Sovereign Lord, heaven is your throne, and earth is your footstool. You are great, the one true God, and I praise you.
Read PSALM 17
A prayer of David.
1 Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
2 Let my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
3 Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.
4 Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
5 My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not stumbled.
6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
7 Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
may their children gorge themselves on it,
and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus.’1
The psalmist is consistently walking God’s ‘paths’ (v 5). What is the result? He experiences much danger. He is surrounded by enemies who rail against him. They are compared to hungry lions stealthily stalking their prey, ready to attack (vs 10–12). This experience is echoed in Pilgrim’s Progress when John Bunyan’s pilgrim, Christian, climbs ‘Hill Difficulty’. This is part of Christian discipleship, for Jesus speaks about the narrow way and, of course, walked that way himself.2
If this is our experience, two points from the psalm will help us. First, the evil we’re facing may be strong, but our God is stronger. The psalmist earnestly cries to God and he does so with confidence. He is the Lord, the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who saves by his ‘right hand’ (v 7; a symbol of power and authority). Bunyan understood this too, for as Christian reaches the top of the hill he sees on either side. Terrified, he shrinks back, only to realize the lions are chained. As long as he remains on the path he cannot be harmed. We continue up our own ‘Hill Difficulty’ knowing that God will guide and guard our steps.
Second, we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. The psalmist is taken up with God and wants to see more of his ‘great love’ (v 7). He delights in him and longs to see him face to face (v 15). Such an attitude and such a focus will sustain us for the toughest of journeys. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way, ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’.3 My own testimony is that this makes all the difference. The difficulties may well remain, yet the focus on Jesus lifts everything. When you hear the roar of the lions, look to him and keep walking the road of faithful discipleship.
Commit your own ‘hill difficulty’ to God and pray for others you know for whom the road is also ‘rough and steep’.
Lord, I thank you for the reminder that when I battle the enemy, I am not fighting for victory but from victory. In you, I will prevail.
1 Norman J Claydon, 1943 2 Matt 7:14 3 Heb 12:2
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.