Sometimes we do things we regret. That was certainly the case for David before he wrote Psalm 86. In II Samuel 11 we read about David’s regrets…mistakes…sins—adultery, deception and conspiracy to murder. That’s a lot to feel bad about. So, when in Psalm 86:11 David prays that the Lord would teach him how to live, it is an earnest prayer. He wants to be wholeheartedly committed to God. The King James Version uses the term “unite my heart”. In the New International Version, David prays for an “undivided heart”. He realizes that if his heart isn’t entirely focused on God, he will go down the wrong path, but he also sees that he needs God’s help to do it. He knows that what is impossible for humans is possible for God. (Luke 18:27)
His vow, in Psalm 86:12, to praise God forevermore, is also sincere. His reason is shown in Psalm 86:13. David knows that what he has done is deserving of death, but God in His great mercy has forgiven him. God is deserving of our praise simply because He is God, but His love and mercy toward David provided so much more motivation. David vowed not only to praise God, but to do it with enthusiasm, and to do it forever.
It is likely that most of the people reading this have not sinned to the same degree that David did in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah. But even the most noble among us are dependent on God’s grace to save us. We cannot save ourselves. (Ephesians 2:4-9) God wants us all to be completely devoted to Him. He wants us to ask for His help to live the way we should. He is ready and willing to give it, along with His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. He has provided His Word so that we can learn more about His ways, but it takes commitment. We need to choose each day to put Him first, to praise Him and to give Him the glory.
Few of us will ever face the kind of trials that David faced. He made a lot of mistakes, (January 11, 2011) and he fought a lot of battles, and illness, and there was frequently someone trying to take his life.
Many of David’s psalms started out as laments. He cried out to God, and asked for mercy, healing or protection from his enemies. Psalm 13 (February 11, 2011) is a good example of this. David starts out by asking “How long, Lord?”, but he ended by trusting in God’s faithfulness, rejoicing in His deliverance and praising God. Somehow in the midst of all David’s trials, he was able to find joy.
In Psalm 30, David was in a similar situation. He had been praying to God for healing. He had asked for mercy and deliverance. In Psalm 30:11-12 David’s prayers were answered. His lament was turned to joy. The reason that David was considered a man after God’s own heart is not because He always did the right thing and never made mistakes. It was because He always turned to God. And whether his prayers were answered the way he wanted them to be or not, David continued to trust in God and praise Him for His faithfulness.
Joy is not the same as happiness; it does not depend on circumstances. If we want to have joy we need to find contentment in whatever we are facing, do the best we can in the situation, and leave the rest to God.
What do you really believe about God? How does your belief affect your life? Do you believe that God is truly good? That He has a plan for your life? A purpose for your pain? I know that I have trouble with that when I am in the midst of the pain, but I propose that it is essential to finding joy, and perhaps to surviving the tragedies in our lives.
The Psalmist David was a good example of someone whose faith did not change with his circumstances. Psalm 16:11 is the last verse of Psalm 16, and concludes this prophetic psalm with hope and joy. Throughout it David acknowledges that God is his only source of well-being, the only One he can fully trust. He vows to not give in to the ways of the people around him who are not trusting in the Lord, but will make his decisions based on God's faithfulness and what pleases Him. He knows that God will provide the stability and prosperity he needs, and he will give praises to God for his guidance. Interestingly in Psalm 16:7 David explains that this guidance from God comes through his own reflection and learning. David has the assurance that His trust in the Lord will protect him, will keep him happy and safe. This is his reason for rejoicing. It certainly wasn’t because the circumstances he was in were easy or safe. He was very likely running for his life at this point. Some scholars believe that this type of psalm, a mikhtam, was used in the context of prayer motivated by danger. Certainly David had his fair share of trials in life, enough that we can be sure that his rejoicing was based on his trust in God and not on his circumstances. Psalm 16:10 shows us that David knew that even death could not separate him from God. (Romans 8:38-39) This brings us to the conclusion in Psalm 16:11 that God would for David, as He will for us, lead us in the path of life, so that we too can experience joy in His presence.
We can have the same assurance that David had, and that the Lord Jesus had. There is a parallel between what David says in this psalm and the experience of Christ in His death and resurrection. (Acts 2:31-33) Jesus was the first to travel the path from death to life, but He has promised every believer that because He lives, we too will live. (John 14:19)
So how does this affect your life? Jan Winebrenner, author of “Life in the Midst of Mess” discusses our options: “Will we seek God and take our refuge in Him when our path is littered with broken dreams? Or will we turn elsewhere? We have only these two options when catastrophe strikes. If we choose God, then catastrophe becomes for us a special grace-gift, ushering us into the place where we can experience God in ways we never before imagined. We find ourselves poised on the brink of life’s greatest discovery: that God is the ultimate presence in the universe, and that knowing Him, interacting with Him, by faith, is more satisfying, more exhilarating than anything the human heart ever hoped for or imagined.” Like David we can experience the sheer delight that God provides--always, despite our circumstances.