Simultaneous Shame and Confidence: Psalm 25
The twenty-fifth psalm is a sustained plea for help, although it contains some things that we might have trouble reconciling. This again is one of the reasons why we need to be trained to pray as the psalmist prays. This is the second penitential psalm, and it is the first that is composed as an acrostic. The psalm was probably composed during the rebellion of Absalom.
1 Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. 2O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. 3Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause . . . (Psalm 25: 1-22).
His soul had previously been cast down, and so he lifts it up to the Lord (v. 1). His trust is in God, and so he prays that he not be ashamed by his enemies (v. 2). Expanding this, he asks that no one trusting God be ashamed (v. 3). David asks to be shown the right path (v. 4); he pleads to be taught (v. 5). He pleads the ancient kindness of God (v. 6). He asks that God, according to His mercy and goodness, not remember the sins of his youth (v. 7). Because God is good and upright, He will do it (v. 8). He will guide and teach the meek (v. 9). Those who keep covenant are kept in the covenant (v. 10). But why should God forgive David? It is because his sins are great and many (v. 11). If a man fears God, then God will teach him (v. 12). Not only will he be taught, his seed will inherit the earth (v. 13). The secret of God is with those who fear Him. These are the people who will be shown the covenant (v. 14). Look to God; He will rescue (v. 15). David pleads with God to do exactly this (v. 16). His troubles have grown and expanded, and he needs deliverance (v. 17). He does not separate his troubles and his sins (v. 18). He does separate his troubles and sins, on the one hand, from his enemies on the other (v. 19). In this context, he asks again for deliverance (v. 20). He waits on God and will be preserved by integrity and uprightness (v. 21). And expanding his plea again, he asks that all Israel be rescued (v. 22).
An ANCIENT ARGUMENT
Never forget that God loves you. But, more than this, never forget how long God has loved you. “Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old” (v. 6). The love of God is not a transient, slight, or momentary thing. As you argue your case before God, do not be afraid to plead the precedent. And a word about arguing before God. Never complain about God, but learn to complain to God.
THE SECRET OF THE LORD
This secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him (v. 14). What will God do for such people? He will show them His covenant. This is the promise of God. The covenant is a greatly debated and disputed topic today. The church is therefore in great need of her Lord to show us His covenant. How is this to be done? Not by reading big fat books. The covenant is life, and children, and generations, and business deals, and meals, all conducted a certain way.
This is accomplished by fear. Fear God and walk in faith. Incidentally, the fear of God, like Moses’ snake, devours all the smaller snakes. The fear of God will devour all lesser fears. And if you fear God, then what will He do with you? He will show His ways (v. 4). He will lead in His paths (v. 4). He will guide and teach (v. 9). The path of the Lord has two wagon ruts—mercy and truth (v. 10). A key to understanding this is to remember that the fear of the Lord is a way of walking.
Part of the secret that is shown is this: the glory of the covenant enables us to recognize our great sinfulness before God (vv. 7, 11, 16, 18), and it enables us to stand before our enemies and not be ashamed (vv. 2-3, 10, 19-22). How is this possible? Do you really want to know? Fear God, and He will show you His covenant.
FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE
The greater the illness, the greater the honor of the physician who cures it. The greater the sin, the more glory is accorded to Christ when He forgives it. But this is not run through the carnal calculus that Paul refutes in Romans 6. The greatness of the sin is here repented. Unlike Pharaoh—who repented of the hard strokes he was receiving, rather than the hard heart he was cherishing—this person repents of the sin. Repenting of the consequences of sin is very different from repenting of the sin itself. And yet God teaches about the sin through the consequences.
God does this for His name’s sake (v. 11). “O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee” (Jer. 14:7). Forgiveness is according to His goodness, it is according to His mercy (v. 7). If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 Jn. 1:9). Forgiveness is according to God, not according to man. This is what gives us a place to stand when we plead. The greatness of our sin does not disqualify us.
SHORT CATECHISM FOR LITTLE SAINTS
Who is glorified when God forgives us our sins?
Who may stand before God?
Only Jesus, and all who are in Him.
What does God do when we walk in His fear?
He shows us His covenant.