PSALM 17 IS A PRAYER FOR VINDICATION.
Certainly David knows that he is not always righteous (see Ps. 51!). But in particular circumstances, the believing man or woman may well be certain that he or she has acted with utter integrity, with transparent righteousness. That is the case with David here. If in such instances opponents lie about you or set up a whisper campaign, if like a lion on the prowl they try to hunt you down (17:10-12), what are the righteous to do?
The first thing necessary is a humble pursuit of the God who vindicates. Indeed, David hopes not only for ultimate vindication, but for something more immediate: "Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword" (17:13). Even so, he recognizes that to ask for vindication from this sort of God places him on the side of those who do not simply belong to this world: "O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life" (17:14, italics added).
Since God remains sovereign, vindication can only finally come from God: "May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right" (17:2). Indeed, David appeals to God's faithful love for his own: "Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes" (17:7).
These are all important lessons, repeated, in whole or in part, many times in the Bible. Thus we find the apostle Paul telling the Roman believers, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay' [Deut. 32:35], says the Lord" (Rom. 12:17-19, italics added).
This is a lesson believers must constantly relearn and apply to themselves. It is easy enough to absorb it when things are going well. But when church members are unfairly attacking your ministry, when gossips are undermining your position in the company for their own advantage, when colleagues in the university department invariably attach the ugliest motives to everything you say and do — that is the test for leaving things in the hands of the God whose care for his own and whose passion for justice ensure final vindication.
And such faith brings us relief from stress: "And I — in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness" (17:15).
Leviticus 14; Psalm 17; Proverbs 28; 2 Thess. 2