Is envy always a bad thing? Most of the time, definitely, but not always. If I see someone else’s car or house or spouse and desire them, then that’s a violation of the tenth commandment. But what if I see someone who has a real, vital intimate relationship with the Lord, and I want what they have? I don’t think it’s wrong, since that should spur me on to follow their example.
Read verse 2 again. Can I really say that? Is it true that apart from the Lord I have no good thing in my life? Can you say that? What about all the little conveniences of life, like air conditioning or (as I write this) central heating? Or a vehicle that takes me where I need to go? Or better yet, a wonderful wife who loves me and puts up with me? Are those not “good things,” blessings which the Lord has given me?
Of course they are, and I don’t think the Psalmist intends for us to discount everything good in our lives in some sort of pseudo-spirituality. Remember asceticism from our study of Genesis? God said that his creation was good.
So what does David mean? It’s called hyperbole, exaggeration to get someone’s attention. He didn’t mean that he didn’t have anything good in his life apart from God, but that his relationship with God was so wonderful that nothing else could really compare. I think that Jesus meant the same thing when he told us to “hate” our parents. It's not that we're supposed to "hate" them in the sense of wishing them ill, but our love for the Lord is supposed to be so great that our love for our parents should look like hate in comparison. In the same way our gratefulness for the Lord's presence in our lives should completely overshadow our appreciation of any other pleasure in life.
This intimate relationship he had with his Lord contrasted with the “relationship” his enemies had with their false gods. He would have nothing to do with them, and he would continually “keep [his] eyes continually on the Lord,” meaning that he would constantly meditate on--and commune with--his Savior, and focus his mind on the incredible blessings which God had brought into his life.
And this relationship gave him hope for the future, and he believed that it would extend into eternity. Of course, he knew that the Lord would save him from the tender mercies of his enemies, and in this sense God would not--and did not--abandon him to “the realm of the dead” (or "the grave," as it's been traditionally translated). But the Holy Spirit meant more than that when he inspired David to write this.
Both Peter and Paul cited this Psalm, and they both applied it to Christ. Their argument was pretty simple: If David was applying this Psalm only to himself, then it'd be pretty odd, since his body decayed in his grave a long time ago. The ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm was when God didn’t abandon Jesus to the grave, and didn’t let his “Holy One” see decay (since he was only in the grave for a short time). So according to both apostles, this Psalm is a prediction of Christ’s resurrection.
And in a sense it applies to us as modern believers as well. Unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, the grave is waiting for each of us. But every believer can say, along with David, that in the end our Redeemer will not abandon us to the "grave" either. No matter how long our physical bodies lie in that state, there will come a day when he returns and will call us out of that grave, reunite us with our spirits, and have us join him in the air with every other believer.
I love the description of our Final Home in the last verse: Full, complete, unhindered communion and fellowship with our Lord. What’s the only problem, the only reason why we can’t enjoy that intimate relationship with him now? You should know the answer to that already: Sin. But then, when he returns, then that ugly barrier will be removed once and for all. He will fill us with joy in his presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand. As John put it, “[We] know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Lord Jesus, I can’t wait to see what you have in store. Please make me ready for it, no matter what it takes.