Psalm 17 TALK: Come Close to God

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 17 TALK

COME CLOSE TO GOD

 INTRODUCTION

At the end of being with Jesus for at least three years Philip asks Jesus on the night before his death,

“Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us”.

Not surprising Jesus answer is,

Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” (John 14 : 8,9)

All of us come to times in our life when we feel God seems to be so far away from us, someone once said, “If you feel God is not close to you anymore guess who moved” but the reality is, according to God’s word when we put our faith and trust in Christ he is with us no matter what has happened and what we have done (Matthew 28 : 20).

In Psalm 17 we have a prayer of David when he faced both difficult and dangerous times probably when he was on the run from King Saul during a eight to nine year period (we will look at this a little more later in our study). In my reading and study of this Psalm one phase in verse 8 stood out for me “Keep me as the apple of your eye” and these words understood opened up for me the Psalm and a wonderful study on what I call “The real presence of God in the believers heart”. In this study we will look at how we can come close to God and how God is in fact close to us and what this means to the Christian life.

To get into this Psalm we need to first understand what David is saying in the words, “Keep me as the apple of your eye”. There are only three possibilities:

  1. Being special in God’s sight

Some scholars have suggested that to say “you are the apple of my eye”, you are saying you are very precious to me. However this does not totally fit into what David is saying leading up to these words or after it.

       2.  Being guarded and protected by God.

Interestingly this expression and something like the expression that follows it, “hide me in the shadow of your wings” appears in the great song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 : 10 – 11. In Moses song it definitely means the protection of God as the words before the expression read, “He shielded him and cared for him : he guarded him as the apple of his eye”. This does fit the context of the Psalm as all through this Psalm David is asking for God’s protection. However I came across an even better interpretation that really opened up this Psalm for me.

   3.  Being close to God or God being close to us

This explanation comes from the actual literal meaning of the Hebrew words used by David here. A commentator named Charlie Brackett points out that the original literal meaning of the words, “you are the apple of my eye” is something like “the little man of the eye”. He points out that when you stand very close to someone you can catch a glimpse of the other persons reflection in the pupil of their eye’s. This means that David is asking not only for God’s protection but he wants to be close to God, so close, God can see his image in the pupil of his eye. This also means that we are precious to God but in a very special way.

We will see in this study that this is what David is asking for in his prayer of Psalm 17 he wants God to come close, he wants to have his presence in his life especially as he faces great problems and difficulties.

I have chose to break this Psalm up by focusing on 4 key words or phrases

1. LISTEN   (1 – 6)

2. SHOW  (7 – 12) 

3. RISE UP    (13 – 14) 

4. SEE YOUR FACE (15)

Read Psalm 17

 

1. LISTEN   (1 – 6)

 Right from the opening words of David’s prayer in Psalm 17 he is asking God to come close to him. David is calling out to God in prayer for him to listen to his desperate plea for help. H.C Leopold points out that, “David and his men (followers) were fugitives from justice because of the unreasoning persecution of Saul”. David’s fugitive days and years (up to nine in all) fit very well as the background of this Psalm. I would like to note three things we can observe from David’s prayer in these first six verses. They are :

1. Listen to my plea of innocence

 2. Listen to my plea for vindication

 3. God is listening

 1.     Listen to my plea of innocence

Three times David declares his innocence of the murderous rebellious charges Saul has laid against him. Note David is not saying he is sinless in theses verses but rather innocent of his enemies charges against him.

The three expressions are,

”Give ear to my prayer it does not come from deceitful lips” (Verse 1),

“Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing, I have resolved that my mouth will not sin”  (Verse 3)

and in verse 5 “My steps have held to your paths, my feet have not slipped”.

When I was in my final year of Bible College I was asked by a Anglican minister to do home to home visitations in my College holidays and he would pay me to do it. I was warned about visiting one ex members house that the women who lived there had fallen into the false teachings of the old Holiness movement. I went to her house and very quickly she started quizzing me about my faith in Christ. After telling her I believed I was a saved believer she asked me “if I felt my sins were totally forgiven”, and of course I said they were and she then said, “so you realize that you are now without sin”. I then went on a very difficult discussion of certain key scriptures like,

1 John 1 : 8 – 10,

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

This women kept saying “but Christ has forgiven you of all your sins”. She believed that she was sinless and this she claimed by having faith in Christ. I left her house with a very large headache and was glad that the holiness movement was by and large a thing of the past.

However one sure way of making sure we don’t fall for this dangerous teaching is to ask God in prayer to do what David hints at in verse 3, probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me and what he asks in Psalm 139: 23-24,

“23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”

By doing this we are seeking Christ’s constant forgiveness and believe me we need that.

2. Listen to my plea for vindication

 Saul has laid some very serious charges against David we read of this in 1 Samuel 20 : 30 – 31,

30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

In verse 2 of the Psalm David asks God,

“May my vindication come from you: may your eyes see what is right”.

So David wants his vindication to come from God himself. This should be how we ultimately see injustice in this world as it will be only in the final judgment that real justice is found.

However when we feel wronged by false charges we should like David take that to the Lord himself because he is very interested in justice and particularly through his Son as we see in verse’s like Matthew 12 : 18,

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; 
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations”.

3. God is listening

 In verse 6 David makes it clear his prayer is not going to fall on deaf ears for he says, “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me: give ear to me and hear my prayer”.

How did God know God is listening?

I believe David knew this for three reasons and the third reason will lead us into the key verse and concept of this Psalm.

The three reasons are “

1. David knew God’s word

 2. David knew God had answered him before

 3. David knew and practiced God’s presence in his life

 1.     David knew God’s word

 Through the stories of David’s life in 1 Samuel and his 72 Psalms we see that he knew the word of God to his people and to him. He knew that God promised over and over again that he is a God who listens to his people’s prayers. He knew God through the covenant he had made with his forefathers that as it says in Leviticus 26 : 12 ,

 “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people”.

David confessed over and over again that this meant to him that God listens to his prayers as he says in Psalm 34 : 15

 15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry”.

2. David knew God answered him before

In 2 Samuel 22 we have probably David’s final work of poetry, his final Psalm and it is kind of David’s testimony and in verse 7 he writes,

“I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise and I am saved from my enemies”

and in verse 7 he goes on to say,

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God from his temple he heard my voice, my cry came to his ears”.

Through a long life of 70 years David proved over and over again that God answered his prayers.

3. David knew and practiced God’s presence in his life

Even in these opening 6 verses David is showing us what it means to believe that God is always with us. He uses words like “Hear”, “Listen” and “Answer me” to reveal he believed God was with him and was interested in his daily life

2. SHOW  (7 – 12)

 In verse 7 David seems to be asking God to reveal to him another sign of God’s love and power in his life. He wants God to act in love again in his life with his saving powerful hand. The right hand (for most of us) is the hand of power and dominance.

In this section we see David practicing the presence of God in his life in three requests he makes,.

1. Show me your Love

2. Show me your presence

3. Show me your protection

1. Show me your Love

As I said before David believed in the God of the covenant. He knew that it was not on the basis of what he had done that saved him but it his relationship with God was based totally on God’s love for him.

Verses 7  and 8 seem to reflect many of the words and concepts in Moses song in Exodus 15. Listen to what Moses says about God’s love spoken soon after God saved his people when he brought them through the red sea and destroyed the army of Pharaoh.

Exodus 15 : 11 – 13,

11 Who among the gods is like you, LORD? 
Who is like you – majestic in holiness, 
awesome in glory, working wonders? 12 “You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies. 
13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. 
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling”.

Even after David had fell to the sins of adultery and murder after repentance he called on the love of God to save him, Psalm 51 : 1,

1 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; 
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions”.

David wants God to show him again that his love in his present problems and difficulties.

Many people will acknowledge there is a God, I recently read a biography on the life of Albert Einstein who believed there is a God or creator behind the universe but like many he did not believe this God is personally involved in this world and in the lives of people living in it.

Five years ago I read and studied the book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey and it had a powerful effect on my life and how I viewed God and those I came across in my life.

One reviewer summed up the message of this book in these words,

“Ultimately, the book can be summed up in two sentences. When Jesus was on earth, he hung out with and risked his reputation to love and have compassion on unloved, dejected and rejected people in need of God’s grace. Why should we do anything less, not forgetting where we came from before God saved us?

I learnt from Yancey’s book that as God showed us grace (love we don’t deserve) we should do the same to the people we come across in life.

God is personally involved in our lives by grace we therefore should be involved in the lives of others inspired and led by that same grace of God.

2. Show me your presence

From a request for God to show him his love David now asks for a new sense of God’s presence in his life. Note he is not asking God to be with him but rather he is asking that God might keep being with him.

In bible college a one morning a week was devoted to a opportunity for each student to share a message to the whole student and staff body of the College. One female students devotional talk still stands out in my mind even after 35 years. She spoke on how it was theologically stupid to pray “Lord be with” prayers. He point was the whole bible teachers that if we have faith in God through Christ God’s promise is he is with us. The female student that day pointed out what we should pray for our fellow believers is “help them to realize afresh that you are with them”.

This is what David is asking for here but note again how close God actually is to us. Literally we are “The little man or person in God’s eye”. God’s grace is so great that even though he is so powerful and big he is interested in little insignificant us, as we read in Psalm 8 : 3 – 4

3 “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place, 
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them”?

Even when we fall away from God and sin he does not leave us. Yes no matter where we go and what we do God is with us and has us in the pupil of his eye. If you ever have doubts about this just read again Psalm 139, Which the famous poet, Francis Bacon wrote a poem based on it called “The hound of Heaven. Let me read to you just the first seven verses of Psalm 139 : 1 – 7,

1 You have searched me, LORD,and you know me. 
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Again how foolish is it for us to pray for a fellow believer, “Lord be with them” he is with them because they are the “Apple of his eye”. What we all need to do is to live the reality, that is live as though God is with us always because he is.

3. Show me your protection

David then uses again similar words Moses uses in his final song in Deuteronomy 32. Moses says in verse 10 and 11,

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, 
11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, 
that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft”.

David asks, “hide me in the shadow of your wings”.

No God is not a chicken or a eagle his loving protection for us is like a great bird covering and protecting it’s young under its covering wings.

David desperately needed God’s constant protection when he was on the run from Saul. In verse 9 to 12 David describes the predicament his enemies have him in, Psalm 17 : 9 – 12,

9 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”.

One David’s narrow escapes from Saul and his men in 1 Samuel 23 : 24 – 26 fits this description very well,

24 “So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them’.

So here David needed God to intervention, in fact the Australian expression, “He was a goner” could be used here.

David needed the shelter of the wings of God right then and there. This leads to our fourth key word.

Now we come to the second key word or phrase :

3. RISE UP  (13 – 14)

David starts verse 13 with the words, “Rise up” , he wants God’s intervention in his desperate situation. Let me read again those words of Psalm 17 : 13 – 14,

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’.

If David prayed this prayer on that day when he was on the run from Saul facing almost certain death from the trap he was in then God certainly wonderfully answered him as we read 1 Samuel 23 : 27 and 28,

 27 “a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines.

Unlike Albert Einstein we believe God does get involved in this world, he does answer prayer and we, through Christ can have a relationship with him.

Finally we come to our last key word or phrase of this Psalm :

4. SEE YOUR FACE (15)

 David completes his prayer for help in the midst of a very difficult situation with a wonderful confident claim of faith, namely one day he will wake up and see God “Face to face”.

Now we walk by faith but one day we will walk with Christ in heaven as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 : 12,

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

This is even more remarkable when we realize the mirrors in Paul’s day were but shinny metal.

David trusted in God for Salvation and help in his life but he looked forward to the day he would no longer live by faith but by sight.

David practiced living in the presence of God throughout his life in preparation for living in the presence of God forever in Heaven.

This is what John teaches us in 1 John 3: 2, and I will close by reading these words,

2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

NEW TESTAMENT INSIGHT QUESTIONS

 1. David spoke in Psalm 17 prays to God and asks him to search and cleanse his heart, read 1 John 1 : 5 – 10. What does John teach us about sin our lives?

2. According to 1 John 1 : 9 what is the answer to the sin we all have in our hearts and minds ?

3. Read Philippians 3 : 17 – 21, What is the destiny of those who turn from God and are his enemies and what is the destiny of those who turn to God through Christ and are as David called them “the apple of God’s eye” ?

4. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 : 12 what is our understanding of God like now compared to what it will be like when we see God as he is after we die or he when Christ returns from heaven ?

TWO APPLICATION QUESTIONS

1. Who can we turn to when we face great opposition and according to Psalm 17 what is he like?

2.  What do you think it means to practice the presence of God in our lives today?

PRAYER:

Dear Father in heaven we thank you that you have sent your Son, Jesus into our world to reveal what you are really like and make a way for us by his death for our sins on the cross. Thank you for saving us by your great love for us and thank you that you are always with us to continue to help us and change us into the image of your Son even the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we make this prayer. Amen

 

Jim Wenman