“The Shadow of Your Wings” – Psalm 17

Our text for today is Psalm 17. These are God’s Words.
1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! 
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! 
2 From your presence let my vindication come! 
Let your eyes behold the right! 
3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, 
you have tested me, and you will find nothing; 
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. 
4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips 
I have avoided the ways of the violent. 
5 My steps have held fast to your paths; 
my feet have not slipped. 
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; 
incline your ear to me; hear my words. 
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love, 
O Savior of those who seek refuge 
from their adversaries at your right hand. 
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; 
hide me in the shadow of your wings, 
9 from the wicked who do me violence, 
my deadly enemies who surround me. 
10 They close their hearts to pity; 
with their mouths they speak arrogantly. 
11 They have now surrounded our steps; 
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground. 
12 He is like a lion eager to tear, 
as a young lion lurking in ambush. 
13 Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! 
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 
14 from men by your hand, O LORD, 
from men of the world whose portion is in this life. 
You fill their womb with treasure; 
they are satisfied with children, 
and they leave their abundance to their infants. 
15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; 
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
If we tracked our prayers for an entire month and created a pie chart to visualize what we prayed about, the largest pieces of that pie would be prayers for health, prayers for family, and prayers for our work. The medium-sized pieces might be prayers for the missionaries and the lost, or prayers for our nation. But how big, or small, would the slice be for praying against our enemies?
There are 150 Psalms, and the word “enemy” occurs 104 times. That’s because when the people of God seek to honor God in their homes, their work, and their nation, Satan hates it, the world hates it, and the enemies of God hate it. And God wants you to learn how to pray about your enemies.
How should you pray when you are being maligned, threatened, and pursued because you are serving the Lord? Psalm 17 gives us a pattern. David asks God to hear his case and render judgment.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and David knows that the loudest cries are the ones that get answered. So, he begs God: hear, see, give attention to my plea. (v. 1-2)
David states his own innocence. He isn’t sinless, but his character and behavior are not worthy of the hostility of his enemies. (v. 3-5)
The cries of the righteous don’t get overlooked. God, as judge, hears their complaints. And, God saves them by pouring out unending love and faithfulness. Just as you guard your eyeballs, and a mother hen covers her chicks, God protects us. (v. 6-9)
What are these enemies like? They’re pitiless.  They’re greasy and callused. They know what they are doing when they pursue the righteous; just like a lion with the blood of a gazelle dripping of his snout knows exactly what he just did. (v. 10-12)
The wicked have received their portion. Their bellies are full, they have houses full of children, and they have power and wealth, but they have not stored up anything for the age to come. They live as if this life is all there is (v. 13-14)
David, however, sees a life beyond this life. He will wake up one day and find the supreme satisfaction by looking into the likeness of his maker. (v. 15)
While you may be tempted to file Psalm 17 into the “I don’t have enemies, so I’m not likely to need this Psalm” category, let me assure you, you will. In fact, you will need this Psalm along with the entire Old Testament.
The Old Testament in your Bible divides into three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. And living a vibrant Christian life will require that you are familiar with all three.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have any enemies,” but you will. You may be thinking, “I don’t feel like a religious minority living in a land of exile,” but if you walk with Christ long enough, and if God does not send radical repentance to our nation, you will.
David knew his God and he knew his enemies. Too many Christians are out of balance one way or the other. Some are like Elisha’s servant who could only see the enemy, and cried, “Alas, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:8-23) They see the enemies encircling, but they are not remembering the Lord who inclines his ear and shows wondrous love. (Psalm 17:6-7) Other Christians have a Polly-Anna view of our pilgrimage in this life. Walking with Christ is not an escape, it’s an assignment into enemy territory.
“We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.”
Psalm 17 says we live in a world in which both God protects, and his people are hounded.
A heart for cleanness and holiness in the wider culture begins with a desire for cleanness and holiness on a personal level. Before David decries the treachery of his enemies, he declares his own innocence. (Psalm 17:3-5) And, when David was found to be guilty, he quickly repented of his sin. (Psalm 51)
We will not see repentance on a national level if we regard sin on the personal and ecclesiastical levels. Sin is the enemy destroying everything, and the only answer is destroying sin by striking it with a wooden cross.
The Scripture presents God as judge but does so from opposite perspectives. Oftentimes, we think of God as a judge in a criminal case. We are the defendant, we’re guilty as charged, and we’re terrified because justice demands our condemnation. Thankfully, God has provided the means for perfect justification.
But Psalm 17 presents God as a judge in a civil case. We are the plaintiff, and our case is iron-clad. We’re being injured and we need to get into the courtroom so the righteous judge can hear our case. Thankfully, our God will answer us. He inclines his ear. If you see refuge in him, then you will experience his steadfast love.
If you live as if this life is all there is, you will trade momentary fullness for eternal starvation. But if you know that death is only a transition from this age into the next, then you know the momentary sufferings of this age are not worth comparing to the eternal weight of satisfaction when you wake and behold the face of God.

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