Psalm 25

Psalm 25 is another acrostic psalm, with each verse beginning with a successive letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. It is also classified as a “wisdom psalm,” containing a number of proverbial sayings.

This psalm also begins a series of 15 psalms that record King David’s personal experiences and present a picture of Israel’s troubled future. This group of psalms is wonderfully comforting and just as applicable to us today as they were in the past.

1. Two prayer requests, verses 1—7

The first verse is actually a declaration of faith, with the following six verses making up two prayer requests.

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. (vs. 1)

This sentence is given as a contrast to something written in Psalm 24:4—

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

David, unlike the one who put his trust in idols and false gods, depends completely on God. Not only does he depend on God, he is confident in approaching God, evidenced by the phrase “In you,” which is emphatic. David had no hesitation in approaching God. The new NIV uses the word phrase “I put my trust” in place of the more familiar, “I lift up my soul.” The idea being conveyed is one of submission. David has no problem taking the subordinate position of having to “lift up” his prayer to God. To “trust” also suggests submission; it suggests God’s way is better than your way or any other way.

a. Request for deliverance and guidance, vs. 2, 3

I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

The writer is trusting God to keep his enemies at bay; he has confidence that His God will help him to be victorious over them. But the thing to notice here is David’s reason for wanting to triumph over his enemies—so that his faith would be vindicated. For his enemies to triumph over him would be insulting to God.

So David’s request is based on what’s best for God, not himself. What a good lesson to learn as far as our prayer requests go. Generally speaking, our prayers tend to be selfish compared to his. We want what we want because we believe it’s best for us. That’s natural, but our highest aspiration, even as we pray, should be to glorify God.

A minor request linked to the first one: that his enemies would suffer shame; that they would receive their just reward for their faithlessness and disregard for God.

b. Request for guidance and forgiveness, verses 4—7

The writer trusted God explicitly but he needs God direction.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (vs. 4, 5)

David wants to know God’s way and His paths. He wants to imitate God. It’s not just wanting to know what way to go and what to do, David genuinely wants to present an accurate representation of God before the people.

Here is another lesson for the believer. This wasn’t the first time David wanted to reflect the goodness of God before His people; it was always important for David to never embarrass God or cause people to think badly or wrongly about God because of his behavior. What would the church of Jesus Christ look like if we adopted David’s attitude? Suppose “What Would Jesus Do” was more than a merely a slogan but a way of life? It might well be that one of the reasons why the church has such problems winning converts or keeping converts is that its members are presenting a warped image of God.

Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. (vs. 6, 7)

Part of David’s prayer involved asking God to remember the past, as the KJV translation suggests:

Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

It’s good to remind the Lord of how wonderful He has been. This is, of course, not for His benefit. He has no ego stroke and He cannot be bribed by our praise of Him. Reminding God of His character, nature, attributes, and things He has done in the past for us and others is for OUR benefit; it boosts our faith.

Linked to the Lord remembering His past is a request for the Lord to forget ours. David wants God forget his “sins” and “rebellious ways.” The word used for “sins” is chattah, meaning to “lose the way” or “miss the mark.” The writer wants God to forget his weaknesses, failures, mistakes, and frailties. The other word, “rebellious ways” is pesha, and refers to determined sins and rebellious acts against the law of God. David is sure that God will forgive and forget the wrong in his life. We should rejoice and praise God for His mercy and His grace because they are more than sufficient to take care of all this sins in our lives, too!

2. Praise and contemplation, verses 8—15

A common thing in the psalms is the structure of its prayers; they move naturally from requests to praise. As one commentator cleverly noted,

Sometimes when we cannot “pray our way through” we may “praise our way through.”

He has a good point! Praise of God releases our spirits; we get a sense of freedom as we praise the Lord. Our circumstances may not have changed, but as we praise God our focus moves off ourselves and onto Him. We just feel better when that happens! It’s a side benefit of praise.

Verse 10 is beautiful and important:

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

The deep meaning of this verse is often missed. The “ways of the Lord” are really just manifestations of His continuous love of and care for those who are faithful to Him. In other words, no child of God should ever be fearful or even reticent of God’s will! God would never, ever place one of His own in a treacherous, dangerous place.

In verses 12—15, David gives us four blessings that are ours if we “fear the Lord.”

  • The Lord will guide him in his choices, vs. 12

  • The Lord will cause him to prosper in all ways, vs. 13

  • The Lord will personally spiritually teach the one who fears Him, vs. 14

  • The Lord will come to his rescue, vs. 15

3. More prayer requests, verses 16—22

From praise, the psalmist swings back to requests. Verse 16 is almost pathetic:

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.

He feels “lonely” and “afflicted,” so he begs God for some attention. Verse 17 is a little obscure, but the sense is brought it very nicely in the Anchor translation:

Anguish cramps my heart, of my distress relieve me.

When you are surrounded by bad circumstances, it can feel like that; they crowd out God’s goodness. But no matter how many troubles are piled on top of you, God sees and responds.

Verse 18 may be troublesome to some because David makes a connection between his current trouble and his sins.

Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

The psalms certainly teach us something about ourselves. Two things are worth exploring in this verse. First, we are quick to ask for forgiveness when we are in trouble. Whether or not our problems are the direct result of our sins or not, when the hard times come more often than not we ask God to forgive us.

Second, it’s probably human nature to think that whenever negative things fall on us that we caused it. Sometimes this is undoubtedly true; when we sin we reap the consequences of that sinful choice or behavior. But other times, trouble comes for no apparent reason and it’s “superstition” to think that we caused it to happen.

David seems to think his current difficulties were the result of some sin. We can’t know what was in his mind when he wrote this. David wasn’t perfect—and he would be the first to admit this if you asked him—so it is entirely possible that his enemies are coming against him because of something he has done.

See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! (vs. 19)

In spite of the fact that David was probably reaping what he sowed, he wasn’t afraid to ask God for help and he was certain God would help him. We should never be afraid to approach God when we are in trouble. Imagine the folly of avoiding God because we did something wrong! How foolish is that? God knows what you did, and He knows how you feel about it. He would never turn away a repentant heart. How many of “rough patches” have been extended because we were too prideful to ask God for deliverance?

This magnificent psalm ends with a prayer for the nation of Israel:

Deliver Israel, O God, from all their troubles! (vs. 22)

In spite of David’s struggles, he still had to time to pray for his people. The KJV’s rendering of this verse hits a little closer to the real meaning of the words:

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

All of David’s prayer requests in this psalm, and indeed in all the psalms, may be summed up with the word: redeem. All of David’s problems and the problems of the people can be summed up in the word troubles. The twin of this verse is verse 11:

For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.

All deliverance and redemption and all salvation are for God’s glory. When God does good things for His people, His Name is glorified and honored.

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