Psalm 17: When Lions Surround You
A prayer of David.
Hear me, Lord, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover. Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked. 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. As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
When I was a kid, I thought of my life as an epic story. Okay maybe not an EPIC story, but at least an exciting story. Fine, maybe not exciting, but I thought of it as a story. Every good story has both good and evil. When I was a kid, I felt the need to paint some people as "good" and others as "bad," simply because I needed a narrative to my life.
So in my life there were "villains" and "heroes." Obviously I was a hero. This led me to occasionally antagonizing some people in order to have a natural enemy. I don't know exactly why I did this. I was a strange kid. In the end it was "all in good fun," but I'm sure it wasn't for everyone involved.
As I grew older though, I started encounter different "enemies." These were people who didn't like me because of who I was, not because of anything I did to antagonize them. Overall I've had a cushier life than many. But I still encountered people who didn't like me and antagonized ME.
While the idea of having enemies sounded cool as a kid, having enemies in real life is pretty terrible. David talks about having enemies quite often in Psalms. In today's Psalm, he talks about how his enemies are arrogant lions on the hunt for him. His enemies surround him and things are looking dire.
But David has faith. David prays to God "Let my vindication come from you." The word vindication means "the action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion." David's prayer is both a prayer for justice and a prayer for safety. He prays that the evil will receive justice for their acts (Hear me, Lord, my plea is just). David also prays for God to look favorably on him and deliver him (Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings).
We face enemies and trials every day. When we face hardships of any kind, it's tempting to just deal with them yourself or to complain to those around you. Instead, let's have the same posture David has and pray for God's justice and safety.
There are quite a few unjust things in the world. Recently the news has been filled with stories of injustice in our communities. Ahmaud Arbery comes to my mind. Ahmaud was my age. He didn't do anything wrong. He was just going for a run in his neighborhood. Fueled by racism, a couple of guys murdered him in cold blood. Until a video came out of what happened, Arbery's murderers were living life with no consequences. This is injustice. The good news is that our God is a just God who will judge everyone according to their deeds one day. But until that day, we ought to stand up for the things God stands up for.
Our God is a just God who will punish evil. Let us pray together that His Kingdom will expand in our world.
Challenge: Write a prayer asking God for safety and justice. A prayer of safety from the evil this world. A prayer of justice for those who do wrong. Pray that good is vindicated and evil is punished. Behold, our God is making all things new.