The Confident Prayer of the Righteous: Psalm 17

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Psalm 17 (NIV)

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
    listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
    it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
    may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart,
    though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
    my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
    I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths;
    my feet have not stumbled.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
    with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
    from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
    may their children gorge themselves on it,
    and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

Christ is Risen! Today is Easter Sunday! Psalm 17 is the confident prayer of the righteous man or women who has oriented himself or herself toward Gods’ righteousness and thereby prays with the confident assurance that God will hear and will answer our prayers.  The righteous life of Jesus and his prayers from the cross have now been heard. The cry of dereliction, “my God my God why have your forsaken me” has been turned into joyful communion with God.

Here we find the psalmist not in the agonizing silence of God, or preoccupied with the fleeting triumph of the wicked, but in the presence of a God who has not allowed our feet to slip. Here we bask in the glorious confidence of a God who hears us, who answers our prayers, and who has saved us by his right hand (vv. 6–7). We dwell in the shadow of his wings and can say, with confidence, that we are the “apple” of his eye (v. 8). The wicked are still on every side. They still seek to assail us and to speak evil against us with “their callous hearts” (v. 10). The psalmist rests in the assurance that “I will see your face” (v. 15). Heretofore seeing the face of God was a special privilege accorded only to Moses (Deut. 34:10; Num. 12:8), but here, the psalmist sees this as the final inheritance of all of God’s people.

This psalm is one of the early grounds for the resurrection of the dead and the final victory of the righteous over death itself. This is why this is such an important psalm for Easter Sunday. In the Bible, death is nothing more than sin made visible. Thus, God’s victory over sin must, ultimately, be a visible victory over death. The psalmist is so confident in God’s covenant that he somehow realizes, even a millennium before the time of Christ, that God’s victory extends even through death. He declares, “When I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (v. 15). Each day we go to sleep and then, after the night, rise up in the morning. Even this most basic shared experience is meant to be a daily reminder of God’s plan, one of those inbuilt quotidian mysteries for all, especially those who have been united with him. Those who have tasted that final sleep of death will someday also experience that final awakening of the resurrection of the dead.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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