Psalm 17 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
A prayer of David.
God is the one who vindicates his people
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.
Essentially this is a prayer of King David for vindication from his enemies.
David is suffering unjustly at the hands of wicked men and is pleading with God to rescue him and clear his name of suspicion. A long time ago another Christian accused me of something that I didn’t do. I knew I was innocent but I had no way of proving it… It was a frustrating and difficult time. At some point during that period I gave up trying to defend myself and I remember God teaching me to turn to him for vindication. The main thing is that God knows the truth and so I can entrust my reputation to him. It is wonderfully liberating to entrust our concerns to God.
God will do 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.
David knows that God will do what is right and will not side with injustice or deceit. So it is important to David to consider whether in fact he is innocent in this situation or if some of the trouble he is experiencing has been brought about by his own actions. Passages like this have often been troublesome to me. I have never really felt comfortable repeating the words “my steps have held to your paths” as a prayer to God. God would simply laugh. He knows that I slip up all the time. The elders of our church meet weekly for prayer. We always start by reading a psalm and when we discussed this issue we came to the following conclusions:
- David is not claiming sinless perfection in general – we know this because in his other psalms he regularly admits to guilt and pleads for forgiveness. There are even occasions where David claims to be guilty and to have kept God’s ways in the same psalm.
- Therefore what David is claiming is that he is not guilty of the accusations against him in this particular circumstance.
- “My steps have held to your paths” means that David is still following God’s ways. The direction of his life is toward obedience. He has not given up on his faith or on the Bible.
- In this sense, Christians should be able to say that they are holding to the paths of God with absolute sincerity. God’s paths includes confession, repentance, faith and obedience.
- We should also remember that David is a type of Christ and that we should first and foremost see the psalm as a foreshadowing of Jesus. David is a picture of Jesus, who is the innocent King who suffers at the hands of evil men. Jesus is the King who trusts God and is vindicated through his resurrection from the dead.
- Therefore, we can apply the psalm as people of faith but we should not forget that we only have a right to do so because we are in Christ. In him we can count ourselves innocent in the eyes of God. In him we have the privilege of pleading to God for vindication. If God vindicated his innocent King, he will vindicate the innocent people of the King.