315 – Psalm 17 – Introduction
If you haven’t read my previous post What are you thinking I hope you’ll take a few minutes to do that before we look at Psalm 17 together. If you’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for any length of time it won’t surprise you that what’s in our hearts determines what comes out of our mouths and the things we do, which we talked about last time. Reading Psalm 17, it isn’t hard to notice all three elements (thoughts, words, deeds) in David’s words. Before we dig into our passage I would like to point out that not only does what’s in our hearts determine our words and actions, but we can go the other direction too. Our words and actions can be used as a sort of indicator or measure revealing to us what is in our hearts (can we call that fruit?)
We can fool others by what we say and do, keeping what’s in our hearts hidden from them. Many times we’ve even become skilled at fooling ourselves, but it is not possible to conceal our thoughts from Yahweh God. David knew this full well as he penned this Hebrew poem.
Once again I’m going to quote from the Lexham English Bible because they do not substitute the word LORD for God’s name Yahweh (YHWH). Let’s look at verse one.
Psalm 17:1 (LEB)
1 O Yahweh, hear a just cause.
Hear my cry; heed my prayer
I make without deceitful lips.
I’ve talked about Hebrew poetry many times, but for any new readers let’s do a quick review. Hebrew poetry is very different from English poetry. It uses thought parallelism instead of the rhyme and meter recognized as our poetry. The publishers of our modern-day Bible translations help know what lines to compare by breaking the individual thoughts to the next line.
Synonymous parallelism is when a subsequent thought communicates the same idea using different words. Antithetical parallelism is when a subsequent thought is the opposite or contrasting thought to the previous one. Synthetic parallelism is when a subsequent thought gives additional information to the previous thought. There are many more types of parallelism but these three are the easiest to recognize and are the most abundant in the Psalms.
Against this backdrop let’s determine the parallelism in verse one. This first thought is David addressing Yahweh and asking him to “hear” his case. He states it a little differently on the next line, but it’s essentially the same idea. “Hear my cry” it would seem this is indicating synonymous parallelism, but an argument could be made for synthetic because we gain a little more information. David uses both “cry” and “prayer” to describe the petition he is laying before God. The third and final thought of verse one is, “I make without deceitful lips”, which I would say is definitely synthetic because we are now privy to new information. “…without deceitful lips” tells us what’s in David’s heart lines up with the words he is using to ask God for something.
In our study method we first attempt to exhaust our observations, before we move on to interpretation (understanding), and we should always get through our observations and interpretations before finally applying what we’ve learned. So though my next question seems to jump the process we can list it as an observation. I wonder if sometimes when we struggle in prayer if it isn’t because we aren’t being honest with God as we pray. We maybe approach him thinking we are being honest with Him about what’s in our hearts, but the truth is what we are saying doesn’t match our intentions. Maybe we should spend some time examining ourselves as a part of the prayer process.
Hebrews 4:12 (LEB)
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart.
Believe it or not, we can think we know our hearts, but then we get into the word and we begin to notice things that shouldn’t be there. Now we are ready to pray. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying don’t pray unless your words and intentions are in perfect sync. But I am saying be open to allowing the word of God to work change in your heart as you pray. I know you know this, but prayer is much more than simply reading off your Christmas list to God. He speaks to us primarily through His word, and we speak to Him primarily through prayer. Both are critical components in our relationship with God. Be in His Holy Word. Read it, ponder it, meditate upon it, and allow it to change you. Pray often to Yahweh. Do more in prayer than just asking Him for stuff.
Yahweh truly is worthy of all Praise, Worship, Adoration, and Service! Commune with Him!