extendeth not unto thee. Interpreters expound this last clause in two ways. As Kyle, aleyka, may be rendered upon thee, some draw from it this sense, that God is not brought under obligation, or in the least degree indebted to us, by any good deeds which we may perform to him; and they understand the term goodness in a passive sense, as if David affirmed that whatever goodness he received from God did not proceed from any obligation he had laid God under, or from any merit which he possessed. But I think the sentence has a more extensive meaning, namely, that let men strive ever so much to lay themselves out for God, yet they can bring no advantage to him. Our goodness extendeth not to him, not only because, having in himself alone an all-sufficiency, he stands in need of nothing,2 but also because we are empty and destitute of all good things, and have nothing with which to show ourselves liberal towards him. From this doctrine, however, the other point which I have before touched upon will follow, namely, that it is impossible for men, by any merits of their own, to bring God under obligation to them, so as to make him their debtor. The sum of the discourse is, that when we come before God, we must lay aside all presumption. When we imagine that there is any good thing in us, we need not wonder if he reject us, as we thus take away from him a principal part of the honor which is his due. But, on the contrary, if we acknowledge that all the services which we can yield him are in themselves things of nought, and undeserving of any recompense, this humility is as a perfume of a sweet odour, which will procure for them acceptance with God.

3. Unto the saints who are on the earth. Almost all are agreed in understanding this place, as if David, after the sentence which we have just now been considering, had added, The only way of serving God aright is to endeavor to do good to his holy servants. And the truth is, that God, as our good deeds cannot extend to him, substitutes the saints in his place, towards whom we are to exercise our charity. When men, therefore, mutually exert themselves in doing good to one another, this is to yield to God right and acceptable service. We ought, doubtless, to extend our charity even to those who are unworthy of it, as our heavenly Father

"maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good," (Matthew 5:45;)

but David justly prefers the saints to others, and places them in a higher rank. This, then, as I have said in the commencement, is the common opinion of almost all interpreters.3 But although I do not deny that this doctrine is comprehended under the words of David, I think he goes somewhat farther, and intimates that he will unite himself with the devout worshippers of God, and be their associate or companion; even as all the children of God ought to be joined together by the bond of fraternal unity, that they may all serve and call upon their common Father with the same affection and zeal.4 We thus see that David, after having confessed that he can find nothing in himself to bring to God, seeing he is indebted to him for every thing which he has, sets his affections upon the saints, because it is the will of God that, in this world, he should be magnified and exalted in the assembly of the just, whom he has adopted into his family for this end, that they may live together with one accord under his authority, and under the guidance of his Holy Spirit. This passage, therefore, teaches us that there is no sacrifice more acceptable to God than when we sincerely and heartily connect ourselves with the society of the righteous, and being knit together by the sacred bond of godliness, cultivate and maintain with them brotherly good-will. In this consists the communion of saints which separates them from the degrading pollutions of the world, that they may be the holy and peculiar people of God. He expressly speaks of the saints who are on the earth, because it is the will of God that, even in this world, there should be conspicuous marks, and as it were visible escutcheons,5 of his glory, which may serve to conduct us to himself. The faithful, therefore, bear his image, that, by their example, we may be stirred up to meditation upon the heavenly life. For the same reason, the Psalmist calls them excellent, or honorable, because there is nothing which ought to be more precious to us than righteousness and holiness, in which the brightness of God's Spirit shines forth; just as we are commanded in the preceding psalm to prize and honor those who fear God. We ought, therefore, highly to value and esteem the true and devoted servants of God, and to regard nothing as of greater importance than to connect ourselves with their society; and this we will actually do if we wisely reflect in what true excellence and dignity consist, and do not allow the vain splendor of the world and its deceitful pomps to dazzle our eyes.

1 The word ,yspn, naphshi, is commonly supposed to be understood, Thou, my soul, shalt say, or hast said. But all the ancient versions, except the Chaldee, read in the first person, I have said, and this is the reading in many MSS. The words, however, "Thou, my soul, hast said," are equivalent to "I have said."

2 The Septuagint reads, Twn ajgaqwn mou ou creian ejceiv. Thou hast no need of my goodness, [or good things.] The reading in Tyndale Bible , "My goods are nothing unto thee."

3 "Voyla donc (ainsi que j'ay commencement dire) l'opinion commune, quasi de tous." -- Fr.

4 "D'un accord, et d'une roesroe affection." -- Fr. "With one accord, and with the same affection."

5 "Et comme armoiries apparentes." -- Fr.