As I was sitting alone last night waiting for a Bible Study to start, I was looking for comforting psalms of the Bible that express my own spiritual state right now. As it happened, I came across Psalm 17, and the psalm expressed my own spiritual state as well as the oppression and wickedness that I have suffered despite my own uprightness. I’m not sure what situation King David faced when he wrote this psalm, but I know that it is deeply appropriate for my own present experiences, and I have found comfort in it. Ironically enough, a friend of mine comforted me with this psalm this morning, not knowing initially that I had already found comfort in it already.
Psalm 17 is a psalm of confidence in God’s righting the wrongs of this world, examining the contrast between the righteous and persecuted and the wicked and comfortable. The psalm is worded very strongly, bringing our attention to the unpleasant truth that this life is often full of injustice, but that we have a God who will vindicate the just, even if we never receive justice in this lifetime. Let us hope that we do not have to wait that long, but if we do, let us remain confident that truth will eventually prevail, in the long run. In the meantime, let us look at Psalm 17 passage by passage to point out its clear and unmistakable meaning.
Psalm 17:1-2 reads: “Hear a just cause, O Lord, attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from Your presence; let Your eyes look upon the things that are upright.” While none of us are perfect and entirely blameless in the eyes of God, David (like me) knew that his cause was just and that God would vindicate Him from the slanders and attacks of the wicked. David knew that his prayers came from sincere and honest lips, and that God would vindicate him in this particular matter. Knowing that one has behaved honorably allows us to have faith that God will provide justice for us, and allows us to endure the temporary injustice we face here and now.
Psalm 17:3-5 reads: “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. Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip.” David here knows that God has examined his heart, and while he is not perfect, his intentions are pure and honorable and that there is nothing wicked in these. I have this same confidence myself, and therefore I too echo the combination of confidence in general moral probity along with the plea that God would guard my footsteps in His ways so that we might not transgress by either word or deed.
Psalm 17:6-9 reads: “I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech. Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, o You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, from my deadly enemies who surround me.” Sadly, I understand this state of mind all too well. In circumstances where enemies and oppression surround a believer, it is essential to know that God will deliver His people through or out of such trials, whatever the schemes and deceptions and slander of mankind. And as believers can rely upon the grace of God–and this was as true for David as it is for us–we can be confident that whatever the wicked do, it will work out for God’s will anyway.
Psalm 17:10-12 reads: “They have closed up their fat hearts; with their mouths they speak proudly. They have now surrounded us in our steps; they have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth, as a lion is eager to tear his prey, and a young lion lurking in secret places.” There are two types of lions in the Bible, and this passage clearly talks about the satanic lion seeking whom he may devour. The wicked are exploitative, glorying in the damage and destruction they can cause to the innocent, not caring for the feelings or honor of others, but simply seeking their own sport or mischief. Those who take comfort in their stealth or their connections or their resources will come to nothing if they seek to thwart the will of God or attack the people of God.
Finally, Psalm 17:13-15 reads: “Arise, O Lord, confront him, cast him down; deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword, 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. As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” While the wicked trust in what will happen to them in this life, seeking after the flesh, the righteous will only be satisfied upon entrance into the Kingdom of God, when we will see our Lord and Savior face to face and receive our reward for faith.
It is obviously not an ideal situation to feel surrounded by enemies, and to have to deal with the machinations of people with little regard for truth, but when one is in such a situation, it is important to know that God is faithful to His people and that He will avenge those who put their trust in Him. With this faith and this courage, we are then able to live righteously, to know that we are people of honor and integrity, and to wait for God’s justice to show itself in its own proper time. In the mean time, all we can do is keep on living and behaving uprightly and in integrity, come what may.