Psalm 17 - Hear a Just Cause, O Lord - Page 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

When the psalmist speaks in verse 1, of the prayer that did not go out of “deceitful lips” it is a perfect picture of our perfect Lord. Peter said this about the Lord, “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth" (1 Pe. 2:22). Peter goes on to say about Him, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pe. 2:23).


The word “tried” literally means “proved.” His character was most rigidly tested, at all times, and by all methods, affliction etc.

The Lord Jesus is the only one who could ever have prayed such words as these. He opens up His life for inspection. He says, “Look at my life from all angles and exonerate me,” even the thoughts that came to Him in the dead of night, when so often we find our thoughts and desires wandering off down forbidden paths. There are those who say that Jesus could have sinned and He was tempted by Satan to see if He would. Nonsense! In his incarnation Jesus assumed everything that was essentially human, but He relinquished nothing that was essentially divine. God cannot sin. Jesus went through temptation—through fires and furnaces hotter than anything we could have faced—to prove it. He was sinless! He was pure!


4 Concerning the works of men, By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.

“The works of men”—sinful practices.
The “destroyer” is none other than Satan. Because of his presence in the world, every child of God should be alert. David was in enemy territory, and he was aware of that when he was hiding from Saul. And we are in enemy territory—the earth is Satan’s bailiwick. To the church in Pergamos the Lord said, “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is . . .” (Rev. 2:13). I don’t know where you live today, but some of us think Satan’s throne is very close to Laurens, South Carolina. Our Lord didn’t fall into Satan’s trap, as we often do. The destroyer is thought by some to refer to Saul and his men who are at this very time seeking David with the intention of killing him.

“By the word of Your lips” indicates that Your blessed Word and its rules, provisions, promises, and threatenings, which by deep and frequent meditation I have hid in my heart, is the best antidote for sin and temptation. No matter what Saul and his men had said about him, David was able to affirm to the Lord that he had not spoken evil of the king. In fact, on at least two occasions, David could have slain Saul, but he refused to lay hands on God’s chosen and anointed leader. Saul would have killed David (v. 9, “deadly enemies”), but David obeyed the Word of the Lord and kept himself from violence. Though he was a fugitive in the wilderness, David walked on the paths of the Lord and obeyed God’s Law.


5 Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip.

David seems to open his inner being to the scrutiny and testing of God. He is in the Temple, and through the night he waits before his God, who explores the heart. He prays, and waits, and listens for God to speak; You “uphold my steps in Your paths” (We might say, “You keep me on the straight and narrow.”). He has obeyed God’s Word and that has kept him from going down the same path that evil men have walked. “That my footsteps may not slip” indicates that he has been able to stay consistently on the right path—I haven’t resorted to violence against my enemies even though I had plenty of opportunities to do so. David’s declaration of righteousness was not evidence of pride or hypocrisy but of faithfulness to the Lord in difficult situations. What was it that kept David from a slip that might cause him to fall off the right path? He was able to proceed and persevere in the ways of God through prayer which brought daily fresh supplies of grace and strength from Him.


6 I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.

David knew that God heard him. “I have called upon You”; it has been, and still is, and shall be my constant policy, to come to you for assistance and deliverance. The Lord Jesus Christ identified himself with his own. When He prayed, God heard Him. We can be sure, my friend, that He hears and answers our prayers when we are

in trouble.

The enemy had surrounded him (vv. 9, 11; and see 1 Sam. 23:19-29), and though David was a masterful military tactician, he knew that without the Lord’s help, he could not escape.
These words could have been uttered by the Lord Jesus during that long night of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Surely we should pray like that—that doing God’s will might become an instinctive, intuitive thing in our lives, even in the face of testing, temptation, and trial. There are times in life when the enemies attack is so malicious, so persistent, so pressing that nothing but holy habit keeps us from destruction.


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.

In verses 6 and 7, David recalls God’s loving-kindness to him; that in history and experience the Lord has shown himself to be a God who answers the prayer of the innocent, shows wonderful kindness in His dealings, and saves those who look to Him for safety and protection. The psalmist has need of His help, because he is menaced by men who would take his life—“those who rise up.”

Jehovah is a God of marvels and wonders (Ex. 15:11){2] and great unfailing love (15:13){3], and His right hand works for his people (15:12){4]. If God could deliver His people from Egypt, He could deliver David from the hand of Saul (In Ps. 18 David will celebrate that victory.). David asked for a “marvelous” demonstration of God’s love in the defeat of his enemies.

Three reasons are given in the psalm for why God should hide His suffering servants:
1. Hide me because You know how to be merciful: “Show (that is, set apart as special and eminent”; see Ps. 4:3{5]) Your marvelous lovingkindness.”
2. Hide me for You know how to be mighty: “Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them.” God saves by His right hand, the hand of power.
3. Hide me for You know how to be moved: “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” (v. 8-9).


8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,

Here, and in verse 9, the petition is restated in more moving terms. David uses two images—the eye and the wings—to remind God that he was precious to Him. The “apple” of the eye is the pupil, the most delicate part of the eye. He is thinking of how it is protected by the eyelash, lid, brow, boney socket, and the swiftly uplifted hand. The Hebrew says, “The little man of the eye,” for when you look into someone’s eyes, you can see yourself. Just as we protect our eyes from injury, David wanted the Lord to protect him.

Years ago, God had used a similar expression when He said to Israel, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Deut. 32:11; Ex. 19:4). This is a picture of where we are placed—in the shadow of His wings. Years later, the Lord Jesus said this of Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37).

During Israel’s long sojourn in the land of Egypt, the Israelites became very familiar with their false god’s. The phrase “the shadow of Your wings” may have been a figure of speech suggested by the wings of the symbol of the Egyptian sun-god, or by the wings of the Cherubim, or more simply by the protecting wings of a mother bird. The need for defense is urged by the characterization of the adversaries as “my deadly enemies (v.9).”


9 From the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me.

He is sincerely convinced of his own innocence; therefore, in loyalty and faith the psalmist cries out to God for shelter from his opponents, who are wicked men lying in wait for him; enemies who are seeking his life.

David asked the Lord to make his hiding place a Holy of Holies, the place of God’s throne and God’s glory, protected by the angels of God (see 36:7-8{6]; 57:1{7]; 61:4{8]; 63:7{9]; Ruth 2:12{10]). Because of the heavenly intercession of Jesus Christ, God’s people today can enter into the Holy of Holies and fellowship with God (Heb. 10:1-25).

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