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In my last blog post, “Anatomy of the Soul,” I mentioned the great benefit that comes from reading and praying the Psalms in the Old Testament. While we can relate to many of the Psalms in our own personal lives, one psalm that caught my attention back in the 1980’s is Psalm 25, which is one of the psalms attributed to David. Here is a little background information on it from an article on Bible.org titled, “Psalm 25: Seeking God in the Hard Times,” by Steven J. Cole, pastor at Flagstaff Christian Fellowship:
Psalm 25 teaches us to seek God in the hard times, no matter for what reason we are in those hard times. It seems to me that James 1:5-6 is a succinct summary of Psalm 25: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” The context of James’ counsel is the need for wisdom in the midst of various trials (James 1:2-3). James tells us by faith to seek God and His wisdom in our trials, and that’s what David tells us in Psalm 25.
No matter how difficult your trials or what their cause, seek the Lord for His wisdom and trust Him to work for His glory and your good.
This psalm is an acrostic, where each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (There are a few variations that are too technical to explain here.) The psalmists may have used this form to help people memorize the psalms. James Boice (Psalms, Volume 1, Psalms 1-41 [Baker], p. 223) also suggests that in the case of this psalm, there is the dominant theme of learning or instruction, which fits with the alphabetical arrangement. David prays for the Lord to teach him His ways (25:4-5, 8-9). Boice concludes (ibid.), “So we could rightly say that the psalm is a school-book lesson on how to live so as to please God and be blessed by him.” I would only add, “in the context of difficult trials.” (Quote source here.)
Who among us hasn’t endured difficult trials or possibly find ourselves in one right now? King David had enemies chasing him throughout his lifetime from the time he was a teenage shepherd boy until he died in old age as King. Psalm 25 is just one of many psalms written by David calling out to God for mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, and help in his time of need (which was constant). It also shows us his great devotion to God in the midst of his many trials when he was surrounded by enemies (and sometimes they were innumerable); and his absolute trust in and dependence on God to show him what to do and/or wait for God to move in his circumstances. Let’s take a brief look at David’s life taken from GotQuestions.org:
We can learn a lot from the life of David. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14; Acts 13:22)! We are first introduced to David after Saul, at the insistence of the people, was made king (1 Samuel 8:5, 10:1). This choice of king, or even having an earthly king at all, was against the will of God, and although Saul was anointed by God through Samuel, he did not measure up as God’s king. While King Saul was making one mistake on top of another, God sent Samuel to find His chosen shepherd, David, the son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:10, 13). David was believed to be 12-16 years of age when he was called in from tending his father’s sheep to be anointed as the true king of Israel. As soon as the anointing oil flowed down David’s head the Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). The fact that evil spirits were tormenting Saul brought David into the king’s service (1 Samuel 16:21). Saul was pleased with young David, but this feeling vanished quickly as David rose in strength to slay the Philistine giant, Goliath, and win the overwhelming favor of the people (1 Samuel 17:45-51). The chant in the camp of Saul was taunting as the people sang out the praises of David and demeaned their king, causing a raging jealousy in Saul that never subsided (1 Samuel 18:7-8).
If you or someone you know has eked his way through life amid strife, conflict and continuous battles, then you might understand how David lived and felt throughout his lifetime. Although Saul never stopped pursuing him with the intent to kill him, David never raised a hand against his king and God’s anointed (1 Samuel 19:1-2, 24:5-7). He did, however, raise up a mighty army and with power from God defeated everyone in his path, always asking God first for permission and instructions before going into battle (2 Samuel 5:22-23, 23:8-17). Throughout the life of David, God honored and rewarded this unconditional obedience of His servant and gave him success in everything he did (2 Samuel 8:6).
David mourned King Saul’s death and put to death the one claiming responsibility for Saul’s death (2 Samuel 1:12-16). Only after Saul’s death was David anointed king over the house of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), and even then he had to fight against the house of Saul before being anointed king over Israel at the age of thirty (2 Samuel 5:3-4). Now king, David conquered Jerusalem and became more and more powerful because the Lord Almighty was with him (2 Samuel 5:7). David was so enthralled with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem that he omitted some of God’s instructions on how to transport the Ark and who was to carry it. This resulted in the death of Uzzah who, amid all the celebrations, reached out to steady the Ark, and God struck him down and he died there beside it (2 Samuel 6:1-7). In fear of the Lord, David abandoned the moving of the Ark for three months and let it rest in the house of Obed-Edom (2 Samuel 6:11).
After the Ark was in its rightful place, David decided to build a temple of the Lord around it (2 Samuel 6:17). Because of David’s bloody, battle-scarred record as well as his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the slaying of her husband, God denied his otherwise faithful servant the honor of building the temple, the house of the Lord (2 Samuel 6:5-14). This was surely a blow to David, but God assured him He would continue to make his name the greatest on the earth and forever establish the throne of David through David’s son, Solomon. Instead of being angry with God and having a pity party, David sat before the Lord, praising Him and thanking Him for all the many blessings he had received in his life (2 Samuel 7:18-29).
David’s battles did not end with his kingship but continued with the surrounding nations and within his own household. Throughout the life of David, His sons connived and conspired to take control of the kingdom and they, as did Saul, threatened their own father’s life. And as with the death of Saul, David mourned the death of his beloved son Absalom, showing a passionate and forgiving heart (2 Samuel chapters 15-18). David’s broken heart and contrite spirit are what brought him the forgiveness of God…. (Quote source here.)
With that snapshot of David’s life, let’s take a look at Psalm 25:
A psalm of David.
O Lord, I give my life to you.
I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.
For the honor of your name, O Lord,
forgive my many, many sins.
Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose.
They will live in prosperity,
and their children will inherit the land.
The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
He teaches them his covenant.
My eyes are always on the Lord,
for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.
Turn to me and have mercy,
for I am alone and in deep distress.
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!
Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.
See how many enemies I have
and how viciously they hate me!
Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.
O God, ransom Israel
from all its troubles.
From what I could find out (and it wasn’t easy–source at this link), apparently this psalm was composed early in David’s life when Saul was Israel’s first king. As mentioned in the background information above provided by GotQuestions.org, Saul sought to kill David and David spent years on the run from him, so we can certainly understand the nature of David’s earnest and passionate request. Yet Psalm 25 is there for our use, too (as are all of the psalms) when our own words fail to convey our deepest emotions and earnest cry for God’s help in our time of need. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 states, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” What better way to express that need then through a psalm when we can’t find the right words to pray on our own.
The next time you feel the urge to pray but you don’t know what to say, pick up the Bible (or go to an online Bible) and go to the Psalms and just start reading. In no time you’ll bump into the right words to pray. Words like. . . .
The Lord is my Shepherd . . .
I shall not . . .
Want . . . .
YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:
Throughout his life, King David (who started out as a shepherd boy) learned to put his complete trust in the Lord, no matter how dire his circumstances. The book of Psalms is filled with many of his songs to the Lord not only seeking the Lord’s help to rescue him during the many crises that came up during his life but to cleanse him from his sins and to praise the Lord’s name forever and ever. While David was far from perfect (see article at this link), God testified that David was “a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). David learned to trust in God completely, no matter what the circumstances. How often do we do that today? Most of the time we say we trust God, but we really trust in ourselves or our money or our status or our position; or our own “wily ways” and just about anything else that we can see, do, or manipulate. The kind of complete trust that David had in God and not in himself or anyone else is, unfortunately, often rare in our world today. It was rare in David’s world, too.
How often do we trust in our own “wily ways” (status, money, power, deceit, etc.) and how often have we placed our trust in others (e.g., family and friends, relatives, spouses or significant others, employers or coworkers, even pastors or deacons or elders or church folks, government officials, teachers or professors, etc.) only to have it fall flat when we needed it the most? More times then we’d like to admit, I’m sure. Trust is a very fragile thing, and humans aren’t very good at it or with it especially when push comes to shove. Selfish motives and/or self-protection is pretty much the rule of the day . . . even among folks who call themselves Christian. And we trust in our paychecks, government checks, or retirement accounts more than we trust in God to be there for us.
The answer to this whole trust issue is found in the very middle verse of the Bible—Psalm 118:8—and it states the following:
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
That just about covers the waterfront, doesn’t it? “Humans” is all inclusive of the entire human race and that includes you and me, folks. None of us can be trusted all of the time, most of the time, or even some of the time. Ulterior motives reign supreme and self gets in the way. Only God can be trusted, and it is only in God that we should place all of our trust. Even our money here in America states, “In God We Trust,” but the reality–and the irony–is that we far too often place our trust in all of that money instead of God who created the entire universe including that money that we crave more then we crave Him. Money cannot save anybody, folks, and any “loyalty” it buys is shallow and self-serving at best. And Jesus even said in his “Sermon on the Mount” that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Unfortunately, most of us serve money while claiming to serve God but the way we act and live and treat others tells the truth. And the love of money is idolatry and can end up destroying our lives and/or getting us killed.
David’s trust was not in wealth or possessions (and he had a great deal of both as King) nor was it in people (just look at how King Saul tried to kill him many times without success before he became King). And even when David had the perfect opportunity to kill King Saul (see I Samuel 24), he chose to trust in God for the outcome and not in his own wits, and he spared Saul’s life. Did you get that? He spared the life of the very man who wanted to murder him in the worst way. That, folks, is what complete trust in God–and not in our own ability and bent towards retaliation and revenge and hate–looks and acts like, and it’s not often found in our world. And in the end King Saul took his own life (see I Samuel 31) and David became King.
The cry of David’s heart was always to God and not to any person regardless of how powerful they might be. One of my very favorites Psalms over the years (and there are many, but this one has always stood out) is Psalm 25. Let’s read it:
(A psalm of David)
In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
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.
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.
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.
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.
Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
When was the last time we can say we totally trusted God without trying to run interference for him? Be honest now. Look at the sequence of events found in this Psalm. Do we start off our request by stating, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust” and if so, do we really mean it? God knows our hearts far better than even we know them. Proverbs 3:5-8 states:
Trust in the Lord with all you heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
While I can’t speak for anyone else, I am the first to admit that “my own understanding” gets in the way all the time. I don’t begin to have all the pieces to the puzzle of any circumstance I find myself in (such as my very long trial with unemployment and the many challenges it has presented in my life over the past four and a half plus years now), yet I try to figure out the entire situation all the time and only end up enormously frustrated most of the time. While God has given us the ability to understand some things, what he is telling us in these verses is not to “lean on” that understanding. Even if our own understanding is partially true, we don’t have the whole picture–only God does–and that is why he tells us to trust him with all of our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. That’s incredibly hard to do but it’s not impossible, because God never gives us anything that is “impossible.” Never. But we have to trust him and not ourselves and we literally have to let him guide us step by step each day and not three weeks into the future. No . . . his guidance is RIGHT NOW . . . and not tomorrow. He’ll take care of tomorrow when it gets here and we trust him (and not ourselves) with it.
Just as Kermit the Frog (in “Sesame Street”) said, “It’s not easy being green,” we can relate by saying, “It’s not easy being human.” We want the control, and we want to tell God how to solve our problem(s) or at least help him with it. And that’s not how God works. He is the potter and we are the clay. The clay doesn’t tell the potter what it wants to be. No, the potter makes the clay into what he wants it to be. And if we insist on having our own way, we’ll only end up as cracked pots that are good for nothing in the end. Unfortunately, we don’t believe that most of the time and think that we know best until it is too late. So who is really in control–us or God?
David knew who was in control of his life. . .
Do we know who is really in control of ours?
YouTube Video: “Total Praise” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: