The Treasury of David

Psalm 17

Title And Subject.

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.

Psalm 17:15


As for me. “I neither envy nor covet these men’s happiness, but partly have and partly hope for a far better.” To behold God’s face and to be changed by that vision into his image, so as to partake in his righteousness, this is my noble ambition; and in the prospect of this I cheerfully waive all my present enjoyments. My satisfaction is to come; I do not look for it as yet. I shall sleep awhile, but I shall wake at the sound of the trumpet; wake to everlasting joy, because I arise in thy likeness, O my God and King! Glimpses of glory good men have here below to stay their sacred hunger, but the full feast awaits them in the upper skies. Compared with this deep, ineffable, eternal fulness of delight, the joys of the worldlings are as a glowworm to the sun, or the drop of a bucket to the ocean.

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

I will behold thy face. I look upon the face of a stranger and it moves me not; but upon a friend and his face presently transforms mine into a lively, cheerful aspect. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the face of a man his friend” (Proverbs 27:17), puts a sharpness and a quickness into his looks. The soul that loves God, opens itself to him, admits his influence and impressions, is easily moulded and wrought to his will, yields to the transforming power of his appearing glory. There is no resistant principle remaining when the love of God is perfected in it; and so overcoming is the first sight of his glory upon the awaking soul, that it perfects it, and so his likeness, both at once. John Howe.

I will behold, etc.—In the words we have,

  1. The time of his complete and consummate happiness—When I awake.
  2. The matter of his happiness, and the manner of enjoying it; the matter and object—God’s face, or likeness; the manner of enjoying—I will behold thy face.
  3. His perfect disposition and condition in the state of happiness—I shall behold in righteousness, having my heart perfectly conformed to the will of God, the perfect and adequate rule of righteousness.
  4. The measure of his happiness—I shall be satisfied; my happiness will be full in the measure, without want of anything that can make me happy; all my desires shall be satisfied, and my happiness in respect of duration shall be eternal, without a shadow or fear of a change. William Colvill.

He doth profess his resolution, yet notwithstanding all the danger he was in, to go on in the ways of God, and expect a gracious issue; but I, saith he, will behold thy face in righteousness; indeed, I cannot behold the face of the king without danger to me; there are a great many that run to kill me, and they desire his face; but though I cannot see his face, yet, Lord, I shall behold thy face; I will behold thy face, and it shall be in righteousness; I will still keep on in the ways of righteousness, and when I awake—for I believe that these troubles will not hold long—I shall not sleep in perpetual sleep, but I shall awake and be delivered, and then I shall be satisfied with thy likeness: there shall be the manifestation of thy glory to me, that shall satisfy me for all the trouble that I have endured for thy name’s sake, that my soul shall say, I have enough. Jeremiah Burroughs.

I shall be satisfied, etc. The fulness of the felicity of heaven may appear if we compare it with the joys and comforts of the Holy Spirit. Such they are, as that the Scripture styles them strong consolations (Hebrews 6:17); full joys (John 15:11); joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8); abounding consolations. 2 Corinthians 1:5. And yet all the joy and peace that believers are partakers of in this life is but as a drop to the ocean, as a single cluster to the whole vintage, as the thyme or honey upon the thigh of a bee to the whole hive fully fraught with it, or as the break and peep of day to the bright noontide. But yet these tastes of the water, wine, and honey of this celestial Canaan, with which the Holy Spirit makes glad the hearts of believers, are both far more desirable and satisfactory than the overflowing streams of all earthly felicities. And there are none who have once tasted of them, but say as the Samaritan woman did, “Lord, give me that water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.” John 4:15. So also the first and early dawnings of the heavenly light fill the soul with more serenity, and ravish it with more pure joy, than the brightest sunshine of all worldly splendour can ever do. I have read of a devout person who but dreaming of heaven, the signatures and impressions it made upon his fancy were so strong, as that when he awaked he knew not his cell, could not distinguish the night from the day, nor difference by his taste, oil from wine; still he was calling for his vision and saying, Redde mihi campos floridos, columnam auream, comitem Hieronymum, assistentes angelos: give me my fresh and fragrant fields again, my golden pillar of light, Jerome my companion, angels my assistants. If heaven in a dream produce such ecstasies as drown and overwhelm the exercises of the senses to inferior objects, what trances and complacencies must the fruition of it work in those who have their whole rational appetite filled, and their body beautified with its endless glory? William Spurstow, 1656.

I shall be satisfied. Have you never seen how when they were finishing the interior of buildings they kept the scaffolding up? The old Pope, when he had Michael Angelo employed in decorating the interior of that magnificent structure, the Sistine Chapel, demanded that the scaffolding should be taken down so that he could see the glowing colours that with matchless skill were being laid on. Patiently and assiduously did that noble artist labour, toiling by day, and almost by night, bringing out his prophets and sibyls and pictures wondrous for their beauty and significance, until the work was done. The day before it was done, if you had gone into that chapel and looked up, what would you have seen? Posts, planks, ropes, lime, mortar, slop, dirt. But when all was finished, the workmen came, and the scaffolding was removed. And then, although the floor was yet covered with rubbish and litter, when you looked up, it was as if heaven itself had been opened, and you looked into the courts of God and angels. Now, the scaffolding is kept around men long after the fresco is commenced to be painted; and wondrous disclosures will be made when God shall take down this scaffolding body, and reveal what you have been doing. By sorrow and by joy; by joys which are but bright colours, and by sorrows which are but shadows of bright colours; by prayer; by the influences of the sanctuary; by your pleasures; by your business; by reverses; by successes and by failures; by what strengthened your confidence, and by what broke it down; by the things that you rejoiced in, and by the things that you mourned over—by all that God is working in you. And you are to be perfected, not according to the things that you plan, but according to the divine pattern. Your portrait and mine are being painted, and God by wondrous strokes and influences is working us up to his own ideal. Over and above what you are doing for yourself, God is working to make you like him. And the wondrous declaration is, that when you stand before God, and see what has been done for you, you shall be “satisfied.” Oh, word that has been wandering solitary and without a habitation ever since the world began, and the morning stars sang together for joy! Has there ever been a human creature that could stand on earth while clothed in the flesh, and say, “I am satisfied?” What is the meaning of the word? Sufficiently filled; filled full; filled up in every part. And when God’s work is complete, we shall stand before him, and, with the bright ideal and glorified conception of heavenly aspiration upon us, looking up to God, and back on ourselves, we shall say, “I am satisfied:” for we shall be like him. Amen. Why should we not be satisfied? Henry Ward Beecher, in “Royal Truths, “1862.

When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness. He speaks here of the resurrection; he calls it an awaking, for you know death is called a sleep. “Those that are asleep in the Lord shall rise first.” He had spoken before of those that had put their happiness in the comforts of this life, suitable to their bodies, to the animal state of their bodies; that is clear by the fourteenth verse, “Deliver me from the men that are thine hand, O Lord, who have their portion in this life, whose belly thou fillest with thy treasure: they are full of children, and leave to them outward things, “bodily things. “But as for me, “saith he, “I will behold thy face in thy righteousness” (there is the vision of God which is his happiness in his soul): “and I shall be satisfied when I awake” (when I rise again), “with thine image.” It is not the image of God only upon himself that he means here. Why? Because that doth not satisfy a holy heart, but it is that image of the invisible God which the human nature of Jesus Christ is, who, in opposition to all these outward pleasures, will be all in all to us; he is a spiritual creature, his human nature is spiritualised, made glorious, and our bodies shall be made spiritual likewise. “The body is made for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, “and this when they are both raised up; Christ is raised up already, and because he hath ordained the one to be serviceable to the other, he will also raise up our bodies; and when he doth raise me up, saith David, though other men have their bellies full here, and have animal pleasures they delight in; yet when I shall awake at latter day, and shall see this image of thine, shall see thy Son, I shall be satisfied: “When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thine image.” Thomas Goodwin.

I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. In this Psalm holy David’s afflictions are neither few nor small; his innocency that is wounded by malicious slanderers, his life that is in jeopardy by deadly enemies that compass him about; his present condition that is embittered unto him by the pressing wants of a barren wilderness, while his foes live deliciously in Saul’s court. And yet under the weight and combination of so many sore evils, David carries himself as one that is neither hopeless nor forsaken, yea, lays his estate in the balance against theirs, and in this low ebb of his, vies with them for happiness; and at last shutting up the Psalm with a triumphant epiphonema, concludes himself to be by far the better man. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.” They, it is true, enjoy the face of their king, whose favour is as a cloud of latter rain promising a fruitful harvest of many blessings, “but I, “saith he, “shall behold the face of God in righteousness, “whose lovingkindness is better than life, clothed with all its royalties. They have their bellies filled with hidden treasure, having more than a common hand of bounty opened unto them; but I have more gladness put into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased. They have their portion in hand, and as being men of this world; but I have mine laid up in the other: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” In these words we have his and every believer’s eternal happiness in the other life, set forth in three particulars as a most effectual antidote against present troubles and temptations that arise from the malice of wicked men against them. William Spurstow.

I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. The saints in heaven have not yet awaked in God’s likeness. The bodies of the righteous still sleep, but they are to be satisfied on the resurrection morn, when they awake. When a Roman conqueror had been at war, and won great victories, he would return to Rome with his soldiers, enter privately into his house, and enjoy himself till the next day, when he would go out of the city to reenter it publicly in triumph. Now, the saints, as it were, enter privately into heaven without their bodies; but on the last day, when their bodies wake up, they will enter into their triumphal chariots. I think I see that grand procession, when Jesus Christ first of all, with many crowns on his head, with his bright, glorious, immortal body, shall lead the way. Behind him come the saints, each of them clapping their hands, or pouring sweet melody from their golden harps; all entering in triumph. And when they come to heaven’s gates, and the doors are opened wide to let the King of glory in, how will the angels crowd at the windows and on the housetops, like the inhabitants in the Roman triumphs, to watch the pompous procession, and scatter heaven’s roses and lilies upon them, crying, “Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.” “I shall be satisfied” in that glorious day when all the angels of God shall come to see the triumphs of Jesus, and when his people shall be victorious with him. Spurgeon’s Sermons.

I shall be satisfied… with thy likeness. Let a man who is thirsty be brought to an ocean of pure water, and he has enough. If there be enough in God to satisfy the angels, then sure there is enough to satisfy us. The soul is but finite, but God is infinite. Though God be a good that satisfies, yet he does not surfeit. Fresh joys spring continually from his face; and he is as much to be desired after millions of years by glorified souls as at the first moment. There is a fulness in God that satisfies, and yet so much sweetness that the soul still desires. God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure; there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima immo rapitur: the love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of glory. If there be so much delight in God, when we see him only by faith (1 Peter 1:8), what will the joy of vision be, when we shall see him face to face! If the saints have found so much delight in God while they were suffering, oh, what joy and delight will they have when they are being crowned! If flames are beds of roses, what will it be to lean on the bosom of Jesus! What a bed of roses that will be! God is a superlative good. He is better than anything you can put in competition with him; he is better than health, riches, honour. Other things maintain life, he gives life. Who would put anything in balance with the Deity? Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God excels all other things more infinitely than the sun the light of a taper. God is an eternal good. He is the Ancient of days, yet never decays, nor waxes old. Daniel 7:9. The joy he gives is eternal, the crown fadeth not away. 1 Peter 5:4. The glorified soul shall be ever solacing itself in God, feasting on his love, and sunning itself in the light of his countenance. We read of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand; but will not this in time be dried up? No. There is a fountain at the bottom which feeds it. Psalms 36:9. “With the Lord is a fountain of life.” Thus God is the chief good, and the enjoyment of God for ever is the highest felicity of which the soul is capable. Thomas Watson.

When I awake, etc. The sincere Christian is progressive, never at his journey’s end till he gets to heaven; this keeps him always in motion, advancing in his desires and endeavours forward: he is thankful for little grace, but not content with great measures of grace. “When I awake, “saith David, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness. He had many a sweet entertainment at the house of God in his ordinances. The Spirit of God was the messenger that brought him many a covered dish from God’s table, inward consolations which the world knew not of. Yet David has not enough, it is heaven alone that can give him his full draught. They say the Gauls, when they first tasted of the wines of Italy, were so taken with their lusciousness and sweetness, that they could not be content to trade thither for this wine, but resolved they would conquer the land where they grew. Thus the sincere soul thinks it not enough to receive a little now and then of grace and comfort from heaven, by trading and holding commerce at a distance with God in his ordinances here below, but projects and meditates of that holy land and blessed place from which such rich commodities come, that he may drink the wine of that kingdom in that kingdom. William Gurnall.

When I awake. How apt and obvious is the analogy between our awakening out of natural sleep, and the holy soul’s rising up out of the darkness and torpor of its present state into the enlivening light of God’s presence? It is truly said so to awake at its first quitting these darksome regions, when it lays aside its cumbersome night veil. It doth so more perfectly in the joyful morning of the resurrection day when mortality is swallowed up in life, and all the yet hovering shadows of it are vanished and fled away. And how known and usual an application this is of the metamorphic terms of sleeping and awaking in Holy Writ, I need not tell them who have read the Bible. Nor doth this interpretation less fitly accord to the other contents of this verse; for to what state do the sight of God’s face, and satisfaction with his likeness, so fully agree, as to that of future blessedness in the other world? But then the contexture of discourse in this and the foregoing verse together, seems plainly to determine us to this sense: for what can be more conspicuous in them, than a purposed comparison, an opposition of two states of felicity mutually to each other? That if the wicked whom he calls men of time (as the words ‏מִמְתִים מֵחֶלֶד‎ are rendered by Pagninus—Homines de tempore—and do literally signify) and whose portion, he tells us, is in this life: and the righteous man’s, his own; which he expected not to be till he should awake, that is, not till after this life. John Howe.

There is a sleep of deadness of spirit, out of which the shining of God’s loving countenance doth awake a believer and revive the spirit of the contrite ones; and there is a sleep of death bodily, out of which the lovingkindness of the Lord shall awake all his own in the day of the resurrection, when he shall so change them into the similitude of his own holiness and glorious felicity that they shall be fully contented for ever: and this first and second delivery out of all trouble may every believer expect and premise to himself. “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” David Dickson.

There is a threefold meaning in this verse, inasmuch as it is in Christ alone, the firstborn from the dead, the express image of Jehovah’s glory, that the saints will rise immortal, incorruptible, and be like the angels in heaven.

  1. They will greatly delight in the glorious state in which they will rise.
  2. They will greatly delight in Jesus, in whom, and by whom, resurrection and immortality are brought to light; and
  3. They will delight greatly in beholding the blessed and reconciled countenance of Jehovah, the Father, whom no eye of flesh can see. This is the difference between the appearance of God to Israel on Mount Sinai, and the happy state in which the saints will behold him in the resurrection. Glorious as the scene on Sinai was, yet the Lord said to Israel, “You have seen no (‏תְּמוּנָה‎) (Temunah), no manner of similitude, “or likeness, or countenance; but David speaks of the spiritual glory of the triumphant saints in the resurrection, when they shall see Jehovah as he is, and rejoice in his beatific presence for ever and ever. Benjamin Weiss, in loc, 1858.

Everlasting life and salvation in heaven, is not a truth revealed only by the gospel, but was well known, clearly revealed, and firmly believed, by the saints of old. They had assurance of this, that they should live with God for ever in glory. When I awake, with thy likeness. Psalms 17:15. “Thou wilt receive me to glory.” Psalms 73:24. “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalms 16:11. They looked for another country, whereof Canaan was but a type and shadow, as the apostle shows in the epistle to the Hebrews 11:16. They knew there was an eternal state of happiness for the saints, as well as an eternal state of misery for the wicked; they did believe this in those days. Samuel Mather on the “Types, “1705.

Hints to the Village Preacher

This is the language

  1. Of a man whose mind is made up; who has decided for himself; who does not suspend his conduct upon the resolution of others.
  2. Of a man rising in life, and with great prospects before him.
  3. It is the language of a Jew.

The beholding of God’s face signifies two things.

  1. The enjoyment of his favour.
  2. Intimate communions with him. William Jay.

See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 25. Title, “The Hope of Future Bliss.” Divisions.

  1. The Spirit of this utterance.
  2. The matter of it.
  3. The contrast implied in it.

To see God and to be like him, the believer’s desire. J. Fawcett.
The Treasury of David.

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