Psalm 17 - Hear a Just Cause, O Lord - Page 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

10 They have closed up their fat hearts; With their mouths they speak proudly.

In verses 10-12 there is a third reason given for God’s intervention and action against the psalmist’s enemies. He has already (v. 9) described them as ungodly, violent, bloodthirsty men from whom there is no hope of escape. He now goes on to say that they cannot be touched by any appeal for pity for “They have closed up their fat hearts,” that is, their hearts are numb to the perception and feeling of pity, that is, hearts that were callous from repeated disobedience to the Lord. In Scripture, “fatness” is sometimes associated with a selfish and worldly lifestyle (73:1-9; 119:70{11]; Isa. 6:10{12]), and at other times with being prosperous (wealthy). These people were morally and spiritually insensitive to what was right and weren’t upset when they did something wrong. Paul called this a seared heart (1 Tim. 4:2){13].

“They speak proudly” (arrogantly) because they are confident of their strength. Their mouths spew out the most frightening boasts of what they are going to do to David. They stealthily track him down. They have now “surrounded us” (v. 11), and intently “set their eyes” on us and intend to deliver the final knockout blow (vv. 11-12). Savage as a “lion” (v. 12) that is ravenously hungry, and sly as a young lion lurking in the brush, they are ready to “tear” me to shreds (v. 12).David’s enemies were not only prosperous and proud, they were persistent. They live in great splendor and prosperity, while David must hide in a cave, live off the charity of those who have remained loyal to him, and experience many and severe troubles.

11 They have now surrounded us in our steps; They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth,

The psalmist is not that concerned about God’s enduring protection, because he is convinced that God will help him. But the question is, when that protection will be made manifest, when the accusations will be proved false.

“They have now surrounded us in our steps.” We go from place to place, to rocks, to caves, to woods; but wherever we go they are not far behind and ready to surround us (1 Sam. 23:26){14]. “They have set their eyes.” They have found us, they keep their eyes on us, and we are unable to escape.

“Crouching down to the earth” suggests that they lay down on the ground so they will not be discovered, while always watching us and waiting for the best time to surprise us.

12 As a lion is eager to tear his prey, And like a young lion lurking in secret places.

David is crying out to God for protection from their leader who is pursuing him like a lion tracking its prey, ready to tear him apart. He is surrounded (v. 11) by his enemies—they are closing in, eager to thrust him down to the ground, their hostile eyes upon him—poised like a lion before he leaps.

13 Arise, O Lord, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,

“Cast down” can be translated “make him crouch down like a lion that has been subdued” (see verse 12). “Confront him, cast him down” indicates that the psalmist has singled out one of his enemies for God’s special attention, probably the leader. This man, as well as the rest of his enemies, lived for time, not for eternity, and for their own pleasures, and not for the glory of God. (See Luke 6:8, 25{15]; James 5:5{16]) He has in mind here that the Lord, in some decisive way, will answer him, deliver him from his enemies, and vindicate him.

David knew that nothing could happen that was not God’s will. “Not My will, but Thine be done” was the very prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. He trusted God in His circumstance, “even though that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God” included a cross and a tomb. That’s the way to deal with circumstances beyond us.

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.

“From men of the world who have their portion in this life,” we understand that God was storing up judgment for David’s enemies (Matt. 23:32{17]; 1 Thess. 2:16{18]), and their only reward would be in this life, not in the afterlife. Most men look on the things of this world as the best things, and they don’t care to provide for another life. The most afflicted Christian doesn’t need to envy the most prosperous men of the world, who have their portion in this life. The “men of the world” were full, they had many children who lacked nothing, and they would leave their wealth to their descendents. But the consequences of their sins would also be inherited by their descendents (Ex. 34:7{19]; Num. 14:18{20]). “May they have their punishment in full. May their children inherit more of the same, and may the judgment continue to their children's children” (v. 14 NLT).
David’s final petition is a passionate plea for vengeance: “Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,” that is, counter their sword with thy sword; and “may your hand destroy them and remove them from the land of the living.” “Whose belly” means mind or appetite as the word is used in Job 20:20{21], and Proverbs 20:30{22].

“With Your hidden treasure,” that is, with the choicest and most precious good things, such as that which men hide or keep in a vault, and extraordinary wealth and glory, and all the delights and comforts of this present life.

“They are satisfied with children, And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.” You have given them more than enough of material things. Even their “children” have an oversupply—enough to “leave” to “their babes.”

15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

The psalmist ends by expressing his conviction that the Lord has heard him, and by speaking of his glorious future: seeing God’s face and sharing God’s likeness. Obviously he is not setting his hope on the life after death, since at the moment he is hiding in a cave, and he calls out to God to deliver him in the life that now is. David knows that God is going to deliver him and that one day he will be in His presence. This is one of the few psalms that touches on the future life (see 16:11{23]; 73:23-26{24]). At the moment, however, the enemy seems to be so strong and powerful. “I will see Your face in righteousness”: He will be vindicated, and because of the righteousness of his life he will, in contrast to his enemies, enjoy God’s favor and grace. “When I awake”: After the night of testing (v. 3), whether the testing is by an examination of the heart or by some ordeal meant to challenge his faith, the psalmist will have the privilege of close fellowship with God. He is confident, not only that God will manifest his innocence, but that his vindication and assurance will be given him at a moment of intimate spiritual experience. In verse 3 the psalmist has in mind the spending of the night in the Temple under the examination of God. But when he wakes in the morning, he is confident that he will have God’s answer, a vision from God, a sense of His reality, nearness, and His acceptance of him— in Your likeness. “When I awake in Your likeness” is a phrase that brings to mind the resurrection of the body that will be experienced by all believers. David was confident that God would answer his prayers and would resurrect him after his death. “Your likeness” is a word that implies a more intimate relationship than “thy face.” David says, “I do not envy their happiness, because my happiness and satisfaction comes from another source. I do not desire earthly and temporal treasures, as they do. My great desire is to behold God’s face, that is, the enjoyment of God’s presence and favor; which is indeed enjoyed to some extent in this life, but to a much greater extent in the life that comes after death, when we shall see His face and be like Him.

Happiness in the other world is prepared only for those who are justified and sanctified: they shall be put in possession of it when the soul awakes, at death, out of its slumber in the body, and when the body awakes at the resurrection, out of its slumber in the grave. There is no satisfaction for a soul unless it is in Christ, and in His good will toward us, and His good work in us; yet that satisfaction will not be perfect until we enter heaven.

You and I as God’s children look out on a world that is against us. We are like the little boy playing in a vacant lot who saw a big old weed growing there and decided to pull it out of the ground. As he was pulling, a man happened by, stopped, and watched him. The little fellow would pull on one side and grunt, then get on the other side and pull. Finally, with one great supreme effort the little fellow pulled, the roots of the weed gave way, and he fell back with a bump. For a few moments he set there, shocked. The man who had been watching him said, “Son that was a mighty big pull.” The boy replied, “It sure was ‘cause the whole world was pulling against me.” My friend, that is the position of the child of God today, but we have a resource and a recourse by coming to our Heavenly Father. This is what our Lord did while He was on earth, and so did David when He was in real danger.

Though David may have thought of spiritual blessings and God’s presence, the words lend themselves nicely to believers today, who with full New Testament revelation can anticipate a far more glorious prospect than they experience in this life. What a psalm to help those who are in trouble today—especially when we find we have enemies who are against us. Most of us who stand for God have enemies—we have enemies just like a dog has fleas! They seem to be part of a Christian’s life.

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