Please read Psalm 17.
When we pray, it is important not to jump right into our requests. Prayer is communication with the God of the Universe. David spends the beginning of Psalm 17 beseeching God to hear his prayer, and remembering how God has declared him as righteous in His sight. Only then does David finally get to the first of his two prayer requests. In verses 7-12, David makes his first request, which is essentially, “God protect me from my enemies.”
Please re-read verses 7-12 now.
Notice how David begins his request with a focus on God. He talks of God’s ‘steadfast love,’ or ‘chesed,’ which is one of God’s most prominent attributes in the Old Testament. However, there is no direct English translation of this attribute from the Hebrew. It has variously been translated as ‘loving-kindness,’ ‘steadfast love,’ ‘unfailing love,’ ‘great love,’ ‘faithful love,’ and more. It is related to God’s covenant to His people, Israel, and His faithfulness to that covenant. For this reason, the Bible Project chooses to translate it as ‘loyal love.’
God is loyal to those whom He loves. Because He is abounding in steadfast, unfailing, great, faithful loving kindness to those whom He has chosen, we can rest in Him. When we seek our temporal, earthly refuge in God, we know that He will be faithful to provide a safe haven, because He has already been so faithful in providing eternal salvation for us.
David asks God to be his “refuge,” to “keep” him, and “hide,” him. Why? Because his enemies “surround” him, and he is afraid. He hints at the danger that he is in by describing the ruthlessness of his enemies. Contrary to the steadfast love of God, David’s enemies “close their hearts to pity”—they show no mercy. They have surrounded David’s cohort, set their eyes to the slaughter, and are rearing back, preparing to pounce on their prey like a lion in ambush. David knows that he has no escape, so he turns to the Lord and begs for salvation.
In the second part of his request, which we will look at tomorrow, David moves on the offensive and asks God to attack his enemies. But, his first request is not offensive, but defensive. His first request is not for victory over his foes, but for protection from his foes. David does not yet want God to destroy his enemies, but would be satisfied simply with being ‘kept’ from his enemies. He desires to hide under the shelter of God’s wings until the danger has passed.
What a wonderful reminder that God is a loving Heavenly Father, who serves as a refuge for the weary, an advocate for the poor, a strong tower for the weak, and a hiding place for the persecuted. He provides a shelter from the storm, a hedge of protection from our enemies, and a shield from their weapons.
If you are under attack, run to the Lord—He will protect you. If you have surrendered your life to Him, then run to Him again and again. His steadfast love reminds us that He will protect us time and time again. His loyal love is never failing.
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