The Path of the Righteous before God
The Path of the Righteous before God
Psalm 17. This Psalm is a Psalm of David, and it presents to us the path of the righteous before God, primarily of the Son of David, but also of the faithful remnant in association with Him.1 We can see that this Psalm is not exclusively Christ because of v.11; “They have now encompassed us in our steps, etc.”. It isn’t so much Christ’s dependence on God that is presented (as in Psa. 16), but His practical righteousness. This becomes the ground of His pleading, and of His expectation of deliverance, and ultimately His resurrection. Psalm 16 presents the inner life of the Messiah in His pathway, and Psalm 17 presents His outer life before men.2
A Prayer of David.
1 Hear the right, O Jehovah, attend unto my cry; give ear unto my prayer, which is not out of feigned lips.
2 Let my judgment come forth from thy presence, let thine eyes regard equity.
3 Thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me by night; thou hast tried me, thou hast found nothing: my thought goeth not beyond my word.
4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept from the paths of the violent man.
5 When thou holdest my goings in thy paths, my footsteps slip not.
vv.1-5 A Righteous Life Maintained. In v.1 we have the characteristic sentiment of the Psalm: a call for Jehovah to hear the earnest prayer from a righteous man. There are many references to Christ’s pathway being judged by God and found to be righteous. Whether it be judgment from God’s presence, Jehovah’s eyes regarding equity, proving His heart, trying Him and finding nothing wrong or imperfect, searching out His thoughts, etc. It is wonderful to think of Christ, being able to open up His soul to Jehovah – as a man on the earth – and to invite Divine inspection of His whole pathway, and the result would be nothing found contrary to the will of God! In vv.4-5 we have His solemn testimony that He had kept “the word of thy lips”, and had refrained from going in “the paths of the violent man”. And yet there is an acknowledgment of God’s preserving grace in the pathway; that God was holding His “goings” in His paths, that His footsteps would not slip. In this we see Christ taking His place in association with the faithful remnant. How blessed for the faithful to have a sense of the preserving grace of God!
6 I have called upon thee, for thou answerest me, O GOD. Incline thine ear unto me, hear my speech.
7 Shew wondrously thy loving-kindnesses, O thou that savest by thy right hand them that trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
9 From the wicked that destroy me, my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
10 They are enclosed in their own fat; with their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now encompassed us in our steps; their eyes have they set, bowing down to the earth.
12 He is like a lion that is greedy of its prey, and as a young lion lurking in secret places.
13 Arise, Jehovah, anticipate him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, thy sword;
14 From men who are thy hand, O Jehovah, from men of this age: their portion is in this life, and their belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure; they have their fill of sons, and leave the rest of their substance to their children.
vv.6-14 Prayer for Deliverance from the Wicked. In v.6 we have (once again) a call to God for deliverance, to hear the prayer of the righteous. Notice however v.1 is addressed to Jehovah, and v.1 to El. When the subject is the righteousness of Christ’s pathway, Jehovah is brought in. But when the subject is power for deliverance from enemies, El (the singular form of Elohim) is addressed. Messiah asks God to show Him lovingkindness, as One who always saves those who trust in Him (v.7). He asks God to keep or preserve Him as “the apple of the eye”; which means to be preserved as someone guards their most precious possession (as a person would protect the pupil of their eye). Also, He asks to be sheltered under the shadow of God’s wings, as a mother bird shelters her young. In v.9 we have those who the faithful must be protected from; “the wicked that destroy me, my deadly enemies, who compass me about”. In v.10 we have their character, as so gluttonous that they are “enclosed in their own fat”, and also proud and boastful. Their fat insulates them from the hand of God. In v.11 we may have a play on words. As as the wicked are “enclosed” with their own fat, so they have also “encompassed” the righteous in their steps. Their thoughts are all of this earth, their eyes set on the things their hearts desire, bowing down to the earth as before an idol. In v.12 the enemy is viewed as a lion, with its speed, strength, and cunning. In v.13, the Psalmist returns to address Jehovah, and calls upon the Lord to “anticipate him, cast him down”. He refers to the wicked as Jehovah’s “sword” (v.13), and Jehovah’s “hand” (v.14). The remnant acknowledge that God is using the wicked for His own purposes. He also calls the wicked “the men of this age”, whose “portion is in this life”. This describes the selfish and shortsighted outlook of the wicked. In v.14, we find that the wicked have their portion; full bellies, many sons, and material wealth (Luke 12:16-23). This is in contrast with the hope and portion of the faithful (v.15).
15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
v.15 The Hope of Resurrection. As in Psalm 16, so in Psalm 17 we have the hope of resurrection at the end of the Psalm. The difference would be that in Psalm 16 the whole pathway of Christ is viewed as a pathway of joy, and resurrection is viewed as the glorious end to a perfect pathway. In Psalm 17 it is a pathway of suffering, and resurrection is viewed as a deliverance for the faithful. Nevertheless, resurrection is still viewed as a portion for the faithful, in contrast to the wicked, who had their portion in this life (v.14). So the faithful will be “satisfied” in resurrection, not with the cheap and frivolous things of material wealth and plenty, but with the presence of God, and to awake with His likeness. The material prosperity of the wicked can never truly satisfy them. But to awake in resurrection (a figure of waking from sleep, or the intermediate state for the believer) and to be like Christ is the greatest satisfaction a soul can ever know. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).