Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly on Psalm 17

Setting and sung by Dr Noel Donnelly

For Sunday 31B

Psalm 17 / 18 Commentary

Psalm 17 is a long one, a great hymn of thanksgiving with 50 verses! It seems to have been used in the ancient Hebrew liturgy, to express thanksgiving for the blessings given to King David firstly and then to the installation of other great figures in Hebrew history.. . . . .

It starts with an expression of love for God, using many titles: “I love you, LORD, my Strength, my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer, my Crag in whom I take refuge; my Shield, my resounding Horn of Salvation, my Stronghold!” It’s good to dwell on each of these eight images slowly, addressing God here and now as the Strong One from who I can get strength in my present situation; God is steady and reliable as a powerful Fortress against any enemy assaulting me now; God is addressed as a steadily reliable Crag, where God dwells like a the protecting eagle; God is the one whose battle Horn or Trumpet resounds assuring us of victories past and present. It’s easy to rush past these eight titles of God when we sing or pray this psalm. Maybe we can pause on each one and reflect on the grandeur and power of God. I’m reminded here of my friends in Islam who honour God in the Quoran with 99 beautiful titles! 

And yet a more intimate title appears in verse 28: “You will light my candle and bring light to my darkness!” For Christians we can recall our Baptismal Candle, deriving its light from the great paschal candle, the Christ the redeeming Light of the world.

The psalm comes to an end in a joyful song of praise with what sounds like someone raising a glass and proposing a toast to  God:” Long live God! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour!” (Psalm 18:46 ). 

Let us cheerfully and humbly join in that grateful toast to our many-titled Lord!