The best jobs come with the best employee benefit packages. The perks engage, reward, and energize us. “A disengaged employee,” observes one benefit broker, “costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary”, while, “engaged companies grow profits as much as 3X faster than their competitors.”
Granted, relationship with God is not exactly a company. We’re not employees, per se. But we may think of it as an organization, or more precisely, and organism; there is a Head and there are members; there are goals and there are benefits. In his letter to the believers in Corinth the Apostle Paul says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
In Psalm 16, the psalmist David has begun listing for us some of those benefits. The first three benefits we noticed were all positive. They described blessings gained by followers of God. The safety of God’s refuge, the goodness of God’s lordship, and the delight of being in a family of believers are definite benefits.
Verse four, though, takes a different tack; it describes a protection against a negative influence: “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.” In those days, libations of blood were animal sacrifices, and “tak(ing) up their names on my lips” referred to appeals for help from the gods of nature, power and fertility.
The psalmist describes the harmful effects on people who turn away from relationship with God—who blatantly reject Him, stubbornly avoid Him, or passively ignore Him—in exchange for what they assume will get them what they want. There will be gods in everyone’s life–if not the true God, it will be “other gods”. If it is the latter, the psalmist mourns, there will be sorrow. In fact, the sorrows will increase by degrees the longer individuals persist in running after other gods.
We’ve all seen it. This world is full of the sorrows that result when God’s ways are discounted: families become dysfunctional, relationships destroy rather than refresh, accomplishment of goals leaves an emptiness, and minds and bodies suffer the marks of the harm that results when people make anything but God their gods. War ensues.
Jesus mourned over the sorrow His own people brought upon themselves by their stubborn refusal to believe that He was God in the flesh, and by their determination to run after the gods of legalism, political zeal, pride, and self-satisfaction. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city,” records the gospel of Luke, “he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you’.” And sometime earlier, records Luke, Jesus lamented over Jerusalem saying, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” God, who sees and knows all, is saddened to see the sorrows people bring upon themselves by turning away from Him toward anything else for their hope.
What is the solution? Wisdom. We need to be careful to choose wisely who and what we worship. Our lives have more significance than we realize, and our purpose to live joyful lives can only be accomplished by giving ourselves entirely to God. He is the only One capable of handling such a precious commodity with complete integrity. He alone can turn lives from encountering increasing sorrows to experiencing increasing joys. And that protection is something to be eternally thankful for.
(Photo Credit: “Stonehenge Summer Solstice eve 02”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_Summer_Solstice_eve_02.jpg#/media/File:Stonehenge_Summer_Solstice_eve_02.jpg)