The Treasures of the Wicked are Fleeting, But the Righteous Will Behold the Face of God (Psalm 17)

Scripture reading – Psalm 17

Psalm 17 is titled, “A Prayer of David.” We cannot be certain what occasion served as the background for the psalm; however, the fervency of the prayer leaves no doubt its inspiration came from a time of grave danger in David’s life. The previous Scripture reading, 1 Samuel 26-27, could serve as a fitting setting for the prayer. Consider the following outline for Psalm 17.

A plea for justice (17:1-4) – David asserted his rightness before the LORD, and his desire for Him to hear his cry for help. His enemies had accused him of wrongdoing, and deceiving the king, Saul’s heart had turned against him. Although he was falsely accused, David took comfort knowing the LORD is omniscient (17:2). His concern was not the judgment of men, but the justice of God (17:3). With humility, he declared the LORD had tested and tried his heart, and found nothing! As a man of integrity, he had determined in his heart that he would “not transgress” in word, or action (17:4).

A prayer for grace (17:5-6) – Though his enemies plotted to destroy him, it was David’s prayer that the LORD would grant him grace and favor, and keep his feet on the right path (17:5; 37:23). With faith in the LORD, he asserted, “6I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God” (17:6).

An entreaty for protection (17:7-12) – Desiring to be an object of God’s goodness (17:7a), and to be saved from his enemies (17:7b), David prayed, 8Keep me as the apple [pupil] of the eye… hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (17:8b). Recounting the malicious intent of his enemy (17:9-11; 1 Samuel 26), David described the king as “a lion that is greedy of his prey, [and] a young lion lurking in secret places” (17:12).

A petition for vindication (17:13-14) – With righteous indignation, David called upon the LORD to exact His justice on the wicked (17:13), reminding him that all men, even the wicked are in the hand of God to do as He will. He considered how the wicked are “men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (17:14). Their treasures are earthly, and when they are dead, they “leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (17:14).

A recitation of hope and thanksgiving – “15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (17:15).

David looked beyond the grave, and with eyes of faith, declared with confidence, the righteous will “awake” and behold the face of God (17:15). The word “awake,” describes the resurrection of believers from the dead. When Jesus announced He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He said, “I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). Paul encouraged believers whose loved ones had died, “14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

For believers, physical death is a “shadow” (Psalm 23:4), a veil through which we will pass, comforted by the presence of the LORD. For the lost, death is the dreadful beginning of perpetual darkness, and eternal suffering. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith