I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
Psalm 16 begins with a cry for divine help: “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (16:1). Yet the bulk of the psalm does not focus on that from which the psalmist needs refuge. Rather, Psalm 16 celebrates God’s help in difficult times, his presence that keeps us safe and gladdens our hearts.
Verse 8 reads: “I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” In fact, the Hebrew of this verse affirms God’s presence, and it suggests that the psalmist has chosen to fix his attention here rather than on his problems. A more literal translation of the first part of verse 8 would read, “I have set the LORD before me continually.” The Message puts it this way: “Day and night I’ll stick with God.” So, though the fact that God is always with the psalm writer provides a foundation for verse 8, the language of the verse indicates that he has chosen to pay close attention to this truth. God’s presence is the central truth and reality of the psalmist’s life. He will not be moved from this divine center.
Jesus gave us the promise of his continual presence: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). There is never a question of whether the Lord is with us or not. But there certainly is a question about whether we fix our attention on this wonderful reality or not. How easy it is for us to live as if God is distant. How easily we focus our minds on our problems and challenges, forgetting to keep the Lord before our eyes.
When we choose to live in light of the truth of God’s persistent presence, then we will be reassured. Like the psalmist, we will “not be moved” by the inevitable disappointments and detours of life. We will stand firm in the midst of opposition and suffering. We will find the strength to press on in service to God as we live for his kingdom in this world.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How aware are you of God’s presence today?
Have you chosen to set the Lord before you continually? Will you remember him when life gets hard? Will you make him the center of your life?
What helps you know that God is right beside you?
O Lord, as I read Psalm 16, I find myself wishing that I could set you before me more faithfully. It’s so easy for me to focus my attention on all sorts of other things. When life isn’t going as I wish, I can become preoccupied with my frustrations and fears. How different it would be if I chose to fix my attention on you!
When I do this, I don’t neglect other things. I don’t forget about my work or stop caring about those around me. Nor do I become less wise or competent as leader. In fact, the more I keep you in focus, the more I am empowered to work faithfully, to love generously, and to lead wisely. Knowing that you are with me gives me confidence to live boldly for you and your kingdom.
Thank you, dear Lord, for being with me always. And thank you for helping me to attend to your presence. Amen.
P.S. An earlier version of this devotion appeared on The High Calling, and is used with permission through a Creative Commons license.