Psalm 16:5-6

5. Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup; thou sustainest my lot. 6. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.


5. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance. Here the Psalmist explains his sentiments more clearly. He shows the reason why he separates himself from idolaters, and resolves to continue in the church of God, why he shuns, with abhorrence, all participation in their errors, and cleaves to the pure worship of God; namely, because he rests in the only true God as his portion. The unhappy restlessness of those blind idolaters1 whom we see going astray, and running about as if stricken and impelled by madness, is doubtless to be traced to their destitution of the true knowledge of God. All who have not their foundation and trust in God must necessarily be often in a state of irresolution and uncertainty; and those who do not hold the true faith in such a manner as to be guided and governed by it, must be often carried away by the overflowing floods of errors which prevail in the world.2 This passage teaches us, that none are taught aright in true godliness but those who reckon God alone sufficient for their happiness. David, by calling God the portion of his lot, and his inheritance, and his cup, protests that he is so fully satisfied with him alone, as neither to covet any thing besides him, nor to be excited by any depraved desires. Let us therefore learn, when God offers himself to us, to embrace him with the whole heart, and to seek in him only all the ingredients and the fullness of our happiness. All the superstitions which have ever prevailed in the world have undoubtedly proceeded from this source, that superstitious men have not been contented with possessing God alone. But we do not actually possess him unless "he is the portion of our inheritance;" in other words, unless we are wholly devoted to him, so as no longer to have any desire unfaithfully to depart from him. For this reason, God, when he upbraids the Jews who had wandered from him as apostates,3 with having run about after idols, addresses them thus, "Let them be thine inheritance, and thy portion." By these words he shows, that if we do not reckon him alone an all-sufficient portion for us, and if we will have idols along with him,4 he gives place entirely to them, and lets them have the full possession of our hearts. David here employs three metaphors; he first compares God to an inheritance; secondly, to a cup; and, thirdly, he represents him as He who defends and keeps him in possession of his inheritance. By the first metaphor he alludes to the heritages of the land of Canaan, which we know were divided among the Jews by divine appointment, and the law commanded every one to be content with the portion which had fallen to him. By the word cup is denoted either the revenue of his own proper inheritance, or by synecdoche, ordinary food by which life is sustained, seeing drink is a part of our nourishment.5 It is as if David had said, God is mine both in respect of property and enjoyment. Nor is the third comparison superfluous. It often happens that rightful owners are put out of their possession because no one defends them. But while God has given himself to us for an inheritance, he has engaged to exercise his power in maintaining us in the safe enjoyment of a good so inconceivably great. It would be of little advantage to us to have once obtained him as ours, if he did not secure our possession of him against the assaults which Satan daily makes upon us. Some explain the third clause as if it had been said, Thou art my ground in which my portion is situated; but this sense appears to me to be cold and unsatisfactory.

6. The lines6 have fallen to me. The Psalmist confirms more fully what he had already said in the preceding verse with respect to his resting, with a composed and tranquil mind, in God alone; or rather, he so glories in God as nobly to despise all that the world imagines to be excellent and desirable without him. By magnifying God in such honorable and exalted strains, he gives us to understand that he does not desire any thing more as his portion and felicity. This doctrine may be profitable to us in many ways. It ought to draw us away not only from all the perverse inventions of superstition, but also from all the allurements of the flesh and of the world. Whenever, therefore, those things present themselves to us which would lead us away from resting in God alone, let us make use of this sentiment as an antidote against them, that we have sufficient cause for being contented, since he who has in himself an absolute fullness of all good has given himself to be enjoyed by us. In this way we will experience our condition to be always pleasant and comfortable; for he who has God as his portion is destitute of nothing which is requisite to constitute a happy life.

1 "De ces aveugles d'idolatres." -- Fr.

2 "Transportez par les desbordemens impetueux des erreurs qui regnent au monde." -- Fr.

3 "Qui s'estoyent destournez de lui comme apostats." -- Fr.

4 "Ains que no'vueillions avoir avec lui les idoles." -- Fr.

5 "D'autant que le bruvage est une partie de nostre nourriture." -- Fr.

6 The Hebrew is measuring lines. There is here an allusion to the ancient division of the land of Canaan among God's chosen people. This was done by lot, and the length and breadth of the portion of each tribe was ascertained by cords or measuring lines. Hence they came to signify the land so measured out.