Psalm 17

A Prayer for Salvation

A Prayer by David.

1 Hear, YHWH, my righteous plea;
Give ear to my prayer, that doesn't go out of deceitful lips.
2 Let my sentence come forth from your presence.
Let your eyes look on equity.
3 You have proved my heart.
You have visited me in the night.
You have tried me, and found nothing.
I have resolved that my mouth shall not disobey.
4 As for the works of men, by the word of your lips,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths.
My feet have not slipped.
6 I have called on you, for you will answer me, God.
Turn your ear to me.
Hear my speech.
7 Show your marvelous loving kindness,
you who save those who take refuge by your right hand from their enemies.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye.
Hide me under the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who oppress me,
my deadly enemies, who surround me.
10 They close up their callous hearts.
With their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now surrounded us in our steps.
They set their eyes to cast us down to the earth.
12 He is like a lion that is greedy of his prey,
as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.
13 Arise, YHWH, confront him.
Cast him down.
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword;
14 from men by your hand, YHWH,
from men of the world, whose portion is in this life.
You fill the belly of your cherished ones.
Your sons have plenty,
and they store up wealth for their children.
15 As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness.
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with seeing your form.

World English Bible Version

When have you been faced with adversaries? How did you pray in that situation?

At some point in life, we all face an opponent, someone who actively blocks our plans, ambitions, or our movement. Their opposition can be based on principle or simply upon a mean spirit. Their efforts seem to be unbending and relentless. What can we do? Our only recourse is prayer.

How do we address God in this trying time? Psalm 17 gave us a model of such prayer. The focus of prayer bounced between the supplicant, God, and the adversary. The following is an outline of the psalm, along with comments:

17:1-2 Introduction: Prayer for vindication against enemies. The supplicant claims the prayer was just (or is addressed to a just God, depending upon the translation of the Hebrew), then declared himself as innocent ("lips free of deceit"). Justice and innocence set the tone of the psalm.

17:3-5 Defense of innocence and righteousness. The supplicant asked YHWH to test him in the three arenas of faithfulness: intent (the heart in 17:3a), speech (the mouth in 17:3b), and action (the steps and feet in 17:5). The time of test seemed dark (visit the supplicant at night in 17:3a), but the supplicant observed the Law without fault ("shunned the way of the violent and held to the way of the Lord" in 17:4b-5a; the way of YHWH echoed the Exodus experience).

17:6-7 Declaration of YHWH's covenant love and faithfulness. In 17:7, the declaration of "steadfast love" was a reference to God's offer of the covenant with Israel. The supplicant based his prayer in the context of YHWH's relationship with his people.

17:8-9 Prayer for deliverance (Part I). The prayer began with an appeal of divine attention and protection. "Keep me in sight (in the apple of your eye)" meant "look upon me with kindness and approval." "Hide me in the shadow of your wing" referred either to the way large birds (eagles?) protect their young with their wings or to protective shadow of the winged cherubim that surrounded the divine throne.

17:10-12 Description of the adversaries as evil. The three arenas of faithfulness were again alluded to. The hearts (intent) of the enemy were closed to pity; their mouths (speech) spoke arrogantly (17:10). Their feet (action) tracked down the supplicant (17:11a). In all three cases, the focus of the opponent was on the destruction of the righteous, not on the Torah; in other words, the supplicant implied his enemies were law-breakers.

17:13-14 Prayer for deliverance (Part II). The supplicant prayed not only for deliverance, but for vengeance, even to the point of heirs (17:14c).

17:15 Statement of psalmist's focus. The supplicant concluded with the statement of intent. He would behold God's glory (face and form), even after the defeat of enemies (in the morning, when he awoke). This verse acknowledged the danger would pass, and faithfulness would outlast the danger.

As a whole, the psalm affirmed faith in the face of adversity. Yes, God, we need your help. Yes, we are faithful and our enemies are evil. But, most important, yes, life does go on even beyond the crisis. If there is a lesson in the psalm, we can find it in verse 15. Faith is an exercise in hope beyond trouble.

We do live in trying, even troubled, times. The test of our times does not lie our resolve or our creative response to challenges, but to our faith. Can we pray for justice and see the day when justice is fulfilled? Can we see God beyond the clouds of uncertainty? When we pray for salvation, do we pray, not only for relief, but for a closer walk with the Lord?

Pray Psalm 17 this week. As you pray, keep two things in mind: the relief God offers and your need to greater faith in the midst of crisis.