Read: Psalm 17:9 – 12; Psalm 109:3; Ephesians 6:12; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; 1 John 4:4
The circumstances that gave rise to this psalm involved the presence of enemies. In Psalm 17:9 – 12 David describes them as violent, being on every side of him, deadly, pitiless, arrogant, eager to destroy, lurking in ambush. David was not paranoid; on many occasions in his life he found himself literally surrounded by enemies who sought his life.
Think About It: What are some deadly enemies that God’s people face today? What light does Ephesians 6:12 shed on the question of the true identity of our enemies? How should this inform our response to our enemies? What did Jesus teach about responding to our human enemies?
Prayer: Praise the Lord that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.
Read: Psalm 17:1, 6; Romans 8:26 – 27; 34; Matthew 21:21 – 22; Mark 9:17 – 25
David provided an example of how we should respond when we feel surrounded and overwhelmed by the enemy: he prayed, crying out to God (v.1). He not only prayed, he prayed in faith that God heard his prayer and would answer him (v. 6). David’s faith was no doubt strengthened by his life-long experiences in prayer; often he was surrounded, often he called out to God, always God delivered him.
Think About It: What assurance do I have that God hears my prayers (Romans 8:26 – 27; 34)? Jesus instructed His followers that answered prayer was conditional upon them having faith and not doubting. In light of this, how does Mark 9:24 help me?
Prayer: Lord, I believe; help me where my faith falls short!
Read: Psalm 17:3 – 5; Psalm 66:18; Psalm 51:1 – 4; Colossians 1:13 – 14; 1 John 1:9 – 10
David, in his trouble, prayed from a clear conscience. Interestingly, some rabbinical sources on Psalm 17 place its composition shortly after David’s repentance from the sins of adultery and murder, at the very time his army was still besieging the Ammonite capital of Rabbah (2 Samuel 11). David feared that the Lord might permit his army to suffer defeat because of his sins, and all the more acutely felt his vulnerability to deadly enemies. If this rabbinical interpretation is correct, David’s claim to a clear conscience was not a denial he had sinned. Rather David’s claim to a clear conscience was based on his sincere repentance from his sin. David’s claim “my steps have held fast to your paths” was not denial that he had wandered away, but an affirmation that he had followed God’s path when convicted of sin: he accepted responsibility for his actions, repented, and turned his way back to God.
Think About It: How does a guilty conscience affect a person when they are placed under severe pressure? What is the path that God has provided for sinners to gain a clear conscience? Why is it important to maintain a clear conscience (1 Timothy 1:18)?
Prayer: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Read: Psalm 17:1, 3, 4, 5
David’s prayer in Psalm 17 suggests several facets of a clear conscience. Verses 1 and 3 reveal that a clear conscience is truthful before God, not deceitful (contrast to Isaiah 29:13). The spoken prayer of the clear conscience agrees with the purpose of the heart. The clear conscience therefore willingly stands transparent before God (Psalm 139:23). A clear conscience also purposes to avoid words that transgress (v. 3; Psalm 39:1). Words that transgress include boasting (James 4:16); making rash vows that are left unfulfilled (Ecclesiastes 5:4 – 6); coarse or filthy speech (Ephesians 5:4); taking the Lord’s name in vain, which includes claiming to speak for God when we are only speaking for ourselves (Exodus 20:7); lying (Leviticus 19:11); cursing others (Romans 12:4); slander and gossip (Proverbs 10:18). Psalm 17:4 also indicates that a clear conscience has no violent actions of which it needs to be ashamed (God despises violence – Psalm 11:5).
Think About It: Why is controlling my speech so important (James 3:5 – 8)? How am I doing regarding the types of words that transgress? In what sense are emotional abuse and manipulative behavior forms of violence?
Prayer: Lord, try me and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in Your everlasting way.
Read: Psalm 17:6 – 8; 13; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:1, 4
Surrounded by his enemies, David prayed in faith. Having repented and been forgiven, David prayed with a clear conscience. In his prayer David asked for God’s protection, asking for God to hide him in the shadow of His wings. The “shadow of His wings” is a frequent image in the Psalms. Some commentators liken it to the protection a mother hen offers to her chicks, but most refer the image to that of the Holy of Holies, where the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant was found under the shadow of the wings of the cherubim (Exodus 25:17 – 18). To be in the shadow of His wings is to have an intimate spiritual relationship with God (Psalm 17:15), in which access to His mercy is readily available.
Think About It: Do I have an intimate relationship with God? How can I be assured of access to God (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12)? Do I avail myself of this privilege as I should (Hebrews 4:16)? According to Psalm 17:13 – 14, did David seek personal vengeance on his enemies?
Prayer: Just a closer walk with Thee, grant it Jesus, is my plea; daily walking close to Thee, let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Read: Psalm 17:15; Psalm 73:24; Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 11:16
When we are under pressure we face the temptation to focus on the pain and to respond in fear or anger. David’s great example in Psalm 17:15 is that he focused on God and on things eternal. “Everlasting life and salvation in heaven, is not a truth revealed only by the gospel, but was well known, clearly revealed, and firmly believed, by the saints of old. They had assurance of this, that they should live with God for ever in glory. . .they looked for another country, whereof Canaan was but a type and shadow, as the apostle shows in the epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11:16. They knew there was an eternal state of happiness for the saints, as well as an eternal state of misery for the wicked; they did believe this in those days.” — Samuel Mather (1626–1671).
Think About It: Where is my focus when I am under pressure? Do I really believe like the saints of old? Where am I going to spend eternity? What will it be like for me?
Prayer: Praise God for the hope of glory.
Read: Psalm 17:1 – 5
Psalm 17:1 – 5 presents five elements of prevailing prayer:
- 1 – the cause for prayer must be just (1 John 5:14).
- 1 — The supplicant must have no hidden motives or doubts (James 1:6 – 8; 1 John 3:21 – 22).
- 2– The supplicant must submit to God’s judgment, trusting God to be fair. Prayer is not a contest of wills with God in which we are wrestling to get our own way (Luke 22:42).
- 3– Prevailing prayer comes from a pure heart tested by God. Every thought is brought into submission to Christ, there are no secret compartments in the heart, it is full of truth and light (Psalm 66:18; Psalm 139:23 – 24).
- 3 Prevailing prayer comes from the lips of those who purpose not to transgress with their lips (James 3:2).
- 4 – 5; Prevailing prayer springs form a life directed by God’s Word, a life which does not follow natural inclinations; a life in which the cross is at work (Psalm 119:9 – 11; Galatians 2:20).
Think About It: How could my prayer life better reflect David’s example given in Psalm 17?
Prayer: Lord, not my will, but Thine be done.