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Petition for Protection - Psalm 17



The definition of petition is, “to make or present a formal request to an authority concerning a particular cause”. In this case, this is a prayer or petition of David to the ultimate authority, the God of heaven and earth. Petitions can be written but in verb form, it is a verbal request.


There were many occasions in the life of David when he needed God to protect him. The particular details of the event here are left out. The prayer is heartfelt, honest, and urgent.


To outline the study we will first look at the earnest appeal for equity (vs. 1-2). Next, we will see a defense of innocence (vs. 3-4), then a cry for divine intervention (vs. 5-9). David will then describe the character of the enemy (vs. 10-14) and finally a confident hope for protection in God’s presence (vs. 15).


Appeal for Equity (vs. 1-2)


David wants justice by God doing what is “fair (right)” in the case (vs. 1)


“Hear a just cause, O LORD, give heed to my cry; Give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips.”

Don’t just be present for my cry but attend to it, David pleads. Don’t just listen but give your ear or full attention. The word here for “cry” can be a shout of either joy or mourning, but either way, it is audible.


David reminds God that every word is spoken from pure lips in this matter. This is David saying, “I speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So, help me, God." David exclaims that his lips are not deceitful here.


David knows in any case there is always a verdict or sentencing (vs. 2)


“Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; Let Your eyes look with equity.”

David asks that the judgment be in his favor which would be fair and right. He not only wants God to hear but also to see (behold) equity (See Job 23:1-6). David is asking for mercy and not justice because all are sinners. His enemies need to be punished and David feels that he should be the winner in this case. Judgment should be in his favor. David is not claiming that he deserves to be justified but he pleads for the help of God.


Defense of Innocence (vs. 3-4)


David points out that God determines innocence (vs. 3)


“You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.”

You (God) have proved my heart, David says. At the end of the day when all is said and done David claims to be tried by God. No evil can be found in his heart, even by God in this particular case at hand. So his point is I am being pursued by enemies for no explainable reason where I am found guilty.


A second time David raises his right hand and declares that he is telling the truth and is committed to refraining from sinning with his words or saying things that would warrant the ill-treatment of his enemies.


God visited David like a doctor to examine his condition. In addition, God tried (tested) David like a metal that is put into a fire to remove impurities. Davis says that he believes God will find him well in spirit and free from impure thoughts and motives in this matter.


David was dedicated to the words of God’s lips to keep him from evil (vs. 4)


“As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept from the paths of the violent.”

In contrast to the works of righteousness, David describes the ordinary works of mankind and sees that path leading to destruction. David has trusted in the promises and commands of the Lord and he hopes for God to fulfill the promise to protect him and bless him for his willingness to stay away from wicked ways.


David wanted God to see how he set up guidelines and kept himself from choosing the wrong path. Instead of violence and lawless behavior, he chose the peaceful and quiet road in this scenario.


Cry For Divine Intervention (vs. 5-9)


David states that his feet have stayed in God’s path and he is asking God to keep it that way (vs. 5)


“My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.”

Many commentators are conflicted about whether this is also a request from David for God to keep his feet stayed in the right way or if David is proclaiming that he has been keeping his feet on solid ground. In either case, David has already proclaimed innocence and now he is asking God to secure him in His ways.


David makes it his constant practice to call upon the Lord for help (vs. 6)


“ I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech.”

This course of action is his priority every time because he knows that God will hear (Psalm 116:2) David shouts “O God” (El) and then pleads for God to hear him again as before (John 11:41). David includes his prayer life as a part of this “speech” that he wants God to hear from pure lips.


Now the request is for God to show his abundant loving kindness wondrously (vs. 7)


“Wondrously show Your lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand From those who rise against them.”

The love that David requests is from his Savior, “O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand.” (See Psalm 60:5; 20:6) The salvation that David is looking for goes beyond the soul level to a protection of the flesh from the enemies that are rising against him (Psalm 59:1; 18:48). The favor David is looking for is a special portion that is marvelous.


Often we think that God is only interested in the spiritual deliverance of His people, but David reminds us that we can approach God for our earthly trials as well. In some translations, it seems to imply that David is saying that these enemies have risen against God’s right hand (authority and power) because they have attacked David. This is not warranted by the original text but is often true in the Bible. If you pick a fight with God’s elect, you have to answer to the Lord (Psalm 89:13-29).


David describes the protection he desires from God (vs. 8)


“Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings”

Keep me as the apple of your eye is the first expression. The apple of the eye is the pupil or small center of the eye. I want to be your focus at this time reflected in your eye and ever under your watchful care. I want to be the son which you take delight in protecting. I want to be your child of choice and I want you to preserve me (keep me). Just as we are asking God to watch over us, we also keep His will as the focal point of our eyes (Prov. 7:2).


Next, David adds that he wants to be sheltered under the wings of God (Mt. 23:37). These two ideas go hand in hand concerning God’s protection of His people (See Ex. 32:10-11).


Guard me from the wicked oppressor (vs. 9)


“From the wicked who despoil me, My deadly enemies who surround me.”

David describes his enemies as deadly. If God doesn’t step into the fight for David and win this battle, David is going to die (Psalm 41:2). They didn’t just want the flesh but they wanted David’s soul to leave the path of righteousness in the process. The enemies are surrounding him and there is no way out unless God makes a way. (See II Thess. 3:2; Psalm 22:12).


Describing the Enemy (vs. 10-14)


The enemies are fat from consuming this world’s goods and they have hard hearts (vs. 10)


“They have closed their unfeeling heart, With their mouth they speak proudly.”

They are fat from overabundance, but from also feasting on the plunder of others (Psalm 73:7-8; Deut. 32:15). They have become selfish (I John 3:17). Making the heart fat often came with heavy ears and eyes that were shut (Isaiah 6:10). This concept was used to describe those that didn’t want to hear the will of God in Christ and were prideful about it (Psalm 86:14).


They ambush David by circling his camp roundabout and look not upward but down on their prey (vs. 11).


“They have now surrounded us in our steps; They set their eyes to cast us down to the ground.”

The steps that David was taking in the ways of God were trying to be derailed by this angry mob that wanted to kill David and destroy his very soul (See I Sam. 23:26). The righteous, but especially the less fortunate, became an easy target for these wicked men (Psalm 10:8; 37:14, 32). They are on the heels of David and those with him. David uses the word “us” which means he was not alone. We can be included in this group if we are seeking the Lord and others are intending to do us harm (II Cor. 4:8).


They had fixed their eyes on David like a lion preparing to kill its next meal (vs. 12)


“He is like a lion that is eager to tear, And as a young lion lurking in hiding places.”

Like a lion before viciously attacking, these wicked men had lost sight of any good and had tunnel vision to destroy David by tearing him apart both physically and spiritually (Psalm 7:2).


This vision is in contrast to looking above or to God for wisdom and direction. They bypassed the will of God and the true heart of David and wanted to kill him despite it all. These enemies are just like Satan (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour the godly and pick us off one by one. They were waiting for the right moment to pounce and David is asking God to stand in their path and stop their evil scheming (See Psalm 22:13).


David asks God to crush their wicked plans with His sword (vs. 13)


“Arise, O LORD, confront him, bring him low; Deliver my soul from the wicked with Your sword,”

Don’t just disappoint them by upsetting their desires, but arise and meet them to prevent them face to face (confront him, bring him low, deliver my soul). Again David uses “O, Lord” to express how he is begging for the Lord to intercede (Psalm 3:7)


David asked the Lord to use His sword which is often used as a symbol of God’s word. Let your will override their foolishness and proclaim judgment to them is David’s earnest prayer (Psalm 7:12; See Deut. 32:41)


The enemy has his only portion in this life and only wants to fill his belly (vs. 14)


“From men with Your hand, O LORD, From men of the world, whose portion is in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your treasure; They are satisfied with children, And leave their abundance to their babes.”

The world hates the godly (John 15:19). They don’t want to hear about God because they only live for the here and now and to fill their stomachs for temporary pleasures (Phil. 3:19).


Sometimes it seems unfair that God causes the rain to fall on the unjust and we can sometimes be envious of the wicked prospering (Psalm 73:3). But remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:25). Both the rich and the poor die, but they take nothing with them and their judgment is determined by how they lived this life before God who provides all of our blessings (Psalm 49:10)


Hope for God’s Presence and Protection (vs. 15)


As for David, he would see God’s face in righteousness (vs. 15)


“As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.”

David wouldn’t be met face to face with God in condemnation but rather in eternal life and righteousness. If God spared David, he would continue to serve, but if this was the end of his earthly life, he also trusted in God to save him in eternity.


David would be satisfied in the verdict of his judgment because it would be joy in the presence of God beholding His face (Matthew 5:8). Whatever God decided would be fair (equitable).


David believed even in the Old Testament that he would awake after death and he would be found in the likeness of God (Dan. 12:2; Phil. 3:21; I John 3:2; Rev. 22:4).

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