Hear, O Lord … listen to my cry.
A PSALM OF DAVID
David is the typical representative of the new kingdom order. And as such the cry of this psalm is the cry of this new order—the cry of a proven heart.
In it, Saul is pursuing David, the man after the heart of God (Acts 13:22; 1 Sam 13:14). From the heights of the first anointing in Bethlehem and victory over Goliath he is thrust into a fugitive existence, alone in the wilderness. And so, this psalm represents the heart-cry of the man (gender neutral) of the Spirit being `faced off’ by the old order—Saul.
We need to appreciate that Saul was not the world; rather, he was the old order of the house of God. He represents for us the institutionalising of the Christian movement—the presidency of human strength over the church.
Psalm 17, as a psalm of David, reflects the essence of the new order—a heart-cry for God alone. And this is only ever perfected in trial; in fact, all prayer is merely the cry of a heart under trial. Where would have David been without the pursuits and threats of Saul? Without these betrayals and injustices he would not have become the man he was destined to be. Nor, would his psalms have ever been written.
And so, let us look to this Psalm in detail.
“Hear, O Lord … listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer … “ v 1
This is the spontaneous ejaculation of the desperate heart: “hear … listen … give ear”. No smoothly crafted words here for David. In desperation, he fears for his life, smarting under the injustices and false accusations of Saul. Perplexed and finding refuge in the wilderness he is crying out to God for vindication. The word here for “cry” is very powerful in the Hebrew. It refers to a ringing cry; it is the cry of utter despair—a cry that pierces heaven with its intensity and urgency.
Without this “cry” prayer is impotent, a mere religious performance. This is why David was taken into his many and varied trials; to make him into a heart-man—a man with a “cry” for God; and thus a man of influence with God.
” … it does not rise from deceitful lips” v 1
John Bunyan opined that “when we pray it is better to let our heart be without words, than for our words to be without heart”.
David’s words are with heart—they are not deceitful. His prayer is not carefully crafted liturgy, but the spontaneous cry of a heart poised toward God; the cry of one who is in pain, and whose only vindication can be found in God (see v 2). Destitute in the face of screaming injustice, the Lord is his only recourse; there is no other help or defence (see v 6-9).
“You have tested my heart … You have tried me and have found nothing” v 3
David understood that no matter how perplexing or unjust his circumstances, they were sent from God; that they were the proving of his heart. He knew no matter what, that “…it is God who works in us, both to will and do of his own good pleasure” (Phil 2:13; Rom 8:28).
By faith he reached forward into the coming era where it is promised, “If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12).
The testing of David’s heart was his preparation for the throne. Without it he would not have been ready to carry the weight of glory that was destined to be his. The proving and searching of the heart that characterised David’s life was determined by his destiny, not by his depravity. He was a marked man and, if he was to fully follow the Lord, could not escape his peculiar journey and leadings. The seemingly circuitous route to the throne, the wanderings of the wilderness, and the testings of the heart were but the preparations of God because of the high calling (Phil 3:14).
It was said of Jesus, “the prince of this world could find nothing in him” (Jn 14:30). And so, the heart of the kingdom man or woman will be tested, searched and proven. Anything within them that answers to the “prince of this world” – to the spirit of this age – will be brought to the light and dispelled.
This brings us to the next verse:
“As for the deeds of men … I have kept myself from the ways of the violent” v 4
David, as the representative kingdom man, had freed his heart of anything that would lead him into the ways of men. This is the trepidation of every man or woman of the Spirit: that they will revert to the flesh, to human effort or power, to intrigue and “violence” to do the work of God. The Scripture calls it “dead works” and is to be repented (Heb 6:1).
“They close up their callous hearts…they have tracked me down…they now surround me … “ v 10- 12
At the risk of falling foul to a `Messianic complex’, those who pursue the new order of the Spirit will experience betrayal. Paul, in his list of apostolic sufferings included the “danger of false brothers” (2 Cor 11:26). In his closing remarks to Timothy he referred to Demas having forsaken him for love of this world, to Alexander who had strongly opposed his message, and that all had forsaken him at his first defence (2 Tim 4:9-17).
While deeply painful, this is the continual realignment of relationships that those who pursue the kingdom experience. Those who are not of the same spirit, who are not imbued with the true kingdom heart, at best withdraw, or at worst oppose those who press into the kingdom (Mtt 23:13).
Nevertheless, Paul could boldly declare that, “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Tim 4:17). There is “a friend that remains closer than a brother” (Pro 18:24). The Lord himself fills the vacuum created by the withdrawal of human friendship. The Father of compassion – the God of all comfort – draws near in the moment of crisis and betrayal. He gathers us up in his everlasting arms and provides comfort eternal. What better solace than that of the Lord! (2 Cor 1:3-11).
Likewise, David in his fugitive existence is kept as the apple of the Lord’s eye. He is hidden under the shadow of his wings when pursued and surrounded by his enemies (see v 8).
This is again preparation for the throne. The throne of God is the throne of his presence (Ps 80:1). And so, if we share in his sufferings we will certainly share in his glory (Rom 8:17); we ascend to the throne of glory and reign as king-priests of the new kingdom order (1 Pet 2:5; Rev 5:10). Through the heart of David we rule on earth, taking dominion through brokenness.
” … save me … from men of this world whose reward is in this life” v 14
Saul and all those who oppose David’s new order are men of this world, pursuing the rewards of this life. They have their reward already in the fading garlands of this world’s honours. But those who have pressed into the new order are not only delivered from the worldlings — having passed through death, they awake to the Lord himself as their “exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). They are satisfied, not with the rewards of this life – the mere praise and plaudits of men – but rather with beholding him “face to face” and living under the pleasure of God.
And so, like David, while still in the wilderness they declare in faith and hope:
“… in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” v 15
Have you been falsely accused by those you trusted, betrayed by people and circumstances? Are you, like David, hiding in the wilderness, a fugitive from Saul? Do you feel that your destiny has been cut off? And yet, you still hunger for God?
Then, let the cry ascend—you will see his righteousness, and you will be satisfied! It is your opportunity to qualify for the throne.
Print-friendly pdf: The Cry of the New Order