Psalm 17 Sermon From February 2013 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / February 6th 2013: Season of Epiphany, Psalm 17 "The Apple of Your Eye"
Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From Your presence let my vindication come!
Let Your eyes behold the right!
You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night,
You have tested me, and You will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to Your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God;
incline Your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at Your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.
Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by Your sword,
from men by Your hand, O LORD,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.
As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.
(Psalm 17 ESV)
Let us pray:May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all are hearts be acceptable in your sight O, Lord. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Good Christian Friends. In 1996 a movie called “Gray’s Anatomy” incorporated little documentary style interviews with various people. One of these monologs stuck with me: A bearded middle aged man, hair pulled into a pony tail, sporting a Bud Light T-Shirt stands by his truck and says, “It was about ten years ago I was doing a break job on my pickup truck, and I was, uh, cleaning the backing plate and I had it up on blocks, and I had the wheels and everything torn apart and I was cleaning the backing plate with a wire brush on an air tool and there was one spot left about the size of a quarter and the only way I could see it was to look around to the side, and it was throwing dirt back on me; so I thought about getting some safety glasses, but then I thought, nah it’s only the size of a quarter, I’ll finish it right away; so I stuck the tool back in and sure enough a little dirt in the eye; so I went into my trailer and went into the, uh, bathroom, and I looked in the mirror and I opened my eye up like this, and sure enough, it’s a bulls eye, a piece of wire sticking straight in the eye, and, I, uh, tried to grab it with my finger[s] and it was too short, so I went outside and got my pliers, wiped the grease off, came in grabbed hold of ‘em, and I started pulling and the eye was stretching out and I thought I don’t know what I should do, if I go see a doctor it’s got to come out, they have to take it out, so I grabbed it again with the pliers and pulled it out and when I did, it tore, it tore a hole in the eye and the front sack of the eye drained all the fluid out and I was blinded in one eyeand the worst part was I had to finish the break job with one eye, 2 ½ hours, so I could go drive into town and see a doctor.”
Verse 8 is the central verse of Psalm 17, and again we find that the thesis statement, the essential organizing thought of the Psalm is found in this central verse: In it David prays to God saying, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17 is a prayer in which David prays for God’s help in the face of his enemies who have slandered him, and bore false witness about him and want to destroy him. He is confident in this request because of God’s Love, because of David’s righteousness in God, and because of the known ungodliness of David’s enemies.
Eyes and seeing are important parts of this Psalm. King David uses this language to teach much: David invites the Eye of God to look upon him; David stands before the Lord honestly wishing God to look with judgment upon him, because He has confessed his life before God and has not lied to God or others about his sin or about his righteousness. He wishes God to look upon him because David knows his enemy is also looking at him, just as they also look at the children of Israel, with plans of destruction. We see this when David prays, “they, [the enemy], set their eyes to cast us to the ground.” David has confidence that while in the eye of the enemy lays nothing but destruction, in the Eye of God there is steadfast love and protection for the one who seeks refuge in Him; there is steadfast love and protection for the ones God has made righteous and counted as righteous. In Psalm 17 we see that David trusts that he is the apple of God’s eye.
Now when David writes, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye” you might want to stop and ask the good Lutheran question, “What Does This Mean?” Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” Now the man who was doing his break job at home didn’t want to get a wire bristle from the brush in his eye, he even thought of getting safety glasses, he didn’t see his injury coming, and he did work after the unfortunate blindness to finish the break job and get himself into town to a doctor. In the end the doctor was able to save his eye. The general idea here in this phrase “Keep me as the apple of Your eye” is twofold 1) the eye is a very vulnerable part of the body and can be easily damaged and needs to be protected 2) because of this, if he is wise and loves himself a man will protect himself against harm (especially his eye). Knowing that God is both wise beyond measure and is Love itself, David trusts that God will protect him the way a man would protect his own eye. He asks to be cared for like the pupil of the eye, the most important part, to be cherished and kept from harm. This is David’s prayer. “Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Keep me protected from my enemies.
David’s prayer is not just defensive: Again, as in other Psalms, David prays for the LORD to act, to both protect and to strike out.
Arise, O LORD! Confront my enemy, who is like a lion eager to tear,
Subdue my enemy who is as a young lion lurking in ambush!
Deliver my soul from wicked men by your sword,
Deliver my soul from wicked men by your hand, O LORD,
Deliver my soul from the wicked men of the world whose reward is in this life.
Deliver my soul from the wicked men who are satisfied with an earthly family
and earthly inheritance.
Revelation speaks of Jesus as having a sharp two-edged sword coming from His mouth. The Sword of God is His mighty Word, a Word more powerful than any earthly sword, the letter to the Hebrews says “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Saint John tells us that Jesus Himself is the very Word of God, when he writes “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Earthly things may fade and wither, but Isaiah tells us that, “The word of our God will stand forever.” David appeals to God the Father in Psalm 17 to send His Sword, His Hand to deliver his soul from the wicked men of the world. It is Jesus, God’s Word, that David prays for, ‘Send Jesus; send Your Christ to deliver me! With Your One Hand protect me like I was the pupil of Your Eye, with the Other Hand strike down my enemies, O Lord,’ in light of Scripture this is the spirit of David prayer!
How does God ultimately answer King David’s prayer? King David ends Psalm 17 with this little phrase, “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.” This sounds a lot like what Job says when he says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” God will ultimately answer King David’s prayer in the promised Resurrection accomplished by Jesus’ work at the cross.
At the Baptism of Jesus, the Voice of God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I Am well pleased.” At Jesus’ Transfiguration, which we will celebrate this coming Sunday, the Voice of God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I Am well pleased; listen to Him.” Jesus is the very Apple of God’s Eye, when we consider the entirety of what Scripture teaches we see that David asks to be treated like Jesus: to be a child of God as Jesus is God’s Son, to be in God’s heavenly family, to have the inheritance that his enemies will not receive, blessings that are more than just earthly blessings, but heavenly blessings also.
How does God grant this prayer? God grants this prayer by reversing the roles; David is spared from the evil eyes of the enemies who look to destroy him, who set their eyes to cast David and us to the ground. Jesus becomes the object of this evil desire, at the cross His flesh is sacrificed in David’s place, in your place; Jesus is not spared from their evil plot. Like a wire bristle in the eye of God the nails of the crucifixion pierce Jesus’ hands and feet upon the cross. The question rings out: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death, its wire bristle, is buried in Christ and not in you, and by this sacrifice death has no victory over you.
Jesus, the very apple of His Eye, is sacrificed so that you and King David can be made to be like Jesus, so that you can be made to be the apple of God’s Eye and know the full and everlasting protection that God provides. Like the man who finishes his break job and drives into town to see the doctor who stitches up his eye and restores his sight from blindness, “God raised [Jesus] on the third day,” because of this God “will also raise us up by His power.” God was willing to sacrifice the Apple of His Eye to make you just like Jesus, so that you will likewise awake on the last day and see Jesus’ coming with the clouds, where it will be as Saint John says “Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him,” Saint Paul Likewise says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to Face. Now I know in part;” Saint Paul says, “then I shall know fully.” We currently, “walk by faith, not by sight,” in these days we walk along the path and we say in anticipation with King David “I shall be satisfied with your likeness,” on that day you will be satisfied with the sight of Jesus. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” On that day, on the Day of Ressurection you will see Jesus. Jesus is the Apple of God’s Eye and because of Him, because of the cross, because of the empty tomb, you are now the Apple of God’s Eye too, and in the forgiveness of your sin, in the righteousness given to you in your baptism you are hid away in the shadow of God’s wings.
I leave you with this: As Jesus looked with His eyes to Jerusalem, to the coming cross that He would suffer there, He says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” In Hope and Faith, with great Trust King David displays his willingness to be hid under those wings, to be safe and secure under the crucified arms of Jesus. David’s prayer is your prayer; if you falter in such hope, if you fail in such trust, if you worry that your faith is weak, look to Jesus, seek refuge in Him, for as the apple of God’s Eye, you are Protected: Forgiven: Restored: Saved: and God has hide you in the shadow of His wings, unto life everlasting, for the sake of His Son Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord, have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 Anecdote from the movie 'Gray's Anatomy' 1996, featuring Spalding Gray directed by Steven Soderbergh. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116447/
 A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 228.
 Ephesians 5:29-30
 Revelation 1:16
 Hebrews 4:12
 John 1:1-2
 Isaiah 40:8
 Job 19:25-27
 Matthew 3:17
 Matthew 17:5
 1 Corinthians 15:55
 Acts 10:40
 1 Corinthians 6:14
 Revelation 1:7
 1 Corinthians 13:12
 2 Corinthians 5:7
 Colossians 1:15
 Matthew 23:37