In Psalm 86, David makes two statements back-to-back that are hard at first to understand together.
Here are verses 1 & 2 of Psalm 86:
“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you– you are my God.”
You see what David says? In verse 1, he says he is “poor and needy.” And then in verse 2, he says “I am godly.” How can you be both? Aren’t they the opposite?
No. Not the opposite. Not at all.
This is so important to understanding true life in Christ. True religion is not at all what you are doing for God, but moreover what God is doing through you!
This is exactly what Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:10. (“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”)
But back to David now in Psalm 86. What then is he saying? David is aware of his sins, his wrong-doings, his shortcomings, and his struggles. He knows that he is not God, and therefore he needs God. So he prays to God “answer me, for I am poor and needy.” But then He knows that God is his God and that God is his Shepherd and that God is his maker and that God is his salvation. He knows that He is one of the people of God. He knows God’s covenant to his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So he knows that He is godly…. not because of his own life and works, but because of God’s graciousness toward him (see vv. 3, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16).
So according to David’s own life, he is poor and needy. But according to God’s love and mercy toward him, his relationship with God, and his salvation in God, he is godly.
Its beautiful! Its Gospel Truth. Because of me, I am poor and needy. But Because of God, I am godly. Only by grace can this be true.
It reminds me of the first Beatitude in Matthew 5:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”