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Bible: What Does Psalms 86-9 Teach Us About True Meditation?

Updated on September 8, 2016

David, the Psalmist King


Psalms 86-89: Biblical Meditation and Trust/Summary Questions (Book Three)

This psalm is the work of one who has his heart set on the LORD.

No fewer than twelve times does the author address God directly (vv. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17), and mention many of His attributes/characteristics (mercy, goodness, readiness to forgive, ability to hear and answer prayer, do great works, truth, compassion, grace, longsuffering, helper, comforter).

He petitions God to hear him—His “poor and needy,” but holy, faithful servant—(vv. 1, 2, 6); he also reminds himself of who his God is (vv. 5, 8-10) and of how He can affect his particular desperate circumstance (vv. 2, 3, 7, 16-17).

David recognizes his need to learn God’s way and obey His truth (for which he should give Him praise) [vv. 11-12], and also to depend upon the LORD to rescue him from his enemies, as He has done in the past (vv. 13-17).

[Meditation upon the character of your God can help you survive the most harrowing of experiences; self-help meditation will lead only to disillusionment and deception].

Great Hymns of the Christian Faith



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Psalm 87

The psalmist(s) glory/glories in the wondrous love that the LORD has shown Jerusalem (vv. 1-3).

[Verse three houses the opening words of a famous hymn, a hymn Germany turned into its national anthem].

Characterizing this difficult psalm is the phrase "This one was born there (vv. 4-6). The song writer apparently wishes to express that it was a high privilege to have been born in Zion.

[Early in Israel's history God chose the city of Jerusalem to be His dwelling place; it will one day be the capital of the Earth].

Psalm 88

Despite his grave circumstances and the feelings that he is under the wrath of God and on the verge of death, Heman the Ezrahite, in an honest complaint before God, pleads for the LORD's help— a commodity which does not seem to be forthcoming (vv. 1-5).

[The psalm sounds very much like the books of Lamentations and Job].

In verses 6-9a he lays the responsibility for his distress on the LORD.

Before painfully voicing two series of searching questions (vv. 10-12, 14)—the first of which argues for his continued existence so that he could glorify God, and the second, wondering why God had seemingly abandoned him—the psalmist reiterates his call for divine aid (vv. 9b, 13).

Afterwards, he continues to rehearse his fears and loneliness (vv. 15-18).

[Not much joy or triumph appears here; the psalmist feels abandoned, having little, if any, hope.

Sometimes God's chastening hand can be extremely severe].


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Psalm 89

Ethan the Ezrahite pens a psalm that can be divided into two moods: the first is one of joy and triumph, as the psalmist remembers Yahweh's chesed toward David in His everlasting covenant with him (vv. 1-37).

[Some parts compare with sections in Isaiah (vv. 6-8; see Is. 40:18, 25), which extol the awesome creative power and righteousness of God in which the people find strength (vv. 9-18).

Ethan rejoices also in God's faithfulness, truth, and even in the chastening He will administer to David and his wayward sons within the bonds of the unconditional Davidic covenant (vv. 19-37)].

The second mood communicates emotional hurt.

The king's enemies have reproached his crown—that is, his kingdom—apparently without any divine counter-response (vv. 38-52).

Again, a psalmist lays the responsibility for the disaster at the LORD's feet (see "You have ...," especially vv. 38-45).

Another series of questions asks when He will finally act to rectify the situation (vv. 46-48).

Their sins have brought shame upon them, and the LORD allows their suffering to continue unabated.

Ethan desires that God “remember” the enemies' reproaches. Then strangely, he ends his work by blessing the LORD (vv. 49-52).

[Apparently, either God had “remembered” and visited the enemy with reproach, or Ethan is simply expressing his trust that God would eventually answer his request.

In any event, the text is silent about the outcome].

[Throughout history, God's people have had to endure long periods of chastening.

Our response to such times has always been the same: "How long, LORD?"

Book Three concludes, however, with a blessing full of faith in the LORD's goodness].


1. What covenant must the LORD uphold in His relationship to Israel?

2. According to Asaph, what helps the believer cure his envy of the wicked?

3. What are some spiritual practices which help believers over their manifold trials?

4. List attributes of God that should especially comfort the saints.

© 2013 glynch1


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