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Summary: Psalms 17

PRAY LIKE DAVID PRAY (PSALM 17)

A woman who had been bitten by a dog and was advised by her physician to write her last wishes, as she might succumb to hydrophobia. She spent so long with pencil and paper that the doctor finally remarked something about how long the will would be. ¡§What will?¡¨ she snorted. ¡§I¡¦m writing a list of the people I¡¦m going to bite!¡¨ (Illustrations of Bible Truths # 886)

The name of David is inseparable from the book of Psalms. David¡¦s name is mentioned 88 times in the book of Psalms and more than 55 of the 150 psalms in the Psalter are titled as ¡§a psalm of David,¡¨ but only two psalms credited as ¡§a prayer of David¡¨ in the Bible (Ps 17:1, 86:1), so bear in mind this is uniquely a prayer, then a psalm and a poem.

How is your prayer life? What do you pray for? Why is prayer more than just feel good and essential in everyday life and do you handle unfavorable circumstances and undesirable elements in life? What

Call for the Lord¡¦s Assessment

1 Hear me, Lord, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer¡X it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2 Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. 3 Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. 4 Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. 5 My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. 6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me (Psalm 17:1-6)

A widow who had successfully raised a very large family was being interviewed by a reporter. In addition to six children of her own, she had adopted 12 other youngsters, and through it all she had maintained stability and an air of confidence. When asked the secret of her outstanding accomplishment, her answer to the newsman was quite surprising. She said ¡§I managed so well because I'm in a partnership!¡¨ ¡§What do you mean?¡¨ he inquired. The woman replied, ¡§Many years ago I said, 'Lord, I'll do the work and You do the worrying.' And I haven't had an anxious care since.¡¨

The two psalms credited as ¡§a prayer of David¡¨ in the Bible (Ps 17:1, 86:1) both psalms begin with a thunderous and tenacious imperative (Ps 86:1). The imperative ¡§hear¡¨ means to hearken, heed and honor. Hearing is not to challenge God or to show His ability, answer or advocacy, but to call on Him and seek His assessment, assurance and affirmation. The Hebrew has no ¡§me¡¨ (NIV ¡§hear me¡¨) or the article ¡§the¡¨ (, ¡§the right¡¨). It is objective inspection and interrogation, and not subjective interference and intervention. The subject at hand is righteousness (tsedeq, from which ¡§sadducces¡¨ is derived), of which three psalms (Ps 4:1, 17:1, 58:1) address it right off the bat in verse 1, but none pleads for righteousness more forcefully and fervently at the top from the start with an imperative like Psalm 17. In the Bible it is better to practice righteousness than religion because a righteous man fears and follows God and not flatter or favor men. A righteous man is one who does not engage in folly, falsehood or friction.

There are three imperatives up to verse 5, all in verse 1.The first ¡§hear¡¨ is the famous ¡§Shema¡¨ passage of Deuteronomy (Deut 6:3, 4), the regular word for ¡§hear.¡¨ The next ¡§listen¡¨ comes with the word ¡§cry,¡¨ of which there is more ¡§cry¡¨ (v 1, ¡§listen to my cry¡¨) in Psalms than any book in the Bible. The third imperative ¡§hear¡¨ is different in Hebrew from the first ¡§hear¡¨ in verse 1. The first is the call to prayer, the second is the cry (listen to my cry), and the third is the conscience (it does not rise from deceitful lips).

What are we to pray for? Vindication (v 2) is mostly translated as ¡§judgement.¡¨ The psalmist¡¦s appeal is for vindication and not vengeance, righteousness and not self-righteousness, objectivity and not merely outcome, for God to preside and not punish.

The psalmist¡¦s righteousness is not from pretension, pride or popularity. The audience is heavenly not horizontal, the aim is judgment not justification, and the activity is long-term not short-term. The verb ¡§probe/prove¡¨ (v 3) is more final and finished outcome in Hebrew than the open and ongoing investigation in NIV. It is translated as prove (Ps 17:3), tried (1 Chron 29:17), examine (Ps 26:2). The second verb ¡§examine¡¨ is ¡§visit¡¨ in Hebrew, which is closer to home. The last verb ¡§test¡¨ (v 3) is translated as goldsmiths (Neh 3:8), pure (Ps 119:140), cast (Isa 40:19), refine (Isa 48:10), melt (Jer 6:29). One is the heart, the other is the home ¡V the residence and lodging, and the last is the heat. The first (prove) is the permission, the second (visit) is the place, the third (test) is the process, the last is the product or purpose. The first is by law, the second is at the lodging, and the third is in the lab. The first is investigation, second is intimate, and the last is intense.

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