When we looked at Psalm 12, we thought about how words can wound others beyond healing. Are you beginning to notice how often this theme arises in the Psalms? In Psalm 15, the one who dwells in the Lord’s house is the one who “speaks truth” and “has no slander on his tongue,” “casts no slur” and “keeps his oath.” In chapter 17, David speaks of “deceitful lips” and resolves that his mouth “will not sin.”
Gracious and righteous speech is at the heart of the life of the righteous person, which brings me to David’s self-evaluation in the 17th psalm: how could he claim such righteousness and be so oblivious to his own, obvious sins? “My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”
I can think of three reasons for why David might write so confidently: First, he’s oblivious to the reality of his sins. Or perhaps he is writing from the perspective of the way he wants to be, rather than the way he is. Or third, perhaps he is writing from the perspective of one whose sins stand forgiven because of his close walk with the Lord.
The writer is deeply dependent on God. The words of God have fenced him off from the influence of the wicked, and given him a better path to follow. David has not “made himself” the apple of God’s eye, and David depends on this favor of God, and especially on the protection of God.
And so, in the end, it is not David’s righteousness he is depending on, but on the Lord’s favor and because of that favor, David looks forward, beyond this life, to the one to come.
How fully developed is David’s notion of heaven?
I do not know, but he has some idea of life after death and probably nowhere has he addressed the matter more thus far than in Psalm 17. Confident of his relationship with God, and with his eyes fixed on God’s promises and presence, David enfolds himself in the cocoon of God’s care and speaks confidently of his relationship with God, a relationship that makes him forget his failings – just as God has done.