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 worship 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;
unite my heart to fear your name. (Ps. 86:8-11)
I’m on a retreat right now with my care group. Five couples have pulled away for three days to examine our lives and hearts, care for each other’s souls, pray together, and experience the joy of fellowship. At one point I read a portion of Psalm 86 to begin our time. This psalm is a precious example of unwavering trust in God’s character when I’m surrounded by enemies. The first seven verses contain no less than eight requests of God:
Incline your ear. Answer me. Preserve my life. Save your servant. Be gracious. Gladden my soul. Give ear to my prayer. Listen to my plea.
Maybe you’ve been there, or find yourself there right now. Reduced to one word, your prayer is, "Help!" If this Psalm were set to modern music, it might seem like one more example of man-centered lyrics that focus on what God can do for ME. A closer look reveals that the worshipper is intimately acquainted with God’s character and deeds, and uses that knowledge as the basis for crying out to God.
The Lord is good and forgiving.
God abounds in steadfast love to all who call upon him.
God does great and wondrous things.
God has delivered my soul from the grave.
God has helped and comforted me.
The point is this: if God isn’t all these things, then I shouldn’t expect him to deliver me. But he is all these things and we can’t forget. So, in the middle of his prayer, David remembers that God is supreme above all false gods. Idols don’t respond to our prayers like God does. The nations owe their very existence to God, and will eventually come and worship before him. God is great and does wondrous things. In other words, there is only one God.
David realizes that the idols of his heart are a greater threat than the enemies he faces. So he asks the Lord, "Teach me your way that I may walk in your truth." So many times when I’m in a fix, I want to teach God MY way. "Lord, I think it would be a good idea if that person would stop talking about me…God, now would be a great time to send me a check in the mail…Father, it would be great if you took away my chronic pain." Instead, David says to God, "Teach me your way." It’s better to suffer and walk in God’s truth, than avoid pain and live a lie.
David’s then asks, "Unite my heart to fear your name." He knows he’s prone to fear everything but God. Failure. Looking bad in the eyes of others. The future. Being misunderstood. Being hurt.
Too often I fear many things at once.
When my heart fears God alone, life gets so much simpler. I trust God is good enough to desire the best for me. I trust he is powerful enough to bring that good about. I trust he is wise enough to know the best way to accomplish his purposes in my life. I trust that no other "god" can thwart his perfect plans for me.
Ultimately, the Gospel unites my heart to fear God’s name. For at the foot of the cross I see most clearly that the Lord is good and forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. I understand in a way that David never could, that God has delivered my soul from the grave by sending his only Son to be my Savior.
May the challenges you face today and in the future only unite your heart to say with greater joy, "For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.".