Psalm 25: Crying Out in Loneliness and Affliction

This is a writing that I recently found in my “archives.” It was written in 2009, but I think it captures the essence of Psalm 25 and the cry of David’s soul as he calls to YHWH.

Here is another psalm from David that is devoted to the shepherd-king crying out to the Lord in the midst of his affliction and distress. The psalm is divided into five stanzas.

In the first stanza David lifts his soul to the Lord and pleads that the Lord would not let him be ashamed. Then he reminds himself that the Lord will not let those who love Him be ashamed, but it is the treacherous who will be ashamed. David is setting the tone for the psalm by crying out to the Lord. This will be a psalm in which David is asking the Lord to again be gracious to him and to not let him be ashamed.

After the initial cry for help, David turns in the second stanza to seek guidance and direction from the Lord. “Make me know Thy ways, O Lord, teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me,” David is acknowledging that he needs the Lord’s direction. He is in a place where he must plead for the Lord to be his guide. This is a plea also for wisdom. That plea is coupled with a need for forgiveness of David’s sins. David acknowledges that part of the reason for his distress is his own sin and he needs the Lord’s forgiveness before things can really be put right. The sins of his youth and his transgressions must be wiped away by the Lord’s grace and lovingkindness. I can identify with this completely. Not only do the sins of my youth need to be removed and wiped away, but also the foolishness of my recent past and maybe all of my past must be erased. Yes, Lord, I have been foolish and have made a terrible decision that has resulted in virtually every measurable aspect of my life being worse off than it was before. What will You do, Lord, for Your servant who makes a foolish decision? I suppose You probably won’t do anything except let me reap the consequences of my decision. I come to You, Lord, and ask You to wipe out the regret and the shame of making such a stupid decision. Will You do that, O God?

David begins the third stanza with truths about the Lord and about His amazing goodness. He instructs sinners in the way. Consider that the Holy One, the Lord God actually instructs sinners and leads them into the way. This could easily be understood as a verse about God’s sovereignty in salvation, that He guides sinners into the way of salvation. He leads the humble in justice and teaches the humble His way. Notice that the Lord is drawn to the humble. He ministers to and leads the humble, not the proud and the mighty. And who are the humble? How can we recognize them? We can identify the humble as those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. The humble are those who love the law of the Lord and who obey the Lord’s commandments. Then again David appeals to the Lord’s mercy and grace to pardon his iniquity, which he acknowledges to be great. David so longs to please the Lord and to obey Him and this is reflected in his frequent pleas for pardon.

Stanza four asks, “Who is the man who fears the Lord?” In some of his psalms, David answers this question with a definition in terms of the behavior of the one who fears the Lord. In other words, he answers the question so that you can identify the man who fears the Lord (Psalm 15 for example). Here, however, David assumes that we know the type of man who fears the Lord and instead of a definition, he tells of the blessings that come to the one who fears the Lord. The Lord will instruct him in the way he should choose. When he seeks for direction and guidance and listens, the Lord will make his paths straight. “His soul will abide in prosperity.” The man who fears the Lord will have a sense of prosperity and this will often manifest itself in material terms. There will often be material blessing for those who fear the Lord. David looks to the Lord for his protection and his deliverance, because the Lord has promised to pluck his feet out of the net.

The fifth and final stanza is, in many ways, the climax of the psalm and is the most impactful stanza. David’s cry to the Lord becomes pointed and urgent. In the simple words of the psalm we can sense the psalmist’s deep anguish. He is in distress and needs deliverance. How many of us can identify with David in this hour of distress? How many of us have even very recently experienced this sense of despair and panic as something that we thought was fixed and reliable gives way and launches us into emotional and psychological freefall? “Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.” O Lord, turn to me and ignore me no longer. Let me know that You are there and that You care about me. Lord, let me see Your hand in motion so that I know that You hear my cry! “Be gracious to me for I am lonely and afflicted.” I feel all alone and so I suffer alone. There is no one who can share or understand my anguish. But Lord, You know! So come to me, Lord, and be my comforter and deliverer! “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses.” In my anxiety and my fear, my troubles grow larger and more ominous. Their malevolence is almost tangible. Lord, protect me, because my troubles threaten to overwhelm me. Come quickly to my aid, O Lord, my deliverer. “Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.” As David cries to the Lord, he also remembers that he must have a pure heart and clean hands, and so for the third time in the psalm he asks for forgiveness. Central to the idea of deliverance is the reminder that the Lord rescues the pure and the righteous. He comes to the aid of those who fear Him, and those who fear Him are repentant and long for clean hands and a pure heart and seek the cleansing grace of forgiveness at all times. Lord, because You delight in repentance, I will ask You to cleanse me. Many enemies surround me “And they hate me with violent hatred.” David’s enemies were probably the visible kind, those who held swords in their hands. Mine, on the other hand, are those that attack not my body but my mind. There are the demons of doubt and regret, of despair and loneliness, of fear and worry and anxiety. Those who hate me with a violent hatred are the devils that attack me at night when all is silent or assault me when I think too long about all the obstacles I have to overcome. With merciless violence they demolish my self-confidence and cause me to question the love of my God and thus they render me useless. Lord, defend me from their attacks! Rise up, O Lord, and protect me from these evil and foul thoughts. Give me the courage to trust in You in spite of all the demonic lies and the flaming arrows of affliction. Lord, let me be refined and come forth as gold. If You try me and test me, Lord, give me the grace to persevere and to remain as a testimony to Your amazing grace. “Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for Thee.” Then David concludes his psalm by asking for the redemption of Israel.

SDG      rmb      3/10/2009

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