A Devotional Exposition
of Psalm 25
by Son Nguyen
1. Unto You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
4. Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths.
5. Lead me in Your truth .... for You are the God of my salvation; on You, I wait all the day long.
6. Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your loving-kindnesses for they're from eternity.
7. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my rebellings.
11. O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great.
18. Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.
20-21. Keep my soul .... Let purity and uprightness keep me for I wait on You.
Background: A psalm of David. David is hemmed in, he is afflicted, he has no where to go, he feels troubles and death are hanging all around and his life is flashing by (this psalm comes right after PS 23 in which he was walking through the valley of the shadow of death), Saul is pursuing, the people are turning against him, he can trust no one .... If we were in his shoes and going through a time when nothing is going right, one heartache/disappointment/calamity followed upon another, everything is falling apart in our lives, the pain is so great and we are so drained, what would our thoughts be saying if someone could open up our mind and read the inner secrets of our thoughts? Now, let's hear the thoughts of a man that God said is a man after His own heart.
"Unto You, O LORD, I lift up my soul." - The key words here are "You LORD" and "my soul". While David has friends - David always did have a few trusted & talented & loyal men surrounding him, he didn't go to these first. He went to God, and Him alone, first. Then he said "I lift up my soul": he didn't lift up just prayers/words/thoughts but his entire being. When a man or a woman sees God for who He truly is (everything) and he sees himself for who he really is (nothing), then religion is real and all-consuming/all-encompassing (not merely a formula or a required duty). He gives to God his heart and his head and everything within himself.
"Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth ...." - If you're in trouble and you feel that people are against you even though you're in the right and they are in the wrong, what do you usually ask the Lord first? Most likely, we're asking for a victory/a change in our circumstances/a change in the other person's heart without us having to do anything or we may ask for God's blessing on our plans/solution. But note that David didn't ask that way. Instead he asked that God would teach him to follow His ways/paths/truth. Note the 3 remarkable words: "ways" (as in seeing the way) denotes asking for wisdom to see which way God would have us go; "paths" (as in walking along the path) denotes being willing to walk in the way which God has shown us to go i.e. being willing to journey with God; and "truth" which says that whatever He is going to show us we're going to take it as the absolute answer/solution and we will make no deviation from or improvisation upon it. What we're saying is that we may have certain sets of good plans/responses derived from our previous experiences but we are willing to scrap them and listen to God afresh, as opposed to asking Him to improve upon them, if that's what He wants us to do. That's true faith and that's obedient trust! It is also wise to go in Him since, more often than not, our ways/paths were the very ones that led us into the predicament that we're in.
"for You are the God of my salvation; on You, I wait all the day long." - Have you ever been in love and waiting for he/she to call or come by? Have you ever eagerly waited for your Mom and Dad to come home when you're little? The feeling is like my life doesn't begin till that person I love, who is just the greatest and the reason for my living, is with me. It's the feeling that in everything I want to do, I will involve and please that person. There is an intimacy and a complete abandonment in worship with this most precious person. This is how God is to a man whose heart is humbled and contrite. Despite his pains and troubles which are real and can go on unrelenting even as he is praying/talking to His God, he is not interested in finding himself or justifying himself in others' eyes but he is so concerned about his relationship with his Lord. And even though he may have his own ideas on how to get out from his sorrows and problems, he hangs all his hope on God to deliver him.
"Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your loving-kindnesses for they're from eternity." - the appeal here is not on the basis of our righteousness/status/goodness but on God's attribute. God is love and He never will change. Let's us fall into the hands of God, for with Him, even in wrath there's mercy.
"Do not remember the sins of my youth or my rebellings .... O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great." - Sometimes we are so consumed by our own sorrows that we look at others' sins first instead of our very own. While it may be true that we're afflicted by the deliberate actions of someone else, but in our complaint to God, let's not forget to do a self-examination on the wrongs that we have done to God first. Remember, more often than not, every non-physical problem is, at core, a moral problem, with its roots in a person's relationship to God. Do we really know how much worse our sins are as compared to our afflictions and the emptiness in our heart due to lacking a certain great thing that we desire/long for? In this case, Saul is chasing after David without cause but David wasn't all righteous either. He said and did nothing to reassure Saul of his allegiance when the crowd was singing David's praises and putting down Saul the king after the two beat the Philistines in a big battle. Before God takes us out of troubles, He first cleanses out our inside. No improvement of our situation can begin till we recognize our iniquity. God doesn't just want to merely get us out of troubles - He wants us to grow and be more like Him in every area, and not just the ones we happen to be dealing with at the moment of affliction. Before our circumstances are changed, we often have to be the first to change.
"Look on my affliction and my pain .... and forgive all my sins" - Having dealt with the stuff which deals with our character and integrity, God wants us to know that He knows that our pains are real to Him. He feels what we feel and He knows what we know. In other words, we shouldn't minimize the pain we're experiencing going through or be stupidly stoic about them. The God of heaven is not so far removed from us that He doesn't care about our personal feelings. It's OK to cry and express our hurt. Our cries He hears and our tears He holds dear. But at the same time, He also wants us to know that in our anger at those who may have hurt us or in our agony and remorse for the things we have displeased Him and hurt others, the very best and foremost necessary thing is forgiveness from Him flowing unto us and then unto others. No healing will begin till forgiveness fully reigns in our soul.
"Keep my soul .... Let purity and uprightness keep me ...." - Lastly, the man who is after God's own heart asks that God will keep him through purity and uprightness - he doesn't just want to get out of trouble and be happy again but then goes about his own ways unchanged. What are the significance of these two qualities (why not strength or wisdom or dedication or courage)? Both purity and uprightness are imputed attributes that can only be gotten via God's holiness which require a continual pride-crushing daily walking with Him. It is also an acknowledgement of needing the Holy Spirit's help, moment by moment, and a completely opening up of ourselves to His leading.
a. Do we find ourselves going to God first in everything? Do we go to Him at all? And do give Him our soul?
b. In our complaints, do we pause to reflect on our own sins against Him and assess how well our relationship with Him is going?
c. Is our hope centered on more than just a miraculous intervention from God with no effort of repentance on our part? Is it in God and in Him changing us?
d. Are we so real with God and He so real in us that we are intimately waiting on Him all the day long like our Lover or Supreme Counselor?
I'm praying that the answer to all of these questions is "Yes, Amen!" and that this is coming more true for my life everyday as well as yours. I'm asking for the Holy Spirit's help to keep me opened to go in the manners of His teachings. I want to feel the sublime joy of being called a man after God's heart for I think it is the sweetest spiritual and emotional experience a man can have. Amen!
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