John Tng (19
"Psalm 17 & the Liberation of Zion"
1917 was a watershed year for the Jews. This is putting it mildly. Ps17 is indeed pointing to the liberation of Jerusalem from the Turkish rule by the British in 1917. To appreciate this statement, one has to know the significance of the watershed event that took place in December 1917. Taken from Martin Gilbert's book, "Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century",
"The capture of Jerusalem caught the imagination of the Allied world. For Catholics, the Holy Places which had been lost when Saladin conquered the city more than 800 years earlier were once again under Western, and Christian, rule. In Rome, church bells rang out in triumph, as did the bells of London's Roman Catholic cathedral. Jews worldwide sensed a new dawn for their own national aspirations, which had been so recently supported by the Balfour Declaration, issued five weeks earlier, promising a Jewish National Home 'in Palestine'. "
Other scholars argue that Jerusalem was never independent since the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., more than 2500 years ago. There is validity in this view since the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity was only partial. Of course, this is true even now in 1997. However, 1917 saw the beginning of the possiblity of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine which eventually led to Israel's independence in 1948.
Let us turn now to Ps17 to see how it describes the Liberation of Zion in 1917.
#1 THE APPLE OF YOUR EYE (Ps17:8). Psalm 17 is a prayer of David. One does not need to read Ps17 very closely to realise that the entire psalm is showing that the Psalmist knows he is the FAVORED ONE, the apple of God's eye (Ps17:8). Israel is the apple of God's eye, "8 For this is what the LORD Almighty says: "After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you--for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye-- " (Zech 2:8 NIV)
These are a few more verses from Ps17 that show God's favor upon His chosen people -- "6 I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; ..." , "7 Show the wonder of your great love,.." , "14 O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, ....You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children."
What has God's favor to do with the Liberation of Jerusalem? Bear in mind that prior to 1917, the Holy City had been under the Gentile yoke for hundreds of years. In the Jewish Diaspora, the curse of God was heavy upon the Jews. "37 You will become a thing of horror and an object of scorn and ridicule to all the nations where the LORD will drive you." (Deu 28 NIV) Yet God said, "3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you." (Deu 30 NIV) The British conquest of Jerusalem in 1917 was indeed a watershed event in promising a Jewish National Home 'in Palestine', as declared in the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.
It was about time for God to show favor to His people again after nearly two millennia. "5 Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. 6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-- only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers." (Isa 1 NIV)
1917 was the year the LORD started to show favor again to His people, "The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob." (Isa 14:1 NIV)
#2 THE YEAR OF THE LORD'S FAVOR. The LORD Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor when He first came nearly 2000 years ago. Only Luke recorded this incident at the start of the LORD's ministry.
Luke 4 NIV
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
We know from hindsight, that proclamation was a BIG DEAL. God Himself proclaimed FAVOR upon the Church, composing of Jews and Gentiles, who were yet to be born into the family of God at the point of Christ's proclamation. Interestingly, Jesus did not finish reciting the last scripture from Isa 61:2 "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,". The year of the Lord's favor refers to His First Coming and "the day of vengeance of our God" refers to His Second Coming. The LORD merely pronounced the first part of the Scripture which was fulfilled at that very moment He proclaimed it.
Am I saying 1917 is also a year of the Lord's favor? I believe in essence it is. Notice the idea of "Liberation" is very much associated with the year of the Lord's favor, "to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,..". 1917 was surely the year of the Lord's favor for the Jews when Zion was liberated from foreign oppression.
#3 HIDE MY FACE. The Psalmist said, "When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust." (Ps104:29 NIV) The Apostle Paul said, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb 10:31 NIV)
In the history of Israel, there were many times when God hid His face from them. However, in this psalm, God is smiling! The very last verse says, "And I--in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." (Ps17:15 NIV)
The return of God's people to His promised land is a miracle of miracles in history. The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 39 NIV
25 "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.
26 They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid.
27 When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations.
28 Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.
29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD."
Ezekiel said the LORD will no longer hide His face from the Israelites the day He brings them back to their own land. The LORD is no longer hiding His face from the Jews since 1917. Hence the Psalmist says, "And I--in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." (Ps17:15 NIV)
#4 WHEN I AWAKE (Ps17:15). Not only is God no longer hiding His face, the "apple of God's eye", i.e. Israel, is AWAKE! In Scripture, "awake" is a code word for "resurrection" just as "sleep" means death -- "for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph 5:14 NIV)
Isaiah links the "waking up" to the "liberation of Jerusalem" -- "1 Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. 2 Shake off your dust; RISE UP, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. FREE yourself from the chains on your neck, O CAPTIVE Daughter of Zion." (Isa 52 NIV)
#5 SEEING YOUR LIKENESS (Ps17:15). MAN was made in God's image and likeness. The people of God reflects His likeness and glory more so than others. The Church should manifest in great measure this glory -- "18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Cor 4 NIV)
It is interesting that Ps17 conceals the BODY of Christ!
1 "...Give EAR to my prayer--..."
1 "...may your EYES see what is right."
4 "...men-- by the word of your LIPS..."
6 "...give EAR to me and hear my prayer."
7 "...you who save by your RIGHT HAND ..."
8 "Keep me as the apple of your EYE; ..."
13 "...rescue me from the wicked by your SWORD."
14 "O LORD, by your HAND save me from such men, ..."
15 "And I--in righteousness I will see your FACE; "
15 "...I will be satisfied with seeing your LIKENESS."
The Psalmist 1 "... it does not rise from deceitful LIPS."
3 "Though you probe my HEART..."
3 "...I have resolved that my MOUTH will not sin."
5 "...my FEET have not slipped. "
10 "They close up their callous HEARTS, ..."
10 "...and their MOUTHS speak with arrogance."
11 "...with EYES alert, ..."
It is very conceivable that when the British liberated Jerusalem, the Jews in Palestine "saw His likeness", the BODY of Christ, as represented by the United Kingdom, a very major Western Christian power. Indeed the Chistians are the CHRISTians, bearing the likeness of CHRIST.
There is another conceivable meaning in this hidden BODY. When God began the gathering process in 1917, it is as if the Jews were being "awakened", "resurrected" from the dust, as a nation and people of God. Ezekiel 37 describes this process -- the putting on of FLESH onto dead dry bones! Notice in this chapter, BREATH and LIFE are mentioned many many times. This ties in with the concept that 37 refers to the Church of the Living God, the Sword(Ps17:13) of the Spirit and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
"May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands" (Ps149:6 NIV)