Scripture reading – Psalm 17

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

A Plea for Justice (Psalm 17:1-4)

You will notice that 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 against the king.  Deceived, Saul’s heart turned against him. Although he was falsely accused, David took comfort in knowing the LORD is omniscient (Psalm 17:2). Indeed, his concern was not the judgment of men but the justice of God (Psalm 17:3). With humility, David declared that the LORD had tested and tried his heart, and found nothing! As a man of integrity, he determined in his heart that he would not be provoked by his enemies, not “transgress” in word or deed (Psalm 17:4).


A Prayer for Grace (Psalm 17:5-6)


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

An Entreaty for Protection (Psalm 17:7-12)


Desiring to be an object of God’s goodness (Psalm 17:7a) and be saved from his enemies (Psalm 17:7b), David prayed, 8Keep me as the apple [pupil] of the eye… hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 17:8b). Recounting the malicious intent of his enemy (Psalm 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” (Psalm 17:12).


A Petition for Vindication (Psalm 17:13-14)


With righteous indignation, David called upon the LORD to exact His justice on the wicked (Psalm 17:13). He reminded Him that all men, even the wicked are in the hand of God to do as He will. David considered how the wicked are “men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (Psalm 17:14). The treasures of lost men are earthly, and when they die, they “leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (Psalm 17:14).


A Recitation of Hope and Thanksgiving (Psalm17:15)


Looking beyond the mortal veil of this earthly life, David prayed to the LORD, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness” (Psalm 17:15a). With eyes of faith, he declared, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” for the righteous will “awake” and behold the face of God (Psalm 17:15).


Closing thoughts:


The word “awake” in Psalm 17:15 describes the resurrection of believers from the dead. Remember 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 first-century believers whose loved ones had died, “For 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). David described physical death as a “shadow” (Psalm 23:4), a veil through which believers will pass, comforted by the presence of the LORD.

Nevertheless, there awaits the dreadful beginning of perpetual darkness and eternal suffering for lost sinners who die rejecting the LORD and His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The apostle John wrote prophetically of sinners who reject Christ, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).


Yet, we have this hope for all who acknowledge “the wages of sin is death,” for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Questions to consider:

1) Though attacked by his enemies, what had David purposed in his heart? (Psalm 117:3)

2) In what did David take comfort? (Psalm 117:6)

3) What description did David give of his enemies? (Psalm 117:12)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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