1O LORD, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips.
2Declare me innocent, for you see those who do right.
3You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.
I am determined not to sin in what I say.
4I have followed your commands,
which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
5My steps have stayed on your path;
I have not wavered from following you.
6I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
7Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
By your mighty power you rescue
those who seek refuge from their enemies.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
9Protect me from wicked people who attack me,
from murderous enemies who surround me.
10They are without pity.
Listen to their boasting!
11They track me down and surround me,
watching for the chance to throw me to the ground.
12They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart—
like young lions hiding in ambush.
13Arise, O LORD!
Stand against them, and bring them to their knees!
Rescue me from the wicked with your sword!
14By the power of your hand, O LORD,
destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones.
May their children have plenty,
leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
15Because I am righteous, I will see you.
When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Honesty is a core component of living in relationship with others.
Whether the good, the bad, or the ugly - telling the truth to myself and to those with whom I am closest establishes the foundation for the reciprocity that is necessary in any relationship of substance.
In Psalm 17 David is in a worrisome state. The psalm is an open, honest communication between himself and the Lord God. In this plea David hides nothing - opening up candidly to His Creator - he describes the pressures and attacks coming from enemies who are actively threatening to destroy his life ( v 9).
David begins making an adamant plea for God. The name of God used is Yahweh - known from the famous “I AM” interaction with Moses (Exodus 3) and references the fact that God has always existed and will always exist. David implores the "I AM" to provide deliverance, protection, and vindication from the wicked ones who surround the Psalmist’s life....to "rescue me...with Your sword". A vivid picture of God wielding His powerful Word from Hebrews 4:12..."For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart". God is able to cut through all the facade of everyone's intentions with the expert precision of a Master Surgeon.
David's plea in verses 1-2 and 6-9 serve as bookends for the Psalmist’s strong declaration of faithfulness to the ways of God. In other words, in the midst of agony, he asserts that he has lived a life characterized by righteousness. Not his righteousness, but as a keeper of God's word. God is invited to take a in-depth look inspecting David's core for evidence of transgressions. He even gives God permission to do this at night, in the dark, when one’s real thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are perhaps most difficult to hide. His is completely confident that God will find nothing but positive evidence, specifically, an unwavering adherence to the paths and ways of the Lord.
The structure of the Psalm, including the language, suggests the relationship between the David and the Lord God is deeply rooted in vulnerability and honest communication between two living beings. David's uses vivid bodily imagery. God’s ears are asked to hear a cry from the his lips. God’s eyes are asked to look at the his heart. God’s lips are invited to request testimony from others regarding the paths the Psalmist’s feet has trod.
And, in perhaps the most intimate request of this passage, David petitions God to provide protection as the “apple of the eye” and “in the shadow of your wings”. This imagery repeats itself throughout all of Psalm 17, providing a subtle, albeit strong and consistent reminder that God is not like false idols and gods made out of wood or stone. Rather, the LORD God is a living God who remains actively involved in the world.
With its earnest plea, Psalm 71 reminds me that I can bear my deepest burdens and worries to God with confidence, just as David has done. And, like the him, I can ask God to protect me from those things that might harm.
God is never to be viewed as a celestial Santa Claus to whom the world turns to when there is terrible trouble. Rather as Psalm 17 reminds me, my relationship with God is intended to be mutual and substantive, not individualistic and trite. As David's pleas have demonstrated, this relationship is best expressed when I maintain my part of a mutual and familiar covenant: to claim God as my own and to walk in the ways of God whether I find myself in the good, the bad, or the ugliest of situations.
Of course, I must participate in this relationship confidently. David in Psalm 17 has provided yet another wonderful example. I voice my pleas and petitions to the God who will answer and who will show steadfast love, mercy and grace - as God has done, is doing, and will continue to do for all those who seek refuge in His arms.