VERSE OF THE DAY
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
For you God are gracious and forgiving abounding in fervent love to all who call to you you are loyal and outstanding in honor to all
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. – Psalm 86:5
I can’t tell you how many times when I start to pray, I think, “He doesn’t want to hear from me, I’m the person who did this or that sin. He must be so put out with me.” This passage from your word gives me courage to approach you in prayer, not demanding an audience before your heavenly throne but believing you are a tender father who loves me with a forgiving heart. I can forget my sins because you have. We can get on with a relationship because you ave reconciled both of us. Your grace in your son, makes my prayer life possible. Thank you for loving me way beyond my mistakes. Now, be my God and make my day the incredible gift you want it to be.
Pastor Don Patterson
One thing about God being God is that nothing can ruin his love or his plans.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you.
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Forgiveness is such a sweet blessing. But God does more than forgive! He cleanses and forgets. His love is not metered out or carefully rationed. He pours love upon us if we genuinely seek him as our God and Father. So let’s cry out and ask for God’s forgiveness and praise the mighty and holy name of The Almighty, confidently knowing that our Father longs to bless us with goodness, mercy, and love.
O Precious Father, I call to you wanting you to know how important your love and forgiveness are in my life. Thank you for sending Jesus to show your love and pay the debt of my sin. Help me to live today as your child: may others see my joy and my passion for you as I seek to live for your glory. In the name of my Savior, Jesus, I pray. Amen.
The Thoughts and Prayer on Today’s Verse are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psalm 86 – Help from the Great God
The title of this psalm is simply A Prayer of David. We can’t place it at a specific time in David’s life, because there are too many possible points where this could connect with his general circumstances. This psalm is notable because David uses the Hebrew word Adonai (“Master”) seven times when referring to God.
“There are four other psalms each called by the name Tephillah, or ‘prayer,’ but this deserves to be distinguished from the rest and known as ‘the prayer of David,’ even as the ninetieth Psalm is known as ‘the prayer of Moses.’ It savours of David. The man of sincerity, of ardor, of trials, of faults, and of great heart, pleads, sobs, and trusts through all the verses of this psalm.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. A plea for help with reasons given.
1. (1) Help me because of my great need.
Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
a. Bow down Your ear: David used expressive language to speak of his need. The idea – figurative, of course – is that God in heaven bows His head to earth to hear David’s plea for help – David’s cry, “Hear me.”
i. “When our prayers are lowly by reason of our humility, or feeble by reason of our sickness, or without wing by reason of our despondency, the Lord will bow down to them, the infinitely exalted Jehovah will have respect unto them.” (Spurgeon)
ii. After the request, David then gave God some reasons why his prayer should be answered. David thought carefully in his prayer, and presented both requests and reasons to God. “The psalm is unique in its method of urging a petition upon the ground of some known fact.” (Morgan)
b. For I am poor and needy: This was the first of several reasons why God should answer the request of the first line. David here appealed to God’s sympathy, to His compassion. A hard-hearted God wouldn’t care for a poor and needy man, or worse yet might despise him. Yet David knew that God was full of love and compassion and would be moved by the fact that David was, and knew himself to be, poor and needy.
i. It is significant that David began his plea with this. His understanding of the love and compassion of God was foundational.
ii. David was not afraid to be humble, as we are sometimes. “To confess that we are poor and needy seems demeaning. To be a servant seems unworthy. We want to be people who deserve something from God because of who we are.” (Boice)
2. (2) Help me because I am connected to You.
Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
a. Preserve my life: David’s problem was desperate; he felt that without God’s help he could perish. Considering the many people set against him (as seen in verse 14), he had reason to be this concerned.
i. Beyond this, we aren’t told the nature of David’s need. We know it was severe, and he felt it to be life-threatening. Yet we don’t know if it was danger from Saul, or the Philistines, or from assassins, or from a dozen other things. This is good, because it allows us to see our need in David’s need. It allows us to know that we can approach God on the same basis for whatever our need is.
b. For I am holy: This wasn’t a claim to absolute holiness. David knew he was a sinner; that he had and would sin. Yet he also knew that as a man among other men – and especially next to those who were against him – he was a holy man.
c. You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You: David based this plea on three similar ideas, all rooted in the fact that he was connected to God.
· I am holy: “I am connected to You morally God; I embrace Your holiness in my own life.”
· You are my God: “I am connected to You with worship and honor.”
· Save Your servant who trusts in You: “I am connected to You in trust and faith.”
i. In all this we see how intelligent and well-thought-out David’s prayer was. When he came to the throne of God, he came with careful thought.
3. (3-4) Help me because I cry unto You.
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
a. Be merciful to me…For I cry to You all day long: David asked for mercy because he was completely dependent upon God. He cried to God all day long because he could not or would not rely on anyone else for help.
i. “Lest any should, by the former words (I am holy), suspect him to be a merit-monger, he beggeth mercy, with instancy and constancy of request.” (Trapp)
ii. To take this same figure, many of us would cry to God for a period of time and then figure out another way to address our need. Not David; he relied on God and God alone.
iii. O Lord: This is the first of seven uses of Adonai in this psalm. Many translators use smaller letters to indicate the translation of Adonai (Lord), as opposed to all capital letters of some kind to translate Yahweh (LORD or LORD). “The name of God which dominates is Adonahy, or Lord, which indicates absolute Lordship, and by the use of which the singer shows his sense of submission and loyalty.” (Morgan)
b. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, for to You…I lift up my soul: The reason is much the same as in the previous verse; an expression of reliance and trust in God (to You…I lift up my soul). But the request is beautifully stated: Rejoice the soul of Your servant. David felt that he could only find joy in his soul as God met his need.
4. (5) Help me because You are a gracious God.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
a. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive: David based this plea on the graciousness of God, knowing that He is good and ready to forgive. Far too many people who should know better doubt both the goodness of God and His readiness to forgive.
i. “Whereas most men, though they will forgive, yet they are not ready to forgive, they are hardly brought to it, though they do it at last. But God is ‘ready to forgive’.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “We are blinded by sin, and cannot believe that God is ready to forgive. We think that we must induce Him to forgive, by tears, promises of amendment, religious observances…. Oh, clasp this word to your heart! Say it over and over again – ‘Ready to forgive, ready to forgive!’” (Meyer)
iii. Many wait to repent and ask forgiveness because they think that time might make God more forgiving. That isn’t possible. He is ready to forgive now.
iv. “You have fallen a hundred times, and are ashamed to come to God again; it seems too much to expect that He will receive you again. But He will, for He is ready to forgive.” (Meyer)
b. Abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You: As David called upon God for help, he expected abundant mercy from God. This expectation spoken in faith would be answered.
5. (6-7) The confidence of an answer to this plea for help.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.
a. Give ear…attend to the voice of my supplications: Again, David simply asked for God to hear him. He was confident that if the loving, merciful God heard his plea, He would answer favorably.
i. David here repeated the idea from verse 1, but the repetition had a purpose. “He repeats and multiplies his requests, both to ease his own troubled mind, and to prevail with God, who is well-pleased with his people’s importunity [persistence] in prayer.” (Poole)
b. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me: This demonstrates David’s wonderful confidence in God. He knew that God was not a fair-weather friend; instead, God could be counted on even in the day of trouble.
i. Adam Clarke put the emphasis on my and me in verses 6-7. “Attend to me. Millions call upon thee for help and mercy; but who has more need than myself?”
ii. You will answer me: “Our experience confirms us in the belief that Jehovah the living God really does aid those who call upon him, and therefore we pray and mean to pray, not because we are so fascinated by prayer that for its own sake we would continue in it if it proved to be mere folly and superstition, as vain philosophers assert; but because we really, indeed, and of a truth, find it to be a practical and effectual means of obtaining help from God in the hour of need.” (Spurgeon)
B. Depending on the great God who helps His people.
1. (8-10) The greatness of God.
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.
a. Among the gods there is none like You: David’s understanding of who God is in this psalm – listening, holy, worthy of trust, merciful, good, ready to forgive – stands in contrast to the contemporary understanding of many of the pagan gods, such as Baal, Ashtoreth, or Dagon. Many of these gods were understood to be bitter, vengeful, cunning, and sexually depraved. David knew that the LORD God was different.
i. “I am not now calling upon a deaf and impotent idol, for then I might cry my heart out, and all in vain, as they did, 1 Kings 18:26-29; but upon the Almighty and most gracious God.” (Poole)
b. Nor are there any works like Your works: David knew that when God did something, it was glorious. It had the imprint of His glorious character upon it, and could not be compared to the works of man.
i. “Works probably mean here the things God has made, rather than the deeds He has done (which come later, 10a).” (Kidner)
c. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You: David recognized that God was Creator and master over all nations, not merely Israel. In a day when most gods were considered to be only national or regional deities, David knew that his God – the living God, the true God – was different.
d. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God: David understood that the LORD was not one God among many gods, or even the best God among many gods. He alone is God, and none other.
i. “Wondrous things, variously translated in the Psalms, is a frequent term for God’s miracles of salvation.” (Kidner)
ii. It is do, not did (though did would be true also). “Note that the verb doest is in the present, the Lord is doing wondrous things, they are transpiring before our eyes.” (Spurgeon)
2. (11-12) Whole-life dependence on the great God.
Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
a. Teach me Your way, O LORD: Because David knew who God is – not perfectly, of course, but with great understanding – his natural reaction was to submit himself to this great, gracious God and to ask Him to teach him.
i. Again, this shows that David understood that this amazing God cared for him. This same majestic God, whom all nations will worship and glorify, will hear the plea from one poor and needy man (verse 1) who asks, “Teach me Your way, O LORD.”
ii. This verse also shows a subtle shift in the psalm. In the first section (verses 1-7) David desperately cried out for help. In doing so, he thought deeply about who God is and what He does. Those thoughts did not make David retract his plea for help, but it did make him say, “I need to learn from this great God. Teach me Your way, O LORD.”
iii. We could even say that David’s great need showed him his need to be taught. It brought him to say, “Don’t give me my way, Lord; teach me Your way.”
iv. “Most of us, when we pray, are concerned about deliverance and help and guidance and such things. But we are not nearly as concerned to be taught God’s way and to be helped to serve him with an undivided heart.” (Boice)
b. I will walk in Your truth: This determination gave integrity to David’s request. He wanted to be taught so that he could live – so that he could walk in God’s truth. This wasn’t merely to satisfy intellectual curiosity or to win arguments; it was to live.
i. “Walking, in the Scripture, takes in the whole of our conversation or conduct: and to walk in anything, intends a fulness of it. For a man to walk in pride, is something more than to be proud: it says, that pride is his way, his element; that he is wholly under the influence of it.” (Jay, cited in Spurgeon)
c. Unite my heart to fear Your name: David knew he could only walk in God’s truth with a united heart. A divided heart – divided among different loyalties and different deities – could never walk in God’s truth.
i. “Our minds are apt to be divided between a variety of objects, like trickling streamlets which waste their force in a hundred runnels; our great desire should be to have all our life-floods poured into one channel and to have that channel directed towards the Lord alone.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Unite my heart: “Join all the purposes, resolutions, and affections of my heart together, to fear and to glorify thy name. This is a most important prayer. A divided heart is a great curse; scattered affections are a miserable plague. When the heart is not at unity with itself, the work of religion cannot go on. Indecision of mind and division of affections mar any work. The heart must be one, that the work may be one. If this be wanting, all is wrong. This is a prayer which becomes the mouth of every Christian.” (Clarke)
iii. We could say that the united heart is the goal; the way to the goal is “teach me Your way, O LORD” and “I will walk in Your truth.” David therefore indicated that this couldn’t happen in his own self-effort. Instead, he asked God to unite his heart as he was taught and as he walked in the truth. Since Yahweh is God alone (verse 10), David wanted his heart to be toward God alone.
iv. At the same time, the idea of a unified heart is one of the Old Testament promises of the New Covenant, as in Ezekiel 11:19: Then I will give them one heart. As part of this New Covenant, we have reason to pray confidently for God to work a unified heart in us.
d. Way…truth…unite: He is our way, our truth, and our life (John 14:6). He is our way; we say, “Teach me Your way.” He is our truth; we say, “I will walk in Your truth.” He is our life; we say, “Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
e. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart: This is what David wanted to do with his united heart – he wanted to praise God with it. As noted earlier in the psalm, David knew God was worthy of such praise; but he knew he could only praise God as he should with God uniting his heart.
i. David wanted to do this with his united heart; but perhaps he also understood that praise is one way to unite the heart. When we consciously focus the attention of our mind, emotions, and affections upon who God is and what He has done for us, our heart is marvelously united.
ii. “Here is a God-given beginning (and practical means) to the answer of his prayer: his whole heart absorbed in praise.” (Kidner)
iii. “Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency.” (Watson, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. O Lord my God: “This is the second time in the Psalm that David calls the Lord ‘my God,’ the first time he was in an agony of prayer (verse 2), and now he is in an ecstacy of praise.” (Spurgeon)
· He is our God in times of trouble – we rely upon Him.
· He is our God in times of rejoicing – we praise Him.
3. (13-15) Depending on the graciousness of God.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
a. For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol: David thought about God’s past deliverance in his life. The merciful God who rescued him before would rescue him again.
i. Great is Your mercy: “Mercy” here is hesed, the great word for covenant love, love that is promised in a covenant relationship.
ii. “As for the rescue from the depths of Sheol, it is possible to take this as either past or future.” (Kidner)
b. The proud have risen against me, and a mob of violent men have sought my life: David lived such a long life of danger and adventure that we can’t precisely place this event in his life. It could have come at several points. Obviously, the danger was clear and real.
c. And have not set You before them: For David it was clear. Proud men, violent mobs, are not surrendered to God. If these proud and violent men had set God before them, they would have shared some of His compassion, graciousness, longsuffering, mercy, and truth.
d. You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion: David knew that the evil of man did not negate the goodness of God. God is full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth, despite the pride and violence of men.
i. But You: “What a contrast! We get away from the hectorings and blusterings of proud but puny men to the glory and goodness of the Lord.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Compare the words of this psalm with the phrasing of Exodus 34:6-7, the great revelation of God to Moses: The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
iii. It seems that twice in this psalm David quoted the words and ideas from Moses’ encounter with God recorded in Exodus 34:6-7. We see this in verse 5: For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy. Also, it is seen here in verse 15: But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
iv. “David seems to have stood in the cleft of the rock with Moses, and to have heard the name of the Lord proclaimed even as the great lawgiver did, for in two places in this Psalm he almost quotes verbatim the passage in Exodus 34:6.” (Spurgeon)
v. We could say that David read his Bible, and learned who God is. Then he took that knowledge to prayer, and asked God to answer his prayer because of who He revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures.
4. (16-17) A hopeful plea for help.
Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
a. Turn to me, and have mercy on me: Through it all, David never approached God on the basis of what he deserved. Anything he received from God, he would receive on the basis of mercy.
b. Give Your strength to Your servant: This answer to this plea of David is confirmed by the later exhortation of Paul: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10). God does give His strength to His servant!
c. Save the son of Your maidservant: We aren’t told much in 1 or 2 Samuel about David’s mother, but this brief mention suggests that she was a godly woman who served God and who could be called “Your maidservant.”
i. In a few places (such as Genesis 14:14 and Jeremiah 2:14) the Bible gives the idea of a home-born slave – someone who is a slave because his mother was a slave, and he was born into servitude. That may be David’s idea here; to express how completely he belongs to God, he pleads as the son of Your maidservant.
d. Show me a sign for good: David seems to say, “Lord, I do not expect the whole answer right now. Yet, show me a sign for good – give me some indication of Your help and power – so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed.”
i. Here David is wonderful for his humility – not demanding all the answer from God right now. He is also wonderful for his humanity – asking for a sign for good at the moment.
ii. In some cases, it is wrong to ask God, “Show me a sign for good.” It is wrong when our attitude is, “God, prove to me that You love me” or “I will believe if You show me a sign, but if You do not, then I will not believe You.” Yet there are some proper times when we can cry out to God, “Show me a sign for good.”
· Answers to prayer are a sign for good (verse 1, Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me).
· Preservation of character is a sign for good (verse 2, for I am holy).
· Deliverance from trouble is a sign for good (verse 2, Save Your servant who trusts in You!).
· Joy in a surrendered life is a sign for good (verse 4, Rejoice the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul).
· A sense of forgiveness is a sign for good (verse 5, You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive).
· Confidence in God is a sign for good (verse 7, For You will answer me).
· Knowing and declaring the greatness of God is a sign for good (verse 10, For You are great, and do wondrous things).
· With proud and violent men as enemies, it is a sign for good (verse 14, the proud have risen against me, and a mob of violent men have sought my life).
iii. Some – such as Adam Clarke – take this expression differently. “‘Make with me a sign.’ Fix the honourable mark of thy name upon me, that I may be known to be thy servant. There seems to be an allusion here to the marking of a slave, to ascertain whose property he was.” Perhaps we could say, “Put Your mark of goodness on me, so that all can see that I am Yours and You will deliver me.”
e. Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me: Once again David bases his current expectation on God’s prior help. Every past experience of God’s goodness to us is a promise of His continued blessing.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
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Psalm 86:5 Forgiving and Good
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Yesterday, I started a conversation about guilt and how if we let our thoughts dwell on past mistakes, the guilt can overwhelm and cripple us. The verse from yesterday, Psalms 103:12, reminds us that God separates and removes our sin (and the guilt) as far as the east is from the west.
Today’s verse says not only is God ready to forgive us, but he is good and abounding in kindness to all who call on him.
For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, abundant in loving kindness to all those who call on you.
God, who made heaven and earth, knows you, understands your needs and wants to help you. He wants what is good for you and show you loving kindness.
What is loving kindness?
To me, it’s undeserved favor.
I think of the story of David who promised Jonathan (his best friend and son of the king) that he would protect his family when David became king. Remember, this is a time when a king’s line was replaced all members of the family would be killed. But David found Jonathan’s son, protected him and invited him to eat at the king’s table. You can read the story in II Samuel 9. It’s a beautiful story of forgiveness and kindness.
Accept God’s forgiveness today, and remember God is good and wants to show loving kindness to you.
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For thou, Lord, art good
Essentially and independently good, from whom every good and perfect gift comes; good in himself, and good to others; good to all, in a providential way; and good to his own special people in a way of grace: this is asserted by Christ, ( Matthew 19:17 )
and ready to forgive;
there is forgiveness with him, and it is to be had without difficulty; he has largely provided for it; he is forward unto it, he freely giving it; it is according to the riches of his grace; he does abundantly pardon; no sooner is it asked but it is had; this David knew by experience, ( Psalms 32:5 ) ,
and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee;
in truth, in sincerity, in a right way, through Christ, and faith in him; to such not only the Lord shows himself merciful, but is rich and abundant in mercy; he has a multitude of tender mercies, and abounds in his grace and goodness, and in the donation of it to his people; all which encourage their faith and hope in their petitions to him.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 86
This psalm is entitled “a prayer of David;” probably it was not penned upon any particular occasion, but was a prayer he often used himself, and recommended to others for their use, especially in a day of affliction. Many think that David penned this prayer as a type of Christ, “who in the days of his flesh offered up strong cries,” Heb. 5:7. David, in this prayer (according to the nature of that duty),
• II. Seeks for grace and favour from God, that God would hear his prayers (v. 1, 6, 7), preserve and save him, and be merciful to him (v. 2, 3, 16), that he would give him joy, and grace, and strength, and put honour upon him (v. 4, 11, 17). He pleads God’s goodness (v. 5, 15) and the malice of his enemies (v. 14).
In singing this we must, as David did, lift up our souls to God with application.
A Prayer of David.
This psalm was published under the title of a prayer of David; not as if David sung all his prayers, but into some of his songs he inserted prayers; for a psalm will admit the expressions of any pious and devout affections. But it is observable how very plain the language of this psalm is, and how little there is in it of poetic flights or figures, in comparison with some other psalms; for the flourishes of wit are not the proper ornaments of prayer. Now here we may observe,
• I. The petitions he puts up to God. It is true, prayer accidentally may preach, but it is most fit that (as it is in this prayer) every passage should be directed to God, for such is the nature of prayer as it is here described (v. 4): Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul, as he had said Ps. 25:1. In all the parts of prayer the soul must ascend upon the wings of faith and holy desire, and be lifted up to God, to meet the communications of his grace, and in an expectation raised very high of great things from him.
• 1. He begs that God would give a gracious audience to his prayers (v. 1): Bow down thy ear, O Lord! hear me. When God hears our prayers it is fitly said that he bows down his ear to them, for it is admirable condescension in God that he is pleased to take notice of such mean creatures as we are and such defective prayers as ours are. He repeats this again (v. 6): “Give ear, O Lord! unto my prayer, a favourable ear, though it be whispered, though it be stammered; attend to the voice of my supplications.” Not that God needs to have his affection stirred up by any thing that we can say; but thus we must express our desire of his favour. The Son of David spoke it with assurance and pleasure (Jn. 11:41, 42), Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; and I know that thou hearest me always.
• 2. He begs that God would take him under his special protection, and so be the author of his salvation (v. 2): Preserve my soul; save thy servant. It was David’s soul that was God’s servant; for those only serve God acceptably that serve him with their spirits. David’s concern is about his soul; if we understand it of his natural life, it teaches us that the best self-preservation is to commit ourselves to God’s keeping and by faith and prayer to make our Creator our preserver. But it may be understood of his spiritual life, the life of the soul as distinct from the body: “Preserve my soul from that one evil and dangerous thing to souls, even from sin; preserve my soul, and so save me.” All those whom God will save he preserves, and will preserve them to his heavenly kingdom.
• 3. He begs that God would look upon him with an eye of pity and compassion (v. 3): Be merciful to me, O Lord! It is mercy in God to pardon our sins and to help us out of our distresses; both these are included in this prayer, God be merciful to me. “Men show no mercy; we ourselves deserve no mercy, but, Lord, for mercy-sake, be merciful unto me.”
• 4. He begs that God would fill him with inward comfort (v. 4): Rejoice the soul of thy servant. It is God only that can put gladness into the heart and make the soul to rejoice, and then, and not till then, the joy is full; and, as it is the duty of those who are God’s servants to serve him with gladness, so it is their privilege to be filled with joy and peace in believing, and they may in faith pray, not only that God will preserve their souls, but that he will rejoice their souls, and the joy of the Lord will be their strength. Observe, When he prays, Rejoice my soul, he adds, For unto thee do I lift up my soul. Then we may expect comfort from God when we take care to keep up our communion with God: prayer is the nurse of spiritual joy.
• II. The pleas with which he enforces these petitions.
• 1. He pleads his relation to God and interest in him: “Thou art my God, to whom I have devoted myself, and on whom I depend, and I am thy servant (v. 2), in subjection to thee, and therefore looking for protection from thee.”
• 2. He pleads his distress: “Hear me, for I am poor and needy, therefore I want thy help, therefore none else will hear me.” God is the poor man’s King, whose glory it is to save the souls of the needy; those who are poor in spirit, who see themselves empty and necessitous, are most welcome to the God of all grace.
• 3. He pleads God’s good will towards all that seek him (v. 5): “To thee do I lift up my soul in desire and expectation; for thou, Lord, art good;” and whither should beggars go but to the door of the good house-keeper? The goodness of God’s nature is a great encouragement to us in all our addresses to him. His goodness appears in two things, giving and forgiving.
• (1.) He is a sin-pardoning God; not only he can forgive, but he is ready to forgive, more ready to forgive than we are to repent. I said, I will confess, and thou forgavest, Ps. 32:5.
• (2.) He is a prayer-hearing God; he is plenteous in mercy, very full, and very free, both rich and liberal unto all those that call upon him; he has wherewithal to supply all their needs and is openhanded in granting that supply.
• 4. He pleads God’s good work in himself, by which he had qualified him for the tokens of his favour. Three things were wrought in him by divine grace, which he looked upon as earnests of all good:-
• (1.) A conformity to God (v. 2): I am holy, therefore preserve my soul; for those whom the Spirit sanctifies he will preserve. He does not say this in pride and vain glory, but with humble thankfulness to God. I am one whom thou favourest (so the margin reads it), whom thou hast set apart for thyself. If God has begun a good work of grace in us, we must own that the time was a time of love. Then was I in his eyes as one that found favour, and whom God hath taken into his favour he will take under his protection. All his saints are in thy hand, Deu. 33:3. Observe, I am needy (v. 1), yet I am holy (v. 2), holy and yet needy, poor in the world, but rich in faith. Those who preserve their purity in their greatest poverty may assure themselves that God will preserve their comforts, will preserve their souls.
• (2.) A confidence in God: Save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Those that are holy must nevertheless not trust in themselves, nor in their own righteousness, but only in God and his grace. Those that trust in God may expect salvation from him.
• (3.) A disposition to communion with God. He hopes God will answer his prayers, because he had inclined him to pray.
• [1.] To be constant in prayer: I cry unto thee daily, and all the day, v. 3. It is thus our duty to pray always, without ceasing, and to continue instant in prayer; and then we may hope to have our prayers heard which we make in the time of trouble, if we have made conscience of the duty at other times, at all times. It is comfortable if an affliction finds the wheels of prayer a-going, and that hey are not then to be set a-going.
• [2.] To be inward with God in prayer, to lift up his soul to him, v. 4. Then we may hope that God will meet us with his mercies, when we in our prayers send forth our souls as it were to meet him.
• [3.] To be in a special manner earnest with God in prayer when he was in affliction (v. 7): “In the day of my trouble, whatever others do, I will call upon thee, and commit my case to thee, for thou wilt hear and answer me, and I shall not seek in vain, as those did who cried, O Baal! hear us; but there was no voice, nor any that regarded,” 1 Ki. 18:29.
David is here going on in his prayer.
• I. He gives glory to God; for we ought in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory, to him, with the most humble and reverent adorations.
• 1. As a being of unparalleled perfection, such a one that there is none like him nor any to be compared with him, v. 8. Among the gods, the false gods, whom the heathens worshipped, the angels, the kings of the earth, among them all, there is none like unto thee, O Lord! none so wise, so mighty, so good; neither are there any works like unto thy works, which is an undeniable proof that there is none like him; his own works praise him, and the best way we have of praising him is by acknowledging that there is none like him.
• 2. As the fountain of all being and the centre of all praise (v. 9): “Thou hast made all nations, made them all of one blood; they all derive their being from thee, and have a constant dependence on thee, and therefore they shall come and worship before thee and glorify thy name.” This was in part fulfilled in the multitude of proselytes to the Jewish religion in the days of David and Solomon, but was to have its full accomplishment in the days of the Messiah, when some out of every kingdom and nation should be effectually brought in to praise God, Rev. 7:9. It was by Christ that God made all nations, for without him was not any thing made that was made, and therefore through Christ, and by the power of his gospel and grace, all nations shall be brought to worship before God, Isa. 66:23.
• 3. As a being infinitely great (v. 10): “Therefore all nations shall worship before thee, because as King of nations thou art great, thy sovereignty absolute and incontestable, thy majesty terrible and insupportable, thy power universal and irresistible, thy riches vast and inexhaustible, thy dominion boundless and unquestionable; and, for the proof of this, thou doest wondrous things, which all nations admire, and whence they might easily infer that thou art God alone, not only none like thee, but none besides thee.” Let us always entertain great thoughts of this great God, and be filled with holy admiration of this God who doeth wonders; and let him alone have our hearts who is God alone.
• 4. As a being infinitely good. Man is bad, very wicked and vile (v. 14); no mercy is to be expected from him; but thou, O Lord! art a God full of compassion, and gracious, v. 15. This is that attribute by which he proclaims his name, and by which we are therefore to proclaim it, Ex. 34:6, 7. It is his goodness that is over all his works, and therefore should fill all our praises; and this is our comfort, in reference to the wickedness of the world we live in, that, however it be, God is good. Men are barbarous, but God is gracious; men are false, but God is faithful. God is not only compassionate, but full of compassion, and in him mercy rejoiceth against judgment. He is long-suffering towards us, though we forfeit his favour and provoke him to anger, and he is plenteous in mercy and truth, as faithful in performing as he was free in promising.
• 5. As a kind friend and bountiful benefactor to him. We ought to praise God as good in himself, but we do it most feelingly when we observe how good he has been to us. This therefore the psalmist dwells upon with most pleasure, v. 12, 13. He had said (v. 9), All nations shall praise thee, O Lord! and glorify thy name. It is some satisfaction to a good man to think that others shall praise and glorify God, but it is his greatest care and pleasure to do it himself. “Whatever others do” (says David), “I will praise thee, O Lord my God! not only as the Lord, but as my God; and I will do it with all my heart; I will be ready to do it and cordial in it; I will do it with cheerfulness and liveliness, with a sincere regard to thy honour; for I will glorify thy name, not for a time, but for evermore. I will do it as long as I live, and hope to be doing it to eternity.” With good reason does he resolve to be thus particular in praising God, because God had shown him particular favours: For great is thy mercy towards me. The fountain of mercy is inexhaustibly full; the streams of mercy are inestimably rich. When we speak of God’s mercy to us, it becomes us thus to magnify it: Great is thy mercy towards me. Of the greatness of God’s mercy he gives this instance, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell, from death, from so great a death, as St. Paul (2 Co. 1:10), from eternal death, so even some of the Jewish writers understand it. David knew he deserved to be cast off for ever into the lowest hell for his sin in the matter of Uriah; but Nathan assured him that the Lord had taken away his sin, and by that word he was delivered from the lowest hell, and herein God’s mercy was great towards him. Even the best saints owe it, not to their own merit, but to the mercy of God, that they are saved from the lowest hell; and the consideration of that should greatly enlarge their hearts in praising the mercy of God, which they are obliged to glorify for evermore. So glorious; so gracious, a rescue from everlasting misery, justly requires the return of everlasting praise.
• II. He prays earnestly for mercy and grace from God. He complains of the restless and implacable malice of his enemies against him (v. 14): “Lord, be thou for me; for there are many against me.” He then takes notice of their character; they were proud men that looked with disdain upon poor David. (Many are made persecutors by their pride.) They were violent men, that would carry all before them by force, right or wrong. They were terrible formidable men (so some), that did what they could to frighten all about them. He notices their number: There were assemblies of them; they were men in authority and met in councils and courts, or men for conversation, and met in clubs; but, being assembled, they were the more capable of doing mischief. He notices their enmity to him: “They rise up against me in open rebellion; they not only plot, but they put their plots in execution as far as they can; and the design is not only to depose me, but to destroy me: they seek after my life, to slay me; after my soul, to damn me, if it lay in their power.” And, lastly, He notices their distance and estrangement from God, which were at the bottom of their enmity to David: “They have not set thee before them; and what good can be expected from those that have no fear of God before their eyes? Lord, appear against them, for they are thy enemies as well as mine.” His petitions are,
• 1. For the operations of God’s grace in him, v. 11. He prays that God would give him,
• (1.) An understanding heart, that he would inform and instruct him concerning his duty: “Teach me thy way, O Lord! the way that thou hast appointed me to walk in; when I am in doubt concerning it, make it plain to me what I should do; let me hear the voice saying, This is the way,” Isa. 30:21. David was well taught in the things of God, and yet was sensible he needed further instruction, and many a time could not trust his own judgment: Teach me thy way; I will walk in thy truth. One would think it should be, Teach me thy truth, and I will walk in thy way; but it comes all to one; it is the way of truth that God teaches and that we must choose to walk in, Ps. 119:30. Christ is the way and the truth, and we must both learn Christ and walk in him. We cannot walk in God’s way and truth unless he teach us; and, if we expect he should teach us, we must resolve to be governed by his teachings, Isa. 2:3.
• (2.) An upright heart: “Unite my heart to fear thy name. Make me sincere in religion. A hypocrite has a double heart; let mine be single and entire for God, not divided between him and the world, not straggling from him.” Our hearts are apt to wander and hang loose; their powers and faculties wander after a thousand foreign things; we have therefore need of God’s grace to unite them, that we may serve God with all that is within us, and all little enough to be employed in his service. “Let my heart be fixed for God, and firm and faithful to him, and fervent in serving him; that is a united heart.”
• 2. For the tokens of God’s favour to him, v. 16, 17. Three things he here prays for:-
• (1.) That God would speak peace and comfort to him: “O turn unto me, as to one thou lovest and hast a kind and tender concern for. My enemies turn against me, my friends turn from me; Lord, do thou turn to me and have mercy upon me; it will be a comfort to me to know that thou pitiest me.”
• (2.) That God would work deliverance for him, and set him in safety: “Give me thy strength; put strength into me, that I may help myself, and put forth thy strength for me, that I may be saved out of the hands of those that seek my ruin.” He pleads relation: “I am thy servant; I am so by birth, as the son of thy handmaid, born in thy house, and therefore thou art my rightful owner and proprietor, from whom I may expect protection. I am thine; save me.” The children of godly parents, who were betimes dedicated to the Lord, may plead it with him; if they come under the discipline of his family, they are entitled to the privileges of it.
• (3.) That God would put a reputation on him: “Show me a token for good; make it to appear to others as well as to myself that thou art doing me good, and designing further good for me. Let me have some unquestionable illustrious instances of thy favour to me, that those who hate me may see it, and be ashamed of their enmity to me, as they will have reason to be when they perceive that thou, Lord, hast helped me and comforted me, and that therefore they have been striving against God, opposing one whom he owns, and that they have been striving in vain to ruin and vex one whom God himself has undertaken to help and comfort.” The joy of the saints shall be the shame of their persecutors.