July 6, 2017

Tom Lowe



(A Prayer of David. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.)



Title:Hear a Just Cause, O Lord





Psalm 86 (KJV)

1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.

All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.

10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.

15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

16 O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.

17 Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.



Introduction to Psalm 86

This psalm is largely composed of quotations. When the soul is in great need, it is not concerned with inventing new ways of addressing God, but avails itself of well-known and well-worn phrases. Our Lord in Gethsemane “prayed the same words.” The background of the psalm is faith which reflects on God’s goodness. Thou art good (Psalm 86:5); thou art great (Psalm 86:10); thou art merciful and gracious (Psalm 86:15). Our prayers should be built upon the revelation of God’s nature as revealed by Christ.

The psalm has three divisions:

1)     Psalm 86:1-5. Our strongest appeal to God is that we are indeed poor and needy. That we are holy is true only so far as we present Christ as our righteousness. That we cry out to Him all day long is a plea which God honors. But best of all is the abundance of His lovingkindness.

2)     Psalm 86:6-13. Again, in this division, there is the cry of need; and faith is helped by remembering that God’s power is sufficient. God is so great that He can include our little life in His microscopic care.

3)     Psalm 86:14-17. We can readily imagine the crowd that harassed the psalmist, for we too come under duress; but though they come close, they cannot come nearer than the calm and holy inner presence of God.




1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.


“Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me”

God is addressed like He is merely a man, who is expected to listen attentively and then to do exactly what He is directed to do. When listening, He stoops down, bows His head, and inclines the ear. These things convey the impression of condescension by the Lord, who humbles Himself in order to give them an audience; this favor is granted to the saints, to whom He is a God who hears and answers prayer, and which Christ, as man and Mediator, enjoyed (Hebrews 5:7{1]). 

             “For I am poor and needy”

 The writer is aware of his condition; but he is not only “poor and needy,” he is also weak and feeble, destitute and distressed, and so he wanted help and assistance from the LORD. His appeal carries in it an argument or reason that bolsters his petition; for the Lord has a fondness for the poor and needy“Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2). These words―“For I am poor and needy”―may be taken literally, since it is the common plight of the people of God, who are generally the “poor and needy” of this world, whom God chooses, calls, and makes His own.

We are reminded of David, who was a type of Christ; though he was king, he was “poor” when he was a young man. When he fled from Saul, he was often in need of food and a safe place to rest, which is apparent in the request he made to Ahimelech and Nabal for food.

David had nothing to support him, except what his friends, and the men of Judah, secretly gave to him; and his character was like Christ’s, whose nature is described in 2 Corinthians 8:9“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Moreover, the phrase “For I am poor and needy” may be taken in a spiritual sense; all men are “poor and needy,” though many are not aware of it. Good men are poor in spirit, are conscious of their spiritual poverty, and appeal to the Lord to supply their needs. David was one of these even when he was king of Israel, as well as at this time, Psalm 40:17{2]. And Christ can say “I am poor and needy”; especially when destitute of His Father's gracious presence, and when forsaken by Him and all His friends. The Apostle Mathew recorded what Jesus said as he hung on the cross: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”;Matthew 27:46).


Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.


“Preserve my soul”

“Life” may be put in the place of the word “soul,”for Saul wanted to take his life, and God would have his soul; and this prayer was heard. David was often remarkably preserved by the Lord from Saul’s attempts on his life; and so was the soul or life of Christ preserved in his infancy from Herod's hatred; in the wilderness from wild beasts, and from dying of hunger. His people, the Jews, often made plans to take away His life before His time; but he was sustained in death, preserved from corruption in the grave, and raised from the dead to live again. On several occasions He was observed praying for the preservation of His life, and submitting to the will of God. One of these prayers is Matthew 26:39: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” The Lord is not only the preserver of the lives of men in a secular sense, but He is the preserver of the souls of His people, their noblest part, where redemption is precious. He keeps them from the evil of sin, and takes them to His kingdom and to glory safely; their whole soul, body, and spirit are declared blameless by Him, and are preserved until the coming of Christ.


“for I am holy”

David was innocent of the crime that Saul and his courtiers (retinue, attendants) charged him with; or he was kind, generous, and merciful, to others, and to men like this God shows Himself merciful, and they obtain mercy. Or perhaps, he was favored by God, that is, He had been generous to him, He had bestowed many mercies and blessings on him; and therefore he desires and hopes that to these He might add one more favor, that of preservation. Or, in view of the fact that he was a sanctified person, and God had begun His work of grace in him, he therefore pleads with the Lord to preserve him, and perfect His own work in him. Some expositors believe the gist of this to be…

  • “Keep my soul until I am holy.”
  • “Keep me prepared for the world to come, where all are holy.”

The character of a Holy One perfectly agrees with the character of Christ, as does the petition―“…Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1).


“O thou, my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee”

“Save thy servant”; save him from threatening danger and from death.

“That trusteth in thee,” that is, because I trust or confide in thee. I go nowhere else for protection; I rely on no one else. I look to thee alone, and I do this with complete confidence.” A man who does this has a right to look to God for protection, and to expect that God will intervene in his behalf.


Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.


“Be merciful unto me, O Lord

 It was mercy that he relied on, and not justice. He does not want justice at all, because like all men he has no merit of his own; his righteousness is like filthy rags, but Christ took pity on him, and gave him His righteousness. He can only ask for mercy. And he could not claim God’s mercy on the ground that he was “holy,” but all that he had and hoped for was to be tied to the mercy of God.

This petition is used by Christ in Psalm 41:10; But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.”


“For I cry unto thee daily”

My state deeply affects me; and I incessantly (all day long) cry out for thy salvation. The meaning is that he did this constantly, or without a pause.


Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.


“Rejoice the soul of thy servant”

I want spiritual blessings; I want the kind of consolations (reprieve, help) that you give to them that love you; I present that soul to you that I wish you to console.

Cause me to rejoice; that is, by thy gracious interventions, and by delivering me from danger and death. And with the discoveries of love, of pardoning grace, and mercy, which before were made sad through sin or suffering; and with the light of God's countenance, which before was extinguished when He hid his face.  This may be applied to Christ, in sorrowful circumstances, who was made full of joy by his Father's countenance.


“For unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul”

 Compare the notes at Psalm 24:4{3]. The idea is that of arousing himself, or exerting himself, as one does that makes strenuous efforts to obtain an object. He was not lethargic, or indifferent; he did not put forth merely weak and fitful efforts to find God, but he bent his whole power to that end; he arouses himself thoroughly to seek the Divine help. Lethargic and feeble efforts in seeking after God will have no success. In so great a matter―when so much depends on the Divine favor―when such great interests are at stake―the whole soul should be roused to one great and strenuous effort; not that we can obtain His favor by force or power, and not that any strength of ours will prevail of itself, but He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully, may prevail…

(a) because nothing less will indicate the proper intensity of desire; and

(b) because such is His choice in regard to the manner in which we are to seek His favor.

Compare Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 13:24; Luke 16:16.


“I lift up my soul” in prayer,declares David; and that denotes the devotion, intensity, enthusiasm, and sincerity, of his prayer; the doing of it with a true heart, the lifting up of the heart with the hands unto God (Lamentations 3:41{4]); or by way of offering unto the Lord, not the body only, but the soul or heart also; or as a deposit committed into His hands. Thus, Christ lifted up His eyes, and His heart and soul, to His Divine Father; and also made his soul an offering for sin, and at death commended His Spirit into His hands, John 17:1{5]; see notes on Psalm 25:1{6].


For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.


“For thou, Lord, art good”

He is essentially and independently good; good in Himself, and good to others; good to all, in a providential way (that is, God’s providential care for each of us); and good to His own special people by way of grace; this is asserted by Christ, Matthew 19:17{7]. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.


This is another reason why God should hear his prayer; and it is a reason which may be advocated at all times, and by all classes of people. It is founded on the kindness of God; on the fullness of His mercy to all that invoke His name. We would call in vain on a God who was not merciful and ready to forgive; but in the Divine character there is the most ample foundation for such an appeal. In His compassion; in His readiness to forgive; in the abundance of His mercy (which emanates from His goodness), God is all that a repenting sinner could wish Him to be. If a sinner should endeavor to describe what he would desire to find in God as a ground for appeal in his prayers, he could not express his feelings in language more full and free than God has himself employed about his own readiness to pardon and save. The language of the Bible on this subject would express, better than any language which he could employ himself, what in those circumstances he would wish to find God to be; Lord, I am hell, but thou art heaven.


“and ready to forgive”

He is more than “ready,” in fact; He is good, and ready to forgive. God’s goodness is an attribute of His nature; His forgiveness is a modification, or special exercise, of His goodness. The first is generic, the second specific.

There is forgiveness with Him, and it can be acquired without difficulty; He has essentially provided it for us; He is freely giving it; it is according to the riches of His grace; He does abundantly pardon; no sooner is it asked for than it is given. David knew this from personal experience“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” (Psalm 32:5){8].


“and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee”

 There is a requirement to be met by all who call upon God and ask for forgiveness. The person must be truthful and sincere, have an upright heart{9], and most important of all, he must ask the right way; pray in Christ’s name, and have faith in him. To such, the Lord not only shows He is merciful, but is rich and abundant in mercy. He has a multitude of tender mercies, and abounds in grace and goodness, and in the giving of it to His people, which encourages their faith and hope in their prayers to Him.


Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.


“Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer” (Listen, O Jehovah! to my prayer.”)

From the earnest repetition of his former requests in this, verse 1 and the following verse, it is evident that he was oppressed with no ordinary degree of grief, and also agitated with extreme anxiety. From this example, we are taught that those who, having engaged in prayer once, may immediately repeat that exercise; provided God does not at once grant them their desire―for they may fear that a delay could betray the coldness and inconstancy of their hearts. Nor is this repetition of the same requests to be thought superfluous; for this is how the saints, little by little, lay their cares upon the bosom of God, and this petition is a sacrifice of a sweet savor before Him. When the Psalmist says, In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me,” he makes a particular application to himself of the truth which he had just now stated (v. 5), that “God is good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”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 plea in prayer. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).


“and attend to the voice of my supplications”

 This psalm which proceeded from the Holy Spirit to the mind of David, who then sent it up in a humble manner, and in reliance on the mercy of God, and was accompanied with thanksgiving (Psalm 86:12). These were vocal prayers, and not mere mental ones, in order to follow the method of Jesus―“During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). By crying and calling continually he shows how we must not be weary, even though God does not immediately grant our request but that we must earnestly and often call on him.


In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.


“In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee”

David certainly had his share of troubles, both inward and outward, before and after he came to the throne, in private and public life; and every good man has his troubles too. If truth be told, there are some particular times or days when trouble seems to be lurking around every corner and some troubles are worse than others. Trouble arises from different causes:

  • Sometimes from themselves; from their corruptions, the weakness of their grace, and the poor performance of their duties.
  • Sometimes from others; from the persecutions of the men of the world; from the wicked lives of profane sinners, and especially professors of religion, and from the spread of false doctrine.
  • Sometimes from Satan and his temptations.
  • Sometimes from the more immediate hand of God in afflictions, and from hiding His face.

  These troubles do not always survive; they may last for a day or for a particular time; and such an occasion calls for prayer, and the Lord invites and encourages His people to call upon Him in prayer when this is the case (Psalm 50:15{10]). Christ had His times of trouble, in which He called upon His divine Father―“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33).

When David said, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me,” the language implies a habit, or a steady purpose of mind, that in all times of trouble he would make God his refuge. It was this fixed purpose―this regular habit―which was now the basis of his confidence. A man who always makes God his refuge, who has no other ground of reliance, may feel assured that God will intervene and save him.


“For thou wilt answer me”

 This also implies a fixed and steady assurance of mind, applicable not only to this case, but to all similar cases. He had firm confidence in God at all times; an unwavering belief that God hears the prayers of His people. This is a just foundation for hope when we approach God. Compare James 1:6-7{11].

The idols of the Gentiles could not answer; Baal could not answer his priests (1 Kings 18:26); the psalmist concluded this, both from the promise of God (Psalm 50:15{10]), and from his frequent experience―When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. (Psalm 138:3). This is a very encouraging reason or argument to call on the Lord: Christ was always heard and answered―“…Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11:41).


Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.


“Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord”

 Among all those which are worshipped as gods there is no one that can hear and save. “There is none like unto thee,” either for power or readiness to hear and answer prayers. 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); but upon the Almighty and most gracious God.

The psalmist, in respect to prayer, and to help to be obtained by prayer, compares his own condition with that of those who worshipped false gods. He had a God who could hear; they had none. A true child of God now in trouble may correctly compare his condition in this respect with that of those who make no profession of religion; who do not profess to worship God, or to have a God. To him there is a throne of grace which is always accessible; to them there is none. There is One to whom he may always pray; they profess to have no one on whom they can call.


“Neither are there any works like unto thy works”

 That is, done by those “gods.” There is nothing they have done which can be a basis for confidence that can be compared with what thou hast done. He condemns all idols because they can do nothing to declare that they are gods. The allusion is to the power, the wisdom, and the skill displayed in the works of creation, and in the merciful interventions of Providence. From these the psalmist derives a proof that God is able to save. There is no such argument to which the worshippers of false gods can appeal in the time of trouble.


All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.


“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord”

In this verse the psalmist expresses his belief that the conviction which he entertained about the ability of God to save―about His being the only true God―would yet pervade all the nations of the earth; that they all would yet be convinced that He is the true God, and would come and worship Him alone. The evidence of the existence and perfections of God seemed to be so clear to him that he did not doubt that all people would nevertheless come to see it also, and to acknowledge Him―

“Now it will come about that
         In the last days
         The mountain of the house of the LORD
         Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
         And will be raised above the hills;
         And all the nations will stream to it.

And many peoples will come and say,
         “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
         To the house of the God of Jacob;
         That He may teach us concerning His ways
         And that we may walk in His paths.”
         For the law will go forth from Zion
         And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)


“And shall glorify thy name”

That is, shall honor thee as the true God. They will renounce their idols; they will come and worship thee. This belief―this hope―is embraced throughout the entire volume of revealed truth. It cheered and encouraged the hearts of the saints of the Old Testament and the New; and it may and should cheer and encourage our hearts. It is not less certain because it seems to be delayed for so long. To the view of man this is all that is certain in the future. No man can predict what will occur in regard to any of the existing political institutions on the earth―either the monarchies of the old world, or the republics of the new. No man can tell in reference to the arts; to the sciences; to social life; to manners; to the cities and towns which now exist on the earth, what they will be in the far distant future. Only one thing is certain in that future―that the kingdom of God will be set up, and that the Redeemer‘s throne will be established over all the earth; that the time is coming when “all nations shall come and worship before God, and shall glorify his name.”


10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.


“For thou art great

In His nature, and the perfections of it; in His power, wisdom, truth, faithfulness, love, grace, and mercy; and in all His persons; the Father is great, greater than all; the Son is the great God, and our Savior; and the Spirit, which is in His people, is greater than he that is in the world:


“And doest wondrous things”

Things suited to excite wonder or admiration; things which lie beyond the power of any creature, and which could be performed by no one but a being with almighty power in nature and providence; such as the forming of all things out of nothing; upholding all things by the power of His word; the formation of man, soul and body, and the union of both; and the constant government of the world; and especially in grace, as the provision in the covenant in eternity, the mission of Christ in time, the conversion of a sinner, and bringing him to eternal glory. A God who could do these things could also do that which the psalmist asked of him, for what God actually does proves that there is nothing within the limits of possibility which he cannot perform. The greatness and the power of God are reasons why we should appeal to Him in our weakness, and in our times of trouble.

This clause is added either:

  1. As a reason why the nations should own the true God, because they should see His wonderful works in nature and in creating mankind; or,…
  2. As a reason why that great work, Psalms 86:9, was not incredible, but should certainly be accomplished.


“Thou art God alone”

Thou alone” can do what a God can do, or should do. In those things, therefore, which require the application of divine power our appeal must be to thee alone; the same applies to the matter of salvation.

“Thou art God alone”; and all the idols of the heathen are not gods, but foolishness; as the Gentiles shall come to see and acknowledge.

“Thou art God alone” to the exclusion of all such who are not gods by nature; but not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit, who are, with the Father, the one God“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).


11 Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.


“Teach me thy way, O Lord”

“Thy way” means “the methods of thy grace,” which thou has made use of, and do still employ, in the salvation of men, in the preparation, calling, and application of it; or the way which thou hast marked out for thy people to walk in, the way of thy commandments. The psalmist had previous knowledge of each of these; but now he desires to have more instruction in them, as every good man does―“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4), as thou hast taught me by thy word, so also by thy Spirit enlighten my mind, that I may clearly discern thy will and my duty in all conditions and circumstances. As thou hast taught me by thy word, so also teach me by thy Spirit, that I may clearly discern thy will and my duty, in all conditions and circumstances. 


“I will walk in thy truth

The meaning is “I will walk in” Christ, for He is the “truth,” and by Him grace and truth came. He is truth itself, and the true way to eternal life; and to walk in Him is to walk by faith in Him, in hope of eternal happiness through Him (John 1:17), or in the truth of the Gospel, of Gospel doctrine, Gospel worship, and Gospel conversation; to walk in it is to walk befitting it, and abide by it, its truths and ordinances (2 John 1:4).

“In thy truth” can also mean, “in the way of thy precepts, which are true and right in all things, as he said―“Therefore I esteem all thy preceps concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalms 119:128).


“unite my heart to fear thy name

There must be a heart given to man that does “fear” (that is, has a reverential respect for) the Lord; for the fear of the Lord is not naturally in their hearts, or before their eyes; and they should NOT have a divided and distracted heart, a heart divided between God and the world, between the fear of God and the fear of man; but a heart united to the Lord, that cleaves to Him, and Him only; a single (undivided) and a sincere heart; a heart that has a single view to His glory, and a sincere affection for Him; and such a heart the Lord has promised to give to His people, in order to fear him―“I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always FEAR me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:39).

“Unite my heart,” engage and knit my whole heart to thyself and service, and deliver me from inconstancy and wavering, that I may not at any time, nor in the least degree, be withdrawn from thee, either to any corrupt worship, or to the love and pursuit of the lusts or vanities of this present evil world.

It is the continual subject of the Mediator’s intercession above, and should be the subject of our prayers below, “that we may be taught the way of Jehovah, the way to life eternal, prepared for us, through faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus,” and that we may walk therein “without error in doctrine, or deviation in practice, believing all things which God hath revealed, and doing whatsoever he hath commanded us to do; that the affections of our hearts may be withdrawn from other objects, and, being no longer divided between God and the world, may become united in the filial fear of His name: as the grand principle of action.”


12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.


“I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart”

This is carrying out the idea in the previous verse. He would give his whole heart to God. He would allow nothing to divide or distract his affections. He would withhold nothing from God―that is, from “my God.” And under that consideration, that He was his God, and which itself is a matter sufficient to provoke praise. And just the thought of this makes him gracious and pleasant; love itself. This is a blessing of pure grace, and is the foundation of all other blessings, and it continues forever. This work of praise, which is nothing other than ascribing glory to God, and giving Him thanks for mercies received is something the psalmist determines to do with his whole heart―even all of it, all that is within it―every power and faculty of the soul, Psalm 103:1{12], which is expressive not of perfection, but sincerity.


“And I will glorify thy name for evermore”

That means not merely in the present emergency; but I will do it from now on―even to eternity. The meaning is that he would in all cases, and at all times―in this world and in the world to come―honor God. He would acknowledge no God but Him, and he would honor Him as God; by celebrating the perfections of His nature, by giving Him the glory for the works of His hands, by praising Him for all favors, by devoting himself to Him, and by doing all things for His glory.


13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.


“For great is thy mercy toward me”

Thou has shown great mercy to me; that is, in the past. He makes use of this now as an argument or reason why God should intervene on his behalf again.

(a) He had shown on former occasions that He had power to save.

(b) The fact that He had treated him as His friend was a reason why He should befriend him again.


“And thou hast delivered my soul”

“Soul” is placed here forMy life.” The meaning is that He had kept him alive in times of imminent danger. At the same time David could say, as every child of God can say, that God had delivered his soul in the strict and proper sense of the term―from sin, and death, and hell itself.

This is evidently a direct reference to Christ―“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalms 16:10; also see Acts 2:22-36; Act 13:34-37).


“From the lowest hell”

The word rendered “lowest” means simply under, or beneath: “hell” is put for the grave or Hades. The idea of the grave as deep, or as under us, however, is implied, and the psalmist means to say that he had been saved from that deep dwelling-place―from the abode of departed spirits, to which the dead descend. The meaning is that he had been kept alive (delivered from the great danger of death: out of which none but the almighty hand of God could deliver him); but the greatness of that mercy is designed to be expressed by having before the mind a vivid idea of the darkness, the horror, and the gloom of the world to which the dead descend, and where they dwell.


14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.


“O God, the proud are risen against me”

“The proud,” people who are self-confident, ambitious, and haughty; who do not take into account the welfare or the rights of others; who are willing to trample down all others in order to accomplish their own purposes; these are the people who have opposed me and sought my life. This would apply either to the time of Saul or of Absalom. In both these cases there were men who would correspond to this description.

All men are naturally proud, and all men who are without the grace of God are especially proud; and because they are, they deal in proud wrath. They do not seek after God, because of the pride in their heart, and through the same, they persecute His people, treating them with the utmost contempt, and as the lowest type of people. The fundamental idea is that they have contempt for all authority, restraint, and obligation.


“and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul”

The word “assemblies” here means merely that they were banded together; what was done was the result of a conspiracy. The word translated as “violent” has also been rendered “terrible,” inspiring terror; then, violent, fierce, lawless, tyrants. The idea here is that they pursued their object by violence and not by right; they did it in a fierce and savage manner, or in such a way as to inspire terror. These were terrible men who breathed out nothing but cruelty, threatening, and slaughter. There were many of them, and they got together to form factions, and entered into union and plotted against him; and nothing would satisfy them but the taking of his life (“my soul”), which they tried to do on several occasions“Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round” (Psalm 22:12).


“and have not set thee before them”

They did not consider the omniscience of God, that He knew and took notice of all they did; nor His omnipresence{13], that there was no fleeing from Him; nor His omnipotence, that He was able to crush them into pieces; nor His justice, which will bring disaster to them that trouble His people; nor His goodness, which should lead to repentance; nor had they any fear of Him, nor did they respect His glory: in short, they were like the unjust judge, who neither feared God nor regarded men (Luke 18:4).

This clause describes their character and the cause of it. Humanity shudders when such men rule. In this verse David repeats himself from Psalms 54:3, which is not a rare practice at all.

“Proud… violent… have not set thee before them”—A threefold description of David’s enemies.


15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.


“But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion”

David may have thought―His “compassion” is for His people and for me in particular; and therefore He will forget and forgive my many sins, for which He could justly reject me, but that would be a breach of the promise He made to me; and therefore He will save me from my cruel enemies.

The phrase “full of compassion” indicates He is merciful, in the most affectionate and tender manner, like a parent to its child, or especially like a mother to her son; and is rich and plenteous in His mercy, and freely bestows it; and this was what supported the psalmist while under his troubles from his enemies, that though they were cruel the Lord was merciful.


“and gracious”

He has been “gracious” throughout eternity, which is clearly seen in His election of grace, in His covenant of grace, and the vast supplies of it in His Son. That He is “gracious” is also apparent from His kindness in Christ Jesus, from His justification, pardon, adoption, effectual calling and salvation of His people, which are all of grace.


“longsuffering” (See the notes at Psalm 86:5.)

The Bible shows that He is “longsuffering” toward wicked men, but it is remarkable how patient He is with His chosen ones; for He patiently waits for the right moment to grant them salvation. He bears with them, and waits to be gracious to them, to bring them to repentance, and save them―“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The words rendered “long-suffering” here mean that there was and would be delay in His anger; that He did not act from passion or sudden resentment; that He endured the conduct of sinners for a long time without rising up to punish them; that He was not quick to take vengeance, but bore with them patiently. On this account the psalmist, though conscious that he was a sinner, hoped and pleaded that God would save him.


“plenteous in mercy; or goodness” (See the notes at Psalm 86:5.)

That is faithfulness. When God has made a promise, He will faithfully keep it.The words in this verse are also found in Exodus 34:6“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”


16 O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.


“O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me”

“O turn unto me” is like sayingLook upon me” or “look at me”; and the impression this gives is that God had turned away from the psalmist, but now, at the psalmist’s request He turns to look at him and is immediately aware of the danger he was in, his needs, and his pleading. The expression is equivalent to those in which he prays that God would incline His ear to him. (See Psalm 86:1, Psalm 86:6, and the notes at Psalm 5:1.)

 “And have mercy upon me.”(See notes on 86:3 and 86:13.)


“Give thy strength unto thy servant”

Give to me strength such as that which You possess―spiritual strength, strength in His soul to exercise grace, perform duty, bear the cross, and stand up against all enemies, and hold out to the end. This is God's gift; and the psalmist pleads for His favor because of their relationship and his standing as a servant of God, not merely by creation, but by grace. “Enable me,” says David, “to act as if clothed with divine power.” The basis of this plea is that he was the “servant” of God, and he might, therefore, hope for God‘s intervention.


“And save the son of thine handmaid”

This is, as far as I know, the only separate allusion which David ever makes to his mother individually, unless the passage in Psalm 35:14“I bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother”―is supposed to refer to his own mother. But, the truth is, we have no mention of his mother anywhere else in Scripture. Hence, we do not have any idea of her character, and in fact, it is not easy to determine who she was. The language here, however, would seem to imply that she was a pious woman, for the words “thy handmaid,” as employed in the Scriptures, would most naturally suggest that idea. If so, then the basis of the plea here is that his mother was a child of God; that she had lived for His service; and that she had trained up her children for Him. David now prays that since he had been devoted to God by her, and had been trained by her to respect Him, God would remember all this, and would intervene in his behalf.

Friends, can it be wrong to appeal to God that we have been devoted to Him by parental faithfulness and prayer, as a basis for His intervention; that we have been consecrated to Him by baptism; that we have been trained for His service by godly parents; that there were high hopes that we might carry out the purposes of pious parents, and live to accomplish what was so dear to their hearts?

If you have had a pious mother, then you entered life with great advantages; you have been placed under solemn responsibilities; you are permitted to hope that a mother‘s prayers will not be forgotten, but that her example, her teachings, and her piety will shed a hallowed influence on all the paths of life until you join her in heaven.


17 Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.


“Show me a token for good

Not only one by which he might know that his sins were pardoned, and that he was accepted by God, and that he would be saved; but one that is visible to others, even to his enemies, so that they might know that God was on his side, and would certainly do him good.

Some commentators interpret this clause as applying to the kingdom; and David being raised to the throne of Israel was a token of the Lord's goodness to him, and showed that He delighted in him, and meant to do him good.

At the death of some of the martyrs strange “tokens” were shown, as they had foretold; for instance, there was a man by the name of Hunter who was burned at the stake. “‘Son of God, shine upon me,’ said Hunter at the stake, and the sun shone out of a dark cloud so full, that he was forced to look another way.”

With regard to our clause, “Show me a token for good,” take notice of the following:

  1. The want expressed is a spiritual want; the prayer therefore is for spiritual relief. It is a “token” of love for his soul, a token of spiritual and eternal good, for which the Psalmist prays.
  2. Suppose that some particular tendency of our evil nature has held us in bondage for a long time, and that we are conscious of what the Apostle calls “a sin which easily besets us.” What in such a case would be the right use of the words before us? Surely they should suggest to us an earnest prayer to God to show us one of His special tokens, to encourage our weak faith, enabling us to animate our feeble efforts by a season of unexpected success—I mean by enabling us, to overcome our sin, so that we may see for ourselves how near help really is, and how unquestionably He hears our prayers.
  3. It definitely may be said, and said truly, that such tokens should not be needed. We must beware of perverting the text so as to suppose that our Christian faith is to be built upon so unstable a foundation as the impressions and feelings of our own minds, or that our struggles with evil can safely be postponed until some such special help is granted to us.
  4.  The time, and the manner, and the degree of our comfort in spiritual things, as in earthly, must be left totally at God's disposal. While this is remembered and confessed, the prayer of the Psalmist is safe and wise. What God desires is that we should seek our happiness in Him; and then He sets no bounds to prayer or expectation.


“that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed

Ashamed of their envy of him, their unity and conspiracies against him, and of all their efforts to torment him, to hinder him in governing the kingdom, or deprive him of it, or make him uncomfortable when he does it.

Any intervention which would save him from the hands of his enemies, which would defeat their purposes, which would rescue him when there seemed to be no help, would be such evidence that they could not doubt that he was the friend of God. Thus they would be made “ashamed” of their purposes; that is, they would be disappointed and confounded; and there would be furnished a new proof that God was the protector of all who put their trust in him.


“because thou, Lord, hast holpen (helped) me, and comforted me

There are two things in this clause that we need to see:

1)     Look, first, at Divine help. "Thou, Lord, hast holpen me!"

  1. It is in the very nature and disposition of God to give help.
  2. Sin is a hindrance to our reception of Divine help, but for the removal of this obstacle God has made a large provision in the redemption which He has provided.
  3. God's ability to help is perfect, and His resources unlimited, and almighty.
  4. God helps by various means; and these are chosen by His own wisdom, overseen by His own eye, and made efficient by His own power; and He does it all personally.
  5. God helps us individually.
  6. God helps us perfectly and efficiently.

2)     Look, next, at godly consolation. “Thou hast comforted me.”

  1. God comforts by providing some relief from trouble or eliminating it all together.
  2. God comforts by calling our attention to some consolation or relief present with us which we have overlooked.
  3. God comforts us by revelations of a bright future.
  4. God comforts us in trouble, and He comforts us by taking away trouble.
  5. God comforts us by the direct action of His mind upon our mind; by His word, especially by His word of promise; and by our fellow-men, especially by our fellow-Christians.
  6. God comforts us by drawing us near to Himself.
  7. God gives help and comfort from the Church.

God comforted David by helping him against his enemies, and out of his troubles; and, by doing both, showed him “a token for good,” and filled his enemies with shame and confusion.


Samuel Martin wrote:“To what shall we liken comfort? It is like copious and heavy dew to withering flowers. It is like rain to the parched and thirsty earth. It is like an anodyne to sharp pain. It is like the sight of coast and harbor to the sailor, when the sea is rough and the sky is stormy. It is like the appearance of the moon after hours of thick, black, dark cloudiness. It is like the mother’s voice to a terrified child, and like the mother’s arms to a fretful babe. “Comfort” is a word which we interpret by our feelings. A mother’s lap and bosom, and a bird’s nest, are embodiments of God’s idea of comfort.”




Scripture and Special Notes:

[1} “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

[2} “As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay.” (Psalm 40:7)

[3} “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.(Psalm 24:4) From within the sanctuary, a voice chants the answer and states the requirements of the true worshipper. We note that the requirements are not: (a) “Have you kept the Law?”, or (b) “Have you performed the required sacrifices?” The qualifications have to do with a person’s will. He must not desire to possess anything which God hates or calls evil. When he takes an oath he must swear in sincerity with no deceit in his heart; he must have clean hands and a pure heart—The hands are stained by such sins as murder, theft, taking a bribe, greed for personal gain; the heart is made impure by evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19). If the only ones who are going to ascend into the hill of the Lord are those who have “clean hands and a pure heart, and those who have not “lifted up” their souls unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully,” I guess I won’t be there. That leaves me out. But I AM going to be there, because I am going to be there in Christ. He has undertaken to present me before the throne of grace in His present priestly office because I have trusted Him as my Savior. I read of an ancient inscription on the walls of a tomb from the Old Kingdom of Egypt: “He who enters here must be pure, and he must purify himself as one purifies himself for the temple of the great God.”

The Levites carrying the ark had to be ceremonially clean, and God’s people must be clean if they wish to worship the King and please Him. “Clean hands” speak of righteous conduct (Isa. 1:15-16, 18), and a “pure heart” of godly character and motives (Matt. 5:8). “Vanity” refers to the worship of idols (“worthless things”) and “swearing deceitfully” to all kinds of deception, especially false witness in court.

It might seem that these people qualify for the kingdom due to their good character, but this is not the case. Their character is the result of their new birth from above, for unless a man is born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). These people, then, are the noble saints who have come through the Great Tribulation and have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.

[4} “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens” (Lamentations 3:41).

[5} “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee” (John 17:1).

[6} “Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).Either “in prayer,” which denotes sincere, affectionate, hearty prayer to God, a drawing near to Him with a true heart: for unless the heart is lifted up, the lifting up of the eyes or hands in prayer is of no avail; see Lamentations 3:41{4]; or by way of offering to the Lord, as some Jewish writers interpret it. David not only presented his body in public worship, but his soul also as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which was his reasonable service; or else as a “deposit,” which he committed into the hands of God, to be under His care and protection. The phrase is sometimes used to express earnest and fervent desire for anything; and may here mean the very great desire of the psalmist after communion with God; which is expressed elsewhere by panting after Him, and by thirsting for Him in a dry and thirsty land, Psalm 42:1. The desires of his soul were not for vain things, the vanities and idols of the Gentiles, but to God only, and to the remembrance of His name. 

[7} “And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17)

[8} “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5). David found that God was willing to pardon; he no sooner confessed his sin than he obtained the evidence of pardon. All the guilt, or the iniquity of his sin, was forgiven at once; and, as a consequence, he found peace. How he had obtained evidence that his sin was forgiven is not stated. It may have been in his case by direct revelation, but it is more probable that he obtained this evidence in the same way that sinners do today, by the internal peace and joy which follows such an act of contrite and remorseful confession. In regard to this, we may observe the following:

a)     The very act of confession tends to give relief to the mind; and, in fact, relief can never be found when confession is not made.

b)     We have the assurance that when confession is made in a proper manner, God will pardon—“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).Pardon in the Scriptures, always supposes that there is confession, and there is no promise that it will be imparted unless a full acknowledgment has been made.

[9} “It is required that a man have an upright heart; for if a man has iniquity in his heart, God will not hear him” (Psalms 66:18).

[10} “And call on me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” Psalm 50:15). When trouble comes, and it certainly will, do not attempt to avoid it or to extricate yourself from it by sinful acts and scheming, as hypocrites generally do, and do not merely or chiefly appeal to others for relief, but give glory to God, by looking to Him, relying on His promises, and expecting help from Him.

[11} “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).

[12} “…Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

[13} Omnipresence or ubiquity is the property of being present everywhere. This property is most commonly used in a religious context as an attribute of God, that he is everywhere.