Crying in the Garden
Psalm 17 The Messiah’s Prayer
This is one of six “prayers” of David in the Psalms. The occasion of this prayer is when young David is serving the courts of maniacal King Saul who is insanely jealous of him. David had been anointed King of Israel by Samuel and had slain Goliath while Saul and his warriors cowered before the giant and the Philistine army. David is innocent of wrongdoing. It was obvious to all that David was truly called of God and destined for greatness. Saul hated him because it meant his own demise. David however did not try to force God’s timing. He waited on the LORD to establish him on the throne and in doing so went through sore trials as he was tested and proven to be worthy of the honor to be given to him. Like his future Son, David suffered first before being elevated to the throne of Israel. “Not my will, but Your will be done.”
This psalm is Messianic in that no one other than the LORD Himself could say the things about himself to the Father as this Psalmist does and be completely truthful. Verse 3 especially brings this out. The righteous and innocent One is seen in this Psalm as He faces the dreadful enemy alone. In the Garden one can hear Jesus’ mournful and desperate prayer as he is faced with the “unthinkable,” the “unspeakable” path before Him. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for all mankind, so that individuals who believe in Him could become righteous before God in Him.
The Prayer divides into three parts, Hear Me (vs. 1-6), Hide Me (vs. 7-12), Help Me (vs.13-15).
On that desperate night before His death Jesus leads his disciples to that familiar place in the Garden of Gethsemane where He had prayed many times before. Leaving most of His disciples at a distance He takes His three closest, Peter, James and John, and goes a bit further. There he asks them to pray with Him as he goes another “stone’s throw” to be alone with the Father. Falling on His face he is very heavy of heart, even terrified of what lies before Him. The prayer begins with a plea to Jehovah for help. The LORD (Jehovah) is the covenant keeping Savior. He has promised to save! He is able to save. The prayer is a plea for God to hear his righteous cause, because God is just. The cry is of one who is in deep distress. It is a pitiful, mournful cry. The picture drawn is that the sound would cause the LORD to “prick up His ears” and “put His hand to his ear” as He ascertains this desperate cry for help from innocent lips and thus come to his aid.
The Petitioner is confident that the LORD would make a right judgment as He looks with equity upon his cause. The Lord has tried his heart and visited him even in the shadows of the night where no one can see and found nothing to accuse him of. Not even his words could be held against him. Only the Lord Jesus could say such a thing! Search me, try me and see if there is any wicked way in me. There was none.
His heart has been through the Refiner’s fire and is purified. Trials and troubles are for this very thing. Fiery trials refine the life of the one who will submit to them. Like gold in the refiner’s fire melts so that the dross can float to the top and be skimmed off, so trials expose weaknesses and sin, so that they can be confessed and cleansed. Once gold is refined it is then sent to the assayer to determine how pure it is. It again is put through the fire to determine its purity. So too the saint’s faith must be proved to determine its quality. Jesus was tried and proven to be pure. He was “made perfect” through suffering and became “the source of eternal life” for all who would believe in Him.
The deeds of men could not dissuade Jesus from following the “Words of Your Lips.” God’s breathed-out Word kept him off the road of the Destroyer, because he obeyed it. The Words of the Bible will keep us off the broad road of destruction and on the straight and narrow road leading to life if we will listen and obey. Jesus did not wander off God’s path or slip as he walked in His steps . Because of this He could say in verse 6 “I have called and you will answer me. You have turned your ear to me and heard my speech.” Jesus was confident of God hearing his prayer. And the Word of God declares His prayer was answered because of His “piety” (Hebrews 5:7). We can be confident of answered prayer too as we walk in His way, which is according to His Word.
Now in Verses 7 the prayer moves from “Hear Me” to “Hide Me” as the petitioner has to wait on the Lord to do His work in His way and in His time. This is the hard part for all followers of God. It takes time and hard times to be qualified for God’s service. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are yet He did not sin. He tasted death for every man so as to be qualified to be the Mediator between God and man. He “offered up prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard, but He still died! God did not deliver Him from death, but through death. He was qualified to be the believer’s faithful and sympathetic High Priest because of His obedience. (Hebrews 5:7-10) This is the “lovingkindness” of God our “Savior” to those who “take refuge at Your right hand.” God is able! He is strong. In His mercy He is able to deliver through trials those who hide in Him from the enemy. The devil is powerful but God is All-Powerful! Hide in Him!
Jesus was confident of finding safety under the wings of His Savior because He was the “apple of His eye.” These are very affectionate terms. God the Father loves God the Son. In His Son God is “well-pleased.” The Son knows the Father’s love and would cry out “Abba” Daddy! in His hour of trial (Mark 14:36). The “wicked one” desires to ‘waste” the righteous. He is a cold hearted and arrogant enemy who surrounds the righteous one. The wicked one speaks arrogantly at the cross and in the future he will “boast great things” and raise himself up as God in the throne room of God. As Saul desired to hold onto the throne of God, the evil one will seek to hold on to the kingdom of this world. He desired to “cast down” the Savior as He died on the cross of Calvary, but God heard His cry above the roar of the lion lying in wait and seeking to devour him and cast him down to the ground (vs.11,12). Like our Savior we can find “shelter” in the LORD and hide from the one who is seeking to kill us, destroy us and steal our reward.
So David’s future Son continued to cry out “HELP ME” to Jehovah, asking Him to “rise up” and “confront” the enemy and “bring him low.” “Use your sword Lord and let my soul slip out of the hands of the wicked one” (vs 13)! “Deliver me with Your hands from those who are satisfied in this fleeting moment of time who put all their hope in this life (vs.14)!”
Jesus looked past Gethsemane and Golgotha to Glory. Unlike people who are satisfied with this life and have no view of eternity Jesus had His eyes on the face of God. He calls all who believe in Him to do the same (1 John 3:1-3). “If you do not hate your father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even your own life, you can not be My disciple.” We can hear Jesus in the Garden of Despair saying with Job, “even though You slay me, yet will I worship You!” “I am satisfied with knowing that I will wake from death in Your likeness.” Jesus found strength in the resurrection, the prize of the upward call of God. He knew that God would deliver Him! Glory followed Gethsemane and Golgotha.
Early in the morning of that fateful day, Jesus got up and faced the unflinching enemy of man’s soul and His Throne. The Lion lurking in the shadows sprang upon his prey and sank his teeth deep into the flesh of the Son of Man. Humiliating Jesus before the world, he drained the life-blood from Him thinking he had finally defeated the ONE, only to discover that this very precious Blood, the blood of God, was the very atonement God required to deliver all who call upon the Name of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ the LORD.
Jesus cried out to God and He was heard and God hid Him and helped Him to face the terrible death of the cross so that we who cry out to Him in faith would be saved from the penalty, power and, someday, the very presence of sin.
Now this is a prayer to pray and praise the Lord about!