David’s Prayer To God To Be Saved From His Enemies
In every adversity of life, prayer is one of the believer’s greatest weapons, a certain and trusted instrument that brings victory in the face of defeat. And this proved to be true in David’s life as he found himself in perilous situations, calling out to God to deliver him. David learned to put his trust in God, relying on his presence and power to rescue him from harm.
The relevance of Psalm 17 is timeless, speaking to all believers who find themselves under attack from the unrighteous. Such persecution arises as a result of the spiritual warfare in which Christians find themselves, a clash between right and wrong, light and darkness, heaven and hell. In the midst of such conflict, God must be the believer’s first line of defense. And this is precisely where the psalmist found himself in this “prayer of David.”
And this is the first psalm characterized as an intercession to God. Prayer to God is the Christian’s most powerful rebuttal when under attack by godless enemies.
When we do wrong and suffer for it, our consciences tell us that our punishment is just. But it’s another story when our suffering is unrelated to any wrong we have done! This kind of pain – 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. David took his case to the Righteous Judge. There he was confident of a fair trial.
At times David seems to be defending himself in a giant ego-trip. He loudly protests his righteousness, integrity, and obedience. It almost sounds as if he has reached a state of sinless perfection. But this is not the case at all. David is not claiming guiltlessness in all areas of his life, but merely in the present circumstances. He is saying that he did not do anything to provoke the current hostility of his foes.
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 on the things that are upright. Psalms 17:1-2
This psalm begins with the language of the courtroom as David pleaded his case before God, the ultimate chief justice.
We might paraphrase David’s case as follows:
“LORD, I ask you to hear my cause because it is a just one. Listen attentively to what I say, for I am unjustly persecuted. In my plea for justice, I am ‘telling it like it is’ – no deceit or shading of the truth. Before your tribunal, I seek acquittal. Let your eyes see every aspect of the case and then decide in favor of the right.
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. Psalms 17:3-5
“If You test my heart, if You check me out in the darkness as well as in the light – no matter how thoroughly you examine me – you will find that the opposition has no valid reason for harassing me the way they do. Honestly – I am telling the truth. As far as the general wickedness of men is concerned, I have been able to steer clear of violence by staying close to Your word, the Bible. Not by depending on my strength but by Your commands and promises, I have walked in paths of obedience to You. My footsteps haven’t slipped; I hadn’t resorted to violence against my enemies when I had plenty of chance to do so.
David believed that upon God’s scrutiny, his integrity would be preserved.
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. Psalm 17:6-7
Again appealing to God for a response, David asked that the Lord answer him and show the wonder of his great love. Ultimately, the basis of his petition was not his integrity, but God’s loyal love. He pleaded that God would deliver him from trouble by his right hand. David was confident that everyone who took refuge in God would be protected.
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. 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 like a young lion lurking in secret places. Psalm 17:8-12
“Protect me as the apple of Your eye – I’m thinking of the pupil of the eye and how it is ‘protected by the eyelash, lid, brow, bony socket and the swiftly uplifted hand’ (F.B. Meyer). Hide me in the protective and affectionate shadow of Your wings. Then I will be safe from the wicked who rob me of everything I have and seek to take my life itself. As You know so well, their fat hearts are incapable of pity, and their mouths spew out the most frightening boasts of what they are going to do to me. They stealthily track me down. They have now hemmed me in. Their eyes are intent on the final knockout blow. Savage as a lion that is ravenously hungry, and sly as a young lion lurking in the bush, they are ready to tear me to shreds.
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. Psalm 17:13-14
“LORD, You simply must come to my defense. Meet them head on and topple them. With Your sword rescue me from the clutches of these wicked men who are only concerned with what they can get in this life. You have given them more than enough of material things. Even their children have an oversupply – enough to leave to their babes.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15
“Well, they can have it all as far as I’m concerned. My interest lies in spiritual rather than material treasures. It is enough for me that I will look upon Your face as one who has been declared righteous and not as a guilty sinner. I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”
God also promises eternal, spiritual blessings for those who trust him. One day, David knew, he would see God’s face.
Believers Bible Commentary
Holman Old Testament Commentary