The Bible


Psalms 17



1 Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.

2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

3 Thou has proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou has tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.

5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.

6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.

7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.

8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.

10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly.

11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;

12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.

13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:

14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.




Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 17


By New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 17 is a particularly confident psalm, showing the feelings of someone who knows the Lord, who knows the ways of the Lord and who also knows the ups and downs of their own relationship with the Lord. In this psalm a lot is claimed, a lot is recognised, and a lot is scorned.

It is also unusually well written, having phrases which catch the essence of spiritual realities, phrases like ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye’, ‘They (the wicked) have closed up their fat hearts’ and ‘I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.’ It is important for us, reading very assured statements on the part of the speaker, not to see these as arrogance or egotism, but rather as conviction and affirmation of someone who will follow the Lord.

The psalm begins, like many do, with a cry -- an appeal to the Lord. ‘Hear a just cause, O Lord, attend to my cry’. It continues, ‘Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.’ The rest of the psalm is this prayer, and its sincerity is always apparent.

The spiritual meaning of this – as with all prayer to the Lord – is far more to become aware of states and needs in ourselves, rather than to ask for things or even advise the Lord what he should be doing. This psalm is a perfect model of that understanding and outcome of prayer. (See Apocalypse Explained 695.5)

Verse 2 has the expression, ‘Let your eyes look on the things that are upright.’ This speaks to the idea that in us, there will always be a mix of what is self-seeking and what is true to the Lord. This is fact, even when our commitment to the Lord and the Word has been our constant practice for many years. Even the angels continue to go through changes in their states. (Divine Providence 223.2)

This continues on into the next verse, where the speaker several times declares that the Lord will find no evil in his heart, even, note, ‘in the night’ -- which is during temptation. The Lord sees everything as it really is; he sees our faults and self-deception, but he knows the true state of our heart and its deepest desire beyond all the changing states. (New Jerusalem 57)

This section ends with a statement ‘I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.’ Spiritually, this reminds us that our commitment to the Lord is not only to be felt and thought; it must be continually lived out in our words and actions. (Arcana Caelestia 6987)

From verse 4 to verse 12, the focus is on the works of men, as verse 4 says. It seems to be a matter of two things; first, to be kept firmly purposeful in following the Lord, and secondly, to be kept safe from the destructive attacks of the wicked. Spiritually, this is not so much to do with other people as with our own lower nature and self-interest, with which evil spirits will have a field day given the least opportunity.

Verse 5 beautifully says, ‘Uphold my steps in your paths’, and verse 8 says, ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye’ which wonderfully carry the truth that each person is looked on by the Lord as if they were the only person there is. But even our sincere wish to follow the Lord is of infinite joy to the Lord. (Arcana Caelestia 33)

The psalm ends with the momentous words, “As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.”