Truth Is Encouraging

Psalm 86 is a source of joy and encouragement. It is an encouragement because it is based on truth. It is founded in the truth of a real, personal, imminent and transcendent God. It is based on the revealed truth of the God who exists. It is founded on the fact that our God has power over all things because He created it. The truth is that this God is the Lord and Master of all including each of us.

The psalmist would not have had hope if this god was a god conceived in his own mind. A god that a human could think up would be limited by the scope of the human’s imagination. This god would always have limitations for he would be restricted to the scope of knowledge of the one doing the imagining. This god would not be an encouragement for he would always fail when the mind was weak.

The reason I am sharing this is because Psalm 86 is a real source of joy because there is an all-powerful God who exists and has revealed himself to mankind. He is Yahweh, the existent one. He is Elohim, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. He is Adonai, the good and loving Lord and Master who deserves respect, glory and praise.

This week I was reading a Facebook thread that was quite controversial. Many people attempted to lend authority to their ideas by using the idea of a god. The problem was that many people argued based on a god they had made up in their own mind. They said things like, “Well if your God would do that I want nothing to do with him. My God is loving and would never do that” and “In my heart I know God does not think that”.

If we are going to find true joy and encouragement it must be in a true God, not one we make up. The only way to know the true God is to learn from the revealed truth He Himself has given us. The information we need to find joy and peace is outside of us and beyond us. The only way we can know it is if we receive it from the One with the knowledge and truth.

As I read through Psalm 86, I realize the author knew God through His revealed Word, the Holy Scriptures. I want to know this God, the One, who listens, who saves His servants, the God whose works are great. I desire to have a personal relationship with this God, the One, who is true and truly exists. I can know Him and understand Him through His revealed Truth, The Word of God, The Holy Bible.

A Psalm of Lament

“Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. 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.” (Psalm 86:16–17, ESV)

Psalm 86 is a Psalm of individual lament. The Psalms of lament follow a distinct pattern. They begin by petitioning YHWH. Psalm 86 begins this way. “Incline your ear O LORD and answer me” (vs. 1).

In subsequent verses, the requests and problems are laid out. “Preserve my life” and “save your servant” are just two of the petitions of this Psalm. In the last two verses we see some more requests: “Be gracious”; “Save the son of your maidservant”; and “show me a sign of favor.”

The problems in this Psalm are the enemies of the Psalmist and the emotional struggles and doubts that arise from the problem. “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” (Psalm 86:14). David, the author, has also become depressed over the situation. He has lost his joy. “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 86:3–4, ESV)

So we see that in a Psalm of lament the writer feels free to bring problems and requests to God. He is allowed to complain. But there is more to it than just complaining and whining. All lament Psalms also praise God, who loves us and cares for us in all of the difficulties of life. Worship is a key element of the Psalm of lament. Exalting God and speaking the truth about His character are always part of a lament Psalm.

The last two verses of Psalm 86 are a little lament Psalm all on their own. They actually sum up the rest of Psalm 86. Let’s take a quick look. David addresses his prayer to YHWH as we see in verse 17. He is petitioning the LORD to notice him and to be gracious. He asks to be given strength, favor, and salvation. He shares his problems. He needs salvation, presumably from those that hate him. Then David acknowledges the truth about God’s character, you help and you comfort.

After studying this Psalm, I was convinced that I could go boldly before the throne (Psalm 86 intro). But I also learned that I shouldn’t go boldly before the throne just to whine! I need to make sure that I include the elements of a good lament Psalm.

I need to remember who I am speaking to, YHWH, the One who exists. I can freely spew my problems and emotions. As I openly share the difficulties, I need to reflect on the character of the Almighty and give Him praise and glory for all He has done and all He will do. I need to look truthfully at His character and know that I can trust Him for He, the “LORD, has helped me and comforted me.”

Compassionate and Gracious Encouragement

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15, NIV)

But you, Lord… I love these words. But you, Adonai, master, the one to whom I submit are compassionate and gracious. David uses the name Adonai but the passage he was likely quoting was from Exodus 34:6 and there the name used is YHWH.

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6) God Himself passed before Moses on Mount Sinai and declared this truth to Moses.

God declared this to Moses after Israel’s disobedience while Moses was on the mountain getting the Commandments. It was also after Moses destroyed the stone tablets that God had carved. Moses was back up on the mountain and asked to see the glory of God. This is when God declared these truths about His character. He reemphasized His existence as opposed to the false gods the people had again worshipped. I am the God who exists, YHWH. I, the One who exists, am compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithful.

In another passage, Nehemiah uses this quote. Nehemiah was with a group of people who were resettling Jerusalem. The people that had been living in Jerusalem had been corrupted by the pagan religions of the area. He had to retrain the people in the ways of God. They had been indoctrinated by false teachings and polytheism.

Nehemiah wrote a covenant agreement that reestablished faith in the one true God has the rule of the land. He had all of the leaders sign it and they read it to the people. In this covenant, Nehemiah says, “God is compassionate, gracious…” He lets the people know that it is their God and not the false gods of the area that is the god that really cares for them. Their God is the one that they should serve.

The prophet Joel uses this passage as a plea for change in a disobedient people. Jonah uses it in a prayer where he says he knew God would save his enemy because God is compassionate and gracious…

And David uses it in his song. He reminds himself and the listener that no matter what men are doing, the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. He is the Lord, master and ruler over all. It is the Lord, Adonai that we serve.

Knowing God and His character makes changes in people’s lives. It redirects our focus to God and His plans. It caused Moses to worship. It encouraged Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem to obey and serve. When Joel preached about the character of God, people repented and turned their life to the Lord. When David sings it, he was comforted and encouraged to persevere.

Oh, how I long to know and understand this revelation of God. “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” It is my desire to bask in this thought, to hold tight to the truth, and to keep it foremost in my thoughts. For I know that understanding and believing this about the Lord will cause my relationship with Him to grow. It will provoke repentance, induce worship, burst forth in the fruit of obedience and service, and it will give me the strength to persevere in the face of adversity. Oh Lord, I long to know you better.

Insolent and Ruthless Men: Psalm 86:14

“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.” (Psalm 86:14, ESV)

Psalm 86 was written as a song for Israel. It was also based on the personal experience of King David. He was threatened by his enemies throughout his life, and he had many enemies. He had enemies from war. He had political enemies. He even had a son who tried to usurp his kingship. He had many encounters with death.

In Psalm 86, David cries out to the Lord for help. In humility, he admits his need for the one true God, Creator of the Universe and Lord of All, to listen and answer. He also acknowledges God’s ability to overcome all obstacles and adversity. He reflects on his past experience and knowledge of God, remembering God’s great works and faithfulness.

Then David brings up a serious issue. Insolent men have risen up against me. He doesn’t just say men have risen against me. He calls them insolent. Insolent men are rude, bold, arrogant, disrespectful, and proud. They were also ruthless, cruel, inspiring terror, mighty, violent and oppressive. These insolent, ruthless men intended not only to harm but also to cause fear and terror. Their lack of respect for God and His laws and morals was quite evident. They also displayed arrogance and lack of respect for God by trying to destroy God’s anointed king, David.

The sad thing is insolent and ruthless men still exist. There are many who do not acknowledge God. Some have allowed their arrogance and disrespect to lead them to lives of cruelty, violence and oppression. Some have gone so far as to become terrorists. These people who do such things do not set God before them. Their arrogance has led them to believe that they know better than the Living, Existent, Holy God.

David knows the truth. His help and protection come from the Lord. In a parallel passage David says, “Arrogant foes are attacking me; ruthless people are trying to kill me— people without regard for God. Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me (Psalm 54:3–4, NIV).” David was the leader of a strong country. His army had won many battles. He was famous, wealthy and powerful. But he knew that he could not stop ruthless and insolent men, only God can do that.

We live in uncertainty. Ruthless and insolent people exist. But our hope can not be in the government. Our power is not in a military. Our eternal well-being is not in our own hands no matter how competent we are. Our hope is in the Lord. David knew this. In Psalm86:15-17, David petitions God to deal with the ruthless individuals that are trying to destroy him. He puts his faith and trust in God and in God alone. I pray that during these difficult and fearful days, we can do the same, trust God and God alone.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NIV)

The Steadfast Love of The Lord

“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.” (Psalm 86:12–13, ESV)

Israel songs often included thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love. It is a common refrain. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 118:1, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1).” As you can see, it parallels Psalm 86:12-13, give thanks for His steadfast love.

I was curious about the term, “steadfast love.” As a child, I read from the King James Bible. It translated the steadfast love as “mercy.” The NIV translates it simply as “love.” So I looked up the word to get a definition of steadfast love. As I learned about this word, I learned about God, and it made me thankful.

Steadfast love derives from a Hebrew word that is full of meaning, Hesed. It is an active word. It is always a demonstrated love. It is merciful, showing kindness even when it is not deserved. Steadfast love is faithful, loyal, fulfilling promises, and keeping covenants. Hesed never fluctuates or changes, it is a constant that can be counted on.

The Psalmist rightly proclaims God’s steadfast love. But speaking of this love wasn’t enough. He emphasizes it by using the word “great.” It is difficult to grasp the enormity of the Lord’s love for us. Maybe that is why Paul prayed this pray, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

The love of God has saved us from sin and death. He has delivered our soul from darkness and He continues to shower us with love, mercy, and kindness. He will never fail. “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1)

Giving Thanks to God

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV)

Giving thanks to the Lord is a theme that runs through the Bible. God is good to us so we should be grateful to Him. It is simple and understandable. “If someone is kind to you, you say, ‘Thank you.’” We teach this to our children at an early age and it is an expected response throughout our lives.

I do find it interesting that when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving Day, many people do not understand thanksgiving. It is an action. A subject gives thanks to a direct object. Giving thanks requires a recipient. It is odd to me that so many act like Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reflect on how good they have made their life. It seems to be selfish and about them and their feelings. Many say I am “thankful for …”, but never say, “I give thanks to …”

The Biblical idea of Thanksgiving is that we reflect on the goodness of God and we thank Him for all of His blessings, His continued love, and His faithfulness. So in honor of Thanksgiving, today I want to give thanks to God, and I wish to make it habitual so that I will glorify His name forever.

My prayer of thanksgiving today is for you, my readers, fellow believers that are eager to serve our Lord Jesus. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3–5, ESV)

Teach Me Your Way: Psalm 86:11

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

I was meeting with a group of ladies for a Bible study a few months back. Our theme for the meeting was “what teacher has influenced you”. As I looked at Bible verses related to teaching, I came across this verse in Psalm 86. This was the catalyst for my study of this Psalm.

My first study was a look at the word “teach”. It means to shoot, cast, or throw. So I thought about the influences in my life that had shot me in the right direction. I thought about the circumstances, people, books, and Bible passages that God had used to shoot me in the right direction. There were too many to count.

I realized the “LORD” that David was addressing in this verse was YHWH, the God, who exists. YHWH was the personal God, who had taught David and helped him to walk in truth. YHWH was the one who had protected David from countless enemies and given him strength in battle.

David was confident that he could find stability and a level path if he walked in YHWH’s truth. He understood the importance of trusting God’s lead. As I applied this to my life, I thought back on how many times I had stepped off the path, stopped walking or turned around. Each time I had either trusted in my own ideas or the words of others. What I had discovered was that the philosophy of man is often untrue and it does not lead us down a good road. God’s truth is the only roadmap that will take us to our eternal goal.

As I considered the last part of the verse, I realized that awe, admiration, and trembling are a natural response when we learn who God truly is and how He is at work in our lives. God’s truth is humbling. It causes our whole being to be united in the belief that God is Lord and deserves all honor, glory and praise.

This verse encouraged me that day, and it blessed me again today as I meditated on it again. This is an awesome verse in the midst of an awesome prayer, in the midst of an awesome story of God’s love for all mankind, including me. I have a reason today to cry out to the God who is there, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name!

You Alone Are God; Psalm 86:8-10

“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations 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.” (Psalm 86:8–10, ESV)

Sunday night I watched 60 minutes. They had a piece about CERN and its powerful particle accelerators. The fascinating studies that they are doing stretch the imagination. The scientists involved are excited about their work and passionate about understanding the universe.

One of the scientists shared that we only know and understand about 5% of the matter in space. She said 95% of the matter in the universe is dark, dark in the sense that we cannot see it and also dark to our understanding. I found this to be quite interesting.

If you look at the 5% of matter that we have knowledge of, it is quite an extensive body of knowledge. This knowledge was acquired over thousands of years by countless people. The instruments used to attain this understanding, are mind boggling. Some of it is so technical that the average person cannot even comprehend it. It takes a lifetime of study to understand just a small fraction of the information.

And yet, the average American thinks that science has all the answers. They put their trust for their origins and the beginnings of the universe in the hands of people who admit that 95% of the information about the universe and space is still undiscovered. It is even more concerning that they trust a finite man, who admittedly has a finite knowledge, with something as important as their eternity.

David knew that the only one to be trusted with his life and soul was the one true and living God, YHWH. The entire universe is under the control of God, the one who created it all. He knows about the 95% of the universe that is dark. He knows us intimately. His works are wondrous. He alone is God and worthy of worship, praise, and honor.

Singing Songs With Gratitude

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16, NIV)

It was quiet this morning. There were no added distractions playing in the background. It was just me in a quiet home making coffee. Without thought, I found myself singing. Somewhere from deep inside my heart, mind or soul, a song welled up and bubbled out.

It was a simple song I have known for many years. It was the chorus “Beautiful”, written by Dennis Cleveland. This song was on the Kids Praise 4 album. I listened to this album with my kids many times and we also sang this song together in our homeschool.
T
he kids didn’t love this song as much as I did. When they weren’t paying attention or didn’t sing, I would call them out and have them sing a solo. This is the song they had to sing as a solo. It was simple and had a great message. I wanted it to stick in their heads so I encouraged (or maybe pushed) them to sing it.

Well out of nowhere, this song popped into my head and I started singing it. The memories came back and the Lord used it to speak to me. He reminded me that I haven’t been paying close attention to Him. I also haven’t been singing songs of praise and gratitude, so He called me out and asked me to sing a solo. I was reminded that I am easily distracted and I forget to sing.

As I reflected on my lack of singing, I remembered this verse from Colossians. It seems that singing is not a choice, it is a command and God is going to call me out if I am not doing it! Today I will sing with a grateful heart as “Jesus makes beautiful things of my life”.

Thank you, Dennis Cleveland and Maranatha music for the inspiration. Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me to sing and be thankful.

Finding Joy by Submitting to the Master

Psalm 86 is a remarkable song of praise and faith. The lyricist, David, shares his intimate knowledge of great and powerful God in this hymn. It encourages, uplifts and leads us into communion with our Master, Creator, the One True God who exists.

I have examined the particular names of God that David chose to use in this Psalm. They help us to understand David’s intent and give a deeper meaning to the reading of this work. I will continue to discuss the particular names of God as I look at the rest of the Psalm.

In verses 3 trough 5, David addresses God as the Lord, or Adonai, Master. So David acknowledges God’s authority and power over his life. He asks God to bring joy to his soul. He knows that for God to do this, he must submit and bow to God’s control. So he says “to you master, I bring my soul”.

Like David, we often long for joy. We desire a deep comfort and contentment deep within our souls that expresses itself as gladness, satisfaction, happiness, and joy. But we often seek it in things that will not fill the soul. They may bring pleasure to the body. They may feed the mind. They may soothe our emotions. But there is nothing that brings joy and delight to the soul, but God.

I wonder if David was thinking of history of his people and God’s faithfulness to them as he wrote these words. The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God daily. He heard their cries and He became their new Master.

He brought them from slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. A place where their joy could be complete.
The children of Israel started to choose things that filled the body, fed the mind and soothed emotions, instead of lifting their souls to God. Then they found themselves once again enslaved by the world. In their sin, they rebelled against the sovereignty of Adonai and they suffered. They lost their joy.

In desperation the Israelites would cry again to God and lift their souls to Him, and again He would bring joy to them. It is because He is a good God and ready to forgive. His love is steadfast. His love never fails.

David knew God’s character. He believed that God would be faithful. He was confident that Adonai was a good Ruler. He knew this because of God’s fatithfulness throughtout the history of the world. As David reflected on the character of God, he trusted Him to bring joy, forgive sins, and show love.

In my desire to find joy, I must also submit to the authority of Adonai. I must lift up my soul to him. He is ready to forgive and loving forever. There I will find joy.