“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
There was a time just before our marriage when Val and I had to live in separate towns. It was just the way things worked out and was only a couple of months, but it was a difficult period. The consequence was, however, that we wrote letters, hundreds of letters, back and forth on a daily basis. And we discovered, as Jane Austen put it, “that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.”
It was, indeed, a lovely time. A recent passage by Caroline Kepnes described our feelings perfectly: “I will never again underestimate the power of anticipation. There is no better boost in the present than an invitation into the future.”
This is what is happening in today’s verse. It’s an anticipation of joy to come, an invitation into the future. If you’ve ever really enjoyed being with someone who made you laugh or think more deeply, then you probably still look forward to spending time with them. The Psalmist wrote that there is “joy in God’s presence.”
Not that we’ve completely arrived, of course. We are still journeying. “You make known to me the path of life.” The Father has shown the way forward and Jesus said quite straightforwardly, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) But we have that “sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself” that God “will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
There is something more to say, however. The “presence of God,” in Israel’s understanding, was located in the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the Temple, where a chosen priest could enter just once a year. But when Jesus died on the cross, Matthew tells that the thick curtain of the Holy of Holies was “rent in twain from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51).
So where is the presence of God now?
Jesus was clear about this. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” “I am with you always.” Paul told the young church: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The presence of God is on and in His people.
And the “invitation into the future” goes out right now. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)