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.

The Lord

  1. Your eyes to search me, v2
  2. Your lips to speak to me, v4
  3. Your paths to guide me, v5
  4. Your right hand to save me, v7
  5. Your wings to shelter me, v8
  6. Your face to shine on me, v15
  7. 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.

How can we experience this today?

Asking, ‘how can we today experience the same satisfaction in seeing God’s face?’ Wilson (NIVAC) draws the following lessons from this psalm:-

  1. An integrated life.  Can we claim, as the psalmist could, to be consistent Christians – day and night, at home, work and church?  Do we practice what is right, not merely what is pragmatic or expedient?  Are our lives distinctive, recognisably different from those around us?  If our faith in God central, rather than peripheral?
  2. Grounded in the word.  Do we believe that God’s word is both the criterion of examination, v2f, and the guide to holy living, v4f?  What is our level of biblical illiteracy, and how determined are we to apply biblical standards in our behaviour and relationships?
  3. Out of this world.  The psalm draws a contrast between those whose reward is here and now, in this life, and those whose satisfaction is beyond this present world.  Ecclesiastes teaches the frustration and disillusion that comes from focusing exclusively on everything ‘under the sun’.  Wealth, status and power promise much, but deliver little.  Our ultimate satisfaction is to see God’s face, v15.