Summary: July 21, 2002 -- NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 11 Psalm 86:11-17 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth. (Ps. 86:11) Color: Green Psalm 86 Title: “Help against Enemies”
July 21, 2002 -- NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 11
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth. (Ps. 86:11)
Title: “Help against Enemies”
1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God;
3be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all day long.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
7 In the day of my trouble I call on you,
for you will answer me.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and bow down before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
In this Individual Lament the author draws upon the liturgical language of his times, post-exilic. Virtually every verse is taken from another psalm directly or indirectly, like a quilt of pieces from other psalm-cloths sewn together. As is the case with other Lament Psalms it is not possible to determine the exact nature of the misfortune the writer is speaking about. This psalm could be chanted at communal prayer, as it still is on Yom Kippur, or in personal privacy. While it may have been composed for or by a king, pious Israelites after the exile would have applied and appropriated the language of kingship to themselves as royal sons of Yahweh.
The psalm divides into four sections: verses one to seven, is a cry for help accompanied by the reasons why Yahweh should help; verses eight to ten, is a hymn of confidence in God; verses twelve and thirteen, is a thanksgiving for help received or about to be; and verses fourteen to seventeen, is a further lament and prayer. This last section is unusual. Normally, a Lament will close with a thanksgiving, not repeat the lament.
The Lament verses one to seven. The seven verses of this section repeat the same cry for help with accompanying reasons by using different stock formulas. Yet, the specific reason for the lament is not given. These formulaic prayers are general enough to be prayed in a variety of contexts.
Most commentators assume that this title, “Davidic prayer,” was constructed by a scribe to give the psalm Davidic authority. The style is that of a servant, possibly a human king like David or David himself, addressing an overlord or greater king, clearly Yahweh.
Verse one, Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
Hear me, Lord, and answer me: This is a frequent formula in prayers (cf. Ps71: 2; 88: 2; 102: 2).
For I am poor and oppressed: “For,” Hebrew ki, introduces the reason(s) why Yahweh should be concerned with the plight of the pray-er. He has no doubt of Yahweh’s ability to deal with the distress. His problem is making it Yahweh’s concern, getting his attention. It was well known that Yahweh had a preference for the poor, Hebrew `ani, and oppressed, Hebrew ‘ebyon and he lets Yahweh know he fits into those categories and thus merits a hearing. See Psalm 40:17.
In verse two, for I am devoted to you; this is another reason Yahweh should listen. The psalmist is bound to Yahweh by covenant. The Hebrew adjective hasid, godly, faithful, loyal, is formed from hesed, covenant loyalty, God’s loving kindness, the fundamental quality of Yahweh on which the covenant is based and the expected response of humans .