The psalmist, in great distress, calls upon God frequently, 1-5; prays for pardon with the strong confidence of being heard, 6-11; shows the blessedness of the righteous, 12-14; again earnestly implores the Divine mercy; and prays for the restoration of Israel, 15-22.
NOTES ON PSALM XXV
This Psalm seems to refer to the case of the captives in Babylon, who complain of oppression from their enemies, and earnestly beg the help and mercy of God.
It is the first of those called acrostic Psalms, i.e., Psalms each line of which begins with a several letter of the Hebrew alphabet in their common order. Of acrostic Psalms there are seven, viz., xxv., xxxiv., xxxvii., cxi., cxii., cxix., and cxlv. It is fashionable to be violent in encomiums on the Jews for the very faithful manner in which they have preserved the Hebrew Scriptures; but these encomiums are, in general, ill placed. Even this Psalm is a proof with what carelessness they have watched over the sacred deposit committed to their trust. The letter vau is wanting in the fifth verse, and koph in the eighteenth; the letter resh being twice inserted, once instead of koph, and a whole line added at the end, entirely out of the alphabetical series.
Do I lift up my soul.
His soul was cast down, and by prayer and faith he endeavours to lift it up to God.
I trust in thee
I depend upon thy infinite goodness and mercy for my support and salvation.
Let me not be ashamed
Hide my iniquity, and forgive my guilt.
Let none that wait on thee be ashamed
Though he had burden enough of his own, he felt for others in similar circumstances, and became an intercessor in their behalf.
Transgress without cause.
Perhaps bogedim may here mean idolatrous persons. "Let not them that wait upon and worship thee be ashamed: but they shall be ashamed who vainly worship, or trust in false gods." See Malachi 2:11-16. The Chaldeans have evil entreated us, and oppressed us: they trust in their idols, let them see the vanity of their idolatry.
Show me thy ways
The psalmist wishes to know God's way, to be taught his path, and to be led into his truth. He cannot discern this way unless God show it; he cannot learn the path unless God teach it; and he cannot walk in God's truth unless God lead him: and even then, unless God continue to teach, he shall never fully learn the lessons of his salvation; therefore he adds, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me;" Psalms 25:5.
That he may get this showing, teaching, and leading, he comes to God, as the "God of his salvation;" and that he may not lose his labour, he "waits on him all the day." Many lose the benefit of their earnest prayers, because they do not persevere in them. They pray for a time; get remiss or discouraged; restrain prayer; and thus lose all that was already wrought for and in them.
On thee do I wait
This is the line in which vau, the sixth letter in the order of the alphabet, is lost; for the line begins with aleph, othecha, "on thee." But four of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. have veothecha, "AND upon thee." This restores the lost vau, which signifies "and." The Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, Arabic, AEthiopic, and Anglo-Saxon, preserve it.
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies, and thy loving-kindness
The word rachamim, means the commiseration that a man feels in his bowels at the sight of distress. The second word, chasadim, signifies those kindnesses which are the offspring of a profusion of benevolence.
They have been ever of old.
Thou wert ever wont to display thyself as a ceaseless fountain of good to all thy creatures.
Remember not the sins of my youth
Those which I have committed through inconsiderateness, and heat of passion.
According to thy mercy
As it is worthy of thy mercy to act according to the measure, the greatness, and general practice of thy mercy; so give me an abundant pardon, a plentiful salvation.
For thy goodness' sake
Goodness is the nature of God; mercy flows from that goodness.
Good and upright is the Lord
He is good in his nature, and righteous in his conduct.
Therefore will he teach sinners
Because he is good, he will teach sinners, though they deserve nothing but destruction: and because he is right, he will teach them the true way.
The meek will he guide
anavim, the poor, the distressed; he will lead in judgment-he will direct them in their cause, and bring it to a happy issue, for he will show them the way in which they should go.
All the paths of the Lord
orchoth signifies the tracks or ruts made by the wheels of wagons by often passing over the same ground. Mercy and truth are the paths in which God constantly walks in reference to the children of men; and so frequently does he show them mercy, and so frequently does he fulfil his truth, that his paths are earnestly discerned. How frequent, how deeply indented, and how multiplied are those tracks to every family and individual! Wherever we go, we see that God's mercy and truth have been there by the deep tracks they have left behind them. But he is more abundantly merciful to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies; i.e. those who are conformed, not only to the letter, but to the spirit of his pure religion.
For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon
I have sinned; I need mercy; there is no reason why thou shouldst show it, but what thou drawest from the goodness of thy own nature.
That feareth the Lord
Who has a proper apprehension of his holiness, justice, and truth; and who, at the same time, sees himself a fallen spirit, and a transgressor of God's holy law, and consequently under the curse. That is the person that truly and reverently fears God.
Him shall he teach
Such a person has a teachable spirit.
The way that he shall choose.
The way that in the course of Providence he has chosen, as the way in which he is to gain things honest in the sight of all men; God will bless him in it, and give him as much earthly prosperity as may be useful to his soul in his secular vocation.
His soul shall dwell at ease
betob talin, "shall lodge in goodness;" this is the marginal reading in our version; and is preferable to that in the text.
His seed shall inherit
His posterity shall be blessed. For them many prayers have been sent up to God by their pious fathers; and God has registered these prayers in their behalf.
The secret of the Lord is with them
sod, the secret assembly of the Lord is with them that fear him; many of them have a Church in their own house.
He will show them his covenant.
He will let them see how great blessings he has provided for them that love him. Some refer this to the covenant of redemption by Christ Jesus.
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord
All my expectation is from him alone. If I get at any time entangled, he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn thee unto me
Probably the prayer of the poor captives in Babylon, which is continued through this and the remaining verses.
The troubles of may heart are enlarged
The evils of our captive state, instead of lessening, seem to multiply, and each to be extended.
Look upon mine affliction
See my distressed condition, and thy eye will affect thy heart.
Forgive all my sins.
My sins are the cause of all my sufferings; forgive these.
This is the verse which should begin with the letter koph; but, instead of it, we have resh both here, where it should not be, and in the next verse where it should be. Dr. Kennicott reads kumah, "arise," and Houbigant, ketsar, "cut short." The word which began with koph has been long lost out of the verse, as every version seems to have read that which now stands in the Hebrew text.
Consider mine enemies
Look upon them, and thou wilt see how impossible it is that I should be able to resist and overcome them. They are many, they hate me, and their hatred drives them to acts of cruelty against me.
O keep my soul
Save me from sin, and keep me alive.
Let me not be ashamed
He ends as he began; see Psalms 25:2: "Let me not be confounded, for I put my trust in thee."
Let integrity and uprightness
I wish to have a perfect heart, and an upright life. This seems to be the meaning of these two words.
Redeems Israel, O God
The people are prayed for in the preceding verses as if one person; now he includes the whole, lest his own personal necessities should narrow his heart, and cause him to forget his fellow sufferers.
This verse stands out of the order of the Psalm; and does not appear to have formed a part of the alphabetical arrangement. It is a general prayer for the redemption of Israel from captivity; and may well be applied to those of the true Israel who are seeking for complete redemption from the power, the guilt, and the pollution of sin; and from all the troubles that spring from it. And let it be ever known, that God alone can redeem Israel.
ANALYSIS OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH PSALM
This Psalm is a continued earnest prayer of a man or a people pressed with danger and enemies, and sensible of God's heavy displeasure against sin. It consists of five petitions.
I. His first petition is, that his "enemies not triumph over him," Psalms 25:2,3.
II. His second is for instruction, Psalms 25:4,5, which he urges, Psalms 25:8-10,12-14.
III. His third is for mercy and forgiveness, Psalms 25:6,7,11.
IV. His fourth is a renewal of his first, Psalms 25:15-17, with many arguments.
V. His fifth is for Israel in general, Psalms 25:22.
I. He begins with the profession of his faith and confidence in God, without which there can be no prayer: " Unto thee, O Lord," he relies not on, nor seeks after, any human help. And upon this living hope, he prays-
1. For this life, that it shame him not, as it does where a man hopes, and is frustrated: "Let me not be ashamed." Make it appear that I hope not in thee in vain.
2. "Let not mine enemies triumph over me." Glorying that I am deserted. This petition he urges by this argument: The example may prove dangerous, if thou send me no help; but it will be to thy glory, if I be relieved. If he were delivered, the faith and hope of others would be confirmed; if deserted, the good would faint and fail, the wicked triumph: therefore he prays, O, let none that wait on thee be ashamed; but let them be ashamed who transgress, that is, they that do me wrong maliciously, without my cause being given by myself.
II. He petitions for instruction, that he may be always guided and governed by the word of God, that he sink not under the cross, but rely on God's promises.
1. "Show me thy ways, and teach me thy paths." Show me that thou often dealest severely with thy best servants: bringest down, before thou exaltest; mortifiest, before thou quickenest; and settest the cross before the crown. Teach me-show me, that this is thy way.
2. "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me." Cause me to remember that thy promises are firm and true; yea and amen to those who trust in thee. This makes me hope still: "Thou art the God of my salvation."
III. His third petition is for mercy. He prays for mercy, and the removal of the sin that obstructs it.
1. "Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies, ever of old;" i.e., deal mercifully with me as thou hast ever done with those who flee to thee in their extremity.
2. He prays for the remission of the sins of his youth: "Remember not the sins of my youth." This petition he repeats, Psalms 25:11: "For thy name's sake pardon mine iniquity;" and upon this confession: "For it is great."
The psalmist here breaks off prayer; and, to confirm his confidence, speaks of the nature and person of God. It is necessary sometimes, even in the midst of our prayers, to call to mind the nature of God, and his ways with his people, lest, through a sense of our unworthiness or great unfaithfulness, we should be discouraged. And this course David takes; he says,
1. "Good and upright is the Lord." 1. Good, for he receives sinners gratis. 2. Upright-constant and true in his promises; therefore he will teach sinners in the way.
2. "The meek will he guide in judgment." He will not suffer them to be tempted above their strength; will teach them what to answer; and will not proceed with rigour, but will interpret all in the most favourable sense.
3. In a word, "All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." 1. Mercy, in that he freely offers the remission of sins, the graces of his Spirit, support in distresses, and at last eternal life, to those who by faith and a good conscience walk before him: "Keep his covenant and his testimonies;" for the words of the covenant are: "I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed;" upon which follows: "Walk before me, and be thou perfect."
4. Upon the confidence of which promises and covenant the psalmist repeats his prayer: "O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great," Psalms 25:11.
The psalmist now admires the happiness of him who trusts in God: "What man is he that feareth the Lord!" This happiness he sets forth by the fruits that follow his piety:-
1. The first fruit he shall gather is instruction and direction in his vocation, and private life: "Him shall he teach in the way,"
2. The second is, that his happiness shall not be momentary, but firm and lasting: "His soul shall dwell at ease."
3. The third is, that he shall be happy in his posterity: "His seed shall inherit the land."
4. The fourth is, that the redemption of mankind by Christ Jesus, with all the effects of it, pardon, holiness, a secret unknown to the world, shall be revealed and applied to him: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant."
IV. Being confirmed by these promises, and cheered with these fruits, he,
1. Testifies his faith in God for deliverance: "My eyes are ever toward the Lord; he will pluck my feet out of the net."
2. He then renews his former prayer, it being nearly the same as that with which he began. It is conceived in several clauses: 1. "Turn thee unto me." 2. "Have mercy upon me." 3. "O bring me out of my distresses." 4. "Look upon my affliction and trouble, and forgive me all my sins." 5. "Consider mine enemies." 6. "O keep my soul, and deliver me." 7. "Let me not be ashamed." 8. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me."
Petitioners, and men in misery, think they can never say enough. This makes him often repeat the same thing. The sum is, that God would hear and grant him defence and deliverance in his dangers; remission of sins which caused them; and protect, direct, and govern him in his troubles.
3. That he might prevail in his suit, like an excellent orator, he uses many arguments to induce God to be propitious to him:-
1. His faith and trust in his promises: "Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord."
2. The danger he was now in: "His feet were in the net."
3. He was oppressed, alone, and had none to help him: "I am desolate and afflicted."
4. His inward afflictions and pain were grievous: "The troubles of my heart are enlarged."
5. His enemies were many, powerful, merciless, cruel: "Mine enemies are many-and hate me with cruel hatred."
6. And yet I am innocent, and desire to be so; and am thy servant: "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait upon thee."
V. The psalmist having thus, through the Psalm, prayed for himself, at last offers up a short but earnest petition for the whole Church; which proceeds from that fellowship or communion which ought to be among all saints: "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles!" Turn our captivity, and forgive the sins which have occasioned it.