A prayer of David.

This psalm is thus specifically marked out as a prayer made by Israel’s great shepherd-king.  We must remember that by the prayer/prophecy principle, everything spoken in a divinely-inspired prayer becomes a prophecy of something that God WILL do in the future.  Let us consider what David asked of God in this prayer.

1.  Hear a just cause, O LORD,

It appears that once again David was under attack by his enemies.  He appeals to the LORD to hear his cause.  “Hear” means not just to physically hear what he has to say, but also to respond to it in a way that is appropriate.

Attend to my cry;

David repeats himself, this time praying the LORD to attend to his cry.

Give ear to my prayer that is not from deceitful lips.

A third time David repeats himself for the most solemn emphasis.  This threefold repetition is known as the figure of speech Anabasis or Gradual Ascent, which is “An increase of emphasis or sense in successive sentences.”  (Companion Bible, Appendix page 8)

David emphasizes that there is no deceit in his lips as he pleads his cause to the LORD.  Of course the LORD, knowing all, realizes that this is true.

2.  Let my vindication come from Your presence;

David is confident that the LORD will justify his cause.

Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.

David calls upon the LORD to view his uprightness in the cause he is pleading.  When exactly in David’s lifetime this psalm took place is uncertain.  It may have been early in his kingship when he was attacked by wicked men, and before he committed the sin that so plagued the end of his life and reign.

3.  You have tested my heart;

David must have known of the LORD’s words to Samuel when he was sent to choose a king from the sons of Jesse.  The LORD had tested the hearts of all eight of those sons, and He had chosen David because He knew his heart.  Now David appeals to the LORD’s testing of his heart to aid him as he pleads his cause.

You have visited me in the night;

In the time when the wicked ply their trade under cover of darkness, the LORD had visited David and knew that he was pure from all such things.

You have tried me and have found nothing;

David knew that the LORD was already aware of his innocence.

I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

David, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could never say anything that was wrong.  When he spoke under his own power, however, he was as prone to sin in his speech as any of the rest of us.  We must remember that, in view of Psalm 16, this psalm finds its final, greatest fulfillment in David’s Son and Lord, Jesus Christ.

4.  Concerning the works of men,

David will now speak of his actions, the actions of a man.

By the word of Your lips,

Again David credits divine inspiration with accomplishing his sinlessness.

I have kept myself from the paths of the destroyer.

Kings could be violent and bloody indeed, and many corrupt kings were and are in our day.  Yet by God’s aid David had kept himself from acting like this.

5.  Uphold my steps in Your paths,

The idea is that of ruts in the road.  In the old days of wagons and dirt roads, the ruts would often be so large that a wagon couldn’t stray from the path if it wanted to, as it was locked into the ruts.  David calls on God to mark his path with ruts so that he cannot swerve from it.

That my footsteps may not slip.

David fears slipping from the LORD’s way, and thus he calls on Him for a path marked out by ruts.

6.  I have called upon You, for you will hear me, O God;

David is already confident of a reply from God, and that is why he has called upon Him.  “Hear” again carries with it the idea not just of physical hearing, but also of responding favorably.  “God” here is the singular El rather than the usual plural Elohim.

Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.

David again repeats himself for emphasis, pleading with God to hear his cause.

7.  Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,

God’s lovingkindness is the same thing as His grace.  David calls upon God to display his grace.

O You Who save those who trust in You

Yes, God does indeed save those who trust in Him!  Let us thank God that we are among those who trust in His grace.

From those who rise up against them.

David’s concern is those who were rising against him.  Such a situation is common with kings, but David’s trust was not in himself, but in his God.

8.  Keep me as the apple of Your eye;

The apple is the most sensitive part of the eye, and it helps to guard the rest of the eye.  David calls upon God to guard him as one would guard the apple of his eye.

Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,

David likens God to a mother bird who spreads her wings over her young to protect them.  David desires to be kept by God even as that mother keeps her little ones.

9.  From the wicked who oppress me,

These lawless men will stop at nothing to harm David.  Thus he calls upon the LORD for help and protection.

From my deadly enemies who surround me.

The Hebrew reads “the foes of my soul.”  David was surrounded by those who hated his very being.  How greatly he needed God’s protection!

10.  They have closed up their fat hearts;

Because of the abundance of their wealth, David’s enemies have no compassion left for him.

With their mouths they speak proudly.

David’s enemies were not afraid to speak rashly from their own pride.  How like the enemies our Lord faced during His time on earth!

11.  They have now surrounded us in our steps;

David, following the ways of the Lord, finds himself surrounded in his going by these proud, lawless men.

They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth.

David describes these men like a hunting cat, singling out their prey and crouching to leap for the kill.

12.  Like a lion that is eager to tear his prey,

These lawless men are like lions ready to spring upon David.

And as a young lion lurking in secret places.

Again David repeats his figure of these men as cats, using repetition for solemn emphasis.  These men were crouched, ready to destroy him, even as he called on the LORD for help.

13.  Arise, O LORD,

Now David calls upon the LORD for aid, knowing He is the only One able to stop these crouching lion-like men.

Confront him, cast him down;

David calls upon the LORD to confront these men and defeat them, knowing that he in his own strength would be powerless before them.

Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword.

Again David repeats and increases the emphasis of his plea, calling upon the LORD to use His power to deliver him.

14.  With Your hand from men, O LORD,

David reminds us that he is not speaking of literal lions, but of men who act like lions.

From men of the world who have their portion in this life,

These men are lawless, and thus have no hope of resurrection.  Therefore, the only portion they receive is in this life.  Let such a thing never be said of us!

And whose belly You fill with your hidden treasure.

David speaks of these men as receiving blessing from the LORD, though they know it not.  How many in our own day are recipients of God’s grace and yet never realize it or acknowledge the One Who grants it to them!

They are satisfied with children,

Children are indeed a blessing, yet what a poor substitute they are for a God like the LORD!

And leave the rest of their substance for their babes.

Yet what use is that when their children likewise will die?  And, as Solomon said, who is to tell if their children will be wise or fools with the goodness they inherit?  Without hope in the LORD, these men’s lives are empty.

15.  As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;

David contrasts his own hope in resurrection with the fading hope of these men who look forward only to death and leaving their goods to their children.  What a far more blessed hope there is in knowing that one has a life to come!

I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

What a blessed thought to consider awakening from death in the likeness of the One Who saved us by His blood!  What a glorious thing to consider, and what a great hope to have!  Certainly those who hope only in this life have no such blessed hope for the future as this.  May God speed the day when we shall behold His face in righteousness, ourselves displaying His likeness!

To the chief Musician.

David dedicates this prayer to the chief Musician, thus making it a public prayer, teaching us to trust in the Lord in our own times of trouble, and to remember how much more blessed our future is than that of the wicked.  We can thank God for including such a psalm in His Word!

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