Friday, December 2, 2022

For You Will Answer Me: Thoughts on Psalm 17

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 17:6).
Psalm 17 is a lament and prayer of David. In it David anticipates the joy of being in Yahweh's presence. David prays for God's help; for the defeat of his enemies, who are wicked and unfaithful, confident that God will hear and answer him.  
David prays for deliverance from his enemies. These are the ungodly men who do not have faith in God, nor keep His covenant. David is confident that God will answer him for three reasons: David is faithful, keeping God’s covenant; God is loving; David's enemies are ungodly and evil (v. 1-5). 
David prays that he has kept himself from the ways of the violent. He is free from the kinds of wicked and unjust deeds that his enemies are committing. He is inviting God to see that because of his faith, David is a good tree that bears good fruit. He isn't claiming to be without sin. David's confidence is based on his own faith that God will keep His promises, not on how good David’s own works are.
In reality it isn’t David who does the works he calls God to examine anyway. David say that it is by God’s word that he is blameless. David writes, “As for the deeds of men - by the word of Your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent” (v. 4). 
Paul makes this same point when he writes, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose,” (Philippians 2:12-13).
David knows that God's love will not allow Him to be indifferent to the suffering of His people. God is compelled by His very nature to come to the aid of His people. Indeed, God has rescued His people from our true enemies of sin and death by Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection. 
Then come David’s petitions. He prays that he would be protected from his wicked enemies (v. 6-9). He prays that those callous and arrogant men who seek to destroy him would themselves be destroyed. He calls on God to rise up and confront his enemies, and to save him (v. 10-14). 
Wicked men seem to prosper. That was as frustrating to David as it is to us today. Their end, however, is eternal punishment. While God may not strike down every enemy of His people during this present age, they will suffer eternal punishment and separation from God. They receive their reward in this age. God's people get the fullness of their reward in the age to come. 
God provides for the needs of His people. He directs us to seek first the kingdom of God. He gives us daily bread. He tells us not to worry about material wealth. He will make sure we have all the things necessary to support this body and life, about which the pagans spend day and night worrying about. Not only will He meet our physical needs, but the greatest blessing possible already belongs to us in Christ: forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. 
As with all the Psalms, it is important to consider them from the perspective of Christ. David is a picture of the promised Savior, a promise that God fulfilled in Jesus.
Jesus knows that God the Father will hear and answer Him when He prays for the same reasons as David. Jesus is faithful, even to suffering death on a cross, doing the will of the Father. God is love, and Jesus is the personification of that divine love. Because of that love God took on human flesh and rescued His people from our true enemies of sin and death. 
Jesus, who is God incarnate, came into the flesh to bear our sin. He suffered at the hands of wicked and evil men. He, who had no sin became sin for us. By His sacrifice on the cross, sinless Jesus reconciled mankind to God. So, not only is this a prayer of David, it points to what God would do for mankind in Christ. He would rise up, confront our ultimate enemies of sin, death, and the devil, and rescue His people from the wicked by His sword (v. 13).
This prayer will come to ultimate fulfillement when Jesus returns on the Last Day. At His coming all men will rise again with their bodies and will give an account of their own works. And they that, like David, by their faith in Christ have done good will go into life everlasting. They that have, like David’s wicked enemies by their faithlessness done evil will go into everlasting fire.
In the meantime, God indeed stills the hunger of those He cherishes (v. 14). He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. While we live in this fallen world He sustains us by giving us His very body and blood to eat and to drink. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will see His face in righteousness. And when we awake we will be satisfied with seeing His likeness (v. 15).

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