Thursday, September 17, 2015

Help LORD, I'm Innocent Yet Suffering: Learning to Pray Psalm 17

Living faithfully and practicing justice does not guarantee an easy pathway through life. Psalm 17 is a prayer for those times when we’ve done the right thing and still find ourselves neck deep in trouble. The psalmist pleas for help from the LORD by stating his innocence (vv. 1–5), appealing for God to act (vv. 6–12), and making a final request for vindication (vv. 13–15).

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.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
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. (NIV)

The psalmist is adamant about his innocence and need for God’s help in v. 1. The psalmist is bold in his language. We often hesitate to put forward our own innocence, but the psalmist has no qualms. He knows that he has acted justly and rightly; he also believes that he is being treated unjustly. In verses 2–5, he invites the LORD to examine his life and then make the bad situation right for him. The psalmist denies that he has intended or planned any evil. He’s avoided talk or speech that injured others. He refused to take bribes. Instead, the psalmist has walked in God’s ways. He has kept the LORD’s commandments. Recall the words of Psalm 1 and its exhortation to avoid evil through a steady and consistent diet of the LORD’s instruction. The psalmist has done this.

In the psalmist’s mind, there is only one obvious outcome: God must act. As we work through this text, allow God to show you your own heart. What kind of a person do you need to become to pray this kind of prayer with integrity?

Having demonstrated his innocence, the psalmist makes specific appeals to the LORD to act (vv. 6–12). He repeats his opening call for God to listen (v. 6). Then the psalmist asks God to put his wondrous steadfast and loyal love into action (v. 7). Love is a core attribute of the LORD (Exod 34:6). This love is directly at the heart of the relationship between the LORD and his people. It is a loyal and faithful commitment. The psalmist appeals to God’s love because the psalmist steadfastly believes that he has held up his end of the relationship. The psalmist is desperate for God to use his saving powers to protect him from the enemies who afflict him.   

In verse 8, we discover that the psalmist is either in the temple or visualizing it. To hide in the “shadow of your wings” is temple image of a pray-er bowing before the wings of the golden cherubim who sit on the edges of the ark of the covenant in the holiest part of the temple. The glory of the LORD dwelled between them. In other words, the psalmist seeks refuge in the presence of God. Only God can save the psalmist due to the overwhelming danger of the psalmist’s foes (vv. 9–12).

The psalmist ends his prayer with a final plea for help (vv. 13–14) and a statement of trust and belief that God will indeed answer him.

How does Psalm 17 challenge you to live so that you may be able to assert your blamelessness as the psalmist does in Ps 17?

What practices do you keep that help you to live a life of faithfulness?

No comments:

Post a Comment