God has a sense of humor. Just before taking a look at this Psalm, I was reading an article in the Chronicle about police officials in San Francisco leaving their jobs with enormous pensions. A former police chief received over half a million dollars in her final year and will receive over $200k for life.
Many of us, when we read an article like that—not to mention many reporters, when they write an article like that—feel a sense of righteous indignation. Why are public servants guaranteed such large sums of money in their retirement, when most of us will never see that kind of wealth? For many of us, our response, when confronted with injustice in this life, is to throw up our hands, mumble something about corruption or unfairness, maybe even write a letter or take political action.
I long for the day when my first response will be that of David in Psalm 17.
I desperately want my response to injustice to be to call upon the Lord. To tell him of the injustice and to “hear a just cause” (17:1). We can be just as confident as he that God will answer (17:6); we should be just as sure that God will “wondrously show [his] steadfast love” (17:7). I should be every bit as able and willing to pray, “Arise, O Lord!” (17:13). Instead, I typically respond to injustice by arising myself, letting my blood boil a bit, ranting about how wrong it all is.
I want so very much to have the sort of contentment the psalmist exhibits in the last two verses. He observes the disparity between the earthly satisfaction of the wicked and the righteous: “You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants” (17:14). God, who holds all things in his palm, who gives every good gift, chooses to allow the wicked to prosper in this life. The “men of the world whose portion is in this life” really do have their portion—their good life, their inheritance—here and now. Meanwhile, it seems like God’s people suffer much.
But the psalmist is content with the fact that the Lord—and nothing else—is his portion: “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (17:15). Rather than grow indignant at the injustice of this world (that I really ought to expect, given its fallenness), I ought to remember my portion. The Lord himself is my inheritance, because in Christ I have been made a child of God. And if we are his children, then we are also heirs, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17).
In Christ, God is mine to inherit. I have no idea what that could possibly mean; it is a mystery too wonderful to attempt description. May we all be satisfied with his likeness.