319 – Psalm 17 – The Battle

If you read all of Psalm seventeen for context, you will notice David contrasts the wicked with himself. In verses ten through twelve, David spends a few minutes talking about the wicked. Actually, verse nine belongs in this section, but we covered it last time.

  Psalm 17:10-12 (LEB)

     10 They have shut off their calloused heart; 

     with their mouth they speak arrogantly. 

     11 Now they surround us at our every step. 

     They ⌊intend⌋ 

     ⌊to pin⌋ me to the ground. 

     12 ⌊He is like⌋ a lion; he longs to tear apart, 

     and like a strong lion crouching in hiding places. 

What has the wicked done? “They have shut off their calloused heart”. The word translated as “calloused” actually means fat. When you combine “fat heart” with the fact that they have “shut off” their heart, the translation decision for “calloused heart” is an easy one. How does one come to have a calloused heart? The answer is so obvious we almost don’t need to ask the question. Constant rejection of things righteous, or doing the right thing, will cause the heart to become calloused to what is good.

What else do they do? “They speak arrogantly” which seems to be an end result of rejecting what is good. One reason arrogance is never good is it tends to elevate one’s self above other people and even God. 

Next, in verse eleven, they “surround us at our every step”. What is that sentence saying? David can’t take a single step without the wicked being right there to stop him from moving forward. This is a position of antagonism. The wicked never seem to be content to simply be in rebellion against God. They tend to want to persecute those who would live godly.

As for determining the Hebrew poetic structure, it seems obvious to me verse ten is synthetic parallelism because we learn new information with each new sentence part. In fact, I would say verses ten through twelve are all synthetic parallelism. 

Look at the second half of verse eleven, “They intend to pin me to the ground”. Notice again the little brackets around “intend” and “to pin”. They literally mean, “set their eyes”, and “to stretch” respectively. “To stretch” or “to pin” David to the ground paints two different pictures in my mind. The first, “to stretch” him to the ground reminds me of driving stakes in the ground and tying both hands and feet to those stakes. The second picture that comes to mind is simply someone who is killed and laid out flat on the ground never to rise again. They intend to permanently stop David.

Verse twelve is a summary verse saying David’s wicked enemy is like a lion – an animal of prey. It’s in a lion’s nature to hunt and tear apart his victim just like it is in the wicked man’s heart to hunt and tear apart the righteous. This reminds me of a New Testament verse.

1 Peter 5:8 (LEB)

8 Be sober; be on the alert. Your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

I find David’s response to the threat of the wicked in verse thirteen absolutely fascinating! He doesn’t pray, Yahweh, give me the strength and skill to defeat my enemies. Look at what he does say.

Psalm 17:13 (LEB)

     13 Rise up, O Yahweh, confront ⌊him⌋. 

     Make him bow down. 

     Rescue with your sword my life from the wicked, 

David has learned that there is no one better to fight one’s battles than Yahweh. Yahweh never loses! It’s not that we need to convince Yahweh to come over to our side. No, we need to come over to Yahweh’s side, which is always the winning side!

Notice again the little brackets around the word “him” in verse thirteen. The literal translation for “him” is actually “his face”. So the sentence should be rendered, “Rise up, O Yahweh, confront his face”. Even though it doesn’t read smoothly in English it communicates the idea that David is asking Yahweh to confront this arrogant, hard-hearted, wicked man face-to-face on David’s behalf! David knows who this wicked person is, but more importantly, he knows in whom he has believed! He knows Yahweh!

Psalm 17:13 calls to mind Ephesians 6:12.

Ephesians 6:12 (LEB)

12 because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

As believers in Jesus, we should all be in the battle. Only we should constantly remind ourselves it isn’t people we are battling. Our fight is to strive to stay in fellowship with the one who fights on our behalf. We should be fighting to not get drawn into battles with people, recognizing victory is found in prayer to the one who is all-powerful and infinitely good.

Yahweh truly is worthy of all Praise, Worship, Adoration, and Service.

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