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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 25

Verses 1-22


THIS is the second of the "alphabetic psalms." It is not so irregular as Psalms 9:1-20; but still is defective in some respects, the letters beth and vav being omitted in their proper place, resh being substituted for koph, and a second he being addled at the end. Some of these variations may be accidental, but others would seem to have been intentional, being found also in Psalms 34:1-22. The psalm consists of a number of prayers, reflections, and pious ejaculations, not drawn up in any systematic order, and not very clearly connected by any single line of thought. The separate portions have, however, in many cases much beauty; and it is observed that "some of the most precious spiritual treasures of the Church have been drawn from tiffs psalm" (Kay). The thoughts are quite worthy of the writer to whom it is attributed in the title, viz. David; and the alphabetic arrangement, which has been urged against David's authorship, is scarcely conclusive on the point. Many of the best critics regard Psalms 9:1-20. and 34; which, like this, are imperfectly alphabetic, as David's.

The metrical arrangement is not very marked. Some divide the psalm into five unequal strophes—Psalms 9:1-7, Psalms 9:8-10, Psalms 9:11-15, verses 16-21, and verse 22; others see no divisions beyond those of the Hebrew verses, which are followed in our Authorized Bible.

Psalms 25:1

Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift; up my soul (comp. Psalms 86:4; Psalms 143:8). The Hebrew phrase does not mean a temporary raising of the heart to God, but a permanent setting of the affections on him (see Deuteronomy 24:15; and comp. Psalms 24:4).

Psalms 25:2.

O my God, I trust in thee (comp. Psalms 7:1; Psalms 11:1; Psalms 31:1-24. I, 6, etc.). Let me not be ashamed; i.e. do not disappoint my trust, and thereby bring me to shame (comp. Job 6:20). Let not mine enemies triumph over me. It does not appear whether the "enemies" intended are domestic or foreign foes. Either would triumph were David disappointed of a confident expectation.

Psalms 25:3

Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed. The prayer passes from the particular to the universal. What David desires for himself he desires also for all the true servants of God—all who wait on him, look to him, seek for indications of his will (comp. Psalms 123:2). Let them he ashamed which transgress without cause. Let shame be the portion, not of thy servants, but of thy adversaries—of those who transgress (or rebel) without reasonable cause. Such persons deserve to be brought to shame.

Psalms 25:4

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. An echo of the prayer of Moses when his people were rebellious at Sinai (Exodus 33:13), reiterated by David in Psalms 27:11, and perhaps again in Psalms 86:11 (see also Psalms 119:33). Man is so wanting in spiritual understanding, so morally blind and ignorant, that, unless enlightened from on high, he cannot discern aright the "way of godliness;" he does not know at any given moment what God would have him to do. Hence it is the constant prayer of every religious man that God will "lighten his darkness;" "make his way plain before his face;" "show him the path that he should walk in;" enable him to see, if no more, at any rate the next step which it is his duty to take. The idea has been beautifully expressed by a modern poet—

"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from homo;
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."

Psalms 25:5

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me. "Thy truth" would seem to mean here "the true, right path"—the "way of godliness." The prayer is that God will both teach this to the psalmist and "lead him in it"—cause him, i.e; to walk in it, and never stray from it, so long as he lives. For thou art the God of my salvation. Thou art the God from whom alone I obtain salvation, and to whom alone, therefore, I am bound to pray for everything on which salvation depends—as, for instance, light and guidance. On thee do I wait all the day. In prayer for these blessings, I wait on thee all the day long.

Psalms 25:6

Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies, and thy loving-kindnesses. Past mercies form a ground for the expectation of future blessings. God's character cannot change; his action as one time will always be consistent and harmonious with his action at another. If he has been kind and merciful to David in the past, David may count on his continuing the same in the future. For they have been ever of old. Not lately only, or to David only, have his mercies been shown, but through all past time, to all his servants, from of old.

Psalms 25:7

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Job thought that God counted against him the "iniquities of his youth" (Job 13:26); David, with greater faith and a deeper insight into the true character of God, can ask with confidence that his may not be reckoned against him. An earthly father does not remember them against his son. How much less will our heavenly Father! According to thy mercy remember thou me, for thy goodness' sake, O Lord! Still, put me not from thy mind. "Remember thou me" always—but in the light of thy tender mercy, with the rays of thy love streaming over me and hiding the deformities of my transgressions. Do this "for thy goodness' sake," i.e. because thou art essential Goodness, perfect Tenderness, perfect Love.

Psalms 25:8

Good and upright is the Lord. A transition. From prayer the psalmist turns to reflection, and meditates awhile (Psalms 25:8-10) on the character and ways of God. God is, indeed, "good," as he has implied in the preceding verse—i.e; kind, tender, gentle, merciful; hut he is also "upright" (יָשָׁר)—just, straight, strict, undeviating from the path of right. As Bishop Butler observes, "Divine goodness, with which, if I mistake not, we make very free in our speculations, may not be a bare single disposition to produce happiness, but a disposition to make the good, the faithful, the honest man happy"—s disposition, i.e; to be just as well as merciful to distribute happiness by the canon of right. Therefore will he teach sinners in the way. He will not abandon sinners—this is his "goodness;" but will reclaim them, chasten them, make them to walk in his way—this is his uprightness.

Psalms 25:9

The meek will he guide in judgment. It is only such sinners as are "meek"—i.e.. humble, submissive, contrite, teachable—that God will take in hand and teach. The proud and perverse he will leave to their own devices, but the meek he will guide in the paths of righteousness, and the meek will he teach his way.

Psalms 25:10

All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. Mercy and truth will meet together (Psalms 85:10) in the case of those who, however they may have sinned, meekly submit themselves to God's guidance, and thenceforth keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Psalms 25:11

For thy Name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity. The psalmist here resumes the attitude of prayer, which he had laid aside in Psalms 25:8. The" sins of his youth," and his other "transgressions," which he had asked God to forget (Psalms 25:7), rankle in his own memory, and force him to cry out again and again for pardon (see Psalms 25:18; Psalms 32:5; Psalms 38:18; Psalms 39:8; Psalms 41:4, etc.). Here he beseeches God to pardon him "for his Name's sake," i.e. for the honour of his Name, that his mercy may Be known far and wide, and his goodness cause all the world to praise him. He enforces his plea by the confession, For it (i.e. his iniquity) is great; so great, that his need of forgiveness is excessive: so great, that to forgive it will be truly Godlike; so great, that, unless forgiven, he must be lost. (For his "great sin," see 2 Samuel 11:4-17.)

Psalms 25:12

What man is he that feareth the Lord? Once more we have a series of reflections (Psalms 25:12-15)—first, with respect to the God-fearing man. Every such man shall have favour shown him by God—him shall he (i.e. God) teach in the way that he shall choose. This is, of course, the right way—the way of God's commandments (Psalms 119:30, Psalms 119:173). God shall make his way plain to the God-fearing man.

Psalms 25:13

His soul shall dwell at case; rather, his soul shall dwell in bliss; i.e. he shall enjoy, while on earth, blessings of every kind. And his seed shall inherit the earth. His posterity after him shall be continued upon the earth, and shall prosper (comp. Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:29). There is a tendency in righteousness to "inherit the earth," only held in check by accidental and temporary circumstances.

Psalms 25:14

The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. God favours those who fear him with secret and confidential communion (comp. Proverbs 3:32). He "comes unto them, and makes his abode with them" (John 14:23), and "teaches them" (John 14:26), and enlightens them, and leads them in his way, and learns them (Psalms 25:5), and "seals their instruction" (Job 33:16). And he will show them his covenant; i.e. make them see the full force of it, since his "commandment is exceeding broad" (Psalms 119:96).

Psalms 25:15

Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord. David is always looking to God (Psalms 141:8), waiting for him (Psalms 40:1; Psalms 62:1, Psalms 62:5; Psalms 69:3, etc.), expecting his providences, anticipating his deliverances (Psalms 3:7; Psalms 5:11; Psalms 7:1; Psalms 9:3, etc.). He is now, apparently, in some danger or difficulty, and in need of the Divine succour (comp. Psalms 25:2). For he shall pluck my feet out of the net (comp. Psalms 9:15; Psalms 10:10; Psalms 31:5; Psalms 35:7, etc.).

Psalms 25:16

Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me. The approach of peril is regarded as a sign that God has "turned away his face." He is besought, therefore, to turn towards one who needs his aid. For I am desolate and afflicted (comp. Psalms 25:17, Psalms 25:18). The affliction evidently comes from enemies, either foreign or domestic (Psalms 25:2, Psalms 25:19); but its nature is not further indicated.

Psalms 25:17, Psalms 25:18

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. The affliction, of whatever kind it may have been, was regarded by David as a punishment sent on him for his sins. Of his sins he was at this time deeply conscious (Psalms 25:7, Psalms 25:11) and deeply repentant. Probably they included his great sin (see the comment on Psalms 25:11).

Psalms 25:19

Consider ,nine enemies; for they are many (comp. Psalms 3:7; Psalms 5:8; Psalms 6:7, Psalms 6:10; Psalms 7:1, Psalms 7:6; Psalms 17:9; Psalms 18:2, Psalms 18:17); and they hate me with cruel hatred. This would appear to point to domestic rather than foreign foes (see 2 Samuel 16:6-8).

Psalms 25:20

O keep my soul, and deliver me (comp. Psalms 6:4; Psalms 17:3; Psalms 22:20, etc.): let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee (see comment on Psalms 25:2).

Psalms 25:21

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me. Scarcely his own inherent integrity and uprightness, the want of which he has deplored when confessing that his iniquity is great (Psalms 25:11). Rather an integrity and uprightness whereto he hopes to attain, by the grace of God, in days to come—an integrity and uprightness for which he "waits" For I wait on thee.

Psalms 25:22

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. It is supposed by some that this verse was added during the "trouble" of the Captivity; and certainly its stand-lug outside the alphabetical arrangement favours this view; but the similar irregularity at the close of Psalms 34:1-22, rather makes against it. David evidently was not a slave to a mechanical arrangement; and any pious Israelite, at any age (therefore certainly David) might naturally append a prayer for his people to an outpouring of prayer for himself. Moreover, redemption is an idea familiar to David (Psalms 19:14; Psalms 26:11; Psalms 31:5; Psalms 34:22).


Psalms 25:4, Psalms 25:5

Show me thy ways, etc.

Prayer ought to be the most natural, as it is the noblest, form of speech. It would be if human nature were not off its balance, out of tune, morally crippled and disjointed. In extremity of peril or grief, the instinct of prayer often wakes up even in godless hearts—

And lips say, 'God be merciful!'
That ne'er said, 'God be praised!'"

But no godless lips would be surprised by danger or stung by pain into uttering such a prayer as this (Romans 8:26). The Book of Psalms abounds in prayers like this, or like verses 6, 7, 11, which bear the stamp of the Holy Spirit's teaching.


1. Concerning himself. Nature is a revelation of God; a lesson-book stored with Divine meaning (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20). His existence; his infinite wisdom and goodness in design, power in execution, ruling, upholding; unchanging faithfulness;—these are lessons we may read, if we have eyes, in this glorious universe. But nature has no message to the individual; no answer to this petition, "Show me, teach me, lead me." Like a machine, it is guided by fixed laws; all is universal, calculable, relentless. The knowledge of God the heart needs is personal. Does he care for me, love me, invite my love? Have I sinned against him? and, if so, will he pardon? Will he listen if! speak, answer if I pray? Is that Arctic creed true, that he

"Sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish or a sparrow fan"?

Or that blessed faith, that, while not a sparrow dies without the will of my heavenly Father, I count for more in his reckoning "than many sparrows"?

2. Concerning curatives. Our life, duty, salvation. This is the teaching the psalmist asks for: "thy ways;" "thy paths;" "Lead me in thy truth." The revelation of Scripture in a sense resembles that of nature. It is universal—for mankind ("all nations," Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47). The individual soul needs more than revelation—inspiration, the light and leading of the Holy Spirit.


1. Not as a substitute for Scripture. The inward light is not to supersede the written Word. God has given us there, so far as words can convey it, all the knowledge we need of himself, and of our duty, salvation, and destiny.

2. Nor yet to make us independent of human teaching. God does not bestow equal light on all Christians; but larger, deeper, clearer knowledge and wisdom to some, that they may impart to others. A mind too proud to learn from man is not in a fit state to be taught of God (1 Corinthians 12:8; Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 4:12).

3. But the capacity to apprehend Divine truth is from God. So is a right disposition of heart—faith, humility, sympathy, desire for holiness, love God. The Bible is a sealed book to the understanding as long as the heart is closed against the gospel (Matthew 13:13-15; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27). The Spirit of God can teach us more in a single verse or sentence of a sermon, book, or letter, than we can gain without his teaching from whole volumes (Acts 16:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:5),

Remark: This truth is vital to Protestantism. Private judgment apart from Divine teaching would mean only the right to err. Daily experience shows the adequacy of the Scriptures, studied with earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit apart from human teaching, to convert the heart and bless and guide the life (John 6:45). Without such prayer and Divine teaching the most learned biblical scholar may utterly fail to reach the hidden heart of Scripture.

Psalms 25:10

Glorious prospect of God's dealings.

"All the paths" etc. The spirit of this psalm is lowly but tranquil faith. Lowly, because of deep sense of sin (Psalms 25:7, Psalms 25:11, Psalms 25:18)and experience of sorrow (Psalms 25:2, Psalms 25:15-17); tranquil, because resting in God (Psalms 25:1, Psalms 25:6, Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:12). Like a flower rooted in a rock-cleft, that shivers with every breeze, hut which you may tear to pieces but not uproot. This tenth verse contains an answer to the prayer of Psalms 25:4. Starting from his own experience, the psalmist is elevated to this glorious universal prospect of God's dealings. Consider

(1) the features here selected as characteristic of God's dealings: "mercy and truth;"

(2) the assurance that these are never wanting in any instance: "all the paths," etc.


1. "Mercy;" or, "loving-kindness," as the same Hebrew word is often rendered. (In Proverbs 31:26 and some other places, "kindness.") Although it is a useful general rule to employ one English. word constantly to represent one Hebrew or Greek word, yet we could not afford to spare either of these words from our English Bible. Rules must not be pressed with pedantic strictness when they hurt in place of helping. Mercy, or loving-kindness, means goodness, and something more—a personal reference, inviting personal trust and thankfulness. You show goodness, large-hearted bounty, if you set up a public fountain where one is needed. But if you are journeying through the desert, and. share your own scanty supply with a traveller ready to die of thirst, that is mercy, loving-kindness. When Israel dwelt in Goshen, God's goodness was shown in every ripening fruit and bending ear of corn. But perhaps the poor slaves forgot to praise the bountiful hand which fed their oppressors as richly. But when a table was spread for them morning by morning in the desert, and water gushed out of the rock, Israel learned the lesson they were brought there to learn, and praised the Lord, "for he is good; his mercy endureth for ever." So with God's greatest Gift: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (Joh 3:16; 1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:10). But it is in the personal reception of this universal gift that "whosoever believeth" really learns its value. The sense of personal sin and unworthiness is indispensable to any adequate sense of God's mercy (comp. Genesis 32:10).

2. Truth is the other great feature of God's character here set forth. These two are inseparable (Psalms 85:10). Neither apart from the other would furnish a gospel. God's mercy is the matter and motive of our faith; his truth its warrant and assurance (1 John 5:9-11). Among men one would rather trust a hard-hearted but incorruptibly truthful man, than one full of kind feeling but faithless. In God the two are as inseparable as the form and the colour which make to our view one image.

II. THESE GLORIOUS ATTRIBUTES OF GOD ARE CONSTANT, because he is unchangeable. They characterize all his dealings without exception, for God is always himself "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." The psalmist adds, "unto such," etc. This twofold description of God's written Word corresponds with the two features we have been contemplating of the Divine character. "His covenant," including all his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20), is the expression of his mercy; "his testimonies," the utterance of his truth. Inseparable, like the glories of his nature. They also correspond with the twofold nature of faith—personal trust in God, and intelligent belief o! Divine truth. Why this limitation—"unto such," etc.? Are not God's mercy and truth his free gift to all men—the charter from which none may bar them? Surely, if they will receive them. Truth is not truth to one who refuses to believe it—treats it as a fancy or a lie. A promise is no promise to one who rejects it (1 John 5:10). Such limitation lies in the nature of things, not in any arbitrary appointment. All are included who are willing to be included. None are shut out but those who shut themselves out (1 Timothy 2:4-6). Does any child of God, sorely tried in mind, body, or estate, find it hard to hold fast this faith? Are you tempted to think some of God's ways unmerciful—that some of his promises fail? Rest assured this is your ignorance and weakness, not God's harshness or forgetfulness. This was Asaph's temptation, so pathetically recorded in Psalms 77:1-20; so triumphantly overcome. When "the end of the Lord" comes to be known, every one who has "kept his covenant and his testimonies" shall find that "hope maketh not ashamed;" and shall confess, "He hath done all things well."

Psalms 25:11

For thy Name's sake.

The distinction between "natural religion" and "revealed religion," which makes a great figure in theological writings, finds no place in Scripture. Religion, as set forth in the Bible, is alike natural and revealed. Air nature, human nature above the rest, bears witness to God. Ignorant of God, and separated from him either by ignorance or by want of natural affection, man is in an unnatural condition—out of harmony with his native surroundings. But just as it is not enough for vision that we have eyes, or for hearing that we have ears—we need light and sound—so if religion is to have any reality and worth, it is not enough that our nature cries out for God; we must have the light of Divine truth, the voice of Divine teaching. This, in a word, is just what is meant by this phrase, so constantly employed in Scripture, "The Name of God." It stands for all that God has made us capable of knowing of him, and all that he has actually made known of himself. This plea, "for thy Name's sake," is accordingly an appeal—first, to God's manifestation (or revelation) of himself to men; and then, further, to his unchangeableness; and to his pledged word of promise.

I. To GOD'S MANIFESTATION OF HIMSELF. In other words, to his recorded dealings with mankind. Our knowledge here, as elsewhere, rests on experience. When we speak of the Bible as "a revelation," we express but half the truth. It is the history of revelation—the record of God's progressive manifestation of himself to mankind. Speech is a powerful revealer of character. But words must be accompanied or backed up by deeds, if we are to trust them fully. Conduct reveals character as words cannot. And these, conduct and speech combined, cannot give full, intimate knowledge of any one without converse—personal communion and sympathy. Accordingly, this threefold cord is woven right through the Bible:

(1) the revelation of God in his Word—law, instruction, promise, warning;

(2) the revelation of God in his public dealings with nations and with individuals; and

(3) the revelation of God by his Spirit in personal communion with the soul that seeks and loves him. It is little to say that, outside the Bible, in the religions and religious books of the heathen world, there is no such record, nor any semblance of it. There is nothing from which the very imagination of it could be drawn. To illustrate this threefold manifestation of God would be to go through the whole Bible. The light which dawns in Genesis shines brighter and brighter, till in the gospel we have the perfect day (1 John 2:8). The words of Jesus tell all that words can express of God. His atoning death is everywhere in the New Testament declared to be the highest, deepest, most convincing revelation of both God's love and righteousness—the two main features of his character. And personal communion with God cannot possibly go beyond our Saviour's promise to his disciples (John 14:7, John 14:10, John 14:21), combined with the promise of the indwelling presence of God's Spirit (verses 16, 17).

II. AN APPEAL TO GOD'S UNCHANGEABLENESS. In other words, to what in men we call consistency and stability of character. This is all-important; yet in the case of men we must rest content with something short of complete certainty. The best of men may change or break down. We may say—

"He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust."

But temptation may find some weakness in him. Disappointment may sour his spirit. Some secret sin may undermine his virtue and piety. Circumstances, if they cannot conquer his will, may destroy his power to make good his word. But God cannot change (2 Timothy 2:13; Malachi 3:6). The revelation of God in Scripture is progressive but consistent. His Name is, as it were, spelled out letter by letter; but no letter once written is ever erased. In this sense, therefore, our knowledge of God has greater certainty than of our fellow-men. What is true of them to-day may not hold good this day year. But 1 John 4:16 is true for all time, for all eternity.

III. AN APPEAL TO GOD'S WORD OF PROMISE. When an honest man puts his name to a promise or engagement, he is bound by a tie stronger than iron. God has condescended to give us this security. Purblind critics may call this "anthropomorphism;" it is what the Bible calls "the grace of God" ― the settled plan and effort of the Father of spirits, by coming near to us to draw us home to him. Glimpses of this sublime idea, irrevocable Divine promise, may be found in heathen literature ('Homer,' e.g.)—a religion based on God's promise will be found nowhere but in the Bible. Fear not, then, to use this plea, which God himself puts in thy mouth, "For thy Name's sake!"


Psalms 25:1-22

Prayer: its warrant, petitions, and arguments.

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. verses 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 (verse 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 (verse 10); hence he cannot shut his ear to their prayer (see also verse 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 (verse 13)."His soul shall lodge in goodness" (Hebrew cf. Psalms 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 (John 15:3, 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. Psalms 121:1; Psalms 143:8). This the psalmist did

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

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

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

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

(5) Perpetually (Psalms 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 (John 15:7). 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 (John 15:16), troubled in heart (John 15:17), in a net (John 15:15), surrounded with bitter enemies (John 15:19). 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 (John 15:2).

2. He prays for light (John 15:4).

3. For teaching in the way in which he should go (John 15:4, John 15:5).

4. That he may have experience in God's faithfulness (John 15:5; see notes, 'Variorum Bible').

5. For loving-kindness and mercy (John 15:6).

6. For forgiveness (John 15:11).

7. For Divine guardianship (John 15:20).

8. For a gracious, compassionate look (John 15:18).

9. That amidst all temptations to wander from the way, he may be kept in integrity and uprightness (John 15:21, John 15:22).

But the pleading one cannot close without one prayer for the Church of God (John 15:22; cf. Psalms 51:18, Psalms 51:19). 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" (John 15:2). 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" (John 15:5). 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. (John 15:6). David's past experience of God's mercy was a pledge that God would not forget him.

4. "For thy Name's sake" (John 15:11). 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" (John 15:11)! 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. (John 15:3, 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.


Psalms 25:1-7

Onward and upward.

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 (Psalms 25:4), 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 (Psalms 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 (Psalms 25:6). "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.

Psalms 25:7

Sins of youth.

"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, hut 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.

Psalms 25:8-14

Here we may learn somehing 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. (Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:9.) 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. (Psalms 25:10-14.) 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.

Psalms 25:15-22

There are three stages deicted 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; hut 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. (Psalms 25:16-22.) 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. (Psalms 25:20-22.) 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.


Psalms 25:1-7

Trust in God.

"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. (Psalms 25:1-3.) 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. (Psalms 25:4, Psalms 25:5.) "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. (Psalms 25:6, Psalms 25:7.) 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.

Psalms 25:8-14

The supreme importance of Divine interposition.

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 (Psalms 25:8). 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. (Psalms 25:10.) 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. (Psalms 25:12-14.) 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. (Psalms 25:12.) 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 (Psalms 25:13), 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. (Psalms 25:14.) "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.

Psalms 25:15-22

The troubles of the righteous.

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. (Psalms 25:15.) "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. (Psalms 25:16.) On account of his loneliness in his troubledesolate. 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. (Psalms 25:17, Psalms 25:18.) 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. (Psalms 25:19, Psalms 25:20.) 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. (Psalms 25:21.) 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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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 25". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.