Fearing God Amidst Fearing Life

Psalm 86 is a very powerful Psalm – you can tell that David is writing this as someone in the midst of a trial as v1 shows a man desperately seeking God as he is “poor and needy,”  v2 asks for God to “preserve his life,” and “save your servant.”

David is crying out to God in a desperate time in his life – in the Hebrew “Lord” in v3 (and 6 other places” is “Adonai” which is “Sovereign.”  Here we see a very important thing about David’s perspective – he is in a desperate situation,but he knows who God is and he is calling up on the Sovereign nature of God.  God is in control of all things, and is working his plan for his glory.

It’s interesting to note what David does not pray for – that God would get him out of this situation, or simply ‘make the pain go away.’  Verses 11-13 a great summary of what he is praying for:

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

He wants to know God’s ways more, he wants to live them, he want his whole being to be one to honor, respect, revere God.  As one commentator puts it:

[David] does not mean ‘teach me how to get out of this trouble’ but ‘teach me, while the trouble still rages, to live your way’. Undivided heart, ‘unite/unify my heart’, deliver me from being double–minded, two–faced with God; give me ‘a single, steady aim, unmoved by threatening or reward, to you and your great name’.

As comfy Americans, this goes against everything we know in our blood.  God is there to make our lives more comfortable and take the pain away. When we are facing pain, we just call out to God and ask him to make it stop.  Yet, that is not what we see here from David – God is sovereign above all, and yes, even the pain he is working in for his purposes and our growth.  This Psalm should change the way we pray, moving the focus from us to God himself – that we may turn over all of our selves to him and seek to know him more. As v12-13 says:

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

God has rescued us from our sin and the penalty of it in Jesus.  May our focus on Him create thankfulness in our hearts and outward lives lead for his glory.



Psalm 86:11 says

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth;

Unite my heart to fear your name

This Psalm of David was probably right around his disaster with Bathsheba.  From the depths of Psalm 51 to now Psalm 86 where we see David still humble, but now gaining confidence in the Lord.  Asking him at the beginning of this Psalm to “Incline your ear to me”; “Answer me”; “be gracious to me”; “bring joy.”

We see a humble teachable spirit here – “Teach me your way.”  Why?  So that I may ‘walk in your truth.’ He is admitting that he needs to know the way to go – God’s way.

We see the word “walk”  the Hebrew word ‘halak’ which means  ‘to go, walk, behave’  – which appears about 1,550 TIMES in the OT!  It implies action, and this tense implies an incomplete action.  David is walking and will have much more walking to do. So do we, by His grace.

But as he walks he is essentially asking for two very important things:   (1) teach me your way – there is a sense of humility in this request too.  It’s not about us, it’s about God.  We should be seeking and submitting to His way, His truth, His word in all things as we walk thru life; and (2) unite my heart to fear your name.  Piper lists this as one of the Nine Ways to Pray for Your Soul, which I have quoted often here, and need to pray like more often.  NIV translates this “give me an undivided heart.”   David is asking for unity in his soul, his inner core being to be devoted to God in reverence and devotion.  How many things compete for God’s rightful place of top priority in our inner core self? Are we sharing devotion to other things that shouldn’t be there? I am.  It’s a daily battle and heart inspection, confess, repent, learn the way to go, walk in it.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

David gives us a great example of a humble, teachable spirit – and a heartfelt prayer for his soul.