Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
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.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.
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.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
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.
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.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
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.
One of the problems in our immediate cultural context of Dallas is what I call the “irrelevant view” of Christianity. What I mean by this is the common view, whether subtle or explicit, that Christianity is only relevant when a person dies, but not for the day-to-day “on-the-ground” issues of real life. This is one of the reasons why there can be a disconnect between what we do on Sunday mornings and how we live the rest of the week. In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard calls this a “gospel of sin management.”
In Psalm 86, David demonstrates a completely different view of a relationship with God as the most relevant thing to real life today. In verse 14, he says that enemies are attacking him. This is a real-life example of feeling like life is out of control. For us, it might not be “ruthless people trying to kill” us, but there are plenty of things that can make life feel out of control: relational problems, jobs, financial issues, sickness, a pandemic, and wayward children, just to name a few. Like we often do, David feels weak, vulnerable, and helpless. How does he respond to this?
For the entire psalm, he preaches to himself reminders of who God is and what He’s like. Tim Keller notes that “he often calls God ‘Lord,’ the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning ‘sovereign.’” In other words, David is filling his mind and heart with the truth that God is in control of all things. Far from being irrelevant to our daily lives, this is as relevant as it gets!
We tend to do idiotic actions, live anxious lives, and turn to things that won’t actually solve our problems when we drift from who God is. Additionally, David declares that this God who is in control of everything is also “forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (v. 5). The ultimate proof of this is the cross, the place where God’s sovereignty and love met as He provided His only Son Jesus to forgive every single sin of any person who would come to Him in faith.
In a world where life can often feel out of control, what could be more comforting, empowering, and life-shaping than intimately knowing a God who is both in control of everything and full of love for weak sinners and sufferers? Christianity, then, drastically changes our past, future, and present. Fellowship with the triune God is the highest good, greatest joy, and strongest fortress in the realities of day-to-day life.