Going through the life of David, as we have been, we see what we might consider a great man. He was a man with great accomplishments. He was a man with great failures. He was a man with great opposition. But we know better, don’t we? And what we know is that David was anything but great. If there was any greatness in him, it could only be defined in the fact that David was a man with great sin, and because of that he was in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.
Here in Psalm 25, we see just that. We don’t see a great man at all. Instead we see a man that seems weak and helpless. Almost as if he’s caught in a trap, and can’t get out without help. There’s a certain desperation about the man writing this Psalm; one that I think we can all relate to.
Yet, what sets David apart; what sets all of us apart in times like these, is that he realizes that he’s helpless, and he realizes that he’s weak, and he realizes that he’s trapped, and that he can’t get out without help. Brother’s and Sister’s, the gospel is centered on that very core idea. That we are trapped, and cannot get out, and only by the help of another will we be saved.
This Psalm is built on that same foundation. David isn’t asking for strength or power here. No, David’s asking for God to come to his aid, to wield God’s own power, and to deliver him from all his troubles. The first two lines of this Psalm leave little doubt of that:
1 To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in You;
David isn’t just committing his life to God, but his very soul. David takes that which is most precious to him, and he gives it to another. And why does he do that? Well, because when you have something that’s precious to you, you want to do whatever you can to keep it safe. When someone is about to have a child, they start looking for the best strollers, and the best car seats, and even the best car in some cases. That’s when people start to consider things they never thought of before, like electrical outlets, and coffee table corners, and cats. You see the world differently, because now you possess something that means the world to you, and you don’t want to see any harm come to it. And if you can’t take care of it, you give it to someone who can. People do this with their money all the time. ‘You know, I love my money, and I really don’t want anything bad to happen to it, so I’m going to give it to this investor guy, who knows what to do with it, so that I won’t loose it’.
David is doing the same thing. “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You” (Psalm 25:1-2). David is taking himself completely out of the equation. He’s pledging his life and his spirit to God; and furthermore, he’s committing his very faith in God to God Himself. David is not looking for a pat on the back here, he’s looking forward to his redemption in the Savior to come. That starts to come out more as we continue with verse 2:
2b Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
The NASB actually states verse 3 as an imperative. “Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed” (Psalm 25:3). It’s not meant to be a request, but an absolute, unavoidable truth. No one who waits on the LORD will be put to shame.
That word ‘wait’ in verse 3 isn’t just talking about patience. But it means ‘wait’ as in ‘to hope for’. David is hoping for God to spare him of his shame; the shame of his sin, and his wickedness. That’s what it means to be ashamed; it means to be a disgrace and to stand guilty. That’s why David is writing this Psalm to God. It’s deliverance from judgment that David is looking forward to. That’s what David is trusting in, that’s what he’s waiting for, that’s what he’s hoping for. We see this all throughout the Psalms, right? Consider what he says in Psalm 69:
1 Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
5 O God, You know my foolishness;
And my sins are not hidden from You.
6 Let not those who wait for You,
O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
7 Because for Your sake I have borne reproach;
Shame has covered my face.
Now take a look at Psalm 6:
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
2 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled:
But You, O LORD – how long?
4 Return, O LORD, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies sake!
5 For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?
6 I am weary with my groaning;
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
It grows old because of all my enemies.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;
For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my supplication;
The LORD will receive my prayer.
10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.
There’s no doubt that David was considering his sin before God, in fact, that seems to be David’s main concern. This Psalm isn’t just about hiding out from his enemies. It’s believed that this Psalm was written while David was on the run from King Saul, and that may be true, but if you’re reading this and thinking that is what David is talking about here, then you’re missing out on David’s whole meaning. David only brings up his enemies twice here in Psalm 25, and both times, he brings up his sin right along with it. Verse 2, “Let me not be ashamed (disgraced in sin); Let not my enemies triumph over me” (Psalm 25:2b). Verses 18 & 19, “Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with a cruel hatred” (Psalm 25:18 &19).
David isn’t displaying a fear of his enemies here, he’s making a distinction between them and himself. He’s saying that these men are evil, and they do evil in Your sight, and they are being deliberate in breaking Your commandments, but I’m not like them; I am a sinner, yes, but I seek to follow Your commandments, and Your law. I desire to be upright and blameless, and I put my trust in You, because You’ve promised that You would deliver Your people from destruction. We see that as we continue in verses 4-7:
4 Show me Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your
For they are from old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.
Once again, we’re seeing the same things. ‘Show me Your ways, and Your paths, and Your truth’; and why? Because ‘You are the God of my salvation, and on You I wait all the day’. I’m putting my faith in You, because my salvation depends on You, and without You, I’m left to myself, and that’s a bad thing. And then we see, once again, David applying his salvation toward his own sins in verses 6 & 7, ‘Remember Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindness’, but ‘Don’t remember the sins of my youth, or my transgressions’.
And how does David appeal to God here? “For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD” (Psalm 25:7). David is asking God to remember that he has been saved for God’s own glory, and that all of the promises that he made to the patriarchs were made for that purpose; so that God would be glorified in sparing the lives of His people, despite their wickedness. He’s making the same appeal to God that Moses did when he was present with God, and the Israelites were at the base of Mount Sinai, and made a golden calf to worship. We see that in the book of Exodus 32:
9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
10 “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”
14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Moses and David are making the same plea to God; ‘spare Your people from their deserved destruction, so that You would be glorified in keeping Your promises to them.’ And David can make this argument, why? Because he has the word of God, doesn’t he? He’s read the book of Exodus, just like the rest of us (or at least heard it read aloud). David is putting his trust in God, because he’s heard the word of God proclaim His goodness, and His faithfulness. David has heard about the Israelites in the wilderness, and he’s saying, ‘God kept them, and He fed them, and He led them to the promised land. He HAS done this. And He WILL do it again, because the same promise that He’s made to the Israelites, He’s made to me. That if I seek Him, and wait on Him, and put my faith in Him, and seek to keep His commandments, that I will be redeemed from all of my wickedness.’ That’s how David can go on in Psalm 25 to tell us, with such certainty, all that he speaks about God in the next few verses:
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
9 The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
There’s so much gospel in that little passage, isn’t there? “Good and upright is the LORD” (Psalm 25:8). And why is He good? Because ‘all of His paths are mercy and truth’. So therefore, He teaches sinners, and He guides the humble, and He shows them the way, so that they might keep His covenant and His testimonies. And so, knowing that, we come before Him to humble ourselves, and acknowledge our sin, so that we might be forgiven, and be taught His ways, so that we can proclaim His mercy and His truth.
In the same way that David may have had Moses in mind when he wrote these words, I’d like to think that the tax collector that Jesus spoke about had David’s words in mind when he came to the temple to pray, and didn’t utter a single word to God in his own defense, but simply cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). That’s the prayer of a repentant sinner. That’s the prayer of a circumcised heart. That’s the prayer that David is praying. And once again, we see why. David continues in the next few verses to explain the new reality that he’s able to experience through the promises of God; the promises that he’s looking toward, and trusting in:
12 Who is the man that fears the LORD?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
This is what David is expecting through his faith, and his trust in God. In verse 12 we see that David knows that God is going to teach him; we saw that before in verses 8 & 9. Verse 13, David knows that God will preserve him. Once again, we’re being pointed back to the promise that God made to Abraham, and Isaac, and even the Israelites in the wilderness, when God preserved His people, and they never had need of anything. They were fed, and their clothes never wore away. David says in verse 14, that God will reveal Himself to him. How does that apply to us? Well, God has revealed His Son to us, and we now know the mystery of the gospel. And then we see that David understands that God will protect him. No matter what situation we’re faced with, the children of God will never have to worry about being stranded, or entangled. We may go through some hard times, but God will use that to teach us, and to reveal Himself to us, and He will preserve us through it all.
David sees at this point, once again, that God is the only one he can turn to. God is the protector, God is the teacher, God is the Savior. And so David once again submits his plea to God, to save him, not just from trouble, but from death and separation from God.
16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
18 Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
19 Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
This passage sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? “Forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:18), “Consider my enemies” (Psalm 25:19), “Keep my soul” (Psalm 25:20), “Let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 25:20), “I put my trust in You” (Psalm 25:20), “I wait for You” (Psalm 25:21). We’ve been reading those things all throughout this Psalm. But, once again, what I want us to focus in on here is what David seems to be focused on. Every appeal that we’ve seen from David is made to God, and is depending solely on God’s work to deliver him.
Take a second and scan through this Psalm and you’ll see God is responsible for an awful lot here. ‘Keep me from shame’, “Show me Your ways” (Psalm 25:4), Teach me Your paths” (Psalm 25:4), “Lead me in Your truth” (Psalm 25:5), “Remember Your mercies’, ‘Do not remember my sins’, “He teaches sinners” (Psalm 25:8), ‘He guides the humble’, ‘He teaches the humble’, “Pardon my iniquity” (Psalm 25:11), “Teach in the way He chooses” (Psalm 25:12), “He will show them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14), “He shall pluck my feet out of the net” (Psalm 25:15), “Turn Yourself to me” (Psalm 25:16), “Bring me out of my distresses” (Psalm 25:17), “Look on my affliction” (Psalm 25:18), “forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:18), “Consider my enemies” (Psalm 25:19), “Keep my soul” (Psalm 25:20), “deliver me” (Psalm 25:20), “Let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 25:20), “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me” (Psalm 25:21).
That’s a lot different compared to what David’s doing, isn’t it?
Look again at what David’s doing this whole time. “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1), “I trust in You” (Psalm 25:2), “Show me” (Psalm 25:4), “Teach me” (Psalm 25:4), “Lead me” (Psalm 25:5), “On You I wait” (Psalm 25:5), “Remember me” (Psalm 25:6), ‘Pardon me’, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Psalm 25:15), “Have mercy on me” (Psalm 25:16), “I am desolate” (Psalm 25:16), “afflicted” (Psalm 25:16), ‘I have great troubles’, ‘I’m distressed’, ‘I’m in pain’, ‘I’m hated by my enemies’, “deliver me” (Psalm 25:20), “I put my trust in You” (Psalm 25:20), “I wait for You” (Psalm 25:21).
Does that sound like a man expecting to get through things by his own power, or on his own merits? Of course not. David is completely dependent on God, on His mercy, on His grace, and on His work. It’s not at all hard to see when you juxtapose those two lists together like that. David is a man in desperate need, and God is the great God who provides for every need. David knows it. And more than that, David knows that God doesn’t just do this for him, but for all of God’s people. God has chosen a people, and they are His children, and HE does everything that we’ve just gone over, for every one of them; for every one of us. He keeps us from shame, He teaches us, He leads us, He remembers us, He protects us, He forgives us, and He will deliver us. All of us. We know that, because David ends this Psalm with that very idea in mind. Not just his own salvation, but the salvation of God’s entire unified church.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all their troubles!
This is sort of the collective version of, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13), isn’t it? Redeem Your people, O God! Redeem us from all of our sins, and all of our failures. Save us from death, and from the corruption of this fallen world that, too, has been contorted by sin. Bring us out of the wilderness, and allow us to inherit the earth as You promised.
When all is said and done, we’ll see the truth in all its fullness; that there are no great men, or great accomplishments. We are just this giant lot of sinners that were slated to be burned up and consumed; but the work of One truly good Man pulled us out of the fire, washed us clean, and gave us everything that was His. And so ‘To You, O LORD, we lift up our souls. O God, we trust in You’ [Psalm 25:1-2].
One thought on “A King’s Desperation (A Bible Study of Psalm 25:1-22)”
I like how you said, “David isn’t asking for strength or power here. No, David’s asking for God to come to his aid, to wield God’s own power, and to deliver him from all his troubles.” Good & practical insight on what to ask for in prayer.