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This purports to be a psalm of David, and there is no reason to doubt that he was its author. There are no indications, however, of the occasion on which it was composed, nor is it possible now to ascertain that occasion. It is probably one of those which were composed in his leisure moments, with no outward existing cause - designed to express the feelings of piety in the calm contemplation of God and his perfections.
The uniqueness of the psalm is, that it is the first of that class of psalms which are known as “alphabetical,” in which the first word of each verse begins with one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. One design of this mode of composition may have been to assist the memory; but it is probable that the prevailing reason was that it was regarded as a poetic beauty thus to arrange the letters of the alphabet. Such arts of poetry are common in all languages. Occasionally, in these psalms the order of the letters is slightly changed; in other instances, some of the letters are omitted, while the general structure is observed. Specimens of this mode of composition occur in Psalms 34:0; Psalms 37:0; Psalms 111:1-10; Psalms 112:1-10; Psalms 119:0; Psalms 145:0; in Proverbs 31:0, from the tenth verse to the end of the chapter; and in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the whole of which book is composed on this plan, except the last chapter. The same mode of composition is common in Syrian and Persian poetry. See Assemani Biblioth. Orient. III., Pt. 1, p 63,328. Compare “Lowth’s Lectures on Hebrew Poetry,” Lect. xxii.; and “Grotii Prolegomm. ad Com. in Psalmos,” p. 81.
In the psalm before us, the general order of the Hebrew alphabet is observed, with the following exceptions: the two first verses commence with the Hebrew letter א ('), the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; while the second letter, ב (b), is omitted. The Hebrew letters, ו (w) and ק (q), are also omitted, while two verses begin with the Hebrew letter ר (r), and at the close of the psalm, after the Hebrew letter ת (t), the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet - another verse is added, beginning with the Hebrew letter פ (p). We cannot account for these variations. Capellus supposes that it arises from the haste and lack of attention of transcribers, and suggests a plan by which the alphabetical arrangement in this psalm could be restored to proper order. See Rosenmuller, Scholia in Psalms 25:0, p. 633. J. D. Michaelis supposes that the authors of the psalm allowed for themselves some liberty in the arrangement, and that the proper letter of the alphabet was sometimes in the middle of the verse rather than at the beginning. But it is impossible to assign the reasons which may have existed for the lack of perfect regularity in the composition of the psalm, and the deviations from the exact alphabetical order which occur. Those deviations are very slight, and do not affect the general character of the composition. Of course this poetic beauty cannot be perceived in a translation, and must be lost to all except to Hebrew scholars.
The general “plan” of these psalms seems to be, not to follow out one particular thought, or to dwell on one subject, but to bring together such independent expressions of pious feeling as could be conveniently arranged in this manner. Accordingly in the psalm before us, we have a considerable variety of subjects introduced - all suggestive, or all indicating the kind of thoughts which will pass through a pious mind in moments of relaxation, and “unbending,” when the thoughts are allowed to flow freely or without restraint from the will. The current of thought in such moments is often a more sure indication of the true state of the heart, and of the real character, than what occurs in our more studied and labored habits of thinking; and a person may often look to these trains of thought as most certainly indicating the actual condition of his heart.
Among the thoughts thus suggesting themselves to the mind of the psalmist in this season of relaxation, and as indicating the real state of his heart, the following may be noticed:
(1) Confident trust in God, and a feeling that that trust would not be disappointed, Psalms 25:1-3.
(2) A desire to be led in the way of truth, Psalms 25:4-5.
(3) A desire that God, in his treatment of him, would remember His own merciful character, and not the sins of the psalmist, Psalms 25:6-7.
(4) A belief that God will guide those who trust Him, Psalms 25:8-9.
(5) Confidence in God in all His ways, Psalms 25:10.
(6) Prayer for the pardon of sin, Psalms 25:11,
(7) An expression of belief that God will teach and guide those who fear Him, Psalms 25:12-13.
(8) The assurance that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, Psalms 25:14,
(9) Prayer for deliverance from all trouble, Psalms 25:15-21.
(10) Prayer for the redemption of the people of God, for their complete deliverance from evil, for the salvation of the church, Psalms 25:22.
The psalm thus expresses the feelings of a pious mind when running over a great variety of subjects, apparently with little connection, or united only by a very slender thread of association; such thoughts as occur to one when the mind is allowed a free range, and follows out easy suggestions with no great effort to restrain the mind by the stricter rules of thinking, or when the mind allows itself to be easily drawn along from one subject to another, and finds, in each one that occurs, something to be thankful for; or to pray for; or to rejoice over; or to anticipate with pleasure; or to hope for; or to be penitent for; or to contemplate with gratitude and love. The thoughts of wicked people, when their minds are thus unbent and unstrung, recur to images of pollution and sin; they gloat over past indulgences; they recall the images of sensual pleasures; they bring before the fancy new and untried scenes of pollution; they revel in the anticipated pleasures of gaiety and sensuality. Perhaps there is nothing that more clearly indicates the real state of a man’s heart than the kind of recollections, imaginings, and anticipations into which the mind falls in such a relaxed, or what some might call an “idle,” state of the mind; just as we judge of a stream when it flows gently as left to its own course, not when it is dammed up, or forced into new channels, or swelled by rains, or made into artificial rills and water-falls, or employed to turn mills, or diverted, contrary to its natural flow, even into beautiful gardens.
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul - In meditation; in gratitude; in praise. The idea is, that the thoughts are lifted up from earth and earthly subjects to God. This is the beginning of the meditation; this gives character, perhaps, to the psalm. The state of mind is that of one who turns cheerfully away from earthly themes, and opens his mind to more lofty and hallowed influences. The mind begins with God; and, beginning with this, the current of thought is allowed to flow on, gathering up such ideas as would come in under this general purpose. Opening the mind to this influence, thoughts would flow in upon the soul embracing a wide range, and perhaps not very closely connected among themselves, but all of which would be fitted to raise the heart to God in meditation, thankfulness, and praise.
O my God, I trust in thee - This is the first thought - a feeling that he had true confidence in God, and that in all the duties of life, in all his trials, and in all his hopes for the future, his reliance was on God alone.
Let me not be ashamed - That is, let me never be so forsaken by thee as to have occasion for shame that I have thus trusted in thee. The prayer is not that he might never be ashamed to avow and confess his trust in God, but that he might “find” God to be such a helper and friend that he might never be ashamed on account of the trust which he had put in Him, as if it had been a false reliance; that he might not be disappointed, and made to feel that he had done a foolish thing in confiding in One who was not able to help him. See the word explained in the notes at Job 6:20. Compare Isaiah 30:5; Jeremiah 8:9; Jeremiah 14:3-4.
Let not mine enemies triumph over me - This explains what the psalmist meant by his prayer that he might not be “ashamed,” or put to shame. He prayed that he might not be vanquished by his foes, and that it might not appear that he had trusted in a Being who was unable to defend him. Applied now to us, the prayer would imply a desire that we may not be so overcome by our spiritual foes as to bring dishonor on ourselves and on the cause which we profess to love; that we may not be held up to the world as those who are unable to maintain the warfare of faith, and exposed to scorn as those who are unfaithful to their trust; that we may not be so forsaken, so left to trial without consolation, so given over to sadness, melancholy, or despair, as to leave the world to say that reliance on God is vain, and that there is no advantage in being his friends.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed - To “wait on the Lord” is an expression denoting true piety, as indicating our dependence on him, and as implying that we look to Him for the command that is to regulate our conduct and for the grace needful to protect and save us. Compare Isaiah 40:31. See also Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 30:18; Psalms 40:1; Psalms 69:3. This petition is indicative of the wish of the pious heart that none who profess to serve God may ever be put to shame; that they may never be overcome by sin; that they may never fall under the power of temptation; that they may not fail of eternal salvation.
Let them be ashamed which transgress without cause - This does not imply that any sinners transgress otherwise than without cause, or that they have any good reason for sinning; but it brings into view a prominent thought in regard to sin, that it is without cause. If the wicked had any good reason for their course of life - if they were compelled to do wrong - if the temptations under which they act were so powerful that they could not resist them - if they were not voluntary in their transgressions - then true benevolence would demand of us the prayer that they might not be confounded or put to shame. However, since none of these circumstances occur in the case of the sinner, there is no lack of benevolence in praying that all the workers of evil may be put to confusion; that is, that they may not triumph in an evil course, but that their plans may be defeated, and that they may be arrested in their career. There is no benevolence in desiring the triumph of wickedness; there is no lack of benevolence in praying that all the plans of wicked men may be confounded, and all the purposes of evil be frustrated. True benevolence requires us to pray that all their plans may be arrested, and that the sinner may not be successful in his career. A person may be certain that he is acting out the principles of benevolence when he endeavors to prevent the consummation of the plans and the desires of the wicked.
Show me thy ways, O Lord - The “ways” of God are His methods of administering the affairs of the world; His dispensations; the rules which He has prescribed for Himself in the execution of His plans; the great laws by which He governs the universe. Deuteronomy 32:4, “all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The prayer of the psalmist is, that he may be able to understand the methods of the divine government; the principles upon which God bestows happiness and salvation; the rules which He has been pleased to prescribe for human conduct; the arrangements by which He confers favors upon mankind; the scheme by which He saves people. The idea evidently is that he might understand so much of this as to regulate his own conduct aright; that he might not lean upon his own understanding, or trust to His own guidance, but that He might always be under the guidance and direction of God.
Teach me thy paths - The paths which thou dost take; to wit, as before, in administering the affairs of the world. The prayer is expressive of a desire to be wholly under the direction of God.
Lead me in thy truth - In the way which thou regardest as truth, or which thou seest to be true. Truth is eternal and unchanging. What God sees and regards as truth is true, because he sees things as they are; and when we have the divine estimate of anything, we understand what the thing is. It is not that he makes it to be true, but that he sees it to be true. Such is the perfection of His nature that we have the utmost assurance that what God regards as truth is truth; what He proclaims to be right is right. It is then His truth, as He adopts it for the rule of His own conduct, and makes it known to His creatures to guide them.
And teach me - Since this would be understood by the psalmist, it would be a prayer that God would teach him by His law as then made known; by His Spirit in the heart; by the dispensations of His providence. As applicable to us, it is a prayer that He would instruct us by all the truths then made known, and all that have since been revealed; by His Spirit in its influences on our hearts; by the events which are occurring around us; by the “accumulated” truth of ages; the knowledge which by all the methods He employs He has imparted to people for their guidance and direction.
For thou art the God of my salvation - The word “salvation” is not to be understood here in the sense in which it is now commonly used, as denoting deliverance from sin and future ruin, but in the more general sense of “deliverance” - deliverance from danger and death. The phrase is synonymous with “preservation,” and the idea is that the psalmist regarded God as his preserver; or that he owed his protection and safety in the time of danger to Him alone.
On thee do I wait - That is, I rely on Thee; or, I am dependent on Thee. He had no other source of reliance or dependence.
All the day - Continually, always. He was really dependent upon Him at all times, and he felt that dependence. It is always true that we are dependent upon God for everything; it is not true that we always feel this. It was a characteristic of the piety of the psalmist that he did feel this.
Remember, O Lord - That is, In thy future treatment of me, bring to remembrance what thou hast done, and treat me in the same manner still. The language is that of one who felt that God had always been kind and gracious, and who asked for the future a continuance of the favors of the past. If we would recall, the goodness of God in the past, we should find enough to lay the foundation of prayer in reference to that which is to come. If we saw and fully understood all that has happened to us, we would need to offer no other prayer than that God might deal with us in the future as He has done in the past.
Thy tender mercies - Margin, as in Hebrew: “thy bowels.” The Hebrew word means the “inner parts” regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the affections. See the notes at Isaiah 16:11.
And thy loving-kindnesses - Thy tokens of favor; thy acts of mercy and compassion.
For they have been ever of old - “For from eternity are they.” The language is that of a heart deeply impressed with a sense of the goodness God. In looking over his own life, the author of the psalm saw that the mercies of God had been unceasing and constant toward him from his earliest years. In words expressive of warm love and gratitude, therefore, he says that those acts of mercy had never failed - had been from eternity. His thoughts rise from the acts of God toward himself to the character of God, and to His attributes of mercy and love; and his heart is full of the idea that God is “always” good; that it belongs to His very nature to do good.
Remember not the sins of my youth - In strong contrast with God, the psalmist brings forward his own conduct and life. He could ask of God Psalms 25:6 to remember His own acts - what “He himself” had done; but could not ask him to remember His conduct - His past life. He could only pray that this might be forgotten. He did not wish it to come into remembrance before God; he could not ask that God would deal with him according to that. He prays, therefore, that he might not be visited as he advanced in life with the fruits of his conduct in early years, but that all the offences of that period of his life might be forgiven and forgotten. Who is there that cannot with deep feeling join in this prayer? Who is there that has reached the period of middle or advanced life, who would be willing to have the follies of his youth, the plans, and thoughts, and wishes of his early years brought again to remembrance? Who would be willing to have recalled to his own mind, or made known to his friends, to society around him, or to assembled worlds, the thoughts, the purposes, the wishes, the “imaginings” of his youthful days? Who would dare to pray that he might be treated in advancing years as he treated God in his own early life? Nay, who would venture to pray that God would treat him in the day of judgment as he had treated the friends of his childhood, even the father who begat him, or the mother who bore him? Our hope in regard to the favor of God is that he will “not” summon up the thoughts and the purposes of our early years; that he will “not” treat us as if he remembered them; but that he will treat us as if they were forgotten.
Nor my transgressions - The sins of my early years.
According to thy mercy remember thou me - Deal with me, not according to strict justice, but according to mercy. Deal with me indeed according to thy nature and character; but let the attribute of mercy be that which will be the guide rather than the attribute of justice.
For thy goodness’ sake - In order that thy goodness or benevolence may be displayed and honored - not primarily and mainly that I may be saved, but that thy character may be seen to be good and merciful.
Good and upright is the Lord - His character is benevolent, and he is worthy of confidence. He is not merely “good,” but he is equal and just in his dealings with people. This latter attribute is no less a reason for confidence in his character than the former. We need a God who is not merely benevolent and kind, but who is just and faithful; whose administration is based on principles of truth and justice, and in whose dealings, therefore, his creatures can repose unlimited confidence.
Therefore will he teach sinners - Because he is good and upright, we may approach him with the assurance that he will guide us aright. His “goodness” may be relied on as furnishing evidence that he will be “disposed” to do this; his “uprightness” as furnishing the assurance that the path in which he will lead us will be the best path. We could not rely on mere benevolence, for it might lack wisdom and firmness, or might lack power to execute its own purposes; we can rely upon it when it is connected with a character that is infinitely upright, and an arm that is infinitely mighty.
In the way - In the right way - the way in which they should go, the path of truth, of happiness, of salvation.
The meek will he guide - The humble, the teachable, the prayerful, the gentle of spirit - those who are willing to learn. A proud person who supposes that he already knows enough cannot be taught; a haughty person who has no respect for others, cannot learn of them; a person who is willing to believe nothing cannot be instructed. The first requisite, therefore, in the work of religion, as in respect to all kinds of knowledge, is a meek and docile spirit. See Matthew 18:3.
In judgment - In a right judgment or estimate of things. It is not merely in the administration of justice, or in doing “right,” but it is in judging of truth; of duty; of the value of objects; of the right way to live; of all upon which the mind can be called to exercise judgment, or to come to a decision.
And the meek will he teach his way - The way in which he would have them to go. The “methods” by which God does this are:
(1) By His word or law,
(a) laying down there the principles which are to guide human conduct, and
(b) in numerous cases furnishing specific rules for directing our conduct in the relations of life;
(2) by His Spirit,
(a) disposing the mind to candor,
(b) enlightening it to see the truth, and
(c) making it honest and sincere in its inquiries;
(3) by His providence - often indicating, in an unexpected manner, to those who are sincere in their inquiries after truth and duty, what He would have them to do; and
(4) by the advice and counsel of those who have experience - the aged and the wise - those who have themselves been placed in similar circumstances, or who have passed through the same perplexities and embarrassments.
By all these methods a peson who goes to God in humble prayer, and with a proper sense of dependence, may trust that he will be guided aright; and it is not probable that a case could occur in which one who should honestly seek for guidance by these helps, might not feel assured that God would lead him aright. Having used these means, a peson may feel assured that God will not leave him to error.
All the paths of the Lord - All the ways that the Lord takes; all that He commands; all that He does. The “paths of the Lord” denote the course in which He himself walks, or His dealings with His creatures. In the previous verse, the psalmist had said that the Lord would teach “His way” to the “meek;” he now says that all His ways are ways of mercy and of truth; or that all will be found to be in the direction of mercy and of truth.
Are mercy and truth - In all His dealings with those who “keep his covenant” He shows Himself to be at the same time merciful and true: compassionate toward their errors; faithful to His own promises.
To such as keep his covenant - To those who are His friends; to those who are faithful to Him. This expression is often used to denote those who are the true people of God, Genesis 17:9-10; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 29:9; Psalms 132:12. The word “covenant” here is equivalent to “command or law;” and the idea is, that if they keep His laws they will find Him to be merciful and true. On the meaning of the word “covenant,” see Acts 7:8, note; Hebrews 8:8, note; Hebrews 9:16-17, note.
And his testimonies - The word “testimony” in the Scripture, in this connection, refers to that to which God bears witness as “true;” or that which He has declared to be truth. In this sense, the phrase here means those who maintain His truth; or who abide by what He has pronounced to be true. The word is very often used in the Scriptures to denote the truth of God and the commandments of God. In all such cases, there is the underlying idea that the command or the statement referred to is that to which God bears witness as true or right.
For thy name’s sake, O Lord - See the notes at Psalms 23:3. The idea here is that God would do this on His own account, or for the honor of His own name. This is A reason, and one of the main reasons, why God ever pardons iniquity. It is that the honor of His name may be promoted; that His glorious character may be displayed; that he may show himself to the universe to be merciful and gracious. There are, doubtless, other reasons why He pardons sin - reasons drawn from the bearing which the act of mercy will have on the welfare of the universe; but still the main reason is, that His own honor will thus be promoted, and His true character thus made known. See the notes at Isaiah 43:25; notes at Isaiah 48:9. Compare Psalms 6:4; and Psalms 25:7.
Pardon mine iniquity - This prayer seems to have been offered in view of the remembered transgressions of his early years, Psalms 25:7. These recollected sins apparently pressed upon his mind all through the psalm, and were the main reason of the supplications which occur in it. Compare Psalms 25:16-18.
For it is great - As this translation stands, the fact that his sin was great was a reason why God should pardon it. This is a reason, because:
(a) it would be felt that the sin was so great that it could not be removed by anyone but God, and that unless “forgiven” it would sink the soul down to death; and
(b) because the mere fact of its magnitude would tend to illustrate the mercy of the Lord.
Undoubtedly, these are reasons why we may pray for the forgiveness of sin; but it may be doubted whether this is the exact idea of the psalmist, and whether the word “although” would not better express the true sense - “although it is great.” It is true that the general sense of the particle here rendered “for” - כי kı̂y - is “because” or “since;” but it may also mean “although,” as in Exodus 13:17, “God led them not the way through the land of the Philistines, although - (כי kı̂y) - that was near,” that is, that was nearest, or was the most direct way. So in Deuteronomy 29:19, “I shall have peace, though - (כי kı̂y) - I walk in the imagination of mine heart.” Also Joshua 17:18, “Thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though - (כי kı̂y) - they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” Thus understood, the prayer of the psalmist here is, that God would pardon his offences “although” they were so great. His mind is fixed upon the “greatness” of the offences; upon the obstacles in the way of pardon; upon his own unworthiness; upon the fact that he had no claim to mercy; and he presents this strong and earnest plea that God would have mercy on him “although” his sins were so numerous and so aggravated. In this prayer all can join; this is a petition the force of which all true penitents deeply feel.
What man is he - Who is he. The statement in this verse is intended to include every man; or to be universal. Wherever one is found who has the character here referred to, or whoever he may be, of him what is here affirmed will be true, that God will lead him in the way that he shall choose.
That feareth the Lord - That is, a true worshipper of Yahweh, or that is truly a pious man: Psalms 5:7. “Him shall he teach.” He will guide, or instruct him. See Psalms 25:9.
In the way that he shall choose - The way that the person ought to choose; or, in other words, in the right way. It is not the way that God shall choose, but the way that the pious person ought to choose: God will so instruct him that he shall find the true path.
His soul shall dwell at ease - Margin: “shall lodge in goodness.” So the Hebrew. The idea is that of one “at home;” one who finds a comfortable and safe resting place; one who is not a wanderer or a vagrant. The word rendered in the text “at ease,” and in the margin “goodness,” means “good;” and the idea is that of a good or safe condition as compared with that of one who wanders abroad without a shelter, or of one who has lost his way, and has no one to guide him. As contrasted with such an one, he who fears God, and who seeks his guidance and direction, will be like a man in his own comfortable and quiet home. The one is a condition of safety and of ease; the other, a condition of anxiety, doubt, trouble. Nothing could better describe the calmness, peace, and conscious security of the man who has found the truth and who serves God - as compared with the state of that man who has no religion, no fear of God, no hope of heaven.
And his seed - His posterity; his family. “Shall inherit the earth.” Originally this promise referred to the land of Canaan, as a promise connected with obeying the law of God: Exodus 20:12. It came then to be synonymous with outward worldly prosperity; with length of days, and happiness in the earth. See it explained in the notes at Matthew 5:5.
The secret of the Lord - On the word here rendered “secret,” see the notes at Job 15:8. It properly means a couch or cushion; and then, a divan or circle of friends sitting together; then, deliberation or consultation; then, familiar contact, intimacy; and then, a “secret,” - as if it were the result of a private consultation among friends, or something which pertained to them, and which they did not wish to have known. It is rendered “secret” in Genesis 49:6; Job 15:8; Job 29:4; Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 3:32; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19; Proverbs 25:9; Amos 3:7; “counsel” in Psalms 55:14; Psalms 64:2; Psalms 83:3; Jeremiah 23:18, Jeremiah 23:22; and “assembly” in Psalms 89:7; Psalms 111:1; Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 15:17; Ezekiel 13:9. The word “friendship” would perhaps express the meaning here. The sense is, that those who fear the Lord are admitted to the intimacy of friendship with Him; are permitted to come into His presence, and to partake of His counsels; are allowed free access to Him; or, as it is more commonly expressed, have “fellowship” with Him. Compare 1 John 1:3. The language is such as would be applied to the intimacy of friends, or to those who take counsel together. The language belongs to a large class of expressions denoting the close connection between God and His people.
With them that fear him - With those who truly and properly reverence Him, or who are His true worshippers: Psalms 5:7; Job 1:1.
And he will show them his covenant - Margin, “And his covenant to make them know it.” The meaning is, that God will impart to them the true knowledge of His covenant; or, in other words, He will enable them to understand what there is in that covenant, or in its gracious provisions, that is adapted to promote their happiness and salvation. The word “covenant” here is the same term which is commonly used to describe the arrangements which God has made for the salvation of people: see Psalms 25:10. Whatever there is in that arrangement to promote the happiness and salvation of His people, He will cause them to understand.
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord - This is an indication of the habitual state of mind of the psalmist. He had said that God would lead and guide those who were meek, gentle, teachable, humble; and he now says that this was his habitual state of mind. He constantly looked to God. He sought His direction. In perplexity, in doubt, in difficulty, in danger, in view of death and the future world, he looked to God as his guide. In other words, in reference to himself, he carried out the principles which he had stated as constituting true religion. It was a religion of dependence on God, for man’s only hope is in him.
For he shall pluck my feet out of the net - Margin, “bring forth.” Compare Psalms 9:15-16, note; Psalms 10:9, note. The “net” here is that which had been laid for him by the wicked. He trusted in God alone to deliver him from it.
Turn thee unto me - Rather, the Hebrew means: “look upon me.” The idea, however, is that the face of God was, as it were, turned in another direction, or that He was not attentive to him; and he prays that He would turn and behold him; that He would see him in his trouble.
And have mercy upon me - The psalmist seems to have felt that if God would look upon him he would pity him. He would see his case to be so sad that He would show him compassion - as, when we see an object of distress, “the eye affects the heart.”
For I am desolate - The word here rendered “desolate” - יחיד yâchı̂yd - means properly “one alone, only;” and then, one who “is alone,” or who is solitary, forsaken, wretched. There is no deeper sadness that ever comes over the mind than the idea that we are alone in the world; that we do not have a friend; that no one cares for us; that no one is concerned about anything that might happen to us; that no one would care if we were to die; that no one would shed a tear over our grave.
And afflicted - In what way we do not know. David, however, was very often in circumstances when he could use this language. The other parts of the psalm show that the “affliction” to which he here refers was that which arose from the recollection of the sins of his early life, and from the designs and purposes of his enemies.
The troubles of my heart - The sorrows which spring upon the heart - particularly from the recollections of sin.
Are enlarged - Have become great. They increased the more he reflected on the sins of his life.
O bring thou me out of my distresses - Alike from my sins, and from the dangers which surround me. These two things, external trouble and the inward consciousness of guilt, are not infrequently combined. Outward trouble has a tendency to bring up the remembrance of past transgressions, and to suggest the inquiry whether the affliction is not a divine visitation for sin. Any one source of sorrow may draw along numerous others in its train. The laws of association are such that when the mind rests on one source of joy, and is made cheerful by that, numerous other blessings will be suggested to increase the joy; and when one great sorrow has taken possession of the soul, all the lesser sorrows of the past life cluster around it, so that we seem to ourselves to be wholly abandoned by God and by man.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain - See Psalms 25:16. This is a repetition of earnest pleading - as if God still turned away from him, and did not deign to regard him. In trouble and distress piety thus pleads with God, and repeats the earnest supplication for His help. Though God seems not to regard the prayer, faith does not fail, but renews the supplication, confident that He will still hear and save.
And forgive all my sins - The mind, as above remarked, connects trouble and sin together. When we are afflicted, we naturally inquire whether the affliction is not on account of some particular transgressions of which we have been guilty; and even when we cannot trace any direct connection with sin, affliction suggests the general fact that we are sinners, and that all our troubles are originated by that fact. One of the benefits of affliction, therefore, is to call to our remembrance our sins, and to keep before the mind the fact that we are violators of the law of God. This connection between suffering and sin, in the sense that the one naturally suggests the other, was more than once illustrated in the miracles performed by the Saviour. See Matthew 9:2.
Consider mine enemies - See Psalms 25:2. It is evident that one source of the trouble referred to in the psalm was the fact that he had cruel foes, and that he was apprehensive of their designs. The train of thought seems to be, in accordance with the remarks above, that enemies actually surrounded him, and threatened him, and that this fact suggested the inquiry whether this was not permitted on account of his sins. this had led him to think of the sins of his past life, going back as far as his youth Psalms 25:7, as if these calamities, even in advanced life, were on account of those early offences.
For they are many - Who and what they were, we have now no means of ascertaining. See the notes at Psalms 25:16.
And they hate me with cruel hatred - Margin, as in Hebrew: “hatred of violence.” It was such hatred as tended to violence; such that they could not restrain it. It sought his destruction, and was ready to break out at any moment.
O keep my soul - “My life;” or, keep “me.” The allusion is to all the perils which encompassed him, whether arising from his foes or his sins; and the prayer is, that the divine protection might be commensurate with the danger; that is, that he might not be destroyed, either by his enemies or by the sins which he had committed.
And deliver me - Save me; rescue me.
Let me not be ashamed - See Psalms 25:2.
For I put my trust in thee - This is urged as a reason why he should be delivered and saved. The idea seems to be, that the honor of God would be concerned in protecting one who fled to Him; who confided in Him; who relied on Him. Thus, when the helpless and the oppressed have so much confidence in our character and our ability as to fly to us in the time of trouble, it is a proper reason for them to ask our protection that they do confide in us. Our character becomes involved in the matter, and they may safely trust that we shall feel ourselves under obligations to act in conformity with the confidence reposed in us. It is thus that the poor and the oppressed confide in the good; thus that a sinner confides in God.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me - The word here rendered “integrity” means properly “perfection.” See it explained in the notes at Job 1:1. The language here may refer either:
(a) to God - as denoting His perfection and uprightness, and then the psalmist’s prayer would be that He, a righteous God, would keep him; or
(b) to his own integrity and uprightness of character, and then the prayer would be that that might be the means of keeping him, as the ground of his safety, under the government of a righteous God; or,
(c) which I think the more probable meaning, it may be the utterance of a prayer that God would show Himself upright and perfect in protecting one who put his trust in Him; one who was wronged and injured by his fellow-men; one who fled to God for refuge in time of persecution and trouble.
It was not exactly the divine perfections, as such, on which he relied; nor was it the integrity and purity of his own life; but it was the government of God, considered as just and equal, as bearing on himself and those who had wronged him.
For I wait on thee - That is, I depend on thee, or I rely on thee. This is a reason why he pleaded that God would preserve him. See the notes at Psalms 25:20.
Redeem Israel - Redeem or save thy people - the word “Israel” here being used, as elsewhere, to denote the people of God.
Out of all his troubles - Save thy people from persecution, and from trial of all kinds. The prayer of the psalmist had, before this, related mainly to himself. He had made mention of his own troubles and sorrows, and had earnestly sought relief. The psalm, however, closes appropriately with a reference to others; to all the people of God who might be in similar circumstances. Religion is not selfish. The mind under the influence of true piety, however intensely it may feel its own trouble, and however earnestly it may pray for deliverance, is not forgetful of the troubles of others; and prayers for their comfort and deliverance are freely mingled with those which the afflicted children of God offer for themselves. This verse may be, therefore, taken as an illustration of the nature of true piety: piety that seeks the welfare of all; piety that does not terminate in itself alone; piety that desires the happiness of all people, especially the deliverance of the suffering and the sad. It should, however, be added that this verse is no part of the alphabetical series in the psalm - that having been ended, in Psalms 25:21, with the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This verse commences with the Hebrew letter pe (p). Some have supposed that it was added to the psalm when it was prepared for public use, in order to make what was at first applicable to an individual appropriate as a part of public worship - or because the sentiments in the psalm, originally having reference to one individual, were as applicable to the people of God generally as to the author of the psalm. There is some plausibility in this conjecture.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 25". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16