Psalm 17 is titled “a prayer of David.” Those who have spent years in study of this book suggest that Psalms 16-18 are to be linked together. This prayer of David is prayed from the standpoint of a man trying to do things God’s way, and then facing enemies (v. 9) who are surrounding him (v. 10), and striving to harm him (v. 11-13). Yet, it is from God that he will get deliverance (v. 13-15).
This psalm is a tribute to God's greatness, but also a reminder to us. It first reminds us that David faced problems just like we do today. It is not that King David had no problems, or they were removed somehow (Ecc. 1:9-11).
Secondly, we are reminded that whatever problems we face need to be given to God (I Pet. 5:7). When we refuse to do this, we are telling God we will do it on our own. This is a mistake (Jer. 10:23; Ps. 17:5)! Let’s turn our concerns and care over to God and allow Him to be in charge for a change! See what happens then.
Let us be reminded that it is God who has our best interests in mind, not man (Ps. 17:6-7). When we observe the actions of men, we see their wickedness on many occasions (v. 9-12). Very few men have our best interests in mind. Conversely, God always wants what is best for us! This is what love does (I Cor 13:4-8), and God is love (I Jn. 4:8)!
Psalms 16-18 are also connected because these passages fit well with the life of Christ. In reading this text, we see how this is so. Christ approached God in prayer and in life with genuine speech (v. 1). He called upon God, trusting that God would hear, and He did (v 6). God kept Jesus (and David, and others) as “the apple of the eye” (v. 8). This figure of speech means someone close to you, someone special. Certainly Jesus would fit that description!
Christ was surrounded by enemies and the wicked, but trusted in God (v. 9-13). God delivered, and He will deliver men today! Read Psalm 17:15 and note the trust we can have in God because of what He has done for us! This is a psalm of comfort when the hard times come, and we ought to read it again and again.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Psalm 16 is a very interesting song. Among other things, it has a prophetic section, wherein Peter, being guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) preached about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In so doing, he quoted from portions of Psalm 16.
In this “divine commentary,” we are assured that the One David was talking about in Psalm 16:8-11 was his descendant, Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:25-28, 31)! David would die and his body buried, and that would be all, but the One to come would have a body that would not see corruption, because it was resurrected (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:31)!
The beauty and glory of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ cannot be overemphasized. In this case, David speaks of it some 1000 years before it happened! He speaks about it with perfect clarity, so that none can misunderstand. Let us be thankful for this! Truly Christ is declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection (Rom. 1:4). Baptism has power to save because of the resurrection (I Pet. 3:21). Since Christ resurrected, we know we will one day (I Cor. 15:12-20)!
Let us be warned, though. In this same psalm we learn, “Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god” (Ps. 16:4). Let us not be enamored by other “gods.” Those things take our focus and our fidelity away from God!
It is a constant warning from God that we not be involved in idolatry. This is seen from Genesis to Revelation! John’s last words in his first epistle are to Christians, reminding them, “keep yourselves from idols” (I Jn. 5:22)! God thinks it necessary we stay away from idols and idolatry. Our sorrows will be multiplied when we do not avoid them!
What might be “gods” (idols) to us? Certainly any object, person, idea, or action that we place above God! The apostle Paul reminds us that “covetousness … is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). In this way, think about I Timothy 6:10. The “love of money” is “the root of all evil,” and those who strive for it will “pierce themselves through with many sorrows”! This passage kind of sounds like Psalm 16:4, doesn’t it? Let us make sure we put nothing above God (Matt. 6:33)!
Friends, let us take seriously the multifaceted Psalm 16. It has prophecies we see fulfilled in Christ, and has practical warnings for people of every age! We can learn much when we heed the inspired words of David.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Psalm 14 is interesting for a few reasons. One is that it is repeated almost totally in “Book 2” (Ps. 53). There are some minor differences, but it is essentially the same psalm, except for the context. In an earlier study, we made the point that the psalms have a context, just as every other Bible book, chapter, and verse. In his Psalms commentary, Evan Blackmore makes this point, noting that Psalm 14 is set in a context where we see the progressive emphasis turning from the destiny of the wicked to the destiny of the righteous in Psalms 11-14. In contrast, Psalm 53 is set in a context (Ps. 52-56) of only the punishment of the wicked (Evan Blackmore. The Book of Psalms, 2017. Vol. 1. p. 202).
Digging into the text, we see the well-known statement about the fool saying there is no God (v. 1). Before we leave this, please notice I did not quote this verse correctly! “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” is correct. Notice there is nothing here said about speaking verbally or making some verbal affirmation. The fool has denied God “in his heart.” Could it be possible that I have denied God but outwardly am still acting like a disciple? Perhaps I should ask, is it possible that I “have a name that (I) live” but am dead (Rev. 3:1)? This will not be a state you live in for long! When we deny God, we are on a downward spiral to destruction, losing our reputations and our souls (Rom. 1:18-31)!
I am intrigued that the word “fool” in Psalm 14 (and 53) is the word “Nabal” in the Hebrew. Does this sound familiar? Read I Samuel 25 and refresh your memory! I am not suggesting David meant this man specifically in this psalm, but I think by adding I Samuel 25 to our study, we see a living example of what David was talking about in Psalm 14. Using the word “fool” is not a minor thing. In this context, it is not necessarily someone lacking intelligence but someone who rebels against God. His rebellion is so deep that he even denies the existence of His creator while he breathes the air so graciously given to him (Rom. 1:28; II Pet. 2:1).
“There is none that doeth good …. no not one” (Ps. 14:1, 3), and the counterpart in Psalm 53 are quoted in Romans 3. These words remind us that our salvation is a result of God’s grace! Read Psalm 14:2-4, and it is abundantly clear that no one can “earn” salvation (Lk. 17:10), but we can follow the Lord’s conditions and find salvation when we do what He commands (Mk. 16:16; Titus 2:11-12). This is the least we can do!
The final verse is a prayer that salvation would come to the people. Remember, David has spoken in clear terms about the issue of rebellion (v. 1), the people doing nothing good (v. 1, 3), how the people were gone aside (kind of like, “all we like sheep have gone astray,” Isa. 53:6a), and they were “workers of iniquity” (v. 4). This is a direct result of people saying in their hearts, “there is no God”! Is there any wonder why David would cry for salvation from Zion (Ps. 14:7)? In this case, Zion has to do with the Lord’s dwelling-place, not a point on a map. David yearns for His people’s salvation from God “when Yahweh restores His captive people” (LSB). It reminds me of Paul’s prayer in Romans 10:1-3.
Do we look at our fellow man and cry like this to God? If not, why not? “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16). Many are in sin and need to have their eyes opened. Are you praying for the “open door” to get the gospel to them (II Thess. 3:1; Col. 4:3)? Have we lost our faith in the power of prayer? I pray not! May we not be guilty of saying in our heart “there is no God.” Saying this “in your heart” will eventually manifest in your actions, just like it did with the Jews in David’s day and the Gentiles in Romans 1!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The 15th psalm is one I have preached, taught in classes, etc. It is a straightforward psalm that tells us how to abide (live) with God. The point David makes in verse one is asking who shall be in God’s presence or enjoy fellowship with God. The rest of the psalm answers this question.
Another interesting point is that Psalm 15 is similar to Psalm 14. As we continue to read, we will see that Psalm 24 borrows some phrases from here, just like Psalm 53 and Psalm 14 are worded similarly. The difference is that Psalm 24 only uses a small piece of Psalm 15, but Psalm 53 repeats Psalm 14 word-for-word.
In the text, we see David’s main question asked in verse 1. It is the same question asked two ways: “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” and “Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Zion (God’s dwelling) is compared to the tabernacle (tent) or a high hill in this verse. When we look back in the Old Testament, we see the Tabernacle was where God spoke and met (communed) with His people (Ex. 29:42-43, 33:8-9). This is where God’s glory was seen (Ex. 40:34-35). Thus, it is fitting to ask such a question. Please note David did not have the literal tabernacle in mind. We know this based on the rest of the psalm. Again, who can be in God’s presence, ultimately? Imagine being a Jew 3000 years ago and getting to sing this song that spelled out who it is!
Someone who (v. 2-5):
- Walks uprightly or blamelessly. This word would remind the Hebrews of the spotless animal sacrifice they were to offer. He lives a life of integrity, just as John taught (I Jn. 2:6).
- Works righteousness. This was what Peter told Cornelius to do as well (Acts 10:35).
- Speaks the truth “in his heart.” This shows the sincerity of the person. He doesn’t speak the truth only when convenient for him to do so. He is an honest person (Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9)!
- Does not backbite. This is a natural contrast with the last phrase about speaking the truth!
- Does not do evil. This is a demand throughout Scripture. We are not to do evil to people even when they first did evil to us (Rom. 12:19; Matt. 7:12, 5:39-45).
- Does not take a reproach against his neighbor. From this, we see we are not to “discredit” or say evil things against our neighbors. “Who is my neighbor?” Do you remember?
- Rejects the vile person. The righteous man has the right attitude toward evil people. This is not speaking about hatred of the person but a rejection of the deeds of the evil person. One in fellowship with God does not praise evil but rejects it, just like Jesus did (Heb. 1:9)!
- Honors those who fear the Lord. This statement stands as a natural contrast with the last phrase. Since a righteous man rejects the vile person’s ways, he accepts those who fear the Lord! He is in fellowship with everyone who is in fellowship with God (II Jn. 9-11; I Jn. 1:7).
- Swears to his own hurt. This means this person makes a promise and stands by it when it is right. This is especially true when we consider the things we have promised God (Ecc. 5:1-6)! When I made a vow to be a Christian, this means I will be a Christian and follow the Lord regardless of what others say!
- Does not put out his money to usury. This is a little difficult for 21st-century people to understand. Under the Old Testament, God forbade His people from charging interest on debts to anyone but foreigners (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 23:19-20; Neh. 5; etc.). Thus, a righteous man would not charge interest on debts to his countrymen. A modern application would be not to be oppressive to people or not take advantage of people when they are in a weakened circumstance, financially or otherwise.
- Does not take a bribe. Staying with the theme of “money” and how to use it properly, righteous people do not take bribes! Judas would be an example of someone who did not live Psalm 15:5 (Matt. 26:15)!
Doing these things means we will not be moved (shaken), just as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-28! When we look to the New Testament, we see obedience to God emphasized similarly. If I am going to please God, I need to do what He says (Heb. 5:9), be motivated in the right way (I Cor. 13:4-8; Jn. 13:34-35), and treat others correctly (Matt. 7:12). Just as in Old Testament days, it is possible to be in fellowship with God today! Let’s make this our daily goal to “walk in the light” (I Jn. 1:7)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
This psalm shows us a great contrast between the righteous and the wicked. David turns to God for his help (v. 1). Why? David says the godly and the faithful have ceased and are no more. I do not understand this to be an absolute statement, but a poetic statement where it seems he sees no righteous people around. Indeed, righteous people existed then (and today), for God always has His “7000” (I Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:3-4)! Yet, David cries out in sorrow about the words of the wicked (v. 2).
He quickly understands, though, that “the Lord shall cut them off” (v. 3). Do we ever get downtrodden? Do we think that the world is so far gone that it is beyond help? Have we ever asked where God is during these times? If you have, then let David answer these questions in Psalm 12.
The words of the wicked sound mighty and intimidating, but I must remember that God’s words are “pure words, as silver… purified seven times” (v. 6). This means God’s word is without a speck of imperfection. It is without a hint of error! Remember that “seven” symbolizes that which is perfect or complete. Therefore, if God’s word is like “silver … purified seven times,” we can be assured there is no error to be found here! Man will lie and change facts to suit himself or to make himself look good. God changes nothing! His very word is truth (Jn. 17:17) and needs no change! We need to listen to it above anything a man might tell us!
Finally, the wicked men roam or walk when the vilest are exalted (v. 8). Sadly, this seems to be the lot of men who live on earth. God speaks, but His word is ignored by the wicked. Wicked men roam, walk, or strut when the vile are exalted. We see examples of this daily! Solomon lamented the same thing in his writings (ex: Prov. 14:34; etc.). Yet, let us remember that God is still on His throne. His pure word is with us. One day, there will be a reckoning of these things (I Thess. 4:13-17; II Thess. 1:6-9). Where will you be when that happens?
Yes, we sympathize with David’s concern, but we also know there is hope in Christ (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:27; I Pet. 1:3; I Jn. 3:3)! Let us focus on this, and let us tell others about the hope and joy we have in the Lord (Mk. 16:16; II Tim. 2:2).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs