Saved from Ourselves

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Text: Psalm 16

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Boundaries of Blessing

In Verse 6, King David makes an interesting statement: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (16:6)

Culturally, those words relate to history recorded in the book of Joshua, where boundary lines were drawn, dividing Canaan among the tribes of Israel, granting each tribe a portion.  The details are in Joshua 18:10, which says,

“Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.” (NIV84)

From that point onward, the tribes considered their destiny to be tied to the portion of land that they received.

King David is using that reference to say his life is marked by good fortune and destiny in God that can’t be taken away because God Himself holds it fast. We might express this by saying, “I got lucky,” “I got dealt some pretty good cards” or even “All my hard work and sacrifice are finally paying off.”

We Got Lucky: God Provides Boundaries

We also know that King David was human, and the boundary lines he’s so pleased with here didn’t remain “pleasant” for long.  He became dissatisfied with what was in the lines, and went looking outside of the lines… and we know the story of what that did with his life!  He threw a wrench in the machinery, and trouble resulted.  He might not have meant to do it, but the fallout was the same as if he had.

If this sounds familiar, you might be thinking of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans as he was discussing the human tendency to sin in spite of our best intentions:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15, NIV84)

We may hate what we’re about to do – but we go and do it anyway!  Praise God for saving us from ourselves!

One of the ways that He saves us from ourselves – or at least gives us the opportunity to be saved – is by providing “boundaries” so we can tell right from wrong – and have a point where we know that, in order to stay within His blessings, we mustn’t go past.

But, we’re human; and it’s not the same for each person. Some of us have a harder time living within those boundaries than others do. And, when we’re at a point in life where things are going particularly well, we feel safe… relax… and a self-destructive tendency to destroy a good thing can surface, and it’s “Katie, bar the door.” The tabloids are full of examples of prominent people who have a good thing going and ruined everything.

The Dangers Beyond the Boundaries

Not to minimize those high-profile issues… but if you get right down to it, it’s not the big stuff that gets us into the most trouble.  I think we can all identify with this to some degree.  We all have things that we do (or don’t do), sometimes even unconsciously, and they take us off-track. It can disrupt a career, a marriage, discipleship – you name it! There are lots of everyday things that fall into this category:

  • We say negative stuff that comes back like a boomerang and hits us where it hurts.
  • We often overcommit because we can’t say no.
  • We’re willing to enable abusive relationships.
  • We fear success, so we unconsciously self-sabotage the path to success.
  • We have a fixed income but wildly unfixed spending habits.
  • We make rash decisions, even though we know we should think more carefully before stepping out into the abyss.
  • We should attend class but don’t.
  • We procrastinate, and it kills us every time.
  • We insist on spending time with the wrong friends

The Lord God: Our Safe Refuge

What would God have us do, to help ourselves as much as we can?  The first thing, obviously, is to stay within His boundaries – as King David says in Verses 1 and 2,

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;    apart from you I have no good thing.” (16:1-2, NIV84)

The other, equally-important thing is to learn what tempts you to look beyond the boundaries.  What if you’re a person who doesn’t like that others impose on you, but you also get bored easily and have an itch to keep things interesting?  This combination can lead you to shaking up your life – perhaps changing careers, your appearance, your hobbies, or your values.  From those changes come less-than-pleasant consequences.

When you struggle with an itch like this, the first thing to do is remember that God provides – and, that stability, joy and security are the gifts we receive when we live within His boundaries.  We should examine seriously – and prayerfully – every urge to rip apart something significant in our lives and start over.

The other side of this that God does call for change when it is needed; sometimes, He calls us to be agents of change.  If God is calling us, we should listen. But if what we’re contemplating is change for its own sake, we should count the cost and move cautiously. Perhaps the thing that frustrates you the most has been put there to offer protection, if not for you, then for the others that the change would affect.

There’s an old saying, “fences make good neighbors.”  The same can be said of God’s boundaries.  If we live according to the boundaries God has set us, we are much more likely to have healthy relationships with Him and the people around us.  We’re far more likely to have God’s priorities as our priorities, even in those times when we’re feeling restless.

We’re saved from ourselves when those things come first, when, as King David put it, we “…have set the LORD always before [us]. Because he is at [our] right hand, [we] will not be shaken.” (16:8).


Sources Consulted:

“The Problem With Boundary Lines,” Homiletics, May 2011

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Volume OT-VII; Psalms 1-150 (IVP, 2008)

The NIV KeyWord Study Bible (AMG, 1996)

Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms, Volume 1 (Zondervan, 2002)