Reading: Psalm 86
A prayer of David.
Hear me, LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me (NIV).
What posture or position do you take when you pray? Do you kneel, stand or lie prostrate? Do you bow your head, or raise your head and look heavenward? Do you fold your hands or raise them to God?
The Bible describes people taking various positions or postures in prayer. We cannot be certain of the physical position that David took when he prayed the words of Psalm 86. But we can be sure of this. In his heart David assumed a position of humility. His opening statement reveals a man with a humble heart. Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
David spent about forty years as the King of Israel. Though his early years were a struggle for survival against the murderous schemes of King Saul, David’s later years were blessed by victory and prosperity. But here in this psalm David calls himself poor and needy. He exemplifies for us the first of Jesus’ Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
In God’s eyes we are always poor and needy. Though I may have billions of dollars, what is my piddling prosperity in the sight of the owner and Creator of the universe? Can that money buy me an hour in heaven? Can it buy me immortality? Of course it can’t. Despite his vast wealth, Steve Jobs was unable to buy a longer life. In the end, like King David, Jobs found he was helpless, poor and needy.
In light of this truth—in the light of eternity—let us come—poor beggars that we are to the mercy seat of God. There we can lay our burdens down. There we can humbly bring our petitions. There we can meet with Jesus. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect ( 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Response: LORD God, I confess I am poor and needy. My future, my whole life is in your hands. I do not own my next breath. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Amen.
Your Turn: Pride and prayer don’t fit well together. What positions do you take when you pray?
Reading: Psalm 72
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
and thrive like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.
This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse (NIV).
This is the concluding portion of Solomon’s prayer. Many scholars view this as David’s prayer for Solomon, rather than a prayer written by Solomon. In either case, it is a prayer calling for God’s blessing on the king and the nation. This brings us to a question. What is the purpose of God’s blessing? Is it only for personal benefit?
The answer can be found in the first few lines above. The righteous king is blessed and given wealth and authority so that he can be a blessing to others. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
The great danger for any of us is that when blessings come, we accumulate these blessings for ourselves alone. Along with God’s blessings comes a responsibility to share and identify with those in need within our borders and beyond. We serve a God with a big heart. His love extends far beyond our narrow interests. God blesses His people abundantly, so that we can in turn bless others.
What a privilege we have to reflect the LORD’s character in a hurting world!
Response: LORD God, help me to see my many blessings as a gift from you. Show me today how I can be a blessing to others. You are my source. Lord, give me a generous spirit like you have. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you tempted to keep all of God’s blessings for yourself? How generous is your spirit?
Reading: Psalm 41
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
The LORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
I said, “Have mercy on me, LORD;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around (NIV).
Psalm 41 reminds us that compassion and empathy are at the core of what it means to be a follower of the LORD. David begins this psalm with this declaration, “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak.”
Social justice and care for the poor are not small matters in eyes of LORD. Ancient Israel was destroyed and went into exile because of their disregard for the poor. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the LORD, the LORD Almighty (Isaiah 3:14-15).
Why is regard for the weak so pivotal in having a right relationship with God? Lack of care or empathy for the needy is based on a kind of self-deception. In arrogance we see ourselves as better than those who are weak or needy. Yet if we examine ourselves, we have all gone through times when we were weak and needy. Sometimes we may need a reminder that our current state of self-sufficiency can come to an end in a moment.
This morning I very nearly hit a pedestrian as she rushed across the street. I sounded my horn thinking she was in error. A quick glance showed she was crossing with the walk light. I was the one in error. I had completely missed a red light. I was the one in need of correction and forgiveness.
Are you doing well now? Praise God. The day will come when you need His help and protection. Do you see someone in need? Help as you are able. The day will come when you will need forgiveness and the help that you have offered others.
Response: LORD God, forgive me when I have looked down on others in need. Open my eyes to someone I may help today. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you keep yourself from the deception of pride?
Reading: Psalm 9
Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, LORD;
let the nations know they are only mortal (NIV).
If only life was easy; if only life was just and fair! But it isn’t. Life is filled with struggles and difficulties. I’m not always treated fairly, nor are you. Here in this psalm David cries out, “LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!” You can sense the frustration in his voice. Though these words are not recorded, in the midst of his troubles he might have added, “This isn’t fair, LORD. You aren’t being fair!”
But David doesn’t say that. He assigns blame where blame is due. He blames his troubles on his enemies—his human oppressors—not on the LORD. By way of contrast, David has nothing but praise for the LORD. He declares, “Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”
If the source of your affliction is human, why are you blaming God for it? We need to always keep this statement in mind. The LORD is known by his acts of justice. In this life we may not always see His justice prevail, but rest assured on that great final Day, He will prevail. Ultimately, His justice will be seen and known by all.
In times of trouble God is our source of help and strength. Human help may fail us. Friends may let us down. We can wrongly blame the LORD for our troubles, or we can run to Him for help. In all our troubles, we must keep this promise in mind: God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Response: LORD, in times of trouble, you are my help. I lay my troubles and my requests before you. I wait expectantly for you. I praise you for your goodness to me even in difficult times. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been blaming God rather than thanking Him? Take some time to praise Him.
I will praise Him!
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
LORD, do not delay.
(Psalm 70:4-5, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 146
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Are you looking for the LORD’s help? Let’s be honest now. Many of us are. Well here’s a startling truth. The self-sufficient and well-to-do need not apply. We can also add the smug, the proud, and the arrogant to that list.
I thought the LORD was willing to help all who came to Him. True, but here is the sad reality; the arrogant and self-sufficient don’t come to God. They have no need for Him. They are too wrapped up in their successes and their pride to come in humility before the LORD. In reality, the LORD is the unseen author of any genuine human achievement of lasting value.
Today’s reading from Psalm 146 gives us a glimpse at those who should get their application in for the LORD’s help. Here’s the list as found in this psalm: the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, the blind, the bowed down, foreigners, the fatherless and widows. Help is promised to all of these. To put it simply, the LORD helps the needy.
I have often heard it said that the Lord helps those who help themselves. I have even had people insist that this statement is found in the Bible. It is not. This non biblical proverb is often used to justify human greed. In other words, I’ll grab whatever I can without any thought for those who are less fortunate. Furthermore, I’ll frame it as God blessing my greed. Ouch!
The character of God is the exact opposite. He is attracted to the needy. He helps the needy rather than running from them. Jesus continually demonstrated this quality in his earthly ministry. He showed compassion to the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the widow and the fatherless. He set captives free from prisons of sin and shame. Jesus calls his followers to do the same.
Response: LORD God, I confess that often I avoid the needy rather than seeking to help them. Give me a heart of compassion—a heart like your Son, Jesus. You are my great provider. Thank you. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you respond when you see someone in need? Do you always help?
I will praise Him!
I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
(Psalm 69:30-33, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 140
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence (NIV).
Here is an observation I have made as a result of visiting and speaking at a wide variety of churches across this continent. Christians and Christian churches in North America appear to fall into two broad camps: Those that are primarily concerned about personal salvation, and those that are concerned mainly about social justice.
There’s often a considerable amount of tension between these two camps. Both are convinced they are doing the will of God as revealed in the scriptures, and they can quote chapter and verse to back up their particular perspective. So which position is correct?
The short answer is they are both right. The eternal destination of your soul is of primary importance, but love and compassion for others is central to the entire mission of Jesus, and the full scope of the scriptures. Today’s reading from Psalm 140 reminds that issues of justice and fairness rank high with the LORD. I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
John, the apostle, gives us this perspective: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
It got very messy when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. A lot of blood was spilled. It was brutal beyond measure—humiliation and suffering beyond measure. Our personal salvation was messy—in every way a high cost affair. Are we willing to do the same for others? That’s what John is saying when he writes and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Now there’s a high calling. Do you want to change the world? It starts with a change in your heart. Jesus is in the heart changing business. I need an appointment with him. What about you?
Response: LORD God, I am selfish by nature. It’s not natural for me to think of others first. Help me to change. I want to genuinely care about others. Show me what I can to help because Jesus cares. Amen.
Your Turn: Should the church be involved in social justice issues or just stick to the salvation message?