David pleas for God to hear him in verses 1-2 of Psalm 17, and again in verse 6. But between these pleas for an audience with God, David reminds himself of what God has already done for him. God has visited David, examined his whole being, and found him innocent. Specifically, David prays that God has examined his heart, his mouth, his hands, and his feet—every part of his being, and found him innocent.
In verse 3, David begins the examination by reminding himself that God has visited him in the night, tested his heart, and found no fault. What a great reminder that the all-knowing God of the Universe is always present with us, always visiting us, and knows every thought of our heart. He has fully examined our innermost parts. In David’s case, he is confident that God will find nothing worthy of judgment.
David then moves from his heart to his mouth. At the end of verse 3, he reminds God (as if God needs reminding!) that David has “purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” David has pledged not to speak any evil, lies, gossip, slander, blasphemy, or say anything else that would be using his mouth to sin.
In verse 4, David examines the works of his hands. He has pledged not to commit violence with his hands, not to do the works of men, but to use his hands to honor the Lord. He will not take part in the evil ways of the wicked. God will not find any literal or figurative blood on his hands.
Finally, David looks to his feet in verse 5. He declared with boldness that his “steps have held fast to your paths.” David has not diverted from the ways of the Lord in any of his travels.
Of course, none of this is true in the literal sense: Scripture testifies that David’s heart has committed sin, his mouth has spoken things that aren’t true, his hands have committed violence, and his feet have gone places they shouldn’t have. Just like all of us, David is guilty before the Lord. But God has declared David a man after His own heart. God sees David as righteous: a man with a new heart, pure mouth, clean hands, and honest feet.
God has declared those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ for our salvation as the same. We might reflect on the works of our hands, on the places where our feet have taken us, on the words that have come out of our mouths, and the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We might reflect on all of this and think: I am guilty! There is no way that God could examine me and be pleased! But, through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, God looks at our collection of corrupt hearts, blasphemous mouths, dirty hands, and filthy feet, and He sees holy, righteous saints.
Nothing that we do can change what God has done. God has declared us as righteous and just, and so we are. We may still stumble and fall, but we must always look back to the moment when God justified us on the cross and remember that we are His children, His holy, righteous, just children. Nothing that we do can change that.
May what He has done for us in the past give us motivation for the day. If He heard our cry for justification, He will surely hear whatever plea we bring before Him in prayer now.
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