|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
86:1-7 Our poverty and wretchedness, when felt, powerfully plead in our behalf at the throne of grace. The best self-preservation is to commit ourselves to God's keeping. I am one whom thou favourest, hast set apart for thyself, and made partaker of sanctifying grace. It is a great encouragement to prayer, to feel that we have received the converting grace of God, have learned to trust in him, and to be his servants. We may expect comfort from God, when we keep up our communion with God. God's goodness appears in two things, in giving and forgiving. Whatever others do, let us call upon God, and commit our case to him; we shall not seek in vain.
Verses 1-5. - Prayer, the predominant note of the entire psalm, holds almost exclusive possession of the first strophe, only passing into praise when the last verse is reached, where the petitioner reminds God of his loving kindness and readiness to forgive. Verse 1. - Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me (comp. Psalm 31:2; Proverbs 22:17). For I am poor and needy; or, "I am afflicted and in misery." Poverty in the ordinary sense is scarcely intended.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me,.... This is spoken of God after the manner of men, who, when they listen and attentively hearken to what is said to them, stoop and bow the head, and incline the ear; and it denotes condescension in the Lord, who humbles himself as to look upon men, so to bow down the ear and hearken to them: this favour is granted to the saints, to whom he is a God hearing and answering prayer, and which Christ, as man and Mediator, enjoyed; see Hebrews 5:7,
for I am poor and needy; weak and feeble, destitute and distressed, and so wanted help and assistance; and which carries in it an argument or reason enforcing the above petition; for the Lord has a regard to the poor and needy; see Psalm 6:2. This may be understood literally, it being the common case of the people of God, who are generally the poor and needy of this world, whom God chooses, calls, and makes his own; and so was David when he fled from Saul, being often in want of temporal mercies, as appears by his application to Ahimelech and Nabal for food; and having nothing, as Kimchi observes, to support him, but what his friends, and the men of Judah, privately helped him to; and the character well agrees with Christ, whose case this was; see 2 Corinthians 8:9. Moreover, it may be taken in a spiritual sense; all men are poor and needy, though not sensible of it; good men are poor in spirit, are sensible of their spiritual poverty, and apply to the Lord, and to the throne of his grace, for the supply of their need; and such an one was David, even when he was king of Israel, as well as at this time, Psalm 40:17, and may be applied to Christ; especially when destitute of his Father's gracious presence, and was forsaken by him and all his friends, Matthew 27:46.
The Treasury of David
1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.
3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.
4 Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
6 Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
"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.
"Preserve my soul." Let my life be safe from my enemies, and my spiritual nature be secure from their temptations. He feels himself unsafe except he be covered by the divine protection. "For I am holy." I am set apart for holy uses, therefore do not let thine enemies commit a sacrilege by injuring or defiling me: I am clear of the crimes laid to my charge, and in that sense innocent; therefore, I beseech thee, do not allow me to suffer from unjust charges: and I am inoffensive, meek, and gentle towards others, therefore deal mercifully with me as I have dealt with my fellow men. Any of these renderings may explain the text, perhaps all together will expound it best. It is not self-righteous in good men to plead their innocence as a reason for escaping from the results of sins wrongfully ascribed to them; penitents do not bedaub themselves with mire for the love of it, or make themselves out to be worse than they are out of compliment to heaven. No, the humblest saint is not a fool, and he is as well aware of the matters wherein he is clear as of those wherein he must cry "peccavi." To plead guilty to offences we have never committed is as great a lie as the denial of our real faults. "O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee." Lest any man should suppose that David trusted in his own holiness he immediately declared his trust in the Lord, and begged to be saved as one who was not holy in the sense of being perfect, but was even yet in need of the very elements of salvation. How sweet is that title, "my God," when joined to the other, "servant;" and how sweet is the hope that on this ground we shall be saved; seeing that our God is not like the Amalekitish master who left his poor sick servant to perish. Note how David's poor I am (or rather the I repeated without the am) appeals to the great I Am with that sacred boldness engendered by the necessity which breaks through stone walls, aided by the faith which removes mountains.
"Be merciful unto me, O Lord." The best of men need mercy, and appeal to mercy, yea to nothing else but mercy; they need it for themselves, and crave it eagerly of their God as a personal requisite. "For I cry unto thee daily." Is there not a promise that importunity shall prevail? May we not, then, plead our importunity as an argument with God. He who prays every day, and all the day, for so the word may mean, may rest assured that the Lord will hear him in the day of his need. If we cried sometimes to man, or other false confidences, we might expect to be referred to them in the hour of our calamity, but if in all former time we have looked to the Lord alone, we may be sure that he will not desert us now. See how David pleaded, first that he was poor and needy, next that he was the Lord's set-apart one, then that he was God's servant and had learned to trust in the Lord, and lastly that he had been taught to pray daily; surely these are such holy pleadings as any tried believer may employ when wrestling with a prayer-hearing God, and with such weapons the most trembling suppliant may hope to win the day.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 86:1-17. This is a prayer in which the writer, with deep emotion, mingles petitions and praises, now urgent for help, and now elated with hope, in view of former mercies. The occurrence of many terms and phrases peculiar to David's Psalms clearly intimates its authorship.
1, 2. poor and needy—a suffering child of God, as in Ps 10:12, 17; 18:27.
I am holy—or, "godly," as in Ps 4:3; 85:8.
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