Psalm 86 Great Is Your Steadfast Love A Prayer of David. (1) Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. (2) Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you- you are my God. (3) Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. (4) Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (5) For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. (6) Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. (7) In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. (8) There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. (9) All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. (10) For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. (11) Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (12) I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. (13) For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (14) O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. (15) But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (16) Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. (17) Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. ESV
Psalm 86 is a beautiful prayer of David. Some modern scholars have tried to dispute the Davidic authorship because there are bits and pieces, words and phrases, in this psalm that are sprinkled throughout Old Testament scripture, parts that David would not have access to. However, ancient Israelites believed this psalm to be of David, and that is what God recorded in His Word; therefore, that is the truth that we know.
Why do people think they know better?
This is A Prayer of David. Some point out the mix of words and phrases and ideas that can be found in other parts of the Old Testament and call this psalm a “mosaic” prayer. It is also the only psalm penned by David in the Third Book of the Psalter.
The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 calls Psalm 86 a tefillah of David. Tefillah is a word for prayer. The NKJV titles this psalm: Prayer for Mercy, with Meditation on the Excellencies of the LORD. A Prayer of David.
A Prayer of David. We have here one of the five psalms entitled Tephillahs or prayers. This psalm consists of praise as well as prayer, but it is in all parts so directly addressed to God that it is most fitly called “a prayer.”Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Bend down, O LORD, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry. I will call to you whenever I'm in trouble, and you will answer me. Psalm 86:1-7 NLT
Bend your ear down to me and hear me! What a beautiful image this portrays. David had quite a relationship with God. He was not a perfect man; he was a sinner, like the rest of us. But he loved the Lord, and he knew the Lord. God called David a “man after His own heart.”
David needed God’s help. Who knows what was going on for David when he wrote this prayer. His life was filled with man’s betrayal, even that of his own son. Whatever it was that prompted these words, David knew that his only help would come from the Lord. No matter who hurt him in this life, the Lord was always with him, and because of that promise David could handle whatever was thrown at him.
David’s prayers and songs are humble. He often calls upon God’s mercy while saying “help me, I am poor and needy. I am lost and afraid. I am in trouble.” You can almost see David on his knees, head bowed, tears in his eyes.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Psalm 86:5 NKJV For thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee. Psalm 86:5 RSV
God is ready to forgive! He is abundant is mercy. God is good. His steadfast (hesed), unfailing love is available to all who seek Him.
Have you failed a hundred times? Are you ashamed to look toward God again? Do you feel it is just too much to ask? My friend, you are never too far gone. God made a way. Let these psalms reassure you.
No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do! All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God. Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:8-13 NLT
What beautiful words! Some commentators say that it’s best in this particular psalm that we do not know the occasion of David’s cry for help. When the reason behind his need for a Savior is vague, it is easier for future generations to relate it to their own lives and struggles. Read the words again . . . it’s true, the words could be mine or yours.
He alone is God. There is none other. The only way to be saved is through Him. David knew this. Do you?
Note that all of the verbs in David’s prayer are present tense. God does great works. He is God. If we ever feel distant from God all we have to do is open our eyes and look around us, at all of creation, at the sunrise, at the seasons.
At this point in the psalm, David has shifted to praising the works of God. He shared his needs and his fears and called upon the God who can save. He put his trust in the Lord. Now he praises God for His unfailing love and is reminded of the strength God offers His children.
David says: Teach me Your ways Lord!
Teach me thy way, O LORD. Instruct me thus at all times, let me live in thy school; but teach me now especially since I am in trouble and perplexity. Be pleased to shew me the way which thy wisdom and mercy have prepared for my escape; behold I lay aside all willfulness, and only desire to be informed as to thy holy and gracious mind.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
O God, insolent people rise up against me; a violent gang is trying to kill me. You mean nothing to them. But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Send me a sign of your favor. Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O LORD, help and comfort me. Psalm 86:14-17 NLT
Three times David uses the Hebrew word hesed to describe God’s love. Hesed or chesed is the Hebrew word that God used to describe His covenant love toward His children.
The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, "Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. Exodus 34:6-7a
The word hesed is translated: unfailing love, mercy, compassion, steadfast love, faithfulness . . . among others.
David uses this Hebrew word in three verses of this psalm.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. verse 5 NLT For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. verse 13 NLT But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. verse 15 NLT
Despite the struggles and pain in David’s life, he knew God intimately. He relied upon God. He sought God first. God was David’s strength. And no matter if the kingdom’s walls fell down around him, David knew that God was faithful and would take him home and into His presence someday.
Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Send me a sign of your favor. Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O LORD, help and comfort me. Psalm 86:16-17 NLT
David completes his prayer with a plea for help, but a knowing plea. David knows God will hear him and answer him and help him. How does David know this with certainty? Because He has before. God is faithful. When we worry if He hears us and will move to help us, we need only to look back and remember the times that He was faithful before.
Father in heaven, thank your faithfulness throughout time and even today. Thank you for this prayer and this reminder of your faithfulness and your unfailing/hesed love for your children. You bless us and watch over us even when we feel lost and alone. Reveal yourself to us today. Amen.