Posted on July 1st, 2009
Ps. 25 is an acrostic poem, meaning the verses begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. But more importantly, it is a Psalm that describes the single-minded devotion of the child of God, and beautifully states the way of salvation. David begins, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.” Everything that follows is a commentary on those words: what it means to have a soul lifted up towards God, placing all trust in Him.
Those words, “I lift up my soul,” express the same thing as when we say in the Divine Service, in the Preface to the Holy Communion liturgy, “Lift up your hearts. We lift them up unto the Lord.” These words from the Psalm and from the liturgy call us to set our desire upon God Himself, to long for Him, His Word, His truth. The words from the beginning of this Psalm, and in the liturgy, are our response to the exhortation of St. Paul, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
The “things that are above” are the ways and paths of the LORD, while the “things that are on earth” are the ways and paths of fallen man. This theme persists throughout the Psalm, beginning with the prayer in verse 4, “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” What are the ways and paths of the LORD? The Psalm itself explains: “He teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness.” Thus to walk in the way of the LORD is to have the same mind as the LORD – a mind of mercy and compassion.
To these, the Psalm gives this promise: “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” The word here translated friendship is rendered by the NKJ as secret, but neither really get at the heart of the meaning. The Hebrew word that David uses means council or counsel. The one who fears God, reverences Him, has respect for Him and His Word, receives and benefits from His counsel, exhorting the man of God to trust in the LORD’s mercy and likewise to show mercy to others.
Where do we get that counsel? There is a liturgical, sacrificial meaning to the verse, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD.” That word “ever” frequently indicates the regular sacrifices of the tabernacle, the daily prayers and rituals at the LORD’s altar. When the psalmist says, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD,” he is saying that he keeps on persistently in the appointed worship and prayers of the tabernacle even while he is “trapped,” with his feet in the net. He keeps on and persists because he is confident that the LORD will deliver.
Now the heart of God’s deliverance, the Psalm makes clear, is the forgiveness of sins: “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great…. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.”
Another important theme in this Psalm is in eyes, looking and seeing. Verses 15, 18, and 19 all go together: v15, My eyes look toward the LORD; and in vv18-19, the word “consider” is actually in Hebrew “look”: Our eyes are toward the LORD where He has promised to be (in the OT, in the sacrifices of the altar; and in the NT, in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the delivery of that sacrifice to us in the sacrament of the altar)—our eyes are toward that, and then we have a prayer for the LORD to put His eyes on us, to look on my affliction and trouble, and forgive all my sins. Then, in v19, we ask the LORD to look at, consider our many enemies, who are assailing us and trying to turn us away from God.
We are constantly in danger, danger even from ourselves, so the next prayer is, “Oh, guard my soul!” We cannot sustain ourselves, we are helpless and hopeless on our own, thus we need God to guard, keep, watch, preserve our souls.
Then finally the psalmist prays what is the heart of the Gospel “Redeem Israel” – redeem, ransom, these are words of the vicarious satisfaction. Everything depends on God’s action to deliver us, for by ourselves, we have our feet in the net, and the sins of our past troubling us and counting against us. Everything, this Psalm makes clear, depends on God’s action for us: He forgives, He guards, He redeems.
So when we die, we want to have these words on our lips: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; remember me for Your mercy’s sake, O LORD.” Thus we make our dying prayer, where everything rests on the mercy of God. +INJ+