In this Psalm David prays that the Lord will hear his petition for relief for he is sorely vexed by his enemies. He seeks comfort under the protection of the Lord and that the Lord may be mindful of him as if he were the apple of the Lord’s eye.
Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
(Psalm 17:1-2 ESV)
As Martin Luther notes we get a good sense of David’s emotional state from his repetitive plea: first…”hear”…then “attend”…and finally “give ear.” (see Martin Luther (Verse 1) in Spurgeon notes). We too should be so insistent when in desperate straits, not being reluctant to hit the same theme again and again to show the Lord how dire our need is. I do not know if I could pray with the same boldness in my cause as David is doing here (for how could I judge myself and the “justness” of my cause?) but we have our justifier in Christ Jesus so we too can pray as David does, confident not in our own righteousness but that of Jesus Christ (id). However, as John Calvin notes we should pray in earnest and with a good conscience when bringing forth our petitions for the benefit of our prayers, so we want to be in a state of repentance for any known sins (see Perowne (Verse 1 in id). The second verse reminds us that the Lord is our judge, he is judge over all of the earth (Genesis 18:25) and so he will judge the nations (Isaiah 2:4).
You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
(Psalm 17:3-5 ESV)
As Christians we can expect to be tried our further sanctification. I draw your attention to what exactly it is that David says the Lord is trying here – his heart. Our heart is who we truly are, although the depths of it may be unknown to us, it is our heart that ultimately determines our thoughts and our thoughts ultimately determine our actions. If our heart isn’t right then we’re not right. Perhaps this is why God tries the heart, to show us who we are, for better or for worse, but also that he may purify it for we cannot address the issues we are not made aware of.
I also think it’s interesting to point out that after the line regarding testing David highlights his discretion, perhaps this was a particular point of testing for him (Stephen Charnock notes in id). As I have discussed in other posts the tongue can be a great evil and so we must restrain it to the best of our ability (James 3:8). How often are we tested in this manner to speak rashly or angrily or foolishly? So it is that we must be mindful of what we say that we may pass those tests that the Lord places before us. As someone once told me: “Think twice. Speak once.”
As David recalls his wisdom in following the word of the Lord so we too must be immersed in the Word and listen to the wise counsel of the Lord, which will only come about if we have a right relationship with him and proper fear (i.e. respect).
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.
(Psalm 17:6-12 ESV)
As Christians we can pray in the righteousness of Christ, which gives us the confidence to know the Lord will answer our prayers. May we be covered under his pinions from all those who would do us harm, who are often eager to take us down as a lion would its prey.
Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure,
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.
(Psalm 17:13-14 ESV)
The men of the world are just that, men of the world. They are focused on the things of this life and accumulating material treasures, they do not think about the life to come and their heritage is in their children that will come after them, not in the Lord Almighty. Our heritage is the Lord, whose heavenly treasures surpass anything this world could offer us, nor will we leave our children without an inheritance, for the blessings of the righteous redound to them (Proverbs 20:7).
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
(Psalm 17:15 ESV)
This is the reward, that we will see the face of the Lord, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and this shall provide an eternal satisfaction that this temporal world could never provide (Spurgeon).
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, may you ear be ever attentive to our prayers to mediate for us on our behalf. May we be clothed in your righteousness that our prayers may be heard and our deliverance swiftly sent. Amen.
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