Psalm 17: the apple of the Lord’s eye
Psalm 17 A prayer of David (1) Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer- it does not rise from deceitful lips. (2) Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. (3) 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. (4) Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. (5) My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. (6) I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (7) Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. (8) Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (9) from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. (10) They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. (11) They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. (12) They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover. (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.
Some have titled this psalm, in the Shadow of His Wings. My title choice is the apple of the Lord’s eye. Both are beautiful pictures of who the Lord was to David and who He can be to you and to me.
In Psalm 17, David again calls on the Lord to defend his cause. David believes he is right; he believes in his cause and believes the Lord will uphold it.
Brings up a good question to ask ourselves: how do we know our cause is the Lord’s will? How do we make sure we are seeking after what is right and just, not just what feels right?
In this psalm, David was confident that what he was asking for was the right thing. He was careful to tell the truth and seek the truth, and he knew his only hope (and his best hope) would come from the Lord.
A good reminder, when we bring a request before God, we must first stop and calm our hearts and minds. We must expect that what we want or need at that moment may not match up with what God has planned for us. So, we must take a moment to align our heart with His- to breathe and let go.
And know that what God has planned for us is infinity better than what we feel we need at that moment. He sees the big picture. He sees the whole story- beginning to end. He knows.
Do you stop and clear your mind like that? Sometimes there’s not time in moments of great need where we call out to our loving Father and He arrives- having never left at all, of course. And there are times when words are hard, and it’s just our hearts that cry out in the silence.
But later, when emotions have calmed and the need is still before us, we can breathe and seek the will of God.
After all, how long was Jesus praying in the garden the night He was betrayed, the night before He died? Long enough for his devoted friends to fall asleep twice.
We know He cried out with that urgent need (to the point of sweating blood in his worry and anxiety), but then . . .
Did He feel God’s loving presence come over Him, and did He desire never to leave it? In fact, He left His prayer spot to check on His friends, then went back again to the safe, calm reassurance of His Father’s presence. Because that is where He found peace. In the presence of God, He knew it would all be alright because God’s plan is good. Always.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the host has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" Matthew 26:36-46
My friends, let us cry out to God when we need Him. But then, we breathe, we listen, and we wait upon the mercy and the peace and the direction of the Lord.
Concerning the works of men, by the word of your lips I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. Psalm 17:4 NKJV
Do you live “by the word of the lips of God?” David’s choice of words here makes it evident that he has heard the voice of God and has chosen to live by those words- David heard God’s words from His very lips. He understood what God desired of him because he spoke to God, he knew God’s heart, he lived out the Words of God.
The “paths of the destroyer” sounds like a place we all should avoid with urgency. Other Bible translations say: cruel and evil people (NLT), paths of violence (NASB), and paths of the cruel man (GNV). Whoever he or they are let’s stay away from that path.
Instead, I will seek the “word of the lips of the Lord.”
Show the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Psalm 17:7 Wondrously show your lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them. Psalm 17:7 NASB Show thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them that take refuge in thee from those that rise up against them. Psalm 17:7 ASV
Why the different versions of verse 7? Bible scholars have tried to translate David’s words from ancient Hebrew into English, and trying to find the perfect word is hard and impossible sometimes. But the different translations can help us to paint an even more vivid picture of what David was saying.
- the wonders of your great love, your lovingkindness, your marvelous lovingkindness!
- keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings.
What an awesome picture of the relationship that David had with our Lord.
The wonder of extraordinary love is that God should make it such an ordinary thing, that he should give to us “marvellous lovingkindness,” and yet should give it so often that it becomes a daily blessing, and yet remains marvellous still.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
No one knows for sure what event or time David is writing Psalm 17, but most believe it was during the time that David was hunted by king Saul. If you study the Old Testament account of these years of David’s life, you will learn that David had ample opportunity to kill Saul. But he didn’t only because he knew a time would come when God would remove Saul as king and give the crown to David. All in God’s time.
He waited for God.
How did he know this? David had an intimate relationship with the Lord.
David walked with the Lord. He knew God’s expectations of him; he trusted in God’s plan. He knew these things with great certainty because he walked with the Lord. In fact, he heard these things from the lips of the Lord.
Do you walk with the Lord?
Because I have lived right, I will see your face. When I wake up, I will see your likeness and be satisfied. Psalm 17:15 ICB
David set himself apart from others of this world, “as for me . . .”
And finally, David speaks of heaven as the time he can shake off all worry, fear, and pain of this world and be fully in God’s presence forevermore. David’s speaks like he longs for the day when he can walk side by side with God in heaven. Face to face.
But until that day, David would continue to walk with the Lord in this life.
And so shall we.
Father in heaven, thank you for your good and perfect will. Thank you that you walk beside us every day. Thank you that we can have that same relationship with you that David had. Help us to seek this relationship every day. We thank you for the promise that your eyes are always upon us. We know that nothing on this earth surprises you, but our world is lost and afraid. Shelter us under your wings, and may we be the apple of your eye. During this challenging time may we seek you with all of our hearts and may we remember that this is not our home. Amen.