David is here going on in his prayer.
I. He gives glory to God; for we ought in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory, to him, with the most humble and reverent adorations. 1. As a being of unparalleled perfection, such a one that there is none like him nor any to be compared with him, Ps. 86:8. Among the gods, the false gods, whom the heathens worshipped, the angels, the kings of the earth, among them all, there is none like unto thee, O Lord! none so wise, so mighty, so good; neither are there any works like unto thy works, which is an undeniable proof that there is none like him; his own works praise him, and the best way we have of praising him is by acknowledging that there is none like him. 2. As the fountain of all being and the centre of all praise (Ps. 86:9): “Thou hast made all nations, made them all of one blood; they all derive their being from thee, and have a constant dependence on thee, and therefore they shall come and worship before thee and glorify thy name.” This was in part fulfilled in the multitude of proselytes to the Jewish religion in the days of David and Solomon, but was to have its full accomplishment in the days of the Messiah, when some out of every kingdom and nation should be effectually brought in to praise God, Rev. 7:9. It was by Christ that God made all nations, for without him was not any thing made that was made, and therefore through Christ, and by the power of his gospel and grace, all nations shall be brought to worship before God, Isa. 66:23. 3. As a being infinitely great (Ps. 86:10): “Therefore all nations shall worship before thee, because as King of nations thou art great, thy sovereignty absolute and incontestable, thy majesty terrible and insupportable, thy power universal and irresistible, thy riches vast and inexhaustible, thy dominion boundless and unquestionable; and, for the proof of this, thou doest wondrous things, which all nations admire, and whence they might easily infer that thou art God alone, not only none like thee, but none besides thee.” Let us always entertain great thoughts of this great God, and be filled with holy admiration of this God who doeth wonders; and let him alone have our hearts who is God alone. 4. As a being infinitely good. Man is bad, very wicked and vile (Ps. 86:14); no mercy is to be expected from him; but thou, O Lord! art a God full of compassion, and gracious, Ps. 86:15. This is that attribute by which he proclaims his name, and by which we are therefore to proclaim it, Exod. 34:6, 7. It is his goodness that is over all his works, and therefore should fill all our praises; and this is our comfort, in reference to the wickedness of the world we live in, that, however it be, God is good. Men are barbarous, but God is gracious; men are false, but God is faithful. God is not only compassionate, but full of compassion, and in him mercy rejoiceth against judgment. He is long-suffering towards us, though we forfeit his favour and provoke him to anger, and he is plenteous in mercy and truth, as faithful in performing as he was free in promising. 5. As a kind friend and bountiful benefactor to him. We ought to praise God as good in himself, but we do it most feelingly when we observe how good he has been to us. This therefore the psalmist dwells upon with most pleasure, Ps. 86:12, 13. He had said (Ps. 86:9), All nations shall praise thee, O Lord! and glorify thy name. It is some satisfaction to a good man to think that others shall praise and glorify God, but it is his greatest care and pleasure to do it himself. “Whatever others do” (says David), “I will praise thee, O Lord my God! not only as the Lord, but as my God; and I will do it with all my heart; I will be ready to do it and cordial in it; I will do it with cheerfulness and liveliness, with a sincere regard to thy honour; for I will glorify thy name, not for a time, but for evermore. I will do it as long as I live, and hope to be doing it to eternity.” With good reason does he resolve to be thus particular in praising God, because God had shown him particular favours: For great is thy mercy towards me. The fountain of mercy is inexhaustibly full; the streams of mercy are inestimably rich. When we speak of God’s mercy to us, it becomes us thus to magnify it: Great is thy mercy towards me. Of the greatness of God’s mercy he gives this instance, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell, from death, from so great a death, as St. Paul (2 Cor. 1:10), from eternal death, so even some of the Jewish writers understand it. David knew he deserved to be cast off for ever into the lowest hell for his sin in the matter of Uriah; but Nathan assured him that the Lord had taken away his sin, and by that word he was delivered from the lowest hell, and herein God’s mercy was great towards him. Even the best saints owe it, not to their own merit, but to the mercy of God, that they are saved from the lowest hell; and the consideration of that should greatly enlarge their hearts in praising the mercy of God, which they are obliged to glorify for evermore. So glorious; so gracious, a rescue from everlasting misery, justly requires the return of everlasting praise.
II. He prays earnestly for mercy and grace from God. He complains of the restless and implacable malice of his enemies against him (Ps. 86:14): “Lord, be thou for me; for there are many against me.” He then takes notice of their character; they were proud men that looked with disdain upon poor David. (Many are made persecutors by their pride.) They were violent men, that would carry all before them by force, right or wrong. They were terrible formidable men (so some), that did what they could to frighten all about them. He notices their number: There were assemblies of them; they were men in authority and met in councils and courts, or men for conversation, and met in clubs; but, being assembled, they were the more capable of doing mischief. He notices their enmity to him: “They rise up against me in open rebellion; they not only plot, but they put their plots in execution as far as they can; and the design is not only to depose me, but to destroy me: they seek after my life, to slay me; after my soul, to damn me, if it lay in their power.” And, lastly, He notices their distance and estrangement from God, which were at the bottom of their enmity to David: “They have not set thee before them; and what good can be expected from those that have no fear of God before their eyes? Lord, appear against them, for they are thy enemies as well as mine.” His petitions are,
1. For the operations of God’s grace in him, Ps. 86:11. He prays that God would give him, (1.) An understanding heart, that he would inform and instruct him concerning his duty: “Teach me thy way, O Lord! the way that thou hast appointed me to walk in; when I am in doubt concerning it, make it plain to me what I should do; let me hear the voice saying, This is the way,” Isa. 30:21. David was well taught in the things of God, and yet was sensible he needed further instruction, and many a time could not trust his own judgment: Teach me thy way; I will walk in thy truth. One would think it should be, Teach me thy truth, and I will walk in thy way; but it comes all to one; it is the way of truth that God teaches and that we must choose to walk in, Ps. 119:30. Christ is the way and the truth, and we must both learn Christ and walk in him. We cannot walk in God’s way and truth unless he teach us; and, if we expect he should teach us, we must resolve to be governed by his teachings, Isa. 2:3. (2.) An upright heart: “Unite my heart to fear thy name. Make me sincere in religion. A hypocrite has a double heart; let mine be single and entire for God, not divided between him and the world, not straggling from him.” Our hearts are apt to wander and hang loose; their powers and faculties wander after a thousand foreign things; we have therefore need of God’s grace to unite them, that we may serve God with all that is within us, and all little enough to be employed in his service. “Let my heart be fixed for God, and firm and faithful to him, and fervent in serving him; that is a united heart.”
2. For the tokens of God’s favour to him, Ps. 86:16, 17. Three things he here prays for:—(1.) That God would speak peace and comfort to him: “O turn unto me, as to one thou lovest and hast a kind and tender concern for. My enemies turn against me, my friends turn from me; Lord, do thou turn to me and have mercy upon me; it will be a comfort to me to know that thou pitiest me.” (2.) That God would work deliverance for him, and set him in safety: “Give me thy strength; put strength into me, that I may help myself, and put forth thy strength for me, that I may be saved out of the hands of those that seek my ruin.” He pleads relation: “I am thy servant; I am so by birth, as the son of thy handmaid, born in thy house, and therefore thou art my rightful owner and proprietor, from whom I may expect protection. I am thine; save me.” The children of godly parents, who were betimes dedicated to the Lord, may plead it with him; if they come under the discipline of his family, they are entitled to the privileges of it. (3.) That God would put a reputation on him: “Show me a token for good; make it to appear to others as well as to myself that thou art doing me good, and designing further good for me. Let me have some unquestionable illustrious instances of thy favour to me, that those who hate me may see it, and be ashamed of their enmity to me, as they will have reason to be when they perceive that thou, Lord, hast helped me and comforted me, and that therefore they have been striving against God, opposing one whom he owns, and that they have been striving in vain to ruin and vex one whom God himself has undertaken to help and comfort.” The joy of the saints shall be the shame of their persecutors.