Psalm 16:8-11 describes both the psalmist’s outlook as he faced death and the Saviour’s attitude towards his own death. Applying them to the psalmist enables us to see that the Old Testament believers had a strong hope of heaven even if they did not have the fuller understanding of believers who live in the New Testament era. They knew that their Lord would be with them as they faced the last enemy. In this they are a model as to how we should look at death and anticipate the heavenly life to come.
We know that the verses apply to Jesus because Peter says so in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. They describe the Saviour’s resurrection, and it is important for us to think often of that event. Spurgeon summarised it well when he wrote: ‘Christ’s resurrection is the cause, the earnest, the guarantee and the emblem of the rising of all his people.’
In verse 9 Jesus reveals the source of his joy, which was the presence of his Father described in verse 8.
In verses 10 and 11, Jesus addresses the Father. This type of divine interaction occurs frequently in the Old Testament and we should be on the lookout for it. Another example is Psalm 40:8-9. Verse 10 is a reference to the place of the dead where the bodies of humans see corruption. The Saviour, although he died, did not undergo any deterioration in his body.
Verse 11 contains a beautiful description of the journey of Jesus from the grave to heaven: he calls it ‘the path of life’. It began with his resurrection which revealed he possessed life; it continued with his ascension to the place of life (heaven) where he was enthroned in order to bestow on sinners spiritual life; it will yet involve resurrecting them from the dead in the fullness of resurrection life when they will be physically equipped to inhabit the new heavens and new earth in which death in any form will never enter.
John Trapp said of verse 11: ‘Here is as much said as can be, but words are too weak to utter it. For quality there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for quantity, a fulness, a torrent whereat they drink without let or loathing; for constancy, it is at God's right hand, who is stronger than all, neither can any take us out of his hand; it is a constant happiness without intermission: and for perpetuity it is for evermore. Heaven's joys are without measure, mixture, or end.’