What does Psalm 16:1 mean?
ESV: A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
NIV: A miktam of David. Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
NASB: Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You.
CSB: Protect me, God, for I take refuge in you.
NLT: Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.
KJV: {Michtam of David.} Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
NKJV: {A Michtam of David.} Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
Verse Commentary:
David asks the Lord to keep him safe. His life was marked with combat and other dangers (1 Samuel 19:8; Psalm 144:1); he deeply understood what it meant to trust God for protection. As part of that, David recognized that ultimate security only comes from God. A "refuge" is a shelter, meant to protect against some threat or disaster. In the ancient world, that might have included a reinforced tower or a cave in a high mountain. A refuge kept the threat—such as an enemy—at bay.

Early in life, David learned to trust in the Lord for safety. His battle with the giant Goliath demonstrates this. He met Goliath with only a staff, a shepherd's pouch, a sling, and five smooth stones. When Goliath mocked him, David responded, "This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head" (1 Samuel 17:46). He also declared, "The battle is the LORD's" (1 Samuel 17:47). We can learn from past victories that the Lord is our refuge and worthy of our trust. Romans 8:37 points out that even earthly defeat is only temporary: "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
Verse Context:
Psalm 16:1–4 rejoices in the Lord's protection. David asks God to keep him secure, and he tells the Lord he has nothing good apart from Him. David delights in the fellowship he enjoys with other believers. In contrast, he is determined not to associate with idolaters. David is certain that those who worship false gods will encounter an increasing number of sorrows.
Chapter Summary:
David asks the Lord for protection, trusting in God as a safe place from enemies and evil. He confesses that apart from the Lord he has nothing good. This psalm exudes David's joy, using words such as "delight," "pleasant," "glad," "rejoices," "joy," and "pleasures." David celebrates his relationship with God. Because the Lord is with him always, David feels secure, even in the face of death. This is because his eternal destiny is assured. His celebration foreshadows the Messiah, who would conquer death and experience resurrection.
Chapter Context:
This psalm belongs with those expressing David's confidence in the Lord. Despite opposition, David knew God was guiding and protecting him. The psalm exudes joy as David places his trust in the Lord. Perhaps David wrote these words after the Lord gave His covenant to David (2 Samuel 7:1–17) and guaranteed David would have an everlasting throne. A phrase in verse 10 is often cited in the New Testament when discussing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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