A prayer of David.
Psa 17:1 Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea;
listen to my cry.
Give ear to my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Psa 17:2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
- Your eyes to search me, v2
- Your lips to speak to me, v4
- Your paths to guide me, v5
- Your right hand to save me, v7
- Your wings to shelter me, v8
- Your face to shine on me, v15
- Your likeness to satisfy me, v15
(Pickering, Subjects for Speakers and Students, adapted)
Psa 17:3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing;
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
Psa 17:4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent.
Psa 17:5 My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
Psa 17:6 I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Psa 17:7 Show the wonder of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Psa 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
Psa 17:9 from the wicked who assail me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
Note the lovely images of God’s care: ‘Your right hand’, ‘the apple of your eye’, ‘the shadow of your wings’.
The apple of your eye – lit. ‘the little image in the pupil of your eye’ (Deut. 32:10; Prov. 7:2)’ (Harper’s Bible Commentary)
Psa 17:10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
Psa 17:11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
Psa 17:12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a great lion crouching in cover.
Psa 17:13 Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down;
rescue me from the wicked by your sword.
Psa 17:14 O LORD, by your hand save me from such men,
from men of this world whose reward is in this life.
You still the hunger of those you cherish;
their sons have plenty,
and they store up wealth for their children.
Psa 17:15 And I—in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
And I – Emphatic, ‘As for me’. My foes will be brought down, but as for me, I behold my God. They will meet God in judgement, but I shall see his face. They will be destroyed, but I shall live in his presence.
I will see your face – This bold assertion is to be contrasted with those passages that indicate that no one may see God’s face and live, Gen 32:20; Exod. 33:20; Isa. 6:5. But Moses ‘knew God face to face’, Ex 34:10, and so shall we, 1 Jn 3:2; Rev 22:3f.
Christians understand that although ‘seeing God’s face’ was an ambiguous concept in OT times – both aweful and attractive – in Jesus behold the perfect image of God, John 10:30; 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:4,6; Col. 1:15. But the NT still regards the sight of God as a terrible prospect for the wicked (1 Pet 3:12, quoting Psa 34;16; Rev 6:16).
When I awake – cf. v3, ‘You…examine me at night’. Although the most obvious meaning suggests a hopeful new day after peaceful sleep, many commentators think that some intimation of resurrection may be implied here. The psalmist may well have glimpsed the blessedness of a life to come, in contrast to the lot of the wicked, ‘whose reward is in this life’, v14.