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Psalm 86 — David’s Psalm

Andy Yung

Psalm 86:1-17 NIV

This psalm is a compilation of key prayers from many psalms written by David.

Vs. 1

Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

David asked God to hear and answer him because he was poor and needy.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:3,6)

When we read about David’s life, it is hard to imagine that he was poor and needy. He was always meeting the needs of others. One great example was his rescue of the people of Keilah from a Philistine attack, exposing his whereabouts to his enemy, King Saul. He was never described as poor and needy, except by himself to God.

Do we describe ourselves as poor and needy? How about starting our prayers with humility, admitting to God, “I am needy and poor”? God hears us. Do we only ask God to meet our physical needs but neglect our spiritual poverty? David’s prayer emphasised spiritual hunger.

Vs. 2

Guard my life, for I am devoted to You. You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You.

David asked God to protect and save him because he had been devoted to God and trusted God. His devotion gave him the confidence to ask God for protection. Like in a parent and child relationship, the child would be confident to ask things from his parent because of how close they are, he would not be able to do so if they are not close. Our devotion to God will give us confidence in our prayer to Him.

Vs. 3

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long.

We can learn from how David called God all day long. How often do we call out to God? Daily, weekly, monthly or yearly? David did not only call to God for mercy. This was just one of the many reasons why David prayed.

Vs. 4

Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lift up our souls to experience the joy that God bestows on those who serve Him.

We may grow emotionally and physically weary from serving. But we can’t compare to how David served King Saul wholeheartedly and yet had Saul turn against him. Ultimately, David saw himself as serving God, and that’s where he derived his joy.

When we serve, do we look for joy from our leaders, hoping that they will give us a pat on the shoulder? Or do we hope to gain appreciation from those we have helped? We will be disappointed if we rely on humans for joy.

We can never understand how Jesus could find joy in dying for us if we do not gain a spiritual perspective.

Vs. 5

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You.

God is forgiving and He has abounding love for all who call to Him. Do we believe in calling out to God regularly? See in this psalm how many times David talked about calling to God. How often should we be calling someone who forgives and loves us?

Vs. 6-7

Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.

In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me.

Again, David repeated his gratitude to God for answering him in the day of his trouble. God didn’t necessarily answer David by getting him out of his trouble, but He provided David with spiritual insights to his trouble. Nonetheless, David cried to God for mercy.

We can learn from David’s resilience. While he understood the reasons for his sufferings, he still asked God for mercy because God is in full control of everything. We can ask God for the reasons for our troubles, and we will hear His answer if we listen to the Holy Spirit. We can build a close relationship with God through devotion and faithfulness, and we can ask for His mercy. God hears us.

Vs. 8-10

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; no deeds can compare with Yours.

All the nations You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord; they will bring glory to Your name.

For You are great and do marvellous deeds; You alone are God.

David prayed that all other nations will come before God and worship Him. David was proud of God, and believed that everyone should look at God and marvel. Do we look at God with pride like David?

No other gods can compare with ours. Ever since I became a Christian, I have never envied other religions. God’s words are so sharp that they cut my heart as I meditate on them. God sacrificed Himself to bear the consequences of my sins so that I can be with Him for eternity.

Vs. 11-12

Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever.

David desired God to teach him His ways so that he could follow them. Understanding our spiritual hunger will motivate us to follow God’s way. But we are too distracted by our various commitments.

David asked for an undivided heart so that He might fear God’s name. We can discover God’s name (His nature and character) through reading the Bible. We need to ask God if we want an undivided heart, for we cannot achieve that through our feeble human efforts. But if we ask God, He will give us an undivided heart to follow His ways and glorify His name.

Vs. 13

For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

David recalled the times that God delivered him from the “depths of the grave”, the many falls he had into physical as well as spiritual darkness. It takes repentance on our part for God to deliver us from our spiritual downfalls.

Vs. 14-15

The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life — men without regard for You.

But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

David compared the ruthlessness of his enemies to the love and faithfulness of God. Our enemies, who have no fear for God, may be fast in attacking us. But our God is slow to anger to our sins, He is gracious and abounding in love.

I wondered why David made a comparison between two vastly contrasting opposites. Then I understood that when we place the two together, our experience of God’s love and faithfulness can negate the pain we feel from our enemies. God’s love is enough for us. If God is slow to anger towards our disobedience, we can be slow to anger towards our enemies too.

Vs. 16

Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant Your strength to Your servant and save the son of Your maidservant.

When we read about David’s heroic deeds, we may assume things were easy for him, but not for us. No, it wasn’t easy for him at all. David was struggling and weak against the many troubles he faced. He had to pray all day for strength to face his struggles. His resilience and heroic deeds came from God’s strengths. Do we see our need for God’s strength?

Vs. 17

Give me a sign of Your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

David asked for a sign of God’s goodness so that his enemies could see it and be put to shame. He did not ask for a sign to convince himself that God cared for him, he was sure of that. He asked it so that his enemies might see God’s goodness.

Why do we ask God for signs? Do we do it because we are insecure about God’s power? Or do we want our friends to see the goodness that God has bestowed on us, so that they may realise the errors of their ways? Do we want our enemies to turn to God?

Andy Yung

Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.

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