Psalm 17

A prayer of David.

1 Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
    listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
    it does not rise from deceitful lips.
2 Let my vindication come from you;
    may your eyes see what is right.

3 Though you probe my heart,
    though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
    my mouth has not transgressed.
4 Though people tried to bribe me,
    I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
5 My steps have held to your paths;
    my feet have not stumbled.

6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
7 Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
    from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,
    and their mouths speak with arrogance.
11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
    with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
    like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
    with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
    from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
    may their children gorge themselves on it,
    and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.


David opens this psalm asking for God to listen to him. He claims that his plea is just and that his lips are not deceitful. Translated directly from the Hebrew this first line is more accurately read, “Yahweh, give a concerned ear to your child in whom you have bestowed righteousness, and hear my joyous proclamation because I am not a child who wishes to deceive you”. David is setting the stage for what he will ask by proclaiming that he is indeed a child of God because of God’s mercy toward him, and this is cause for celebration. David wants to praise God and for God to understand that he praises Him no matter what the outcome, but he will also ask for help. He makes clear that though he is imperfect, his inner desire is to obey God, and not to give Him lip service so he gets what he wants. In verse 2 David asks that because of his uprightness before Him, that God judge rightly on his behalf.

He continues asking for examination in verses 3-5. He knows that God is forever probing his heart to examine his intentions. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:10. David speaks of God visiting him at night and testing him. There will be times in our lives when sleep will evade us due to the sanctification of our hearts. Has there ever been a time when you dream the same dream and it awakes you because you don’t like who you are in that dream? This is testing. God is not only the God of our conscious state, but of our unconscious as well. He can use whatever means He deems fit to mold us into the image of His Son.

Though David is probed, he is confident that his heart has planned no evil. As a man or woman of God, as He changes us, our intentions become directed to what He desires for us. It becomes apparent that what we want is to please Him, though that doesn’t always work out like we hoped. It seems that David is saying that his intentions are set only for good, to please the Lord – his heart wants what God wants. He is mindful to keep his affairs separate from the worldly men that surround him because he knows what God commands.

Again David boldly asks God for help, knowing that He will answer. What faith it requires to know that God is listening and will answer! “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6. He asks for God to intercede on his behalf against his enemies, and surely thinks upon the past wonders that God has bestowed upon His servants to save them from calamity. David speaks of God saving by His right hand (imagery that implies power and often accompanies the person or work of Christ) those who seek refuge in Him. David asks that God keep him as the apple of His eye and hide him in the shadow of His wings – beautiful words that explore the depths of how deeply God loves him and wants him close.

In verse 9 David moves on in his prayer to speak about the people he needs protection from. The word for what David says as ‘wicked’ here also means ‘guilty of crime / hostile to God’. It is likely that as he writes the psalm he is on the run from King Saul who despises David because he is the chosen king of Israel by God. David calls his enemies ‘mortal’, knowing that they are able to be destroyed by the Immortal God. Opposite to verse 3 where David speaks of God probing his heart, verse 10 describes the enemy as having a calloused heart – one that repeatedly hardens to God. We have seen this same thing in respect to Pharaoh during the exodus. Because of his repeated resistance God finally closed off his heart for good. “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” – Romans 9:18. David also compares the enemies speech to that of his own saying that they speak with arrogance, while in verse 3 he admits that no transgression has crossed his lips.

Verses 11 – 13 seem to be the climax in this psalm, where David is surrounded on all sides and about to be pounced upon, all the while clinging fast to God and hoping for a miracle. Verse 14 is a sober reminder of the reality of most souls in this world. A relationship with the All Mighty God is more than what it seems on the surface – it is eternal life redemption. For those who are calloused and refuse to seek God for truth this place is the best that will ever befall them. David understand this when he says, “those whose reward is in this life”. It seems that David has a sort of pity for them at the end of the verse when he asks God to fill their bellies with what they have in store. It’s like he is saying, “if this is all they have to look forward to then give them more of it so they can be satisfied”.

As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

With all of this in mind David closes his psalm with the reminder that whatever happens he will awake – maybe the next day, maybe in eternity – with the satisfaction of knowing that he is secure in his walk with God. Even David knew what we are learning each day: that we are being made into the likeness of Christ, and we will spend eternity with Him.

2 thoughts on “Psalm 17

  1. If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)


  2. Carl,
    I am guessing that your comment is in retaliation to when David says that he has planned no evil and also the part I talked about where he intentionally did not sin. At the time he wrote this psalm he had yet to sleep with Bathsheba. However, even during that account David’s mind was blinded to the sin he was committing. It took the prophet Nathan to explain to him that he had offended God. Not that it’s excusable – God didn’t excuse it and took the life of the child they bore.
    As a Christian I understand that I am not, nor will I ever be perfect. I will sin every day just like everyone else, but the difference is that I do not intend to. Never again will I contemplate the things I once took action upon. I am in a place of being made new – and I will never be made perfect while here in this life. That is why I must rely on what Christ has done for me to cover my sins before God. I mourn deeply over the sin in my life now when I know that I have done it, and I pray daily that God would reveal the sins I cannot see so that I will be aware that I am doing them and ask for His help to change.

    Hope that helps.. very thought provoking.


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