PSALM 86 OVERVIEW
Title. -- 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." A prayer is none the less but all the more a prayer because veins of praise run through it. This psalm would seem to have been specially known as David's prayer; even as the ninetieth is "the prayer of Moses." David composed it, and no doubt often expressed himself in similar language; both the matter and the wording are suitable to his varied circumstances and expressive of the different characteristics of his mind. In many respects it resembles Ps 17:1-15, which bears the same title, but in other aspects it is very different; the prayers of a good man have a family likeness, but they vary as much as they agree. We may learn from the present psalm that the great saints of old were accustomed to pray very much in the same fashion as we do; believers in all ages are of one genus. The name of God occurs very frequently in this psalm, sometimes it is Jehovah, but more commomly Adonai, which it is believed by many learned scholars was written by the Jewish transcribers instead of the sublimer title, because their superstitious dread led them to do so: we, labouring under no such tormenting fear, rejoice in Jehovah, our God. It is singular that those who were so afraid of their God, that they dared not write his name, had yet so little godly fear, that they dared to alter his word.
Division. -- The psalm is irregular in its construction but may be divided into three portions, each ending with a note of gratitude or of confidence: we shall therefore read from Psalms 86:1-7 , and then, (after another pause at the end of Psalms 86:13 ), we will continue to the end.
Verse 1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me. In condescension to my littleness, and in pity to my weakness, "bow down thine ear, O Lord." When our prayers are lowly by reason of our humility, or feeble by reason of our sickness, or without wing by reason of our despondency, the Lord will bow down to them, the infinitely exalted Jehovah will have respect unto them. Faith, when she has the loftiest name of God on her tongue, and calls him Jehovah, yet dares to ask from him the most tender and condescending acts of love. Great as he is he loves his children to be bold with him.
For I am poor and needy -- doubly a son of poverty, because, first, poor and without supply for my needs, and next needy, and so full of wants, though unable to supply them. Our distress is a forcible reason for our being heard by the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, for misery is ever the master argument with mercy. Such reasoning as this would never be adopted by a proud man, and when we hear it repeated in the public congregation by those great ones of the earth who count the peasantry to be little better than the earth they tread upon, it sounds like a mockery of the Most High. Of all despicable sinners those are the worst who use the language of spiritual poverty while they think themselves to be rich and increased in goods.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. -- The prophet David has penned two psalms, which he has eminently appropriated to himself as his own: the one is styled David's prayer, though many other psalms are prayers -- it is Psalms 86:1-17 ; the other David's praise, Psalms 145:1-21 . The first his tephilla, the latter his tehilla; in each of these he makes a solemn rehearsal of the very words of Moses, in Exodus 34:6-7 . In Psalms 86:1-17 he brings them in as they were a support unto his faith in his distresses from sins and miseries, to which use he puts them, Psalms 86:3-4 6-7. And again, Psalms 86:16-17 , he makes a plea of these words by way of prayer. In Psalms 145:1-21 , he brings them in as they are an elogium or celebration of the glorious nature and excellencies of God, to excite the sons of men to love and praise him. --Thomas Goodwin.
Title. -- This Psalm was published under the title of A Prayer of David; not as if David sung all his prayers, but into some of his songs he inserted prayers; for a psalm will admit the expression of any pious and devout affections. But it is observable how very plain the language of this psalm is, and how little there is in it of poetical flights or figures, in comparison with some other psalms; for the flourishes of wit are not the proper ornaments of prayer. --Matthew Henry.
Title. -- There was much, very much, of God's peculiar character, his glorious name, brought to view in the close of the last Psalm. This may account for its being followed by another, A Prayer of David, almost equally full of the character of Jehovah. The key note of this Psalm is Jehovah's name. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. Christ prays throughout the whole of this Psalm. All the words are spoken exclusively by Christ, who is both God and man. --Psalt. Cassiodori, 1491.
Whole Psalm. In this Psalm Christ the Son of God and Son of Man, one God with the Father, one man with men, to whom we pray as God, prays in the form of a servant. For he prays for us, and he prays in us, and he is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our Priest. He prays in us as our Head. He is prayed to by us as our God. --Psalt. Pet. Lombard. 1474.
Verse 1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord. As the careful physician doth to his feeble patient: so Basil glosseth here. --John Trapp.
Verse 1-4. Poor, holy, trusteth, I cry. The petitioner is first described as poor, then holy, next trusting, after that crying, finally, lifted up to God. And each epithet has its fitting verb; bow down to the poor, preserve the holy, save the trusting, be merciful to him who cries, rejoice the lifted up. It is the whole gamut of love from the Incarnation to the Ascension; it tells us that Christ's humiliation will be our glory and joy. - -Neale and Littledale's Commentary.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- A singular request -- that the Lord should bow his ear.
- A singular plea -- "I am poor and needy."
- The singular grace of God will answer the request, because singular grace has made the petitioner feel his need.