“Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I cry to You all day long.” Psalm 86:1–3
When I was a little boy my father was a member of a mixed gospel quartet that would travel several sabbaths a year to different churches and perform concerts. My mom’s gift wasn’t singing; but she did have a natural ability to read aloud with expression and feeling, and she would perform one or two readings during the concerts. Her readings were often the part of the performance that people would request be repeated later.
There was one number that she and my father performed together. She told the story of a poor ditch digger singing the gospel hymn, “I’m A Child Of The King.” My Father would, in his rich baritone voice, intersperse the words of that hymn throughout the story, while my mother told of a day when, while he was digging a ditch, an aristocratic woman chastised him and told him that he was not of such a pedigree he was just a poor old ditch digger.
Is it possible to be both humble and exalted, poor and rich, the child of a king and a poor ditch digger.
Apparently King David thought so. The first two verses of Psalm eighty-six read this way, “Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy”
Our sinful assumptions and expectations want holiness and poverty to be incompatible, mutually exclusive, to one another but the reality of God’s grace and mercy to us works differently than that.
God comes to us with his gift of salvation when we’re lost and poor, far removed from him. If we accept his offer of redemption he accepts us and sets us apart from the life we once lived and the sinful world of which we were once a part. It’s that setting apart that makes us holy; that’s what holy means, to set apart. Most of us are aware of this “setting apart” because almost immediately after we opened our lives up to Christ and let his spirit come in our perspective and desires in this life changed and we started feeling incompatible with the people and activities that were once natural to us.
Were we still poor?
Oh yes! In fact, we may have never felt as poor before our acceptance of Christ as we did after. There’s nothing like really seeing Jesus more clearly to open a person’s eyes up to their own sinfulness. Yet at the same time that revealing helps us understand the depth of his love better and assures us that his acceptance isn’t a trick, it’s the most real and precious gift we’ve ever been given.
But Christ hasn’t saved us from sin to leave us where he found us. In fact, acceptance of his salvation is evidenced by a strong desire to stop obeying Satan and the sinful desires we once had and to start obeying Christ and the Spirit he’s put in our hearts. We’re so poor that he has to give us obedience and it’s the richness of that gift that sets us apart to step away from what we once were and to stand with him.