Summary: This psalm reveals David’s trust in God, but in the final analysis it speaks primarily of the Lord Jesus Christ.
April 5, 2014
A Psalm of David.
Psalm 17 (KJV)
Title: Hear a Just Cause, O Lord
1 A Prayer of David. Hear a just cause, O Lord, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
2 Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.
3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
4 Concerning the works of men, By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
5 Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip.
6 I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
7 Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,
9 From the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They have closed up their fat hearts; With their mouths they speak proudly.
11 They have now surrounded us in our steps; They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth,
12 As a lion is eager to tear his prey, And like a young lion lurking in secret places.
13 Arise, O Lord, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
14 With Your hand from men, O Lord, From men of the world who have their portion in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. They are satisfied with children, And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
Psalm 17 is titled, “A Prayer of David.” Three psalms are titled “A Prayer of David (17, 86, 142). The question is, “When was it written?” It seems to be a prayer that came out of his wilderness experience. It probably concerns the time when Saul and his men were almost upon him and came close to taking him. This psalm reveals David’s trust in God, but in the final analysis it speaks primarily of the Lord Jesus Christ. The psalm can also be a prayer for us today when we find ourselves in similar situations of trial, anxiety, or danger. As we study this psalm, keep in mind that we are studying a series of psalms which have the characteristic features of the class designated laments of individuals; included are Psalms 3, 4, 5, and 7. Another group of expositors include this psalm in a group of five identified as “prayers” (17, 86, 90, 102, 142). I don’t think it matters where this psalm is placed, so we will move on.
When we do wrong and suffer for it, our own conscience tells us our punishment is just. But it is another story when our suffering is unrelated to anything we have done! This kind of suffering—the “suffering for righteousness sake,” as Peter calls it—is a perennial puzzle to the Child of God. David knew his share of it. But he also knew what to do about it. He took his case to the Righteous Judge. There he was confident of a fair trial. The psalmist is petitioning God for deliverance from enemies who menace his life (vv. 10-12). They have made charges against him (vv. 1-2), of which he vigorously protests his innocence. It is not clear what the charges were, but from verses 4 and 5 it appears that he was accused of committing some act or acts tantamount to the crime of robbery or violence. His last court of appeal is God. In the temple (v. 8) he pleads for vindication. We are not told how the answer was communicated, but it may be safe to assume that it came through divine revelation given by a prophet of God. The lament ends in the usual way for such psalms, on a note of confidence.
At times, David’s defense seems like it is coming from a man on a giant ego trip. He loudly declares his righteousness, integrity, and obedience. It almost sounds like he has reached a state of sinless perfection. But this is really not the case at all. David is not claiming guiltlessness in all areas of his life, but simply in the present circumstances. He is saying that he did not do anything to provoke the current hostility of his foes.