Psalm 25
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It is thought by some that this prayer belongs to the Exile period; but by whomsoever it may have been penned, or at whatsoever age, matters little. There is nothing in it which depends on known historic incident for its elucidation. And whoever desires to dive into the depths of its meaning will find the habit of waiting on God the best key to its words and phrases. No merely natural man can possibly unravel spiritual things, and he who is a stranger to prayer will get no help whatever in the understanding of this psalm from all the scholastic critics in the world. There are a few doubtful phrases, on which Perowne's notes will throw some light; but, speaking generally, this is one of the psalms on which Calvin and Matthew Henry will furnish adequately suggestive remarks. Reserving all dealing with specific texts in it for other writers in this Commentary, we propose to survey the psalm as a whole, though it may be that each heading thereon might furnish a theme for separate discourse. This prayer of an Old Testament saint suggests -

I. THAT WE KNOW ENOUGH OF GOD TO FURNISH US WITH A SOUND BASIS FOR PRAYER. Interspersed among the several petitions there are here several statements of exquisite beauty (cf. vers. 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 3, 13). These may be thus set forth:

1. God is good and upright; therefore will he teach and guide those who seek him. Good, so that he delights to do it; upright, so that he will be true to his promise.

2. This guidance he vouchsafes to the meek (ver. 9). Taken in a physical sense, the word translated "meek" is equivalent to "afflicted;" in a moral sense its meaning is as given here (cf. James 1:21; James 4:6; Matthew 11:25).

3. To loyal souls all his ways are mercy and truth (ver. 10); hence he cannot shut his ear to their prayer (see also ver. 12). "Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose;" Luther, "Er wird ihn unterweiseuden besten Weg."

4. He will give such souls a rest and refuge in himself (ver. 13)."His soul shall lodge in goodness" (Hebrew cf. Psalm 91:1 Hebrew).

5. To such God will open up the heavenly secrets of his covenant love. A glorious anticipation, By spiritual intuition, in Old Testament times, of John 15:15.

6. He will never put to shame those that wait on him (ver. 3, Revised Version; see Perowne's note thereon). As followers of our Lord Jesus, we may add to all this the amazing statement, "The Father seeketh such to worship him." God is not only willing to receive their worship, but he eagerly desires it (John 4:23).

II. THAT PRAYER IS THE HIGHEST EFFORT OF MAll. It is described in the first verse as "lifting up the soul to God" (cf. Psalm 121:1; Psalm 143:8). This the psalmist did

(1) in the morning (Psalm 5:3);

(2) at noon and at evening (Psalm 55:17);

(3) seven times a day (Psalm 119:164);

(4) all the day (Psalm 25:5);

(5) Perpetually (Psalm 25:15).

The psalmist prayed not only when trouble came, but always. His heart spontaneously went up ever to God, as to the Friend without whose smile he could not live, and without whose protection he dared not move. Note: For elevation of life our spirits must be ever looking above and beyond themselves. An upward look will uplift character; the downward look will degrade.

III. THAT INWARD CONFLICTS AND OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES OFTEN GIVE SPECIAL INTENSITY TO PRAYER. Glancing over the varied forms of expression which indicate the psalmist's mental state and his surroundings, we shall see this:

1. The remembrance of past sins troubles him. Oh that the young would beware of sin! Long, long after it is forgiven by God, it will poison and worry the memory (ver. 7). So much so, that only as the sinning one flings himself on mercy, can he have any rest at all.

2. The psalmist is desolate, afflicted (ver. 16), troubled in heart (ver. 17), in a net (ver. 15), surrounded with bitter enemies (ver. 19). What a burden of care and grief he has to roll over upon God] Note: It is an infinite mercy to be Permitted to tell God exactly what we feel, and all that we feel, knowing that we shall never be misunderstood, but that we shall be laying open all our griefs only before infinite goodness and mercy.

IV. THE SPECIFIC PETITIONS IN PRAYER MAY BE VARIED AS OUR NEED. The petitions specified in this psalm are mainly for himself, but not exclusively. Those for himself are such as any child of God may present at any time. The special colouring given to each must need be the reflection of hues of his own, "fresh borrowed from the heart." The psalmist's petitions for himself may be grouped under eight heads.

1. That God would not put him to shame before his enemies (ver. 2).

2. He prays for light (ver. 4).

3. For teaching in the way in which he should go (vers. 4, 5).

4. That he may have experience in God's faithfulness (ver. 5; see notes, 'Variorum Bible').

5. For loving-kindness and mercy (ver. 6).

6. For forgiveness (ver. 11).

7. For Divine guardianship (ver. 20).

8. For a gracious, compassionate look (ver. 18).

9. That amidst all temptations to wander from the way, he may be kept in integrity and uprightness (vers. 21, 22).

But the pleading one cannot close without one prayer for the Church of God (ver. 22; cf. Psalm 51:18, 19). A noble, pious, public spirit existed in the Old Testament saints. Such a one as the writer of this psalm cannot forget his people at a throne of grace. Well would it be if such earnest public spirit were possessed by Christian people everywhere, so that, as priests unto God, they would never enter the holy of holies save with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel graven on their breast.

V. THE PRAYING ONE MAY USE MANIFOLD ARGUMENTS IN PLEADING WITH HIS GOD. There is a blending of simplicity, boldness, and grandeur in the pleas of this prayer.

1. "I trust in thee" (ver. 2). When there is trust on one side, we may be sure it is reciprocated by love and pity on God's side.

2. "Thou art the God of my salvation" (ver. 5). Thou hast undertaken to deliver me, and thou wilt be true to thine own promises. God loves to be reminded of his promises. He has never said in vain to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye me."

3. "Remember thy tender mercies," etc. (ver. 6). David's past experience of God's mercy was a pledge that God would not forget him.

4. "For thy Name's sake" (ver. 11). Gracious answers to his people's prayer magnify God's Name; they reveal his grace and love. And the psalmist, in holy daring, pleads with God to magnify his own Name in hearing him. Yea, more; a more startling argument still is used.

5. "For it [mine iniquity] is great" (ver. 11)! Who but those who know bow God delights to forgive, and even to multiply pardons, could ever venture to plead for forgiveness because their sin was so great? Yet surely the meaning is, "Lord, though my sin is great, the greater will thy mercy be, and the more lustrously thy pardoning love will shine forth on the background of my guilt!" Such prayers and such pleadings as these are not learnt in a day nor in a year. They can come only from one whose eyes are ever towards the Lord.

VI. SUCH TRUSTING AND PRAYING ONES WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME. (Ver. 3, Revised Version.) They never have been. They never will be. They cannot be. The revealed character and attributes of God assure us of this. The opening up of the new and living way to God, which our great High Priest has consecrated for ever for our use, ensures it. The blood of Christ seals the same; it is the "blood of the everlasting covenant." The love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost is another pledge of the efficacy of prayer. Yea, the immutability of God himself confirms this; not only that prayer will avail, but also that without prayer we have no right to expect the blessings we need. Our Lord has said, "Ask, and ye shall receive." Thus he teaches the Divine rule for us. If, then, it is God's will to give us blessing when we ask, it is useless for us to think to change the mind of God, and to expect the blessing without asking for it. - C.

There are different stages in the life of godliness. Hence experiences vary. Some are but babes, others are strong men. Some have only started in the race, others are nearing the goal. Some have only put on their armour, while others have borne themselves bravely in many a fight and are waiting the crown. Some have only entered by the wicket-gate, while others have gone through most of their pilgrimage; they have climbed the Hill Difficulty, have passed safely through the Valley of Humiliation and Vanity Fair; have stood on the Delectable Mountains, and are now resting in the pleasant Land of Beulah, till called home to the heavenly city. The psalmist here speaks like a man of matured wisdom and piety. His voice is not that of one beginning the spiritual life, but rather of one who, like "Paul the aged," has seen many days, and has gathered large stores of experience. We find here -

I. HOLY ASPIRATION. The psalmist was a man of prayer. His yearnings were ever towards God. There was much to weigh him down; but against all obstacles he pressed upward and onward. "Nearer my God, nearer to thee," was his cry.

II. APPROPRIATING FAITH. There is not only faith in God as God, but the higher and nobler faith of appropriation. "My God." This implied knowledge and personal trust. But while the confession is boldly made, it is accompanied by true lowliness of heart. The sense of weakness; the danger of yielding to false shame; the possibility of being overborne, as others had been, by the might and craftiness of the toe, - constrain the soul to cling the more closely to God.

III. LOVING SELF-SURRENDER. Here is the spirit of the learner (ver. 4), humble and trustful, willing to be led and to be taught of God. It is what we find in Paul, who cried, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and then, in obedience to the heavenly vision, was content to sit at the feet of the humble Ananias of Damascus. We must feel ourselves simply and unreservedly in the hands of God, if we are to learn aright. If we trust to our own wisdom, we shall go astray, if we take counsel of men, we are in danger of being led into by-paths and devious ways; but if we commit ourselves to God, he will guide us into all the truth, and lead us in the way everlasting.

IV. LOYAL SERVICE. "Waiting" does not imply inaction. It is not resting in ease, or folding the hands in idleness, or holding back from effort, as if we could do nothing. Rather it implies faith and work (Psalm 123:2). We see also that there is no limit or stop to the service. It is not for an, hour, but "all the day," So it was with our blessed Lord (John 11:9); so it should be with us.

V. QUICKENING MEMORIES. The mercies of the past are pledges of mercies in the future (ver. 6). "Of old" reaches far back. Imagination looks to the beginnings when God first showed mercy to sinful man; while memory recalls the special tokens and proofs of Divine kindness to ourselves. God's mercies always flow in the channel of his righteousness.

VI. INSPIRING HOPES. Memory has its pains as well as its pleasures. As the psalmist looks back, the "sins of his youth" come up before him. But God is merciful. Other sins also rise in dread array; not only errors, but "transgressions," wherein he had wilfully offended. Again the only refuge is in God. The worse our case, the greater our need of mercy. God's Name inspires hope, and assures us not only of forgiveness, but of grace to sanctify and sustain our souls till the conflict closes in victory, and our prayers end in praise. - W.F.

Belongs probably to the time of the Exile. Its prevailing thought is that God is the Teacher of the afflicted and the Guide of the erring; and this is constantly repeated, either in the way of statement or of prayer. The first seven verses contain three things.

I. ASPIRING TRUST IN GOD. (Vers. 1-3.) Seeking, drawn towards, lifting himself up towards God, waiting upon him, - all signify the earnest, confident trust in God, which is the highest act of the soul towards the great Invisible Being. This is associated with obedience; for transgressors will be confounded; they have no ground for expecting salvation, and will be made ashamed.

II. EARNEST PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE. (Vers. 4, 5.) "Show me thy ways;" "Teach me thy paths;" "Lead me in thy truth."

(1) Help me to understand thy providence or government, for I am often perplexed by it.

(2) Teach me the paths in which thou wouldst have me walk.

(3) Let me live in the experience of thy faithfulness.

(1) Enlighten my thoughts, and give me the power to interpret thy ways of acting.

(2) Control my conduct, move me to duty, and give me an obedient heart.

(3) Help me to trust in the truth of thy Word and thy ways. For thou art saving me, and I am waiting on thee to this end.

III. A CRY FOR GOD'S UNCHANGEABLE MERCY. (Vers. 6, 7.) God's mercy is called "tender mercy" and "loving-kindness," to indicate its qualities and its source. And it is everlasting and unchangeable, because God cannot be unlike himself; he cannot change his nature nor his conduct. The cry here is for mercy upon the sins of his youth.

1. The sins of youth are the sins of impulse, of inconsideration. Not deliberate sins, but better remembered than sins of later life.

2. The sins of inexperience and ignorance. We know not what we do - like Christ's murderers - when we transgress. The plea is, "According to thy loving-kindness," etc. For the sake of thy goodness, because thou art love, because thou art good, do these favours for me. This is the everlasting plea with God that sinners must use; not that God can be made propitious towards us, but that he is propitious, has been, and will always remain so, "not willing that any should perish." - S.

Remember not the sins of my youth. This prayer implies -

I. PAINFUL MEMORIES. Brought up under the eye of God, our life should have been pure. It is our shame that it has been otherwise. Looking back, we are distressed at the remembrance of our follies and offences. Oh that we had hearkened unto God! then it might have been with us as with the holy Child Jesus -

"A son that never did amiss,
That never sham'd his mother's kiss,
Nor cross'd her fondest prayer."

II. DEEPENING SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY. Life is one whole. Amidst all changes personal identity remains. The present is linked to the past. We are answerable, not only for what we do to-day, but for what we have done in our earliest days. The sins of our youth are "ours." They form part of our burden, and press upon us the more heavily because of the added sins of riper years.

III. GROWING CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE EVIL OF SIN. Once, perhaps, we thought lightly of the sins of youth. They were but errors and faults common to all - the inevitable result of ignorance and inexperience at the worst. We were only sowing our wild oats. But now we look at things differently. We have seen not only the seed, but the fruit (Romans 6:21). We have, besides, gained insight, and our consciences have become more tender from living near to God. We judge, therefore, not only with better evidence, but by a higher standard.

IV. MISERABLE SENSE OF HELPLESSNESS. We see and deplore the evil, but cannot remedy it. We are like one standing by a house on fire. There was a time when we could have stopped the flame, but it is now too late. Perhaps some brother or sister has erred through our fault. If counsel could avail, we would give it. If tears and repentance on our part could atone, they would not be wanting. But no; it is too late; our only help is in God.

V. TERRIBLE FOREBODINGS. Think how distressing it must be to see the bad results of our sins in others. Some have died who had been hurt by us; others are living now in sin, whom we had helped to lead astray. Our own sins are reflected in the sins of others. Of Jeroboam it is said, "Who sinned, and made Israel to sin." Alas! he has had many followers. The sins of youth may become the groans of age (Job 13:26).

VI. FAITH IN THE MERCY AND POWER OF GOD. In our distress we turn to God. We cannot hope that he will forget; but he can forgive. We must not think that he will alter his law - that "whatsoever a man seweth, that shall he also reap;" but he is able to change our minds and hearts, so that we shall accept his law as holy and just and good; and then what we have regarded as stern rebuke will be turned into loving discipline, and our severest chastisements will end in our highest good. What a blessed change it makes, when into the confusions and the miseries and the sorrows of this world we bring the light and the love of God! We make our confession to him, and find peace. We cast our burden upon him, and are sustained. - W.F.

Psalm 25:8-14
Psalm 25:8-14. Here we may learn something as to

God's revelation to man.

I. That God's revelation MUST BE IN HARMONY WITH HIS CHARACTER. With God there can be no contradiction. What he does shows what he is. His words and his works agree. If we were created in the image of God, then we reasonably infer that, when God makes a special revelation to us, it will be in accord with our moral nature. This is what gives the gospel its preciousness and its power. "God was in Christ."

II. That God's revelation IS MADE TO THE SPIRITUALLY SUSCEPTIBLE. (Vers. 8, 9.) In this there is nothing arbitrary or strange. It must be so, from the very nature of things. As Coleridge sings -

"O lady, we receive but what we give,
And in our lives alone does nature live." And a greater authority has said, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). "To many among us neither heaven nor earth has any revelation till some personality touches ours with a peculiar influence, subduing them into receptiveness."

III. That God's revelation CAN ONLY BE RECEIVED IN ITS FULNESS BY THE OBEDIENT. (Vers. 10-14.) The question is asked, "Who is the man that feareth the Lord?" and this is as good as saying, "Find me such a man, and I will tell you how it will fare with him. God will reveal himself to him otherwise than he does to the world. Between them there is sympathy and sweet accord." God opens his mind to those who love him. He lets them into his secrets. They are in the way of light, and evermore, as they advance, the light shines on them more fully. The word of the psalmist is confirmed and completed in the teaching of our Lord (John 15:7-15). This has been the experience of God's people in all ages. Abraham in his tent (Genesis 18:17), David with his flocks, Daniel in the king's palace, the apostle in the dungeon at Philippi, - all have felt alike that God reveals himself to those who truly serve him. - W.F.

The main subject of these verses is the Divine teaching, help, and guidance. Men are ignorant and erring, and the supreme importance of Divine interposition is here recognized and unfolded.


1. He instructs sinners. Shows them the right way, and helps them to walk in it. He helps his people, though they are sinners, and in spite of it (ver. 8). The ground of this conduct is given - because he is good and righteous, or upright. It becomes his nature to act thus.

2. He leads the lowly or meek; or those who are lowly because of oppression. He leads them in righteousness; i.e. he gives to them, who do not oppose might with might, justice against their oppressors. The right is sure to triumph in the end.

3. He reveals himself to his faithful, obedient people. (Ver. 10.) Shows to them that all his ways are gracious and faithful. Human faithfulness discovers Divine faithfulness, and is the organ through which it is revealed.

4. He teaches them that fear him. (Vers. 12-14.) Only those who fear God are anxious to know the right path; and even God can teach only those who are anxious to find the way of life.


1. He who feels guided by God is emboldened to cry for pardon for his sins. His argument for pardon is twofold. "For thy Name's sake," etc.; "For mine iniquity is great," etc. I shall sink under it unless it be pardoned.

2. He shall knew how to choose wisely his own way. (Ver. 12.) Acquires an inherent, constant wisdom, as the fruit of Divine teaching, and is raised above the power of changing human opinion.

3. He shall enjoy enduring prosperity (ver. 13), and his seed by way of natural consequence. The path of righteousness is the only "way everlasting."

4. Only those who live and walk with God know his will. (Ver. 14.) "The secret of the Lord" is hidden from the eyes and hearts of the disobedient. God himself is hidden; but the secret of his love is further off still from their perceptions. God's "covenant" with man through Christ surpasses in glory all his former covenants with man. - S.

Psalm 25:15-22
Psalm 25:15-22. There are three stages depicted here

In the godly man's life.

I. THE GODLY MAN IN FEAR. Trouble comes. Perhaps there has been over-confidence, or unwatchfulness, or entanglement with the things of the world. Our feet are caught in the net. Enemies scoff. We are harassed and perplexed. Our efforts to relieve ourselves may make things worse. It is hard to be alone when one falleth; but it is harder when troubles increase till they are heavier than can be borne, and there seems no eye to pity nor arm to bring deliverance.

II. THE GODLY MAN CRYING FOR RESCUE. (Vers. 16-22.) Prayer is a sure resource in trouble. To whom but God can we lay bare our hearts? and who is there but God that can bring help when the help of man faileth? He loves us; therefore we can cry to him with hope. We can weary him with our sins, but never with our prayers. The very greatness of our need is our best plea for God's doing great things for us. Our cause is his care; our relief is his pleasure; our salvation is his glory.

III. THE GODLY MAN REJOICING FOR DELIVERANCE. (Vers. 20-22.) The prayer implies the performance. The hope which God begets he will never betray. The consciousness of integrity, of simple faith and willingness to submit to God's guidance, without byways or secret ways, gives the assurance that God will save. "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me," is the promise. Having this confidence, we can rejoice, not only in deliverance for ourselves, but in like deliverances for others, whose needs are like ours. As it was in the past, so shall it be to the end. From many a land, and in many a tongue, the cry will go up, "The troubles of my heart are enlarged." But let us be of good cheer. Christ lives. He has not only overcome the world, but he promises the victory to his people also. He has not only ascended to heaven, but he has engaged to bring his people there also, "where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying" (John 14:3; Revelation 21:4). - W.F.

The two previous sections of the psalm express trust in the Divine help and prayer for guidance. From the fifteenth verse we see the reasons of the urgency of his prayer. The friends and the enemies of God are in conflict in this world, and the psalmist is suffering at the hands of the wicked, and needs the interposition of God. The troubles of the righteous.

I. EVIL COUNSELS ARE SET IN MOTION AGAINST HIM. (Ver. 15.) "A net is laid for his feet." This may mean physical or moral danger, putting in peril his life or his character, aiming either at his death or drawing him into evil courses. Evil men rejoice if they can prevail upon a good man to abandon his principles or sacrifice his character. His danger is not from open temptation, but from artful sophistries, making the worse appear the better reason; plots against his honour.

II. HE IS IN SPECIAL NEED OF DIVINE SYMPATHY. (Ver. 16.) On account of his loneliness in his trouble - desolate. He is isolated from sympathy and companions, and cast upon God's companionship. We are often thus tried if we are faithful to God and our work - as Christ was, and our consolation was his, "I am not alone; for the Father is with me."

III. HE HAD MANY INWARD AS WELL AS OUTWARD TROUBLES. (Vers. 17, 18.) He suffered pain and affliction, and an intense consciousness of sinfulness. Either of these experiences, separately, is hard enough to bear; but when both have to be endured at the same time, there is no greater misery. We can but cry and pray as the psalmist did.

IV. HE DREADED THAT THE ACTIVE HATRED OF Ills MANY ENEMIES WOULD BRING HIM TO OPEN SHAME. (Vers. 19, 20.) He was afraid that the Divine cause, as represented in his person, might appear, in some way, to be worsted; and if so, he would feel the deepest humiliation. "Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in thee." If God disappointed his hope, his enemies would pour derision on his trust in God, and that would be a deep calamity, if men proclaimed that faith in God was a vain thing. But God is not unfaithful; it is we who are faithless, and expose ourselves to shame.

V. HE CONCLUDES WITH A PRAYER FOR INTEGRITY AND UPRIGHTNESS AS HIS DEFENCE. (Ver. 21.) He desires to have these as his guardians, because his way is perilous from inward and outward foes. The effect of deep trouble is sometimes to make us reckless, and to forfeit steadfast perseverance; to unstring and relax our moral nature. And sometimes it braces us up to the highest aim and the strongest effort, as here, to realize our trust in God and to seek for the whole armour of righteousness, that "we may withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." The twenty-second verse was added when this psalm came to be used in public worship. - S.

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