BOOK ONE Psalms 1–41
In Psalm 17 David is in great distress and danger from his enemies. He prays to God and seeks shelter in Him. Again he is a type of Christ, who was perfectly innocent, and yet was hated and persecuted. Like David, Christ committed Himself and His cause to Him who judges righteously.
Psalm 17 – A Psalm of David
Hear a just cause, O Lord, Attend to my cry. Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips and let my vindication come from Your presence. Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright for You have tested my heart and 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.
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. You who save those who trust in You from those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, From the wicked who oppress me and From my deadly enemies who surround me. They have closed up their fat hearts; With their mouths they speak proudly.
Arise O Lord
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. 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. As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
Henry says – This psalm is a prayer. Just as there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice, so there is a time for praise and a time for prayer. David was now persecuted, probably by Saul, who hunted him like a bird on the mountains. On the outside were fightings, within there were fears. They both urged him toward the throne of mercy.
I know You will hear me
God gives us freedom to express our earnest desire for His gracious answers to our prayers. David pleads with God on account of his sincerity. He meant what he spoke, and his feelings agreed with the expressions of his mouth. If our hearts lead our prayers, God will meet them with His favour. It will be a great comfort to us when trouble comes if our wheels of prayer have been in perpetual motion. Tradesmen are willing to oblige those who have been long-standing customers. David was encouraged by his faith to expect God to take notice of him: “I know You will hear me, and therefore, O God, incline Your ear to me.” Our believing dependence on God is a good plea to petition our desires towards Him.
Lord, let my sentence come forth from Your presence, Ps. 17:2. Men sentence me to be pursued and cut off as an evil-doer. Lord, I appeal from them to You.” This he did before Saul’s face in (1 Sam. 24:12; The Lord judge between me and you), and he repeats it here in his private devotions. If we are blackened, abused and misrepresented, by unrighteous men, it is a comfort that we have a righteous God to go to. He will take our part, who is the patron of the oppressed and whose judgment is according to truth. Sincerity dreads no scrutiny.
You have proved my heart
God’s omniscience is as much the joy of the upright as it is the terror of hypocrites. It is of comfort to those who are falsely accused. David expects a good trial. (Ps. 17:3): You have proved my heart. God’s sentence is therefore right, because He always proceeds from His knowledge which is infallible.
He knew God had tried him, the spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord. With this God had searched him, and visited him in the night, when he communed with his own heart upon his bed. He had submitted himself to the search and had seriously reviewed the actions of his life. But he could not find that which his enemies charged him with. God had tried him by the opportunity he had, once and again, to kill Saul. Yet there was nothing found against him, no proof at all of the things they accused him of.
A fixed resolution
David’s conscience confirmed that he had a fixed resolution against all sins of the tongue: “I have purposed and fully determined, in the strength of God’s grace, that my mouth shall not transgress.” He does not say, “I hope that it will not,” or, “I wish that it may not,” but, “I have fully purposed that it shall not.” Constant resolution and watchfulness against sins of the tongue will be a good evidence of our integrity. If any offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, Jas. 3:2. David had been as careful to refrain from sinful actions as from sinful words (Ps. 17:4): “Concerning the common works of men, the actions and affairs of human life, I have, by the direction of Your word, kept myself from the paths of the destroyer.”
David had kept himself from all evil works, and endeavoured, according to the duty of his place, to keep others from them too. The ways of sin are paths of the destroyer, of the devil, whose name is Abaddon and Apollyon, a destroyer, who ruins souls by decoying them into the paths of sin. It concerns us all to keep out of the paths of the destroyer. It is by the Word of God, as our guide and rule, that we must keep out of these paths, Ps. 119:9. If we carefully avoid all the paths of sin, it will be asssit us when we are in trouble. If we keep ourselves, that the wicked one cannot touch us with his temptations (1 John 5:18), we may hope he will not be able to touch us with his terrors.
Fetch in daily supplies
David prays for the work of God’s grace in him (Ps. 17:5): Lord, I have, by Your grace, kept myself from evil; by the same grace let me be kept in Your paths. Let me not only be restrained from doing what is evil, but quickened to abound always in that which is good. Let me not turn back from them nor turn aside from them. That I may not stumble and fall into sin, that I may not trifle and neglect my duty. Lord, as You have kept me, so keep me still.” Those who are, through grace, going in God’s paths, have need to pray that their goings may be held up in those paths. For we stand no longer than He is pleased to hold us, we go no further than He is pleased to lead us, bear us up, and carry us.
David had been kept in the way of his duty so far, and yet he does not think that this would be his security for the future, and therefore prays, “Lord, still hold me up.” Those who would persevere in the way of God must, by faith and prayer, fetch in daily fresh supplies of grace and strength from Him. David was sensible that his way was slippery, that he himself was weak, and not so well fixed as he should be. There were those who watched for him to slip, and therefore he prays, “Lord, hold me up, that my foot may not slip, that I may never say nor do anything that looks either dishonest or distrustful of You and Your providence and promise.”
Be gracious to me
David eyes God as the protector and Saviour of His people, so he takes his encouragement in prayer: O You who saves by Your right hand (by Your own power) those who put their trust in You. It is the character of God’s people that they trust in Him. His secret is with the righteous; and they make Him their trust, for to Him they commit themselves. Those who trust in God may have many enemies, but they have one friend that is able to deal with them all. And if He be for them who can be against them? His almighty power is engaged for them, and they have all found Him ready to save them.
David expects of God: Show Your marvellous loving-kindness. “Set apart Your loving-kindnesses for me. Be gracious to me, as You used to do to those who love Your name.” Lord, testify Your favour to me in such a way that I and others may wonder at it.” God’s loving-kindness is marvellous in its freeness and fulness (Ps. 118:23), It will certainly appear so in the salvation of the saints, when Christ shall come to be glorified in the saints and to be admired in all those who believe.
Hide me close
David prays to God to preserve him safely through all the attempts against him and his crown. This prayer is a prediction of the preservation of Christ through all the hardships and difficulties of His humiliation. Also to the glories and joys of His exalted state, and a pattern to Christians to commit the keeping of their souls to God. To trust Him to preserve them to His heavenly kingdom.
He prays, that he himself might be protected (Ps. 17:8): “Keep me safe, hide me close, where I may not be found. Deliver my soul, not only my mortal life from death, but my immortal spirit from sin.” Those who put themselves under God’s protection may in faith receive the benefit of it. He prays that God would keep him with as much care as a man keeps the apple of his eye. If we keep God’s law as the apple of our eye (Prov. 7:2), we may expect that God will so keep us.
Let them not triumph over me
With as much tenderness as the hen gathers her young ones under her wings with; Christ uses the similitude, Matt. 23:37. “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, where I may be both safe and warm.” It also alludes to the wings of the cherubim shadowing the mercy-seat: “Let me be taken under the protection of that glorious grace which is peculiar to God’s people.”
David further prays, “Lord, keep me from the men of the world,” “From being, and doing, like them, from walking in their counsel, and eating their dainties.” “From being destroyed and run down by them. Let them not triumph over me.” “Arise, O Lord! appear for me.” While Saul persecuted David, how often did he miss his prey, when he thought he had him for sure! And how Christ’s enemies were disappointed by His resurrection, who thought they had gained their point when they had put him to death!
They track us
David’s enemies are said to wallow in pleasure, and promise themselves that tomorrow shall be as today. With their mouth they speak proudly, gloryfying themselves and insulting God’s people. See Rev. 13:5, 6. They circle about, Ps. 17:9. They track us wherever we go and yet pretend to look another way. “The ringleader, Saul, was bloody and barbarous (Ps. 17:12), like a lion greedy of its prey.” It is as much the meat and drink of a wicked man to do mischief as it is of a good man to do good.
David expects deliverance from God’s hand because from God’s hand the trouble came—The same hand wounds and heals. It is very comforting, when we are in fear of the power of man, to see it dependent upon and in subjection to the power of God; see Isa. 10:6, 7, 15. “Lord, appear against them, for, they are entirely devoted to the world, and do not care not for You or Your favour. They walk according to the dictates of this world, in love with the wealth and pleasure of it and have their portion in this life.
In comparison they are but trash
Shall men of this character be supported against those who honour You and Your favour? Ps. 16:5. They have enlarged appetites: Their bellies You fill with Your hidden treasures. The things of this world are called treasures. In comparison to a soul with eternal blessings, they are but trash. The earth is God’s and all its fulness. Though the men of the world think it is theirs and forget God’s ownership of it. Those who eat deliciously every day have their bellies filled with these hidden treasures. But they will not fill the soul nor can they be satisfied, Isa. 55:2. They are ashes and wind. Yet most men, have no care for their souls, but all for their bellies, fill themselves up.
They have numerous families, and a great deal to leave to them. They are full of children, and have enough for them all, leaving their substance to their babes, to their grand-children. This is their heaven, it is their bliss, it is their all. “Lord,” said David, “deliver me from them; let me not have my portion with them. Deliver me from their designs against me. They have so much wealth and power that I am not able to deal with them unless the Lord be on my side.”
But as for me
He pleads his own dependence on God as his portion and happiness. “They have their portion in this life, but as for me (Ps. 17:15) I have but little of the world—neithering having, nor need, nor care for it. It is the vision and fruition of God that I place my happiness in. That is what I hope for, and comfort myself with. And so I distinguish myself from those who have their portion in this life.”
Beholding God’s face with satisfaction is considered our duty and comfort in this world. We must in righteousness (clothed with Christ’s righteousness, having a good heart and a good life) by faith behold God’s face and set Him always before us. We must entertain ourselves from day to day with the contemplation of the beauty of the Lord.
Satisfied with His Word
When we awake every morning, we must be satisfied with His Word, and with His likeness stamped upon us by His renewing grace. Our experience of God’s favour to us, and our conformity to Him, should yield us more satisfaction than those who have their belly filled.
Happiness is prepared and designed only for the righteous that are justified and sanctified. They shall be put in possession of it when the soul awakes at the resurrection, out of its slumber in the grave. That blessedness will consist of an immediate vision of God and His glory. I shall behold Your face, not, as in this world, through a glass darkly. The knowledge of God will be perfected and the enlarged intellect filled with it. Our holiness will be perfect there. I shall be abundantly satisfied. There is no satisfaction for a soul but in God, in His face, in His likeness and His good-will and good work in us. It shall be made perfect when we arrive in heaven.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Only in the Lord is our satisfaction Nothing can satisfy the entire man but the Lord’s love No sound is there like His call. To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love Being fully assured of union with Him - this is our all in all. No other style of life is better than those of Christ If you roam around from place to place Indeed if you cover the whole world you will see no sights Like the sight of the Saviour’s face. If you would have all the comforts of life, Everything that could command a price But if you lost your Saviour, you would be wretched But if you win Christ, it is a paradise. Should you live in obscurity or die in famine abroad You will yet be satisfied with favour And full of the goodness of the Lord. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. May I be full of sincerity. That, like David, I mean what I say and for my feelings to agree with my mouth. May my prayers be heart-felt that I may expect You to meet me with Your favours. Let the wheels of my prayer-life be in perpetual motion. I depend on You. When I am abused and misrepresented I thank You that I can take comfort that I have a righteous God to go to. You support me.
By Your grace keep me from all evil. May I have a fixed resolution against all sins of the tongue, that by Your grace I may not transgress. Your Word is my guide and rule, to keep out of these paths. By Your grace keep me in Your paths abounding always in that which is good. Cause me to fetch in daily supplies of grace and strength from You. To You I commit my soul. I trust You to preserve me to Your heavenly Kingdom.
I put myself under Your protection and Your glorious grace. Help me keep Your law as the apple of my eye. Keep me also from the ways of this world. From being, and doing, like them, from walking in their counsel. I declare that I have no need, nor care for this world. It is only in the vision and fruition of Your purposes that I place my happiness in. That is what I hope for, and comfort myself with.
To behold Your face with satisfaction is my comfort in this world. Clothed with Christ’s righteousness, I set Your face always before me. When I awake every morning, I will be satisfied with Your Word, and with Your likeness stamped upon me by Your renewing grace. You are the satisfaction of my soul. May I grow in Your likeness. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.
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