From A Prayer Of David

By Alfred Bouter

Two psalms, 17 and 86, are entitled “Prayer.” The word “prayer” (Hebrew tephillah) is used 77 times in the Hebrew Bible.

In his prayer of Psalm 17 and by faith, David placed himself in the presence of the LORD, asking Him to listen to him and intervene to plead his cause. David recognized God’s righteousness and holiness, and he submitted to His standards because he wanted to be right with God. In contrast to the actions and ways of men and of those who oppose God, David tried not to deviate from God’s path, either in word or action. He called on the LORD, confident that God would answer him. David prayed that the LORD would protect him as the apple of His eye and keep him under the shadow of His wings, away from those who oppose him. These were violent, arrogant people, contrasted by those who have the qualities of true disciples (see Matthew 5:3-9). In his distress, David asked for God’s intervention, keeping his trust in Him and confident that one day he would be satisfied with the LORD’s presence in the world of resurrection.

A Key Verse
In the middle of this prayer we find verse 7, consisting of only six words in the Hebrew. These words are like pearls representing great riches. Compare two translations with the Hebrew text:

New King James VersionNew American Standard BibleHebrew Text
Show Your marvelousWondrously showWondrously show
loving-kindnessYour loving-kindnessYour loving-kindness
by Your right hand,O SaviorYou who save
O You who saveof those who take refugethose who trust [in You]
those who trust in You at Your right handfrom their adversaries (literal:
from those who rise up [against them]
from those who rise up against them.From those who rise up against them.with [or, “at”] Your right hand.

In the third column, the English words in each box are translated from one word in the Hebrew text.

A Few Considerations
Let’s ponder a few thoughts as we consider this wonderful verse, using the Hebrew text as a guide.

I say “wonderful” because David’s prayer “Show Your marvelous loving-kindness” is closely linked to the Hebrew word for “wonderful” that may also be translated as “marvelous.” The Scriptures use it only in relation to God. The root of this word occurs 98 times (or 7 x 14) in the Hebrew Bible, in several forms. It is one of the names of the LORD and of the Messiah and is contained in the English words of miracle, marvelous, wonderful and admirable. David’s prayer implies the desire that God would show Himself in a marvelous way, according to who He is and expressed in His name “Wonderful” (Isa. 9:6; compare with Judges 13:18).

The second Hebrew word implies a connection between what God does and what He is: God is good and His goodness expresses who He is. God wants those who believe, His children, to reflect His goodness (or steadfast love) in their actions, words and attitude. Biblically, the Hebrew term Chasidim, meaning pious or holy ones, represents believers reflecting the goodness of God. Of course there is always a difference between God and those who reflect something of Him, but what is implied is the link between the Holy One, who is good, and His holy ones.

The third word in the Hebrew text addresses the One who saves. There is a close connection between Jesus as the One who saves, the Savior (Mt. 1:21), and the fact that He is the Messiah, God (Emmanuel, v.23). The Jews consistently reject both points, but the gospel of John reconfirms their importance: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 20:31 NKJV). Saul of Tarsus, immediately after his conversion, affirmed that these two great truths are inseparable one from another: Jesus is the Son of God and He is the Messiah (Acts 9:21-22). Wonderful Savior! “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior” (Isa. 43:11).

“Those who trust [in You]” represents those who have been saved and are marked by the fact that they have learned to put their trust in Him. They learned this from the Man Christ Jesus, our perfect model, who as a man on earth always put His trust in God (Ps. 16:1). Here are a few of the 42 times that this verb is used:

  • “… under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12),
  • “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Ps. 2:12, total of 25 times in Psalms),
  • “He knows those who trust in Him” (Nah. 1:7), and
  • “I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD” (Zeph. 3:12).

The release from those who oppose the faithful, or “who rise up against them,” is something only God can do, as the end of the psalm suggests: “Arise, O LORD” (Ps. 17:13). “Arise” is one form of the verb “to oppose” or “to rise.” So David’s prayer involves the thought that God may rise up against those who oppose or rise up against His people. Faith realizes that God is its only remedy.

“Your right hand” is a personification of God Himself, sometimes represented by His “hand” or His “arm” (Isa. 53:1,10). “Your right hand, O LORD! has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces” (Ex. 15:6). “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the Son of Man whom You made strong for Yourself” (Ps. 80:17). “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly” (Ps. 118:15). “Your right hand shall teach You awesome things” (Ps. 45:4). Finally, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). The right hand or arm implies power and represents a position of favor (Gen. 48:18; Ps. 110:1,5).

This short verse of six Hebrew words (Ps. 17:7) displays wonderful points on the person and work of the Lord Jesus and of our God and Father. May His Spirit, who dwells in us, produce in us similar desires as we see in David in this beautiful psalm and verse, realizing that we live in the age of grace.

To Him be the glory both now and forever!

Author: Sebastien

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