“Shew me a token for good;
that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed:
because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.”
~ Psalm 86:17
The eighty-sixth Psalm is a prayer of David to God. The tone is set for the Psalm in the first verse, “Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.” He is crying out to God because of his affliction. The distress of David is obvious. This matter of prayer is pressing. He cries, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily” (Psalm 86:3).
Though David is in trouble, this is not a plea of desperation without faith. He prays, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me” (Psalm 86:7). David declares his faith in verse thirteen, “For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”
David’s confidence was bolstered here by two reasons. First, he has been delivered in the past from times of trouble. God had shown Himself strong on David’s behalf before, so there was reason to hope that another temporal deliverance would be wrought. Second, David has already been delivered from eternal condemnation. Even if David were not delivered from his present distress by God preserving his life, David would still be delivered ultimately.
As a prayer, there is much in this Psalm for our instruction. For one, when we consider the whole Psalm, we find there is more of the praise of God in it than the trouble of David. This should immediately convict us to the very selfish nature of many of our prayers. David did spread his complaint before God, but he seems almost swept away at times with the worship of God in His various glories. However, we wish to focus our attention upon the conclusion of David’s prayer and glean some good for our soul from it.
David concludes his petition asking God, “Shew me a token for good.” He is asking God for a sign or some sort of visible evidence of God’s mercy toward him. David does not doubt that mercy. He has already said, “For great is thy mercy toward me” (Psalm 86:13). He is seeking a manifestation of that abiding mercy in his present situation.
At one time, Christ rebuked the Jews because they were seeking a sign. He said, “This is an evil generation: they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29). They wished to be healed from some sickness or they wanted to witness some great miracle. Their motives were to receive benefits to themselves and Jesus reproved them. David’s desire was different. He was seeking a sign that God would be glorified and His enemies would be “ashamed.”
David asked for a “token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed.” This request is in accord with the whole reason for David’s prayer. His complaint is voiced in verse fourteen, “O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.” David’s distress is because of persecution. He rightly recognizes his detractors as the enemies of God, not just David. He said they “have not set thee before them.”
We find reasons for his persecution in verse two. He said, “For I am holy,” or, favored of God. He also said he was “thy servant that trusteth in thee.” The fact that God’s blessings were evident in his life was the reason he was held in contempt. Paul had experienced this same persecution. He wrote to Timothy, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Christians in America today know little of real persecution for “righteousness’ sake.” One reason for this is that perhaps we are not living godly. We have an ungodly self-reliance in this country. We believe in the “American Dream” and our own ability to “make a living.” As a result, the evident tokens of God’s mercy are largely absent from our life. We read here success story after success story of how some poor fellow started out with nothing and with hard work and determination, pulled himself up to the top of the heap. God help us not to bless “the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth” (Psalm 10:3). Our lives ought to be trophies of God’s grace, not testimonies of our own ingenuity. We must repent of our self-reliance and start depending on God.
David gives reason for both his persecution and his request saying, “Because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.” The word “holpen” carries the thought of surrounding or protecting. David said that his enemies hated him because God covered him. Did not Satan complain to God of His protection of Job? He asked, “Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” (Job 1:10). The wrath of David’s enemies was aggravated by this fact of God’s protection. Just when they thought they had him, some deliverance would be wrought that confounded them. They hated David because God helped and comforted him.
We conclude then, that it is not wrong to ask God for a “token for good” in our lives. In fact, we should seek that God’s hand will be evidently with us every day. I was greatly stirred in the reading of John Warburton’s Mercies of a Covenant God. He would often pray for deliverance that God would be glorified in his life and that he would not be confounded before his enemies. He did not want his life and lack of faith to give cause to the enemies of God to reproach and blaspheme His name. Feeling himself to be poor and needy, he would also ask God to confirm His love for him again.
We should desire to be trophies of God’s grace. We should want our lives to be testimonies to the goodness of the Lord. Can we really be a trophy of grace and walk in sin? Let us cast off the works of darkness with its independence and let us seek the signal blessings of God that a demonstration of His power will be seen in our life. May God give us tokens for good that others may see, fear, and glorify Him.