Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Cups and Lines
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., a national holiday formally declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863—in the midst of the very worst days of the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Apparently, presidential tweets had a different tone back then!
Think about it—in the middle of conflict, vehement disagreements, political disunity, national disaster, and death—a day of thanksgiving and praise…a day dedicated to a beneficent (good and generous) God!
We don’t know the specific context of Psalm 16. We don’t know whether David wrote it in a time of conflict, like Lincoln’s proclamation, or a time of peace and prosperity. Our best guess would probably depend on which particular part of the psalm we were reading! David begins by asking God to “keep me safe.” He continues by telling God (and reminding himself) that apart from the Lord he has “no good thing.” These first couple of verses echo the kind of helpless and desperate cries of some of David’s other songs we have considered previously. But then this psalm turns toward the utter confidence and joy of verses 5-6, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup…the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places…I have a delightful inheritance.”
Whatever the circumstances he was in, David isn’t complaining about his situation, nor is he crowing about his accomplishments and material success. He is acknowledging God as the source of confidence and joy—God is his “cup,” and God determines his “boundary lines.” Both of those images are descriptions of measurement; they describe David’s life “portion” and his “inheritance.” David celebrates that God Himself is that portion and inheritance. His thanksgiving and praise isn’t for the stuff he possesses…it is “dedicated to a beneficent God.”
Centuries later, the Apostle Paul would write these words, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18) How can Paul possibly expect us to give thanks in all circumstances? I suppose it depends on what we expect to fill our cup this Thanksgiving Day…what, or Who we have received as our inheritance. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in today, I challenge you to choose thanksgiving and praise. Even if you struggle to celebrate your circumstances, celebrate the Father who loves you, the Savior who redeemed you, the Spirit who frees you…for life! Remember your God, and stay thirsty for Him! Happy Thanksgiving!