Persecution and Isolation Have Taken Turns: Psalm 86

Psalm 86


A Prayer of David.

1  Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me.

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8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.


Pleading in the Midst of Suffering (vv. 1–7)

The psalm begins with a lonely person’s prayer to God. David, the psalmist, does not conceal his hardship and poverty. The earnestness of his words is evident: he says he cries to God “all the day” (v. 3) and he begs God to “give ear” (v. 6) to “incline your ear” to his prayers (v. 1) David is able to lay his soul bare because he knows that the Lord, the Mighty One, hears his prayer! The broken and weary servant’s deep dependence on his mighty and gracious master is evident in this prayer. I myself am moved by this deep, trusting relationship.

“The dilemma, though, is that the people or things in which we put our trust often show themselves to be unreliable.

We all long for a relationship we can believe in and trust. The dilemma, though, is that the people or things in which we put our trust often show themselves to be unreliable. Although we once thought we could open up our lives, faithful friends gradually grow distant with the passage of time. Other friends are tempted by personal interests, and some may even choose to betray us.

We defiantly jumped into the river of love, expecting we could bathe in it forever. When we gradually find that the love has dried up, we simply cast ourselves into another river. We think that, if we give our all in the workplace or our studies, we will eventually find a secure place in society – but economic decline, COVID lockdowns, surveillance control, and the turmoil of unemployment are a series of slaps in the face. We are also disappointed with our social environment: our relationships with those around us are all broken because of human sin. Yet this psalmist, who is also surrounded by enemies, has faith in God’s relationship with him. Why?

God’s Sovereignty and Gifts (vv. 8-13)

In this second statement, David begins by praising and worshipping God. God’s uniqueness and transcendence are awe-inspiring. The wonders of his works and the abiding nature of his love are irrefutable facts for us creatures. David is comforted to know the mighty, glorious God hears prayer. Because the master is faithful, the servant looks to him with joy. The psalmist was convinced that God, who hears our prayer, will keep safe his broken and frightened heart. Because of this conviction, he fears and praises the Lord with all his heart.

David’s greatest pain never came from the danger of his circumstances, but from uncertainty as to whether God was still with him. David’s deepest longing is to love nothing but God: so that when he praises, he is assured; when he confesses, he receives comfort; when he pleads with God, he is strengthened; and when he relies on God, his trust is deepened.

“The proof of favor the psalmist sought has now been fully revealed on Calvary’s cross. Because of Christ’s salvation, even when we suffer on his account, we now know it to be gracious treatment.

The Hardship of the Enemy’s Siege, and a Plea for Deliverance (vv. 14-17) 

Yet truthfully, the norm of a life of faith – for both the psalmist but also for us – is to be besieged by the pursuit of the proud and the strong. Those of us who are Chinese Christians and often experience persecution for our faith feel immediate empathy for the author of this passage. Every Sunday gathering is conducted cautiously, as if we are being hunted and murdered. Fellowship among believers has reverted back to urgent, brief communication. It is as if we live on opposite sides of a mountain, and all we can do is yell over the hills. All this does not even begin to mention the chaos and pain on both personal and corporate religious life brought about by China’s zero-COVID prevention and control policies. Persecution and isolation have taken turns, affecting the relationships between believers, between believers and the church, between believers and God, and even the relationship between Christ and the church. Relationships we once took for granted or even disdained now require a greater price to maintain. This often leaves God’s people cold in love, wandering in weakness, and disappointed in faith.

Where is the real turnaround? David longed for God to reveal in him the evidence of God’s favor. If we have been given a relationship of unshakeable love with the Most High, there is nothing we can be ashamed of. The proof of favor the psalmist sought has now been fully revealed on Calvary’s cross. Because of Christ’s salvation, even when we suffer on his account, we now know it to be gracious treatment. The seal of the cross is both humiliating and glorious. It is a sign that he saved our souls from the depths of hell. It is also a sign that the exceedingly heavy and eternal glory that originally belonged to Jesus has been shared with us through the restoration of our relationship with him.

Melody lives in Beijing. She has a warm family of four which includes her husband, a lovely daughter, and her mother-in-law. She is a pastor’s wife, and a favorite hobby is plaza dancing.



All things shall bow down before you, O LORD, great and awesome God. Your people shall hallow your name, and glorify you for our joy! We are but poor, weak, broken, and useless servants, whose faith is often shaken by the persecution, strife, and segregation we see with our naked eyes. We cannot believe you really hear all our sufferings. Even though we have seen the hideous, desperate truths of the world, we still clutch to what we hold dear, refusing to entrust ourselves to you. Although we are poor, we are hard-hearted and rebellious, people who often fall into the temptation of unbelief. We do not see the perfect salvation you have made, but put our hope in the comfort of our flesh and the improvement of our circumstances.

Purify your church in the midst of trials and persecutions, and make her a more devoted and holy bride to Christ. I pray that your people (in these days when it costs more to persevere in love and righteousness) may prepare themselves, through their rock-solid relationship with you, to be vessels after your own heart, ready to do all kinds of good works.

You are good, Lord God, and your love toward us is great. You saved our souls from the depths of hell, and you will bring more of those who have no earthly hope into relationship with your eternal love. Forgive the sins of this land, that human hearts may repent and believe the gospel. In this age of corruption and darkness, use your people, so that they may receive the good report of faith in the face of persecution and trouble. May all who see be willing to give glory to God. Put to shame all who are proud and strong and do not honor you as holy.

Lift your face to us, O Lord our God, and we will rejoice in you. Fill us always with great joy full of glory unspeakable through the cross, which is the evidence of grace! Our beloved Jesus Christ, we look forward to your coming. Yes, Lord, you will come soon! Amen.


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Further Reading

Witness in Persecution: I Am Grateful
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Witness In Persecution: Heart Struggle
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How I Prayed For Instruction
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