Songs of a Warrior Poet

Cry of the Undivided Heart

Psalm 86
A Prayer of David.

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to You;
save Your servant who trusts in You.
You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to You do I cry all day long.
Gladden the soul of Your servant,
for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on You.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on You,
for You will 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 bow down 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;
give me an undivided heart to revere Your name.
I 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, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians 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;
save the child of Your serving girl.
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.

“To You Do I Cry All Day Long”

The riches of God can only be discovered by a needy heart.

If you have been born from above, you already understand that Truth. There must have come a time when you realized that you were powerless to save yourself from your own sin and deliver yourself from God’s judgment. In your abject need, you threw yourself on His mercy. You discovered something wonderful and precious about the Father then: He does not despise a broken and contrite heart. He led His Only Begotten through the fires of torment so that He could both forgive you and transform you into a new creation. And as you have followed Jesus, you have doubtless rediscovered the riches of God’s kindness on each step of your journey. Whenever you have mourned over your insufficiency and turned to Jesus, you have found in Him an all-sufficient Grace and Provision.

Nowhere is this connection between human need and Divine Grace seen more clearly than in the midst of persecution. Nothing else can make us feel quite so helpless, so vulnerable, so inadequate. But there is wonderful news for the persecuted: God has not abandoned you. Far from it! From the start of your new life, whenever you have seen your lack and called out to God, He has been there. He still is! Absolutely nothing has changed. In truth, there are special mercies reserved in His heart for those who suffer for His sake, if they will only turn their faces to Him in complete trust. Persecution can actually be a doorway into the heart and mind and character of God. And since persecution is a reality for every faithful child of God (2 Timothy 3:12), it is an opportunity that each of us will have to come to know Him better. He can become for us on a deeper level than ever before our Peace, our Refuge, our Deliverer, our Friend.

Paul once said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like him in His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). These are amazing words. Who would even dare to say them, had they not been revealed by the Holy Spirit? When we suffer for the sake of the One who suffered for us, we enter into a fellowship with Him. We become like Jesus in His death, but we also become like Him in His resurrection. We touch the Life that shook off the grave clothes and burst triumphantly from the tomb. We come to know Christ, not as an historical figure or a theological abstraction, but as a Person we have experienced in reality.

Peter had learned the same Truth. He wrote to believers living in the fires of persecution, “Rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when His glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of Glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you” (1 Peter 4:13-14). There it is again—the thought of sharing Christ’s sufferings. And we are to rejoice to the degree that it is happening in our lives! Joy in the midst of persecution prepares us for even greater joy when we see the eventual triumph of Jesus. Peter goes on to assure us that there is a special intimacy with the Godhead available to us whenever we are slandered, mocked, and ridiculed for the name of Jesus. God’s own Spirit, the Spirit of Glory, “rests” on us. We are blanketed and enfolded with the transfiguring Glory of God, if we only have eyes to see.

Like Paul and Peter, David knew that the path to intimacy with God often merges with the way of suffering. That is why he turned to God in the “day of his trouble.” We do not know the exact setting of Psalm 86, but we do know that insolent, arrogant men had attacked him. They were filled with personal hatred for him. A “band of ruffians” or “gang of ruthless men” was seeking his life. The exact identity of these men is relatively unimportant. What matters is that in his time of great need, David cried out to God.

Line after line, we read phrases like, “To You do I cry all day long…To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer…I call on You…Listen to my cry of supplication.” The words “You” and “Your” appear thirty-three times in this psalm, and each time they are addressed to God.

Meanwhile, David took the place of utter dependence. “I am poor and needy…I am devoted to You… Give Your strength to Your servant …Your servant trusts in You…Save the child of Your serving girl.” David wasn’t adopting some sort of liturgical language here. He wasn’t mouthing trite phrases. These words were his heart. They were his reality. In a time of trouble, when David was feeling the brunt of human hatred and facing the possibility of life-threatening danger, he realized his utter dependence on God. He turned to the Lord, his Shepherd, and looked to Him for protection, help, and guidance.

When we read the lines of this psalm, we realize that after a lifetime of abandoning his heart to God in this way, David had come to know Him in reality. The need was real, the trust was real, and so the intimacy was real.

The key decision we too must make when humans oppress us for our faith is to turn upward towards Jesus rather than inward towards our pain. We must choose courage and trust rather than fear or despair or bitterness. We must abandon ourselves into the Father’s hands. This abandonment is what the Bible means by faith. In drawing near to God, we will find fellowship, and in His fellowship we will find His glory.

David knew this fellowship of suffering, and he sang it for us from the depths of his heart.

“Great is Your Steadfast Love Toward Me”

Because he deliberately turned his face towards Father during times of persecution, David was able to see God ever more clearly. Suffering deepened his revelation*. As he composed this psalm, David was especially gripped by God’s steadfast love.

The word rendered “steadfast love” in some English translations and “lovingkindness” or “mercy” in others is a special description of God’s covenant commitment to us. It is a word-picture of someone great who bends down to show mercy on someone small. It implies a determined conviction to seek the good of another who has no claim on your kindness. “Steadfast love” is goodness that never fails.

Yet how could David hold onto a revelation of God’s tenacious love when he was surrounded by evidence of man’s tenacious hatred?

For one thing, David was resting his conviction on God’s revelation of Himself through His word. On Mount Sinai, the Lord had declared His Name to Moses. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). In this psalm, David made reference to this self-revelation of God three times, once quoting Exodus verbatim. No matter how pressing his circumstances seemed, he resolved not to let anyone or anything talk him out of believing what God had declared about Himself. By trusting God’s word when it counted, David saw these words transformed into living, breathing reality. God would show unwavering love to him. How could he despair?

What is more, David had a history with God. He declared, “You have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.” Time and again God had proved Himself to be David’s Shepherd, capable of leading him safely through the valley of the shadow of death. What more did God have to do to prove His faithfulness? David refused to panic in the face of the latest crisis. Instead, he acted on the basis of revelation. God had proved Himself to be “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Him”—so that’s exactly what David did. The Lord had shown Himself to be “a God merciful and gracious,” so David implored Him to “turn to me and be gracious to me.”

On the basis of God’s words and deeds, David had received a revelation of a Father who loved him steadfastly. This conviction was a stable foundation where David could find his footing and then stand strong in the midst of this trial.

“You Alone Are God”

Another rock-solid revelation for David was the greatness and wonder of God. Yahweh had no rivals among the gods of the pagan nations. His mighty works were unmatched by any other deeds ever performed in heaven or on earth. With the eyes of his heart, David envisioned all the nations one day bowing their knee in worship to this transcendent God. Perhaps he was seeing dimly the day when a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” would worship before God’s Throne (Revelation 7:9-10).

Godly men and women of every age have been gripped by a similar sense of God’s majesty, and this vision has changed them forever. It was seeing the Lord “sitting on a throne, high and lofty, the hem of His robe filling the temple” that deeply convicted Isaiah of his “unclean lips” and then caused him to volunteer, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:1-8). It was seeing divine power in the form of an unassuming carpenter that caused Peter to beg, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”—and then to leave everything and follow Him (Luke 5:8-11). It was seeing the brilliance and glory of the ascended Christ that caused John to “fall at His feet as though dead” and then empowered him to serve as a vessel to spread that revelation to the churches.

But this vision of God’s majesty and holiness is not just for apostles and prophets. Every true child of God has been struck by the worthiness of Jesus. Usually it is through an inner revelation to the spirit rather than some outward vision. But no matter; this revelation is what keeps them going when circumstances are trying. Unlike the seed that fell on rocky soil in Jesus’ parable, their roots go deep, so they can withstand the sun’s heat. Whether it currently feels good or not, following Jesus is simply right because He is worthy. A life built around that conviction is stable, secure, sustainable.

The revelation of God’s worthiness was deeply ingrained in David. That vision, together with the apprehension of God’s steadfast love, gave David both the desire to rise above the persecution and the courage to do so. And as he turned his face towards God right in the middle of his suffering, these convictions grew in depth and power. A faith-filled response to persecution resulted in an upward spiral of revelation and intimacy with the Father. It will do the same for us!

“Give Me an Undivided Heart”

It is important that we look closely at how David turned his face towards God. What did it mean? Clichés won’t help us in the day of trouble. We need substance.

A millennium later, the Hebrews writer would urge his readers to remember those who had spoken God’s word to them, to “consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” We may apply these words to David as well. He was a hated man, often attacked and sometimes pressed almost to the point of death. Yet what was his way of life? When he was persecuted and oppressed by enemies, he turned his face to God. He viewed his circumstances through the eyes of faith, never losing sight of God’s revelation of His steadfast love and faithfulness. What was the outcome of that way of life? David grew in knowledge of and intimacy with the Father. He found a place of stability and strength. He fulfilled his destiny of being a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) and “served the purposes of God in his generation” (Acts 13:36).

Is that the outcome you would choose for your life, to be a man or woman after God’s heart who serves His purposes and accomplishes His work? Then imitate David’s faith. In your day of trouble, especially during times of persecution, cry out to God, not simply for deliverance, but for fellowship. Place yourself fully in His loving hands, with a heart of complete surrender and abandonment. And if you failed to respond that way in the past? It isn’t too late to begin.

Start now.


* By “revelation” here and in the pages that follow, we are not talking about the revelation of God’s inspired word through His Spirit enabling human beings to write down the God-breathed scriptures. Of course David had revelation in that sense, too. But we are here referring to the inner apprehension of Who God is, a very personal conviction that what He said of Himself is true. A heaven-birthed knowledge of God is what we are after. And suffering can actually be a stepping stone to that knowledge, if we will allow it to do its work in us.
Next Page
Back to Contents