Psalm 17:1-2 (NKJV)
Hear a just cause, O LORD, attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.
How easily we all take to the stand in our own defense…even when we know we are guilty. “Hear a just cause” is a phrase David uses repeatedly throughout the Psalms, indicating that he knew God well enough to know when he could approach the throne with such boldness. When he prayed for a just cause, David knew that would touch God’s heart, and that the Lord would “attend to his cry.” We all need to check our motivation as well as the nature of our prayers…before we offer them up to God.
Have you ever been in a disagreement or witnessed a disagreement in which both parties were absolutely convinced they were right? Not only that, but both parties were convinced that their own cause was just. Many years ago, a good friend of mine taught me a powerful little saying that has stuck with me: Always be suspicious of yourself. We cannot assume that we can take these words of David for ourselves because they are in the Scripture…and immediately judge our cause as just. Before we utter a word in prayer and ask God to “attend to our cry,” we must first measure the petition by the justice of God’s Holy Word. Only if it measures up…should it be offered up.
David never seemed to worry about the desperation or the raw nature of his prayers. Crying out to God seemed to be a fairly regular posture for him when in times of desperate need…and that is a good example for the rest of us. In reflecting on this psalm, Charles Spurgeon said, “A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds; if our prayer should like the infant’s cry be more natural than intelligent, and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child’s cry to prevail with a parent’s heart.” If you are a parent, you know the difference between a child’s selfish and manipulative cry and when that child is truly crying out of need and desperation…and you respond accordingly. It’s helpful to remember that our Heavenly Father does the same thing.
Finally, and profoundly, David was not seeking a vindication that came from himself or his way of thinking, but rather, rested fully in God’s providence and righteousness. In his long conflict with King Saul, David had at least two golden opportunities to easily take the king’s life…yet he chose not to. After King Saul had emerged from the cave where David had gotten close enough to cut off a corner of his royal robe, David announced, “I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:10). David was leaving justice in the hands of his Just God. Turning over control of the matter, David added, “”May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you” (1 Sam. 24:12). When we give every matter over to the righteous decrees of a Heavenly Father who hears our cries, but also measures our motives and the justice of our pleas, we can rest assured that both His will…and our best interests…will be served.