Sometimes I read through Scripture passages too quickly. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been taking some time to meditate on Psalm 86. As I shared in my last blog, my first thought was how audacious David is to speak to God in such a forceful way. But as I have examined this passage, I realized that David knew God so well that he felt very comfortable in boldly approaching God’s throne.
There is something else that occurred to me as I studied the passage. David used different names for God in different places. For the Hebrews, this was significant. “A study of the word ‘NAME’ in the OT reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs.” (*Manley and Bruce p 441) These names speak volumes about David’s understanding of and relationship to God. As I took the time to consider David’s usage of these particular names, the passage grew even more understandable and wonderful to me.
The first name that David uses is translated LORD, in English Bibles. LORD with all capitals is our translation of YHWH. This is the name the God of Bible calls himself. This is his personal name. The exact meaning is debated, but it is generally accepted that it is a statement of God’s existence. “I am”, “I will be what I will be” or “I am that I am” are all possible translations.
In the first verse of Psalm 86, David used YHWH, the personal name that reminds him of God’s existence and personal nature. “Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1, ESV) When we read this verse with the knowledge that David used the specific name LORD, it gives a deeper meaning. Incline your ear, O LORD, my personal God, who I know by name and the one who exists. From my reading of this, I believe David understood that because of God’s personal nature, he could share his feelings openly.
David was also free to confidently express his needs because he knew that God existed. I do not believe he was only thinking of false God’s that are nothing, in comparison to the God who exists, although that would be in his mind. I also think he knew that only God could be there for him during his time of struggle. There is no one else that is always present in our lives. No matter how close we are to other people, they are not the “I AM”. They are not always present, always able to help, nor always able to love. Only YHWH can truly hear and help when we cry out in our despair and need. David understood this, Lord help me to understand it too!
* Manley, G. T., & Bruce, F. F. (1996). God, Names of. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 421). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.