As a guy, I don’t know much about quilting. However, I have learned a little about the process because some the ladies at church love to quilt. In fact, the only thing they may like more than quilting (other than Jesus) is talking about quilting! A quilt consists of three layers, cloth on either side and batting in the middle. Quilting is actually a beautiful form of art. The art is found in the pattern of stitching or in how the different cloth pieces are put together. It amazes me because when you look up close, the pattern may not be immediately obvious, but the artist knows the big picture and when the observer steps back, it is beautiful, simply beautiful. I have a new appreciation for quilters. One more thing, don’t ever call a quilt a “blanket.” Not good.
Psalm 86 is similar to a quilt. David is the author. He has put quilted together petitions, praises, and prayers in a very artistic way. The entire psalm is filled with deep emotion. As we survey the world and current events, it is easy to get discouraged. It appears that followers of Christ are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of people. Our country is sprinting away from God. In Psalm 86:14, David describes his enemies as “arrogant foes” and “ruthless people.” He had a reason to be discouraged. However, the tone for Psalm 86 is largely positive. Why? Because David trusted God. Why? Because David was connected to God and remembered God’s faithfulness in times of trouble (he could rely on God) and in the good times (he could rejoice and praise God).
In verse 17, David pleads with God, “Give me a sign of your goodness…” David had just poured out his heart to God, praising Him for who He was and what He had done. In this Psalm, there are at least nine signs of God’s goodness. I pray we can see these signs in our lives.
- Answered Prayer (vv. 1, 6). One way God shows us His goodness is his answering of our prayers. David asks in verse 1, “Hear me, LORD, and answer me” and then in verse 6, “Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.” God answers our prayers in one of three ways: Yes, no, or wait. The “yes” and “no” answers are easy to handle, but it is the “wait” answers that are difficult. Sometimes, we have to wait years before prayers are answered. But, God hears us and is faithful to His promises. I have a feeling the “wait” prayers are what David had in mind when he said “for I call to you all day long” in verse 3. We should persevere in prayer and trust that God hears us and will answer us. What answers to prayers has God given you?
- Preservation of Character (v. 2). David asks God to “guard” his life because he is “faithful” to God. God does this and more when He preserves our character. We trust God to help us make the right decisions. When we make a mistake, we repent and then ask God to guide and direct us. God preserves our character. How has God preserved your character?
- Deliverance from Trouble (v. 2). David once again asks God to “save” him and trusts God to answer him when he is in “distress” (v. 7). How many of us should still be alive today? I have done a lot of stupid things over the years that should have killed me. When I was struggling with alcohol, there are times when I don’t remember how I got home or even where I had been that night. Stupid. By God’s grace, I’m still alive. He delivered me from trouble over and over again. That is one amazing sign of His goodness. What has God delivered you from?
- Joy in a Surrendered Life (v. 4). David had surrendered his life to God. Seven times in this verse, he uses the word “Lord.” In Hebrew, this was the word Adonai, which means master. This is contrasted with the more formal name, YHWH, or LORD. In identifying God as his Lord, David was living a life in complete surrender. In David’s life, he got into trouble when he took back control from God and tried to do things on his own. It is the same in our life. When we surrender our life to Christ, we experience true joy. As David requested, “Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” Do you trust God? Have you surrendered to Him?
- Sense of Forgiveness (v. 5). David simply states, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Sometimes, I forget what goes into forgiveness. Webster defined the word “forgiveness” in 1828 (the only English dictionary people should use) as “to pardon; to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense, and treat the offender as not guilty.” When we ask for forgiveness, we are treated as if we had never sinned. What? How is that possible? This is what we call the Gospel. The just and gracious God of the universe looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that all who have faith in Him will be reconciled to God forever. Have you asked for forgiveness?
- Confidence in God (v. 7). God does in fact answer us. David said, “because you answer me.” The fact that God answered David gave him confidence to go to God with all of his hurt, troubles, and praises. The major theme of this psalm is the sovereignty of God. God is all knowing, all powerful, and in control. This should give us confidence in Him and His plans. When my wife and I were on sabbatical this summer, we stayed up in the mountains around Vail and Steamboat Springs. There was construction on one of the roads that winded through the mountains. The construction crews closed down one lane of the road. I would have been lost and gotten into several accidents, except for one thing: the construction company provided a pilot car. On the back of this car was a sign that read: “PILOT CAR, FOLLOW ME.” The pilot car knew the terrain, knew the direction we needed to go, knew the speed we should travel at, and knew which side of the road to drive on and when! Several times, I was the first car after the pilot car. I had to drive the same speed; if I went too fast, I would get too close and end up with a cracked windshield. If I went too slow, I would lose sight of the car and get lost. I also had to copy its every movement. Having a pilot car gave me confidence that I was going to get where I was going. How often do we think we don’t need God to be our pilot car? When we know, understand, and believe that God is in control, that He is the one driving the pilot car, we can have absolute confidence in Him. This is another sign of His goodness. Do you have confidence in God?
- Nations Respond in Worship and Glorification of God (v. 9). David observes in verse 9, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” Amen. Paul also said, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). At some time in history, every nation (every person, every ethnic group) will bow before God in worship. The sooner nations do so, the better. This should encourage the follower of Christ because we win. With all of the turmoil and discord in society, we know the end. God wins. A sign of God’s goodness is the nation’s respond in worship and glorify God. It starts with us as individuals though. Have you responded in worship and glorification of God because of His goodness?
- Knowing and Declaring the Greatness of God (v. 10). This one seems rather obvious. One sign of God’s goodness is our ability to speak of his greatness. David said, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds, you alone are God.” We know God is great, we know God does great deeds, and we know that God is the only God. We declare this because He is good and worthy of all honor and praise. Have you declared God’s greatness today?
- God is our Teacher (v. 11). David asks in verse 11, “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to teach us: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jesus, in John 14:26). The teaching of Jesus and the Holy Spirit can be found in God’s Word, the Bible. Paul also says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have the Bible, it is the primary means by which He communicates with us today. We need to read, know, understand, and believe God’s Word. Nothing irritates me more than when followers of Christ take His Word out of context. This is also the reason I am excited to be part of a Bible church where we preach and teach God’s Word. We line up everything we do, say, and believe with God’s Word. In the Berean tradition, we “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day…” (Acts 17:11). God give us a sign of His goodness by teaching us through the Bible. Are you letting God teach you through His Word?
My prayer is that we can weave these signs of God’s goodness into our prayer quilt. Pray these signs into your life and the life of your church family.
Remember, God is good, all the time… All the time, God is good.