Open your Bibles today to Psalm 17. We continue our walk through the Psalms and today we find ourselves in a very practical Psalm. This morning will be Christian equipping 101. So let's get right to work and read our Psalm, pray, and examine how the Lord want's us to walk in this fallen world.
“A Prayer of David.
17 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
2 From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11 They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12 He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.
13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.
15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
David, a Man of Prayer
As we begin, I would guess that none of us are surprised this morning that our Psalm is written by our brother, King David. I have to admit, I look forward to meeting and spending time with David some day in glory. David was not perfect, but he serves as a good example of what it means to be a man of God.
With the opening line we see again, David crying out to the Lord in prayer. This is becoming a common theme that we see over and over again. David, above all things, is a man devoted to prayer. As the leader of God’s people, he did so upon his knees, crying out to God, “Attend to my cry!”
It is not a coincidence that David, a man of prayer, ushered the nation of Israel into the greatest prosperity that this world has ever seen, or ever will see until Christ’s return. David was the Prime Minister of Prayer. I think we as a people of God here at Cornerstone should take note. We like David should be people of prayer, especially our leaders.
My desire, and I would assume God’s desire, is that Cornerstone would be full of men like David; men who cry out to God; men who are leading their family in prayer every day; men who are leading this Church in prayer. Opportunities for this abound; every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. we have a group of people who meet at the Church to pray for the Universal Church; every Wednesday night from 6:00-7:00 p.m. we have a prayer meeting. Let’s commit ourselves to be more like David and pray without ceasing. I can’t help but think that until we cry out to God in prayer, we will continue to be stuck in our lives, in our families, and in our church. James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
Peace on Earth…Rather Division
In Psalm 17 what is David praying about? To understand this prayer of David, I believe that it is helpful to see that in this prayer there are two sides. There is the side of King David, the Shepherd of God’s people. David is God’s chosen servant. David is in a covenant relationship with God.
The other side does not have a name, it is nameless, but it is described in our text as wicked, deadly enemies, pitiless, lurking lions, and whose portion is only in this life. Who are these people? We don’t know specifically, but generally we know that these people are not the people of God. These people are not God’s chosen. They are not in a covenant relationship with God. Therefore they are most likely people from the surrounding nations. They are the people of the world. These are the people who stand in opposition to David, in opposition to God’s people. So the tension in Psalm 17 is a tension between the servant of God and the servants of this world.
And the reality of Psalm 17 is reality of all of life. The world is divided into two parts; the people of God and the people not of God. This tension was first displayed in Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel and it continues into today. The story of this world is the people of this world against the people of God. We examined this truth when we look at John 15:18-19. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
This is the context in which the people of God live life. This is not our world. This world lies in the hands of that ancient serpent, Satan. At least temporarily, and the followers of Satan will always come into conflict with the followers of God.
Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 12:51-53, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, (F)father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
The gospel of Jesus is offensive to the world, and if you choose to authentically follow Jesus Christ, you will feel the tension that exists in Psalm 17. This tension may exist in your family. It may exist in your social network. It may exist in your workplace. It may exist in your community, but make no mistake it will exist if you are truly following Jesus, if you are doing all the Christ commands.
Unfortunately, many of you have never felt this tension, for you are not truly following Christ. You claim to be a Christian, but you continue to follow the ways of this world. Your life looks no different than an unbeliever. You talk the same, you dress the same, you spend your money the same, you raise your kids the same, you are entertained the same…the list can go on an on. When people look at your life, they do not recognize you as a disciple of Jesus Christ, obeying all he commands. Therefore, your life is comfortable, and no tension exists because you are a lukewarm Christian at best, or no Christian at all.
In Psalm 17 the tension for David rises to an extreme level. We are told the enemies of David surround him, want to do violence to David, to throw him to the ground, and to tear him apart like a lion. These people seem to be almost intoxicated in their hate for David. The picture that is created in our mind is something like mob with their pitch forks and torches in hand. So what is David’s response?
Let’s begin by looking at verse 4, “With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. 5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” Despite the attacks by his enemy, David did not give in. He continued to live a life obedient to God’s calling, even in the midst of persecution. It would have been easy for David to throw in the towel and just give up, but he didn't.
We need to remember that this is one of Satan’s first tactics against the people of God, to surround the Christian with the wolves of this world in an attempt to get the Christian to cave and step off the path of God’s will and into sin.
This reminds me of Peter’s warning to the Church in 1 Peter 4:4, “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” The life of following Christ is a life of maligning, of mocking, of abuse. But we, like David, must commit ourselves to hold fast to the path of the Lord. Let us remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
So the first thing David does in the midst of persecution is to stay committed to the narrow and hard way of the Lord, not matter what the cost.
Hold Your Tongue
The second response we see from David is that, not only did he hold fast to the will of God, he also held his tongue. Look at verse 3, “I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.”
In the midst of his enemies desiring to destroy him, David, kept silent and did not say something out of fleshly anger. As the dog barked at him, he could have easily barked back, but he didn’t. He intentionally made the decision not to respond. He purposed his mouth.
How many of us struggle with this? As we engage with the lost of this world, who are at times quite arrogant, rude, vulgar, condescending, and verbally abusive, how often do you just want to rip their heads off with your words? Some of us can be quite “good” and tearing down and returning the mockery, but is that how we are called to respond to our enemies?
Does not Jesus say in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Does not Jesus display this upon the cross, when he was like a lamb to the slaughter and he opened not his mouth. And instead cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Does not Stephen, while being stoned, cry out , “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
As followers of Christ, our response to our enemies attacks are not the same as the worlds, we are not barking dogs, we are instruments of righteousness, so imitate David and purpose your tongue now not to let the poison of this world come out in the midst of turmoil.
Hold it out to the Lord
So far in the midst of persecution we see David, hold fast to the Lord's will, hold his tongue, and then third, hold it out to the Lord. David’s response when being attacked by the wicked was to lay the circumstances down at the foot of the throne. David asked God to attend to the situation. David was not a vigilante, he did not take matters into his own hands. As his enemies surrounded him, as he felt the weight of the moment, he recognized that vengeance belongs to God, not to man. Listen to the words of Romans 12:9, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” How often do we fail at this? Some of you may have fallen short of this command this morning with your spouse. Christians are to be people of love, people of patience, people of grace...not people of wrath.
And as David took this matter to the Lord, you can see from our text that David was very conscious about his sinful nature, his propensity to sin. However, he states that in this particular situation he was not to blame for this difficult circumstances.
1) Have God Examine our Hearts
Now there are two things I want us to observe about this. First, this is not always the case. Here David says in verse 3, “You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing.” This is absolutely true for David, he was innocent in this particular situation, but lets be honest, for most of us and most of our situations, it is not true for us. A lot of times, things are hard because of you. You are to blame.
My guess is that you have heard the phrase “playing the race card.” Or “playing the woman card.” I think too often Christians default to “playing the Christian card.” We need to take a posture of humility, and as we turn to the Lord with our situation, we should ask the Lord to reveal to us whether we are the problem; we should ask God if we have sin in our lives that caused this tribulation. If we do, we must repent of that sin and praise God for the blood of Jesus.
2) Bad Things Happen to God's People
The second thing I want us to notice is that bad things happen to God’s people. We as Christians need to David is innocent as it relates to this circumstance. David had done absolute nothing wrong, in this particular situation he was just, he was in the right, there was nothing to blame him for, yet he was still facing a dire situation. So terrible that he was worried he would be killed.
Psalm 17 flies in the face of the false teaching of the health and wealth prosperity Gospel. David was walking with the Lord, doing what was “right”; however, God still allowed this devastating situation to fall upon him.
Our God is not a god of Karma. Don’t expect a picket fence life because you read the Bible, pray, or go to Church. In fact, expect the opposite. Expect to be attacked. Once again, remember that Cain killed Abel; remember that Joseph was sold into slavery and falsely accused of rape. Remember that Jezebel hated Elijah, that Jeremiah was imprisoned, that the disciples were all martyred, but for John, and the most righteous person who has every existed, Jesus Christ, was crucified on the cross. Why do you think you life will be any different? As we already stated, being a Christian does not mean a wide and easy path. Being a Christian means a hard a narrow way. Which leads to our last point?
Behold the Lord
The last thing we see, David doing as he lays his burdens down at the foot of the throne is to Behold the Lord. In verse 13 and 14 it says, “Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 14 from men by your hand, O Lord, from )men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.”
David’s enemies were worldly. They lived for the things of this world, not the next. There satisfaction was found in created things, the dust of this world. This is why they were so wretched. They pursued their own passions in this life, thinking that this is all there was.
But not David. He knew that he was not created for this world, but for the Lord. In verse 15 David prays, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” As the lions surrounded David, he set his eyes upon the Lord, and reminded himself that no matter how difficult the situation was, no one could ever take fro m him his greatest treasure, God. David recognized that whatever he was going through was not the end of the world. His trial and tribulation was momentary, and some day David would stand before his greatest treasure and he would be eternally and perfectly satisfied in God. This is true for David, and it is true for all of us who follow Christ.
So what do we do when we are persecuted as Christians? 1) Hold Fast. 2) Hold Your Tongue 3) Hold it out to the Lord, and 4) Behold Our God.