A prayer of David. David would not have been a man after God’s own heart, if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication. He flies to prayer in all times of need, as a pilot speeds to the harbour in the stress of tempest. So frequent were David’s prayers that they could not be all dated and entitled; and hence this simply bears the author’s name, and nothing more. The smell of the furnace is upon the present psalm, but there is evidence in the last verse that he who wrote it came unharmed out of the flame. We have in the present plaintive song, An Appeal To Heaven from the persecutions of earth. A spiritual eye may see Jesus here.
Divisions. There are no very clear lines of demarcation between the parts; but we prefer the division adopted by that precious old commentator, David Dickson. In Psalms 17:1-4, David craves justice in the controversy between him and his oppressors. In Psalms 17:5-6, he requests of the Lord grace to act rightly while under the trial. From Psalms 17:7-12, he seeks protection from his foes, whom he graphically describes; and in Psalms 17:13-14, pleads that they may be disappointed; closing the whole in the most comfortable confidence that all would certainly be well with himself at the last.
The Treasury of David.
Under trial it is not easy to behave ourselves aright; a candle is not easily kept alight when many envious mouths are puffing at it. In evil times prayer is peculiarly needful, and wise men resort to it at once. Plato said to one of his disciples, “When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them; “good enough advice, but he did not tell us how to carry it out. We have a precept here incorporated in an example; if we would be preserved, we must cry to the Preserver, and enlist divine support upon our side.
Hold up my goings—as a careful driver holds up his horse when going down hill. We have all sorts of paces, both fast and slow, and the road is never long of one sort, but with God to hold up our goings, nothing in the pace or in the road can cast down. He who has been down once and cut his knees sadly, even to the bone, had need redouble his zeal when using this prayer; and all of us, since we are so weak on our legs through Adam’s fall, had need use it every hour of the day. If a perfect father fell, how shall an imperfect son dare to boast?
In thy paths. Forsaking Satan’s paths, he prayed to be upheld in God’s paths. We cannot keep from evil without keeping to good. If the bushel be not full of wheat, it may soon be once more full of chaff. In all the appointed ordinances and duties of our most holy faith, may the Lord enable us to run through his upholding grace!
That my footsteps slip not. What! slip in God’s ways? Yes, the road is good, but our feet are evil, and therefore slip, even on the King’s highway. Who wonders if carnal men slide and fall in ways of their own choosing, which like the vale of Siddim, are full of deadly slime pits? One may trip over an ordinance as well as over a temptation. Jesus Christ himself is a stumbling block to some, and the doctrines of grace have been the occasion of offence to many. Grace alone can hold up our goings in the paths of truth.
Ver. 3-5. Where there is true grace, there is hatred of all sin, for hatred is πρὸς τὸ γένος. Can a man be resolved to commit what he hates? No, for his inward aversion would secure him more against it than all outward obstacles. As this inward purpose of a good man is against all sin, so more particularly against that which doth so easily beset him. David seems in several places to be naturally inclined to lying, but he takes up a particular resolution against it: (Psalms 17:3), I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress; זַמֹּתִי—I have contrived to waylay and intercept the sin of lying when it hath an occasion to approach me. A good man hath not only purposes, but he endeavours to fasten and strengthen those purposes by prayer; so David (Psalms 17:5), Hold up my goings in the paths, that my footsteps slip not. He strengthens himself by stirring up a liveliness in duty, and by avoiding occasions of sin; (Psalms 17:4), I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer; whereas, a wicked man neither steps out of the way of temptation, nor steps up to God for strength against it. Stephen Charnock.
Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. Lord, whatsoever the wrath of Saul be against me, yet let neither that, nor any other thing put me out of thy way, but keep my heart close unto thee, and keep my paths in thy way; let not my footsteps so much as slide from thee, for, Lord, they watch for my halting; if they can find but the least slip from me, they take advantage of it to the utmost; and I am a poor and a weak creature, therefore Lord help me, that my footsteps may not slide. Jeremiah Burroughs.
Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. As a stone cast into the air cannot go any higher, neither yet there abide when the power of the hurler ceaseth to drive it; even so, seeing our corrupt nature can go downward only, and the devil, the world, and the flesh, driveth to the same way; how can we proceed further in virtue, or stand therein, when we are tempted, if our merciful and good God do not by his Holy Spirit, from time to time, guide and govern us? Robert Cawdray.
Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. Lord, hold me up, that I may hold out. Thou hast set the crown at the end of the race; let me run the race, that I may wear the crown. It was Beza’s prayer, and let it be ours, “Lord, perfect what thou hast begun in me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am almost at the haven.” Thomas Watson.
In fierce assaults and strong temptations, when Satan layeth siege to the soul, shooting his fiery darts, and using stratagems of policy, joining his endeavours with our corruptions, as wind with tide, then we have cause to pray as David, Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. The apostle also found he had need of help from heaven when he was assaulted, and therefore he prayed “thrice, “that the thing that he feared might depart from him. 2 Corinthians 12:8. Christ hath taught us to pray daily, “Lead us not into temptation, “for it is dangerous; and then temptations are most dangerous, when,
Let me observe David and learn to pray as he prayed, Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
The Treasury of David.
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