Psalm 25 – A Plea for Help from the Humble and Reverent
Like several other psalms, Psalm 25 is an acrostic, or nearly so; there are a few irregularities in the acrostic pattern. James Montgomery Boice suggested three reasons why there are nine acrostic psalms (Psalm 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145). First, the acrostic pattern is a literary device used to add beauty and form to the psalm. Second, it gives the sense that the subject is being covered completely, as if from A to Z. Third, the acrostic pattern may be a device used to encourage learning and memorization.
This psalm is merely titled A Psalm of David. We do not know the precise time period it came from; David was so often in trouble that it could have been from several different points. It is a wonderful display of the heart of a well-taught believer in a season of crisis.
“David is pictured in this Psalm as in a faithful miniature. His holy trust, his many conflicts, his great transgressions, his bitter repentance, and his deep distresses are all here; so that we see the very heart of ‘the man after God’s own heart.’” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. Troubled by enemies, David lifts his soul to God.
1. (1-2) David casts his trust upon God.
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
a. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul: This is an expressive figure of speech speaking of the surrender, submission, and waiting upon God that David directed toward Yahweh (the LORD), the covenant God of Israel. It was as if David held his soul in outstretched hands up to heaven saying, “Here I am LORD, completely surrendered unto you.”
i. “The very nature of such aspiration after God demands that it shall be exclusive. ‘All in all or not at all’ is the requirement of true devotion.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Cares and pleasures are the weights which press the soul down to earth, and fasten here thereto; and it is the spirit of prayer, which must enable her to throw off those weights, to break these cords, and to ‘lift up’ herself to heaven.” (Horne)
b. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed: As David declared his trust in God, he seemed to speak more to himself than to God. He assured himself of not only his trust in the LORD, but also the expected reward of that trust – to not be ashamed before either the LORD or his enemies.
c. Let not my enemies triumph over me: This gives some context to this psalm. Like many others, it was written from a time of trouble. David faced enemies who wanted the worst for him.
2. (3-5) A plea to the God who helps.
Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
Show me Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
a. Let no one who waits on You be ashamed: The idea of waits on You isn’t of passively doing nothing; rather, it is of an active service. The idea isn’t of a waiting room, but of a waiter attending to every desire and need of the one being served. David included himself among those who wait upon the LORD, but also knew that others did – and wanted all of them to be vindicated publically and unashamed.
i. “This is not a petition, as the King James’ version rendered it, but an affirmation of confidence.” (Morgan)
ii. The Biblical idea of ashamed is not primarily embarrassment (though sometimes it is used that way). The primary idea “is that of being let down or disappointed or of having trusted in something that in the end proves unworthy of our trust.” (Boice) This is especially reflected in passages such as Romans 5:5 and Isaiah 49:23.
b. Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause: Instead of the servants of the LORD being publically embarrassed, David prayed that his enemies would suffer this shame.
c. Show me Your ways…teach me Your paths…Lead me in Your truth: This shows that though David longed for public vindication, he was not haughty and proud. If he needed guidance or correction, he wanted God to give it, and to give it before any public humiliation, to prevent public humiliation.
i. “The petitioner reveals an earnest desire to do God’s will by praying to know ‘your ways,’ ‘your paths,’ and ‘your truth.’” (VanGemeren)
ii. We can be sure that no man or woman who has been shown the way by God, or taught in His paths, or led in His truth, has been led into sin or compromise that led to public disgrace and dishonor.
d. For You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day: Because David had received salvation from God, it made him want to wait upon the LORD all the more. It was an appropriate demonstration of commitment and gratitude to the God who had done so much for him.
i. We should regard the salvation David received here as being rescued in a broad sense. Spiritually speaking, he was rescued from despair and sin, both for now and in the life to come. Yet God also rescued his life and health again and again in the present age.
3. (6-7) A plea for God to remember and to not remember.
Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.
a. Remember, O LORD: David asked God to remember His grace and goodness. First, he described them as tender mercies: compassionate compassions (rachamracham, with the repetition indicating intensity). Then, he used the plural of the wonderful word lovingkindness (hesed), which speaks of God’s deep, covenant love.
i. “Steadfast love, or ‘true love’ (New English Bible) is that faithfulness to a covenant, to which marital devotion gives some analogy.” (Kidner)
ii. “This is the love by which he enters into a favorable relationship with his people, promising to be their God.” (Boice)
iii. David thought of this love in the plural – lovingkindnesses – as if God’s covenant love was so great that it could not be thought of in the singular.
b. For they are from of old: David pressed his request to God on the basis of His prior work. “LORD, you have shown me great mercy and covenant love in the past; remember it now and do it again at my point of present need.”
i. “A more correct translation would be ‘from eternity.’ David was a sound believer in the doctrine of God’s eternal love. The Lord’s loving-kindnesses are no novelties.” (Spurgeon)
c. Do not remember the sins of my youth: Immediately after asking God to remember (Psalm 25:6), David then asked God to forget. He wanted God to forget his own youthful sins (in the sense of forgiving them), and he wanted God to remember God’s own faithfulness in prior times.
i. Sins of my youth: “Which, though long since committed, must not be remembered without remorse.” (Trapp)
ii. “When God remembers his mercy, he forgets our sins.” (Horne)
d. According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O LORD: These are strong expressions of David’s humility and even repentance. He asked to be remembered not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of mercy. He wanted God to do all this remembering and forgetting for the sake of God’s own goodness, not David’s supposed goodness.
i. “Never did prisoner at the bar beg more earnestly for his life than David did for pardon of his great offence, especially in the matter of Uriah; for that lay heaviest.” (Trapp)
B. Declaring the goodness of God.
1. (8-11) God’s goodness to the humble.
Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
a. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners: David’s observation here was not learned through simple logic. It is just as logical for God to judge or destroy sinners as it is for Him to teach them. Yet David had learned this through love more than logic, that God is good and upright, and this goodness can be for the benefit of sinners instead of for their destruction.
b. The humble He guides…the humble He teaches: David knew there was a particular kind of sinner that received this instruction and guidance from the good God – the humble man or woman. Not every sinner receives these good things from God, but those who will humble themselves before Him do.
i. “Meek spirits are in high favour with the Father of the meek and lowly Jesus, for he sees in them the image of his only-begotten Son.” (Spurgeon)
c. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies: This is a remarkable promise. The conditions are that one stay in God’s covenant and in His word (His testimonies), both in the sense of knowing them and obeying them. The promise is that God will continually reveal His mercy and truth in all that we live and experience.
i. We imagine a discouraged believer who says, “God’s path for me is severe and terrible, at least at the present moment.” David answers from both his knowledge and experience, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, for those who stay in His covenant and in His word. Focus yourself once again on His covenant and His testimonies, and you will see this for yourself.”
ii. Paths of the LORD: “In the Hebrew I find the word here used is ‘wheel tracks,’ such ruts as wagons make when they go down our green roads in wet weather and sink in up to the axles. God’s ways are at times like heavy wagon-tracks, and they cut deep into our souls; yet they are all of them mercy.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Mercy and truth are the paths in which God constantly walks in reference to the children of men; and so frequently does he show them mercy, and so frequently does he fulfil his truth, that his paths are earnestly discerned. How frequent, how deeply indented, and how multiplied are those tracks to every family and individual!” (Clarke)
iv. All the paths of the LORD: “They say there is no rule without an exception, but there is an exception to that rule. All God’s dealings with his people are gracious and faithful.” (Spurgeon)
d. For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great: Once again we see a strong expression of David’s humility. He expected pardon for God’s sake, not his own. He humbly recognized the greatness of his own iniquity.
i. Our sin is great:
· Our sin is great when we consider against whom it is committed.
· Our sin is great when we consider that it is against a just and fair law.
· Our sin is great when we consider it is committed by those made in the image of God.
· Our sin is great when we consider the amount of our sin.
ii. It is strange (but true) spiritual logic: pardon my iniquity, for it is great. We can only imagine a criminal in a court of law appealing to the judge on this basis. “Your honor, find me not guilty, because my crimes have been many and large.”
iii. David seemed to know the freedom and peace that comes from saying, “LORD, I know that I am a great sinner; but You are an even greater Savior. I humbly submit myself to You and ask you to pardon my iniquity.”
2. (12-14) God’s goodness to the reverent man.
Who is the man that fears the LORD?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
a. Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach: Using the Hebrew poetic tool of repetition, David set the idea of humility (Psalm 25:9) next to the idea of a reverent fear of God. The two concepts are closely connected, and this humble, reverent person can expect the gift of God’s guidance and instruction.
b. He himself shall dwell in prosperity: David described the earthly, material blessings that often come to the humble and reverent. We sense that perhaps David said this in faith; though his present situation was bad, he trusted that prosperity and blessing for his descendants would come in time.
c. The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant: After touching on the material blessings that may come to the humble and reverent man, David then spoke of the greatest blessing that one may receive – the secret of the LORD, and a greater understanding of His covenant.
i. “The Hebrew idiom for ‘the LORD confides’ is ‘the secret of Yahweh,’ which may here be translated by ‘intimate circle’ (cf. Job 19:19; 29:4; Proverbs 3:32). Those who do his will are his confidants, as was Abraham (Genesis 18:17).” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Some read it ‘the friendship:’ it signifies familiar intercourse, confidential intimacy, and select fellowship. This is a great secret. Carnal minds cannot guess what is intended by it, and even believers cannot explain it in words, for it must be felt to be known.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Whether we translate the first word ‘secret’ or ‘friendship,’ the sense is substantially the same. Obedience and the true fear of Jehovah directly tend to discernment of His purposes, and will besides be rewarded by whispers from heaven.” (Maclaren)
iv. The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him reminds us that there are realities of Christian knowledge and experience known only by those who have new life by the Spirit of God; the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). To explain such secrets to those who do not have the Spirit of God is like explaining colors to a blind man or musical harmonies to a deaf man.
v. “There are secret passages of love between Christ and the believing soul, which it would not be lawful to utter. High fellowship: deep blessedness.” (Meyer)
C. Eyes toward the God of help.
1. (15) Eyes toward God, even from trouble.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
a. My eyes are ever toward the LORD: David said this both as a statement of fact and as a prayer for the future. He knew the importance of keeping the attention of his mind and soul toward the LORD.
i. “He looks in confidence and waits in hope. We may add to this look of faith and hope the obedient look of service, the humble look of reverence, the admiring look of wonder, the studious look of meditation and the tender look of affection.” (Spurgeon)
b. For He shall pluck my feet out of the net: This reminds us that this psalm was written from a season of trouble, in which David still felt himself caught. His feet were still in the net his enemies set against him.
2. (16-21) The plea for help presented again.
Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
a. Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me: We see David did not hesitate to repeat his request to God, and he did so with a clever turn of thought. In Psalm 25:15 he spoke of how he had turned his attention toward the LORD; here he asked God to turn His attention toward His needy servant.
b. Desolate and afflicted…troubles…distresses…affliction…pain: This sweet, comforting psalm came from a season of agony for David. Much of the agony came from enemies, for many were set against him.
i. Some thousand years before Paul, David lived what the Apostle would later write at 2 Corinthians 4:8-10: We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
c. And forgive all my sins: It was as if David recognized, “I have many enemies and troubles, but none greater than my own sins. Please God, deal also with all my sins.”
d. I put my trust in You…I wait for You: The present difficulty David endured would not prevent him from trusting and serving God. This was a deep relationship with God, not one easily damaged or separated by disappointment.
3. (22) A closing request.
Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all their troubles!
a. Redeem Israel, O God: We don’t know if this psalm came from the time before David was king, or after. Whether it was before or after, David had a deep concern for the blessing and welfare of God’s people as a whole, not merely himself.
i. “If thou will not pity and help me, yet spare thy people, who suffer for my sake, and in my sufferings.” (Poole)
b. Out of all their troubles: It is remarkable that David could spare a care and a prayer for the troubles of others when he was in a season of such difficulty. This shows a life that was indeed instructed in God’s ways, even as David prayed (Psalm 25:8-14).
i. One of the worst aspects of difficulty and trial in the life of the believer is that it can lead one to become terribly self-focused and concerned only with one’s own problems. David, in his humility and reverence to God, was guided in a better way.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org