Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Psalms

Psalm 25 Commentary

Let’s turn to Psalm 25.

Psalm 25 Commentary: Genre

See our Psalm 25 Acrostic article for more information on the acrostic style of Psalm 25.

Now, because this psalm is an acrostic, its flow seems to be kind of unnaturally confined. Since each new line needs to begin with a certain letter of the alphabet – that’s what governs the flow of the passage – rather than some other logical arrangement.

Psalm 25 Commentary: Lament

And I mention that to point out that the type of psalm that Psalm 25 is is also a little difficult to comprehend.

In some ways it seems like a lament psalm. There are multiple petitions made. There are multiple mentions of enemies and his own sin, which is usually what the lament is made of. There’s an invocation. There are expressions of confidence. There are times of praise.

See our Lament Psalm Structure article for more information on what makes up the structure of a typical lament psalm.

But because these elements are split up and oftentimes repeated – some have thought that Psalm 25 is not a lament psalm.

But I actually think that because it has all of these components of a typical lament psalm, it’s best to interpret this psalm as a lament – rather than as, say, a meditative psalm or something else.

So, David is working through some problem in his life with God’s help. That’s what is happening in a lament psalm.

Psalm 25 Theme

Well, what problem is David working through?

I’m going to state it at the outset. And then we’ll work through the Psalm and find it in each verse.

The problem that David is working through is this. How to Pray After You’ve Sinned.

Would you agree that this is a problem that needs to be worked through in the life of a believer? It’s like figuring out how to communicate with a friend after you’ve wronged them. How do you continue the relationship that has been breached?

And since this is an acrostic or alphabet psalm, we could kind of say that this psalm presents the “A-B-Cs” of Praying After You’ve Sinned.

So, let’s look at Psalm 25 and receive instruction on praying after we’ve sinned.

Psalm 25 Commentary: Author

See our Psalm 25 David article for discussion on the author of Psalm 25.

Psalm 25 1

Aleph א

[Unto/Before] thee, O LORD, do I [lift up my soul/come in prayer].

So, first of all, after you’ve sinned, do pray to the Lord. Address him. Come to him.

Don’t avoid him. This is what most people do. This is what Adam and Eve did. They avoided God – or tried to – after they sinned. Don’t do that.

Lift up your soul to God in prayer.

It’s an interesting contrast to what we studied last time in Psalm 24. There we saw that the kind of person who enjoys God’s presence does not “lift up his soul unto vanity.” And David here – even after he sinned – could enjoy God’s presence. But he needed to lift up his soul to God rather than the vanity that he’d been involved in.

So many people who commit sin, don’t approach God like this. They continue in their sin and care nothing for God’s interests in the matter. That’s not what the Lord wants. He wants us to lift up our souls to him.

So, when we’ve sinned, draw near to God. Pray to him. You might feel unworthy. You are unworthy. But God wants you to lift up your soul to him.

Psalm 25 2

Next, we see that after he sinned, David expressed confidence and trust in God. He also petitioned the Lord for deliverance from the shame of his sin.

Beth ב (first letter of second word)

2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be [ashamed/humiliated],
let not mine enemies [triumph/exult/triumphanly rejoice] over me.

After you’ve sinned, express your confidence in God – your trust in him. And don’t just mouth the words. Let your mouth speak out of the abundance of your heart. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And let your mouth follow.

And then don’t be ashamed to ask that God would remove the shame from you. Your sin may have given occasion for people who hate you and the Lord to triumph. It is perfectly legitimate to ask that God prevent that from happening or stop that from happening once it’s happened.

Now, God might see fit to allow you to be ashamed. He’s sovereignly wise and knows what you need to experience. And what you need to experience might be some humbling pain.

However, again, it’s not at all out-of-line for you to ask God to deliver you from shame and reproach that has come to you from your own poor and sinful choices.

Psalm 25 3

Then, it’s appropriate to express confidence in God that he will act according to his own righteous character.

Gimel ג

3 [Yea/Indeed/Certainly], let none that [wait/rely] on thee be ashamed: [i.e., this won’t happen…]
let them be [ashamed/humiliated/thwarted and humiliated] which [transgress/deal treacherously] without cause.

And this is the way the world works when God is in control. Those who wait on God will never ultimately be ashamed.

Now, it doesn’t say “those who are sinless” will never be ashamed. There’s not a single one of that kind of man in this world. No, it says “those who wait on thee” will not be ashamed. That’s what David is doing here. He’s waiting on God for deliverance and help from the mess he’s made for himself.

So, wait on the Lord. Express confidence in him and to him that he will not ultimately allow you to be ashamed.

And then express confidence in the fact that he will bring shame to those who take advantage of your situation. You’ve sinned. Bad things have happened as a result. Enemies have taken advantage of your vulnerabilities produced by your own sin.

But you can be confident that shame will come to those kind of people.

Maybe David had in mind those who cursed him while he was fleeing Jerusalem to escape from his own son Absalom. Those kind of people – who would kick a man while he’s down – they will be ashamed.

Psalm 25 4-5

See our Psalm 25 4-5 article for an explanation of these verses.

Psalm 25 6

And even though David has expressed confidence in God – confidence that the Lord will help him – he still comes back to asking God for mercy in verse 6.

Zayin ז (Skips ו)

6 Remember, O LORD, thy [tender mercies/compassion/compassionate] and thy [lovingkindnesses/faithful deeds];
for they have been [ever/from] of old [i.e., you have always acted in this manner].

David asks for God to act in keeping with his loyal covenant love. And David has history to fall back on that would convince him that this is indeed how God will continue to act.

Psalm 25 7

David then asks God to remember or think about him in a certain way. That is, that God would think of him not in terms of his own sin but rather in terms of God’s loyal covenant love toward him.

Cheth ח

7 [Remember not/Do not hold against me] the sins of my youth,
nor my [transgressions/rebellious acts]:

according to thy [mercy/lovingkindness] [i.e., because you are faithful to me…] [remember thou/extend your favor to] me
for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.

Psalm 25 8

Then David reminds himself of God’s character. And because of God’s character, he’s confident that God will teach him how to move on from his failures.

Teth ט

8 [Good/Kind] and [upright/fair] is the LORD:
[therefore/that is why] will he [teach/instructs] sinners [in the way/the right way to live].

Psalm 25 9

And David continues to express confidence in God’s teaching ministry to him in verse 9.

Yod י

9 The [meek/humble] [will/may] he [guide/lead] in [judgment/justice] [i.e., show them what is right…]:
and the [meek/humble] will he teach his way.

Psalm 25 10

Then David rejoices in the fact that God is so good to those who obey him.

Kaph כ

10 All the paths of the LORD are [mercy/lovingkindness] and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Psalm 25 11

And yet, the thought of verse 10 seems to remind David that he hasn’t obeyed God. And so he asks to be pardoned from this gracious God to whom he’s praying.

Lamed ל

11 For thy [name’s/reputation’s] sake, O LORD,
[pardon mine iniquity/forgive my sin];
for it is great.

And note that David is expressing concern for God’s name or reputation in this context. He also expresses that his sin is not a small matter. No, he says that his sins are great.

Psalm 25 12

Then starting in verse 12 David’s confidence in the Lord’s mercy to him begins to increase.

Mem מ

12 What man is he that feareth the LORD?
him shall he [teach/instruct] in the way that he shall choose [i.e., show him how to live…].

So, to the one who fears the Lord, he can expect once more this teaching from the Lord as to what he ought to do in life.

Psalm 25 13

David goes on to mention a few more blessings such a man can anticipate in verse 13.

Nun נ

13 His soul shall dwell [at ease/in prosperity];
and his [seed/descendants] shall inherit the [earth/land].

These would have been blessings promised by God in the Mosaic Covenant. And it’s interesting to think that David would have been considering his children inheriting the land. Because for a time, it may have seemed to him as if none of his children would survive in order to inherit the land. And yet, at least his Solomon did and became king after his father.

Psalm 25 14

And we see more confidence from David in verse 14.

Samech ס

14 The [secret/guidance] of the LORD is [with/for] them that fear him;
and he will [shew them/make them know] [i.e., the demands of…] his covenant.

David says here that the key to getting God’s guidance is to fear him – to reverence him – to live in a way that would demonstrate that you fear disappointing him.

Psalm 25 15

And then David seems to finish for a time his expressions of confidence in the Lord with verse 15.

Ayin ע

15 Mine eyes are [ever/continually] toward the LORD [i.e., for help…];
for he shall [pluck/free] my feet out of the net [i.e., of the enemy…].

Psalm 25 16

Then David goes back to making petitions to God in verse 16.

Pe פ

16 Turn thee unto me, and [have mercy upon/be gracious to] me;
for I am [desolate/lonely/alone] and [afflicted/oppressed].

Psalm 25 17

Tsadeh צ

17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged:
O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Psalm 25 18

Resh (Skips ק) ר #1

18 [Look upon/See] mine affliction and my [pain/trouble];
and forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25 19

Resh ר #2

19 [Consider/Watch] mine enemies; for they [are many/outnumber me];
and they hate me with [cruel/violent] hatred.

Psalm 25 20

Sin/Shin ש

20 [O keep/Guard] my soul, and deliver me:
let me not be ashamed; for I [put my trust/take refuge/take shelter] in thee.

Psalm 25 21

Tau ת

21 Let integrity and [uprightness/godliness] [preserve/protect] me;
for I [wait/rely] on thee.

Psalm 25 22

And with his own personal sin completely dealt with, David turns his attention to the troubles brought to the entire people of God of his day – Israel – and the trouble they experience due to their sin in verse 22.

Pe פ

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his [troubles/distress].

So, as we recover from some sin in our lives, let’s take a queue from Psalm 25. Pour out your complaint to the Lord, express your confidence in him, make your petitions known to him. Even let the knowledge of your own sin lead you to think of the needs of others for forgiveness.

And, Lord-willing, these instructions in How to Pray After You’ve Sinned will be a help to you.

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