Unite My Heart
(8) (There is) no one like you among the gods, Lord. (There is) nothing to compare to your works. (9) All the nations which you have made shall come and bow in worship before you, Lord. They will glorify your name, (10) for you (are) great and do wondrous things. You alone are God. (11) Teach me your way, Yahweh. I will walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. (12) I will praise you, Lord God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever, (13) for great (is) your steadfast love toward me. You have delivered my soul from lowest Sheol. (14) God, the arrogant have risen up against me. A company of the violent seek my life, and they do not place you before them. (15) But you, Lord, (are) a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and truth. (16) Turn to me and be gracious to me. Give your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant. (17) Give me a sign of your goodness so that those who hate me may see and be ashamed, because you, Yahweh, have helped and comforted me.
Several repetitions help us grasp the meaning of this segment of the psalm. In his prayer, David repeatedly invokes the names of God: “Lord” (vss. 8, 9, 12, & 15), “God” (vss. 10, 12, 14, 15), and “Yahweh” (vss. 11 & 17). We find the phrase “glorify your name” twice (vss. 9 & 12). Twice David speaks of “my heart” (vss. 11 & 12). Twice he refers to God’s “steadfast love” (vss. 13 & 15), and twice more he describes God as “gracious” (vss. 15 & 16).
I. God's incomparable greatness merits universal praise. (8-10)
II. God's loving deliverance motivates my unceasing worship. (11-13)
III. Because of my enemies, I turn to God for his protection. (14-17)
Because of God's incomparable power and love, we both worship him and trust in him for deliverance from our enemies.
Verse 11 contains a phrase that should catch our attention and encourage us to meditate on its meaning: “unite my heart to fear your name.” This statement implies that our hearts can be divided, and if so, they need to be reunited. What was David talking about with these words?
A familiar passage in James’ epistle suggests a helpful answer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:5-8). The double-minded person is one who at first claims, “I believe God will give me the wisdom I need,” and then later wonders if this is true. Such an individual swings back and forth between faith and doubt, unable to rest confidently in God’s promises.
If we apply this understanding to Psalm 86:11, we come to see that the person with a divided heart struggles to trust God completely for the deliverance and protection he has promised. The one who has earlier expressed confidence in Yahweh is now plagued with doubts and fears. David’s request for a united heart demonstrates his deep desire for an unwavering faith in Yahweh's saving power. We should join with David in praying that our hearts may not be riddled with uncertainties but be fully committed to trusting in his powerful promises. Then, with David, we may confidently declare, “I will praise you, Lord God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever” (vs. 12).