Psalm 17 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Answering someone’s question when they’re on a phone call, “Bluetooth or crazy person?” Trying to get your kids to listen to you, finish talking and then ask them what you said “I don’t know”

-Do you assume God is the same way? Aloof, distant, needing to constantly be reminded? You finish praying and God says “What?” 

-I remember growing up hearing the phrase “praying to the ceiling” I initially thought they meant that helped you find the right direction to pray to God! Then I realized it meant the prayers stopped at the ceiling. Maybe you’ve felt that way before, that God doesn’t care, isn’t listening, that your prayers are just as effective as praying to the ceiling.

Psalm 17 shows us we don’t need to worry about any of that. When we cry out, the Lord not only hears us, but He will answer us!

  1. The Righteous One (1-5)

-“just cause” can also be translated as righteousness, so think of this as David telling God to listen to a righteous person. God should pay attention to everything David says because he is a righteous person. 

-Doesn’t that seem a bit presumptive of David? If you’ve ever heard David’s story, he had a lot of highs (defeating Goliath and the Philistines, dancing in front of the ark of the covenant) to lots of lows (killing a man to steal his wife, children stealing his throne). Do you really think when God looked at David he’d see a righteous person? How could David be described as “a man after God’s own heart”? 

-Based on the couple of things I just mentioned, would anyone want to invite David to come hang out with you for a bit? He’s a wife stealer, be careful! Pretty sure, no matter your background, you haven’t been as crazy as David! Keep that in mind as we continue going through this first section.

-“David would not have been a man after God’s own heart if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication.” Spurgeon

-“Cry,” reaction when you’re hanging out with other parents and you hear a child start crying. Nice thing is they tend to take turns! God, being a perfectly heavenly father doesn’t turn off the baby monitor, doesn’t look the other way, he comes close when we cry out to Him.

-“lips free from deceit” “My mouth will not transgress (3)

-Can you say that to the Lord? Remember, you lie to yourself more than anyone else, God knows everything, do you actually mean what you’re saying? Think through some of the things you may pray for:

-Help my church to grow so more people can hear the gospel (bigger platform) Help me to do well at my job so I can move up in the company (more power) Help me to do well at my job so I can make more money and bless more people (more stuff) Help my kids to be “good Christian kids” (better appearances) You can’t trick God, He knows what’s in your heart. Be honest! Share why you’re praying for those things, but then expect God to work in your heart!

-Vindication: David is so sure he’ll be proven right that he invites vindication! Would you be willing to ask this of God? Being so confident that you have nothing to hide that you ask for vindication from the throne room of heaven.

-Tried/tested my heart: inspected. Think of growing up when your parents asked you to clean your room, wouldn’t it be followed (at some point) by an inspection? Moving out of an apartment, they come check the blinds!

-Would you stand up to the Lord’s scrutiny? Think of one of the early Marvel movies, the first Captain America. Steve Rogers is desperate to sign up for the Army, but he doesn’t quite measure up. Too scrawny, too asthmatic. That doesn’t happen with God! Despite all of us being like Steve Rogers and not measuring up, we have someone else who brings us in. We’ll get there…

-Visited by night. 

-When you feel the most alone and isolated, God is there with you. Maybe you’ve had one of those nights where you just can’t sleep, I have! Remember that whole not being a morning person thing? It’s because my mind often starts up right when I’d like to go to bed. Do you ever use those times at night to pray, share your heart with God? Maybe He’s trying to be there with & for you.

-One thing to say something, another thing to back it up. David lives “by the word of your (God’s) lips” Contrast this to “the works of man” and “the ways of the violent”

-Sin always leads to violence, separation of relationship finds its’ fulfillment in harm because our self has become the center of our world, anyone who doesn’t view us that way is in the way

-Do you live this way? Are you trying to live “by the works of man” or are you trying to live by “the word of God’s lips.” This is why it’s so important for us to be centered on God’s Word when we gather together every week! Otherwise we’re tempted to forget what God’s Word says, or even worse start to interpret God’s word according to “the works of man” 

-While I was in seminary one of the things I heard from numerous professors is how they’re continually lowering the requirements for entrance into seminary because so few people actually know the Bible – even those who claim they’re called to ministry! I was a part of a cohort of men who all thought they were called to be lead pastors of a church, and one of them on our first day shared that he’d never read the Bible through.

-“your paths” walking with God, how often do we “slip” and “fall” into sin? Or maybe not even slip and fall, you run headlong into it! And the crazy thing about it is sin seems so enticing in the moment, doesn’t it? 

-It seems so much easier to “get even” than to turn the other cheek. It seems so much easier to condemn in your heart than to truly forgive someone. It feels so much better (in the moment) to indulge just a little more than you should. Yet that isn’t the way God has called and commanded us to live.

-David knows that God will find him righteous. He can look at his talk, his walk, his thoughts, nothing will condemn him. Therefore, he can go on to ask:

  • Salvation Comes from God (6-14)

While the first part of this prayer is David’s uprightness, in this second part, David reminds himself who God is, and what that means for those who are not right.

  1. Preservation (6-9)

-God will always answer your prayers. Do you believe that? It requires living as David has just spent 5 verses describing, but then God will answer your prayers. 

-God answers your prayers the way you would pray them if you knew everything God knows. But did you also know the way you live will affect how God answers your prayers?

1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Does that seem weird to you? Husbands: the way you treat your wife has a direct connection to your prayers. Not said to guilt you, but to ensure your wife is treated well! You have a big call and job to pursue, at least if you want the Lord to hear your prayers, otherwise you are praying to the ceiling! Similarly in James:

James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” This takes place in the context of suffering and confession of sin. Once again, there are prerequisites to God hearing and answering our prayers. This is where confession in prayer is always so important.

-“Steadfast love” chesed covenant faithfulness, promise keeping God. One of the most important words in the whole OT. We’ll spend eternity mining the depths of this reality: God always holds Himself to His Word, and will never abandon his promise to love His people. That’s how we know it’s always worthwhile to reach out to God.

-“It is the most powerful form of prayer just to set our case before God, just to lay bare all our sorrow and all our needs and then say ‘Lord, there it is.’” -C. H. Spurgeon. When I read that I posted in on FB and had someone I grew up with post a link (with no comment) to an article on the scientific study of whether prayer works. As we saw a couple weeks ago, this is practical atheism, that’s what we practice when we don’t actually believe that God will answer our prayers, which in many cases leads to prayerlessness. 

-Refuge – remember from last week the prayer for God to preserve, protect David

-At this point, David calls to mind events in Israel’s history. Moments that God protected and preserved them. 

-First “adversaries at your right hand” across the Red Sea when they escaped Pharoah’s army Ex. 15. God saved His people back then, He can save his people today!

-Second, one of the last recordings from Moses, shortly before he died in Deut. 32 God is described as caring for His people as “the apple of his eye” and as an eagle caring for their young.

-You need to find ways to remember how God has protected and preserved you historically. Write them down, find some kind of trinket, but remember. And then share! Part of the way God will remind us is through others who can remind us of ways God has provided in the past. And by sharing you can hear how God has provided for other people, giving you continued confidence He’ll provide for you.

-Remember, David is asking this as his enemy is creeping up on him. Vs. says his enemies surround him, so when he’s facing death, he takes time to remind himself what God is like, and how He has protected His people in the past.

-This is where it’s important to grow in theology, understanding who God is. Saw a provocative book titled this week “10 Things God Can’t Do, That Will Help You Sleep at Night.” 

-One characteristic I’ve been meditating on recently is the immutability of God, God does not/cannot change. Don’t we often think of that as a negative characteristic? You see the commercials: “My husband still doesn’t put his socks in the hamper, and we’ve been married 30 years!” But what about someone who is so perfect, that ANY change would be negative? Because God doesn’t change, you can trust that the world will keep spinning, that the sun will continue to shine, that there will be oxygen that you can breathe into your lungs. This reality, this theological truth, is meant to bring us peace in the midst of our changing circumstances. This is why we can trust in Him, look back to Him, remind ourselves who He is when we struggle.

-Notice that all of this comes before David actually starts to talk about his enemies. He’s begun by pleading his innocence, his righteousness before God, he recounts truths about God both who God is, and the way God has historically provided for His people, and then he gets to the wicked. 

  • The Wicked (10-12)

-Where David was righteous, faithfully following the path God has designed for him, the wicked aren’t even close to how God has commanded people to live.

-Internally, their hearts have become calloused. This is a weird Hebrew phrase “they closed up their fat” Apparently an old idiom, my son this week started learning about idioms! Cara’s parents were in town, her dad made a joke asking “where do you find an elephant? In the room!” As in there’s the elephant in the room. It went right over my poor son’s head. As someone who is not a native English speaker, how would you understand “an elephant in the room”? You’d start looking for an elephant! For us, “they closed up their fat” would be similarly hard to interpret, so some translations have their hearts have become calloused, ESV: They close their hearts.

-Remember as well how much David had emphasized his clean conscience in regards to his lips: lips free from deceit, mouth will not transgress. Yet the wicked “speak arrogantly.” We’ve seen this in other Psalms this summer: Ps. 15 talked about the person who lives with God speaks truth, Ps. 14 talked about the fool who says in his heart no God. Speaking arrogantly has no place in God’s kingdom!

-These wicked people have surrounded David, and leave him no room to continue walking on God’s path, and their intent is to throw them down.

-To paint a better picture, David compares them to a lion. I couldn’t help but think of The Lion King with this imagery: young Simba being taught by Mufasa how to sneak up on Zazu during his morning report.

  • God’s Deliverance (13-14)

-David then asks for God to deal with them. Look at the verbs: arise, confront, subdue, deliver. God has the ability to completely destroy them. Ultimately, we know that will happen when Christ returns, but sometimes he’ll even do it on this side of eternity! However, don’t place your hope in that!

-Look at the last 2 words of vs. 14b “this life” What makes Christians unique is our hope isn’t in this life.

-David even goes on to describe all the material blessings the wicked receive: treasures, lots of children who all receive a large inheritance. It often feels like the world is unfair like this. The godly get the scraps and the wicked ones are blessed.

-Our whole lives this will be the temptation, to look for satisfaction from worldly things. Money, cars, houses, the right clothes, the right haircut, the right body type. Yet there’s always something more!

-Not inherently bad! Jesus warned repeatedly to not be consumed by wealth, but at the same time He was sponsored by wealthy people who supported His ministry! But these people are using their wealth to put their hope in Jesus: “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

  • My Satisfaction is the Lord (15)

-David concludes where he began, talking about his ultimate hope being in God.

-Remember, “Just cause” in vs. 1, David uses the exact same Hebrew word here that is translated as “righteousness” Intentionally referring back to what he’d said before. He has proven himself, and because of that He can behold God.

-2 ways to take the second half: either in the resurrection, or literally the next morning! “Likeness”: literally form. Some translate as “reveal yourself to me” others “presence” David is assured God will deliver Him, no need to worry!

-Do you believe God will answer your prayers like this, or does reading something like this tend to stress you out because you feel like your prayers stop at the ceiling?

-David begins noting his innocence, he has nothing to confess, nothing to worry about, no secret sins to expose. Then he moves to praise God and remind himself of how God has saved his people in the past, he asks the Lord for deliverance from his enemy, and then trusts that God will answer him.

-For us: we’ve seen over the past few Psalms how we’re not inherently righteous! We have no good in ourselves apart from God at work in us.

-But Jesus is the perfectly righteous one. Look at how Heb. 5:7 describes Him. “He was heard.” And we even have accounts in the Gospels of Jesus praying for us (John 17:20). Since Jesus Himself, who is definitely heard when He prayed, we can continue praying in the Spirit, through the sacrifice of the Son, to the Father.

-And now (Rom. 8:34), because of the way Jesus made through his death on the cross, He intercedes, prays, on our behalf and invites us to pray to God boldly, with thanksgiving because of the access we have. Our Father invites us in, not because of anything we’ve done or haven’t done, but because when He looks at us He sees Jesus in us, sanctifying and purifying us, making us “righteous ones”

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