As you read the psalms of David, you cannot help but wonder if he faced any day of his life without opposition. In psalm after psalm, he pleads with God for deliverance from those who oppress him. Psalm 17 is another of those prayers.
The pattern is a familiar one. David pleads innocence from the accusations of his oppressors. Having remained blameless in the sight of God and men, he pleads with God to hear him, answer his prayer, and deliver him from those who oppose him (vv. 1–9). He recites the threat of the enemy (vv. 10–12) before pleading with the Lord to rise to his defence (vv. 13–15). But it is this last section on which I wish to focus. There is a lesson there that we do well to ponder.
There is an important word repeated in these closing verses: “satisfied.” David contrasts the wicked (who are satisfied with their “portion in this life”) with himself (who will only be satisfied “when I awake … with your likeness”). What did he mean by this? There are probably two elements to his thought as he contrasts his own satisfaction with the wicked.
First, the wicked find satisfaction in their accumulation of things in this life: their “treasure,” their “children,” and their “abundance.” This is the only way that those who do not serve God can find satisfaction. Their satisfaction lies in material goods and stable families. But when the things in which they typically find their satisfaction are stripped from them, they face only emptiness.
By contrast, David knew that satisfaction in this life lies in more than treasure, children, and abundance. He felt pummelled by the opposition of his enemies, as if he was living a nightmare. But he knew that it wouldn’t last forever. He knew that he would “awake” from the nightmare and, when he did awake, he would once again be “satisfied with [God’s] likeness.” “Likeness” translates a word that refers metaphorically to presence. As much as it may have felt that God had left the building, so to speak, David, with eyes of faith, knew that that was not true. He knew that he would awake and, as always, find God right with him. He would be satisfied once again.
How are things going for you right now? Do you feel like you’re living in a nightmare? Do you feel as if God has left the building? Take it from David: As a child of God, you will awake from your nightmare to find that God never left at all. You will awake to his presence once again and find your satisfaction in it.
But, second, there is an ultimate element to David’s satisfaction. The NKJV captures the ultimate sense of David’s satisfaction: “As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.” This is probably not David’s primary thought but it is a reality nonetheless: Our ultimate satisfaction lies not in this life but in the life to come.
If, Christian, you expect to find full, ultimate satisfaction in this life, you will be sorely disappointment. Thankfully, this life is not all there is to our existence. The God who has put the desire for eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) has given us assurance, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, of eternity with him. Death is certain, but so is resurrection. And when the day of resurrection arrives, we will find ourselves awaking, literally, in his likeness. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Where are you looking for ultimate satisfaction? If it is in this life—and, particularly, in the “treasure,” “children,” and “abundance” of this life—you will be sorely disappointed. Look, instead to the Lord. Find your satisfaction in his presence and, ultimately, in the final day when you will awake forevermore in his likeness.