Psa 86.1-17 is an unusual psalm because it is described as a prayer. It is written by David when he was in some sort of distress, probably fleeing from Saul. The heading simply reads, “A Prayer (tefillah) of David.”
Psa 86.1-10 is a cry for help and David wants the Lord to “incline (bow down) thy ear” towards David’s prayer (v 1). He wants the Lord to preserve his soul, for I am a godly (devout) man.” The word “preserve” is “shamar” in Hebrew, but David uses the feminine form “shamrah” to show that the letter “hay” (H) is taken from God’s name Yehovah (YHVH). He is holding on to Yehovah because David trusts him (v 2).
He wants Yehovah to be merciful to him and he calls on the Lord to show him favor which is not based on what David deserves (v 3). David’s soul is sad because of all his troubles and he wants the Lord to release him, for he looks for deliverance from no other source (v 4). For God is good and gorgives, so David bases his prayer on knowing that. His mercy is abundant to all, not just the godly (v 5).
David wants the Lord to “give ear” (listen) to his prayer, which is an outpouring of his soul (v 6). In the day of David’s trouble he will call upon the Lord and will get an answer. Eschatologically, the “day of trouble” is the Birth-pains of the Messiah or “Chevlai shell Mashiach” (v 7). David knows there is no one like Yehovah “among the gods” (powers, angels, luminaries and idols that the heathen worship) nor are there any works (miracles supposedly done by idols) like Yehovah’s (v 8). All nations in the messianic era will come and worship before Yehovah (9), for God is great and does great miracles, and he alone is God (v 10).
Psa 86.11-13 teaches us that we should depend on the Lord. David wants Yehovah to teach him the Torah so he can walk in “thy truth” which can only be comprehended through the Torah. Our hearts waver so David want his heart united (v 11). David will thank God with all his heart, and this can only be done when his faith (emunah/confidence) is wholehearted and he will praise Yehovah forever (l’olam) as one who bestows mercy (v 12). God’s “chessed” (kindness) towards David is great and he has delivered his soul from Sheol. This alludes to being delivered from “Shaul” (Saul’s Hebrew name) who wanted to take him to the grave, pit or death (v 13).
Psa 86.14-17 tells us that arrogant men have arisen against David like Doeg and Ahitophel, and a band of violent men have sought to kill him. They have gone against David because they have not “set thee before them” meaning they don’t want to do what God would want them to do because he would tell them to stop (v 14). But Yehovah is merciful and not like David’s enemies, who were cruel and violent. He is slow to anger and full of mercy and truth. This verse contains several of the thirteen attributes of God found in Exo 34.6-7 called the Midot (v 15). David wants Yehovah to turn his face (favor) to David and have mercy on him, and save the “son of his handmaid” which is a possible reference to Ruth the Moabitess and to his mother (v 16). David wants a sign for “good” (Tovah). The word for “sign” is pronounced “owt” (aleph, vav, tav). The aleph and tav are the first and lat letters of the Hebrew alphabet and they are symbolic of God and the Messiah. They mean “head of the covenant” (Rev 1.8). The vav is the number six in Hebrew, the number of man. So, the word “sign” (owt) has the aleph and tav (God) with the vav in the middle meaning that Yeshua is fully God and man. The word “owt” also means a letter of the alphabet as well as a sign. Throughout the Book of Chronicles, David’s name is spelled with an extra letter “yod” (“Y” sound-book “Tehillim” by Mesorah Publications, p. 1080). David wants a sign so that those who hate him may see it and be ashamed. This would show that the Lord has helped him. Being raised from a simple shepherd to the throne of Israel could be what David has in mind here (v 17).
Psa 87.1-7 is a psalm by the sons of Korah. It was sung by the pilgrims coming for the festivals as they approached the Temple and Jerusalem. This was to express the idea that the city and the Temple were a spiritual blessing to all the nations. The heading reads, “By the sons of Korah, a psalm, a song.” The foundation that the Lord has laid is in the holy mountains, the location of Jerusalem and the Temple (v 1). Yehovah loves the gates of Zion because that is where the true Jerusalem goes forth, more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. That is where the Torah (law) goes forth (v 2). Glorious things (spiritual) are spoken about Jerusalem (v 3). People from Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon have come to know the Lord. Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia have people born there who believe in Yehovah (v 4). But of Zion it shall be said that many great men were produced there and the Most High will establish the Kahal or assembly of Messiah (v 5). Yeghovah shall count and take a survey of all of Zion’s citizens because he is the Creator and King (v 6). Then those who sing as well as musicians shall say, “All my springs are in you.” This means that the springs of life, kindness, forgiveness and justice flow from Jerusalem and the Temple to everyone and the hearts of the musicians will produce songs and music to Yehovah like springs (v 7).
Psa 88. 1-18 is a psalm written by Heman the Ezrahite who was a singer during the time of David and a grandson of Samuel the prophet. He may be the one in 1 Chr 6.33 or 1 Chr 2.6. He wrote this psalm when he was under some sort of distress. Many see Heman as a picture of Yeshua in this psalm. There are others who see this as referring to Israel in exile. The heading reads, “A song, A Psalm of the sons of Korah. For the Conductor; according to the Mahalat (sick) L’anot (to amswer), a Maskil (instruction) of Heman (faithful) the Ezrahite (son of the dawn).” We believe that he is a picture of Yeshua because of his name, and that he is the one mentioned in 1 Chr 6.33, being a son of Korah.
Psa 88.1-9 tells us that Heman prays because he is under great distress and affliction. He has cried out to Yehovah day and night. Yehovah is the author of his physical and spiritual salvation and has knwn God’s salvation in the past, so that encourages him (v 1). He wants this prayer to come before God, not men, and wants him to hear and receive it (v 2). His soul is full of troubles and he feels he is about to die because “my life has drawn near to Sheol” (v 3). He is counted among those who will die very soon and he has no vitality or strength like he once did (v 4). He is like those who are free among the dead, has nothing and are separated from this world, like the corpses in the grave who are forgotten (v 5).
God has put him in the lowest pit, and this “exile” is worse than death, and he is in a dark place, in the depths of sorrows and suffering (v 6). Wrath has pressed him down and waves of troubles keep coming afgain and again (v 7). His friends have been removed from him for one reason or another, and he has been made an object of loathing when they see him, and he must have felt like Job in all of this (v 8). Grief has caused his eye to waste away and he has called on the mercy of Yehovah without ceasing, having his hands spread out to show he needs help (v 9).
Psa 88.10-12 tells us that Heman was wondering if Yehovah was going to wait till he died to show his miracles. Did God expect praise from the dead (v 10)? Can he talk about the kindness of God in the grave when the body is in ruin (v 11)? Will God’s wonders be known on the darkenss of death, and his righteousness in the land of forgetfulness, where the dead are forgotten (v 12)?
Psa 88.13-18 tells us that Heman wants the Lord to break his silence and rescue him from his anger. Heman has tried to avoid the despair that has tried to take over his trust in Yehovah, and he prays in the morning to him (v 13). He asks, “Why do you reject my soul and why do you hide your face from me?” Heman was not getting the help he needed (v 14). He is near death because of all his affliction and he cannot gain his strength back (v 15). God’s anger was passed over him and every affliction has hit him hard, and his terrors have destroyed him. There is an extra “tav” in the word “destroyed” meaning it is intense (v 16). His afflictions have surrounded him like water and it has encircled him in unison so that there was no way to escape (v 17). Friends and companions (those who were once close) have removed and he is so enshrouded in darkness he can’t even see his best friends (v 18).