Psalm 17: I Shall See Your Face (part 2)

Psalm 17

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.

Deliver me from the evil one

In the first part of this post we saw that David calls out to God for vindication. It is clear from these verses that the crisis he is facing is not simply to do with reputation. The threat is all but overwhelming. David is surrounded by callous and wicked men who are hungry for his destruction. His life is in danger and so he cries out to God to rescue him.

There are many Christians who face similar trials today because they follow Jesus. In the West, Christians may not experience persecution in the same way but we still have an enemy who is intent on our harm. I’ve reflected more on Christians and their enemies here.

Jesus taught us to ask God to “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one”. We can and should pray for ultimate deliverance in the form of forgiveness and eternal life but also for “little deliverances” from sin and/or circumstances so as to life a life worthy of the gospel.

Show me the wonders of your great love

David pleads for rescue on the basis of God’s love. We shouldn’t miss how powerful the plea is. Derek Kidner explains it so well in his commentary:

The first two lines, in English, translate just four highly-charged Hebrew words. Wondrously show calls to mind the word for God’s miraculous interventions (see on 9:1) and for his rebuke to Sarah in Genesis 18:14: ‘Is anything too hard (lit. wonderful) for the Lord?’ Steadfast love, or ‘true love’ (neb), is that faithfulness to a covenant, to which marital devotion gives some analogy.”

David knows who God is and what God has done in the past. He has heard about the plagues that forced Pharoah’s arm, the passover, pillars of fire and cloud, crossing the Red Sea, defeat of the Egyptian army, provision of manna and much more besides. We have the same demonstrations of God’s love and faithfulness and more…so much more.

For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)

It boggles the mind the think about Jesus as the fulfilment of this psalm. He is both the King who was rescued from death and the King who would rescue his people from death. All of this is possible through God’s display of miraculous covenant love in raising him from the dead. How David would have rejoiced to see Jesus! His life, death and resurrection are the greatest demonstration of miraculous power and love that we could ever wish for.

It is this wondrous love that gives us confidence to pray for God’s intervention and continued faithfulness to his promises today.

I shall see your face and be satisfied

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 shall be vindicated and shall see your face;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Initially I read v15 as a poetic way of saying that David will see God’s saving intervention in his current circumstance. When I read it again I changed my mind. I think David is expressing a far more literal expectation that whatever happens in this life, he will see God’s face in the life to come and then he will be vindicated and be satisfied.

The reason I think this is because of the way the wicked are described in v14. They are those “whose reward is in this life”. In v15 David contrasts the aims of the wicked with his own. The wicked hope for nothing beyond this life. The reward of the righteous is to see God’s face.

Many Christians have cried out again and again for deliverance from their enemies. Some have experienced that deliverance and others have not. David knew this full well. He knew that God had not guaranteed his safety and so even though he asks for God’s intervention, he knows that it may not be His will. God has not promised that we will not suffer. However, we know that whatever happens, however God answers our prayers, we will see his face…and be satisfied.

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