The Righteous One’s DisSatisfaction with The Present World

a brief study of Psalm 17, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 6 Oct 2006

We saw in our last study that Psalm 16 may be titled: "The Righteous One’s satisfaction with His lot."

The Righteous One is Christ in the first place, and all believers united to Him in the second place. The Righteous One says in Psalm 16—

"The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Ps 16:5-6)

But now coming to Psalm 17, we see that it may be titled: "The Righteous One’s dissatisfaction with this present world."

He says, verse 13-14—

"Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life…" (Psalm 17:13-14).

This psalm was written as a prayer by David. But it was surely written in the Spirit of Christ. Christ, much more than David, would have felt the deep dissatisfaction in regard to this sinful world during His earthly sojourn.

This psalm, therefore, reveals something of our Lord’s perplexity and His communications with His Father in regard to the vexation of His soul as He lived amongst sinful men in an imperfect world.

This psalm, as such, gives expression to the groaning of our hearts as a people indwelt with the Spirit of Christ, who are in this world but not of this world.

Let us, from this perspective, consider this psalm.

The psalm begins in verse 1 with a petition unto the Father:

1 Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. 2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.

Here our Lord calls unto His Father, to attend to the cry and meditations of His heart. You can perhaps sense the perplexity of our Lord in these words. Notice how He speaks of His prayer as coming out of unfeigned lips. Is this not a reflection of the fact that many around Him do speak with pretence and insincerity? Notice also how our Lord asks His Father to judge Him according to His omniscient eyes and to vindicate Him (v. 2)? Does this not reflect how the world is full of injustice? There are those who unjustly accuse us of wrong-doing. There are many who will question our motives when they disagree with us. There are many who would judge us unfairly without proper knowledge, without giving us an opportunity to answer.

If you experienced such perplexity, our Lord experienced it much more acutely.

But our Lord was able to cry unto the Father with such sincerity because no guile was found in Him. He was tempted at all points as we are, yet without sin (v. 3). He sinned neither in thought, and words (v. 3), nor in deeds (v. 4). But our Lord was not haughty. He cries unto His Father (v. 5)—

5 Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.

Oh how we must learn to imitate our Lord if we would commune in sincerity with the Father on our frustrations with this present world. And oh how we must humble ourselves to seek the Lord’s help to uphold us from falling into sin.

Only then can we take up the words of verse 6 into our lips—

6 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.

What does our Lord request of His Father?

Essentially, he requests 3 things: (1) Encouragement; (2) Protection; and (3) Imprecation.

1. Encouragement

First, He asks His Father to demonstrate His marvellous lovingkindness—

7 Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.

The word lovingkindness here is a special word that refers to God’s covenant mercies toward His people. Out of His lovingkindness, the Father has often arisen to help His children against their enemies.

The Lord desired that His Father should show the wonder of His great love towards Him at this time of His need.

This is a legitimate prayer. At times when we are most perplexed by the world, and we feel almost ready to give up, the only thing that can lift us up is if the Lord displays His wondrous love toward us in a distinct and discernible way.

In the case of our Lord His Father spoke from heaven to confirm His love: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17).

What will it be in our case? Maybe a kind word from a brother or sister. Maybe blessing received. In my own experience, when I am most discouraged and crying out unto the Father, the Father has mercifully displayed tokens of His mercy by way of conversion and repentance. For example, when discouragement comes through severe criticism and I feel myself crushed, then the Lord comes along and with a word of gratitude through the lips of someone who is not known to be charitable or someone who has long resisted the truth, but now sees it clearly.

So beloved brethren, when you feel perplexed and discouraged by the things happening around you, cry out to the Lord to show His marvellous lovingkindness, to display the wonders of His love.

This was the first thing that our Lord asked of His Father.

2. Protection

Secondly, He asked to be protected from His enemies and the devices of the wicked one (v. 8-9)—

8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.

The apple of the eye refers to the pupil of the eye. If anyone tries to touch the pupil of your eyes, what will you do? You will react instantly to block the finger wont you?

Similarly, when an eagle is nesting, don’t try to touch the chicks, or you will get a nasty peck.

The Lord desired for His Father to protect Him as a man would protect his pupil or as an eagle will protect her chicks.

Our Lord had many enemies. Remember for example how when He returned to preach in the synagogue at Nazareth, many wanted to kill Him by pushing Him down a cliff.

But the Lord’s time was not yet. And so the Father protected Him so that He was able to walk through the crowd unharmed.

So it is with us. Today we may not have many enemies who would harm us physically. But Satan is ever our enemy, and he is using all means to try to harm us. He will use, for example, circumstance and words to hurt us.

Words may seem very harmless, but I think most of us would have enough experience of being hurt by words that we know how damaging words can be.

Shall we not then ask the Lord to protect us from all words that hurt and tear down? Let us take heed lest we fall. Let us not pretend that we are strong and can take whatever comes our way. Let us ask the Father as our Lord did to protect us.

He will protect us for His Son’s sake. He may do so in many ways such as helping us to have a good response, or such as enabling us to come out of the difficult circumstance. Whatever may be the case, He will help, if only we will cry to Him.

This is the second thing we must learn from our Lord ’s prayer.

3. Imprecation

The third thing in our Lord’s prayer is more offensive than defensive. Verse 13—

13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: 14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life…

Not only does the Lord ask His Father to display His lovingkindness and to protect Him as the apple of His eyes; He asks His Father to deal with His enemies.

His enemies are those whose lives comprise merely of the things of this present world. They care not for righteousness. They care not for others. Their portion is in this life. They have wealth, and substance and even children, but they remain ungrateful to the Lord. They forget that all things that they possess come from the Lord.

They live wickedly and deal wickedly with the righteous. Our Lord understands that they do not have the right to do what they do. He cries out unto His Father to disappoint them or to frustrate their plans.

Too long have we assumed that the wicked have the right to do what they do! Too long have our tongues remained silent! Too long have we allowed the wicked to triumph over the righteous and trample the name of the Lord!

But silence is no good. It will only embolden the wicked. What shall we do? Well, no where does the Word of God teach us to call for a mass demonstration or to resort to violence.

No, no; the only approved means is prayer. We must pray as our Lord prayed that the Father would arise against the wicked.


Dearly beloved, brethren and children, this world that we live in cannot give us peace, joy and satisfaction that we desire to have. For here we do not have a continuing city. This is not our home. Our home is in heaven, the celestial city where Christ is. Only when we awake at the Resurrection shall we be satisfied (v. 15).

But we do not need to go through this life stoically. We ought rather to go through this life prayerfully. Let us pray as our Lord teaches us, (1) that God will show forth His great love toward us though fitting tokens of mercy; (2) that God will protect us as the apple of His eyes; and (3) that God will rise up against the wicked and wickedness.

May the Lord, grant us, that in this way, we may be, not only theoretically but by experience, more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Amen.

— JJ Lim