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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 25

Verses 1-3


In Psalms 22-24 we have seen the revelation of the Savior. In Psalms 25-39 we see the experience of the believer’s exercise in response to this revelation. This emphasizes that the sequence of Psalms is also inspired and has much to say to us.

The sense of grace is still weak, but it is growing. To that end, this psalm also begins with confession of sin (Psalms 25:7; Psalms 25:11Psalms 25:18). As a result, the psalmist can receive the teaching of grace (Psalms 25:8-1 Samuel :). A person who wants to, whether he is a Christian or belongs to the faithful remnant of Israel, must begin by trusting God (Psalms 25:1-Exodus :) and being open to His teaching (Psalms 25:4-Deuteronomy :).

The LORD can only teach the meek – that is, the humble, the broken-hearted, those who tremble before God’s Word (Psalms 25:9; cf. Matthew 5:5; Isaiah 66:2). Prophetically, this is the growing sense of grace among the remnant of Israel in the end-time.

We hear in this psalm a believer speaking who has in his heart a deep awareness of Who the LORD is. The thought of Him dominates everything within him. In Him he trusts with regard to his enemies. He does not cry out to God to judge them. He speaks but little of them. What he mainly asks is guidance for his path of life.

The believer also sees himself in God’s light, which brings him to confession of sins. In this psalm we find confession of sins for the first time in this book. Finally, we hear him pray for the whole people; he becomes an intercessor for others.

In You I Trust

For “[a Psalm] of David” (Psalms 25:1) see at Psalm 3:1.

The occasion for this psalm seems to be the ever-present enemies. It may be that David wrote this psalm when he was fleeing from his son Absalom, a flight resulting from his own sins.

David, with an emphatic “to You”, lifts up his soul, or his whole person, his body included, to the “LORD”, solely and exclusively to Him (Psalms 25:1). His soul is in distress. He speaks to God as “my God” (Psalms 25:2), because he has a personal relationship with Him. Therefore, he also says to Him, “in You I trust”. The word “trust” means “to feel safe”, just as a child feels safe with his father when he is threatened by a dog. David felt safe with God. This is the secret of overcoming difficulties. A God-fearing believer has no other refuge. There is no ‘plan B’ for him. His entire hope is in God alone.

David here speaks of (1) “my God”, of (2) “me”, and of (3) “my enemies”. The enemies drove him out to God, to seek refuge with Him. He begs his God not to let him be ashamed of his trust in Him. The consequence would be that his enemies would jump up for joy over him, as if his trust in God was only a lip-service. Surely God will not let that happen. In addition, as king he is the representative of God’s people. If he is ashamed, it takes away the complete basis of trust of God’s people.

He reminds himself that all who wait for God will not be ashamed (Psalms 25:3). He is sure of this, which we see by the strong “indeed”. This does not make praying redundant, but rather drives to it. He expects the help and outcome of Him with Whom he lives in fellowship. This verse is quoted in Romans 9 (Romans 9:33), where it appears that “wait for” here means “believe”, as opposed to “good works.

He also knows who will be ashamed, namely those “who deal treacherously without cause”. These are people who love iniquity. He is not one of them. He acts in faithfulness toward God, Who has appointed him king over His people. The fact that it is said “deal treacherously without cause” of course does not mean that there could be a reason to deal treacherously. This saying underlines the infamy of faithlessness. That there is talk of dealing treacherously also means that in this psalm David’s enemies are to be sought among his own people and not among the nations.

Verses 4-10

Prayer for Guidance

David is in the presence of God. He has prayed with regard to his enemies. But there is a greater danger than being overcome by his enemies. That danger is that he himself will wander away from the ways of God. If the LORD does not guide him, he will become like his enemies and also act faithlessly. He does not want that. Therefore, he asks the LORD to make him know His ways (Psalms 25:4). He wants to learn the lessons that the LORD wants to teach him through the difficulties.

He is not asking for the good or best way, but for “Your ways”, which are the ways of the LORD. They are the ways the LORD has chosen for him in which the LORD Himself walks and in which He causes the righteous to walk (cf. Ephesians 2:10). In doing so, he surrenders his life to the loving care of God. Then he asks God to teach him His paths. By this he means that God teaches him how to walk His paths, how to behave in them, so that his life is to the glory of God.

To that connects his next question to God to lead him in His truth and teach him (Psalms 25:5). Leading in the truth can be compared to a shepherd leading the sheep. The shepherd goes ahead. A person goes in the ways of the Lord only when he walks in them and does so in accordance with the truth of God’s Word. Knowing the ways of the LORD intellectually is not a true knowing if one does not also walk in them. We see David taking the place of a pupil. Every sincere believer will take that place.

In Psalms 25:4-Deuteronomy : we see that David, and with him every God-fearing believer, has an earnest desire to do God’s will. He asks God for “Your ways”, “Your paths”, “Your truth”. The LORD’s “ways” and “paths” do not refer to doctrines or principles, but to the way of life, that it is as He indicates (cf. Psalms 32:8). The “truth” describes how we are to walk in the ways of the Lord (cf. Psalms 26:3).

The God-fearing has this desire because he knows God as the God of his salvation. He knows Him this way because he has come to know Him this way time and again. Every previous salvation he owes to Him. Therefore, even now he waits for Him “all the day”. He looks forward to Him continually, day and night, to His help that will bring relief (cf. Psalms 25:4).

David has prayed in the preceding verses for guidance because of the danger of faithlessness. He knows that he is liable to do so. This awareness leads him to pray for himself. One who knows his own weakness and sins knows that he is no better than his enemies. But he also knows – and his enemies have no knowledge of this – God’s compassion and lovingkindnesses (Psalms 25:6). He asks God to remember that. God doesn’t need reminding, of course, but we do, and it’s good to show that, as David does here.

Compassion is a feature of God that He shows to someone who is in misery and trouble. He makes the afflicted feel that He is with him in his misery. When we think of lovingkindnesses we may think of God’s love towards His covenant, of the blessings He grants on the basis of His covenant.

It is His mind, which longs to help people in distress. Compassion has more to do with the distress of man. Lovingkindnesses emphasizes more God’s mind. These are not features that God only acquired the moment their expression was requested. They “have been from of old”, for He is eternal, but have become visible to people in distress.

After asking God in Psalms 25:6 to think of some of His features, in Psalms 25:7 he asks God not to remember the sins of his youth or his transgressions (cf. Psalms 119:9; Job 13:26). Instead, he asks God once again to remember His lovingkindnesses – that is, His covenant faithfulness – and to do so because of His goodness which is a feature of God. The sins of his youth sometimes come to his mind again. The same goes for offenses he committed later in life. He is in worried about them at the time he writes this.

Prophetically, by ‘youth’ is meant the earlier history of the people of God. The “old age” (Psalms 71:9; Psalms 71:18) is the history of the remnant at the end of time, just before the coming of the Lord Jesus.

David’s request to God not to think of the sins of his youth shows that he had no knowledge of the forgiveness of sins on the basis of a once for all accomplished work of Christ on the cross. Nor could he yet, for Christ had yet to come. We, New Testament believers, know that the work has been accomplished and the forgiveness is certain. Although David does not know this forgiveness, he does trust in God’s grace to forgive.

We can learn much from the mind David shows here. Every believer will at times think back with shame on the sins of his youth (cf. Romans 6:21). In youth, in the time when we have little experience of life and the passions are sometimes not controlled, certain sins are easily committed. It is short-sighted if we have forgotten the cleansing of past sins (2 Peter 1:9).

The point is not that we should be burdened with past sins again and again. We may know that they are forgiven if we have confessed them sincerely. Still, we will need to be reminded again and again of who we used to be in order to be thankful for what we have now received in Christ and have become in Him.

David is deeply impressed with his own sinfulness and iniquity, but also with the fact that the LORD is “good and upright” (Psalms 25:8). It brings to mind what John writes about the Lord Jesus in his Gospel, that He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Now that the goodness of the LORD has been mentioned, David begins to give a testimony about Who God is. From now on, David speaks of the LORD in the third person singular (except for Psalms 25:11). First He is called “good”, and then “upright”. ‘Upright’ means ‘right’, ‘just’. God is never just one or the other. With Him, both features are perfectly in balance. That is, His goodness is never at the expense of His uprightness, of His justice. “Therefore”, says David, “He instructs sinners on the way”.

He is speaking here in the plural, sinners. We are not talking about people who love sin, but people who, like him, have fallen into sin and repented of it. They have been taught about “the way” to return to Him in order to continue on the way with Him. It is the way of confession, making sin known to Him with repentance. He then forgives and the believer can continue his way with Him, for which He also teaches. God is a God Who gives ‘aftercare’.

Sinners who have come to repentance, either for the first time or after they have sinned as believers, have become “humble” (Psalms 25:9). They accept humiliation without resistance. They have learned to humble themselves under the powerful hand of God.

To do this, they have come into a mind or humility – they are twice called “humble”, which underscores that mind – in which God can lead them “in justice”. To lead in justice means that God determines how they are to walk. He is the Judge and His law is the only law that matters. Because they have the right mind, He can teach them His way.

In Psalms 25:4 it is about “Your ways”, which are the ways of God. In Psalms 25:8 it is about “the way”, that is the way of restoring the sinner to fellowship with God. When that fellowship is restored, it is again possible to speak, as here in Psalms 25:9, of “His way”, that is, the way of God.

Once again, in Psalms 25:10, the “paths of the LORD” are spoken of. This time it is said in general terms. It refers to “all” the paths. It is all the paths that He Himself treads to lead each of His own. He does this through His “lovingkindness and truth”. In His lovingkindness He brings them back when they have gone astray and in His truth He fulfills the promises He has made toward them.

Here again, lovingkindness is the covenant love of God. The paths of the LORD are characterized by His covenant love and His faithfulness toward those who keep His covenant and His commandments. Thus, it is about the LORD’s faithfulness toward His covenant and man’s obedience toward the commandments of His covenant.

All who “keep His covenant and His testimonies” follow Him on that path. They appreciate His covenant that He has made with them and observe its conditions. These conditions are the testimonies or commandments. They show that they are the true people of God by adhering to what He has said. In doing so, they show that they believe in its truth. In this way He guides them safely through the world of dangers towards His final goal.

Verse 11

Prayer for Pardon

Again and again David is reminded of sins. This does not make him despair, but longing to know more of God’s grace. The greater the awareness of sin, the greater is also the awareness of the greatness of God’s grace. Also, he who is forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47).

It brings David into God’s presence as a supplicant. While Psalms 25:8-Ezra : give a testimony about the LORD – third person singular – here the psalmist gets personal and speaks to the LORD – second person singular.

In God’s presence he prays for forgiveness. He has done the same in different words in Psalms 25:7. He concludes that prayer by asking for forgiveness “for Your goodness’ sake”. He begins his prayer here with a more comprehensive version of those words. He now asks that the LORD to pardon him “for Your name’s sake”.

Goodness makes us think of yet another feature of God; His Name reminds us of the glory of His Person. His Name is dishonored when things go badly with His people. David knows that he cannot claim pardon on that basis, but he mentions the holiness of the Name of the LORD as a reason to ask forgiveness.

The Name of the LORD encompasses more than just His goodness. The Name represents all that He is. David addresses the LORD in this way for the forgiveness of his unrighteousness because his iniquity is “great”. That means that no one but God can take it away. And so it is, for the iniquity may be great, the forgiveness of God is greater (Psalms 103:3; Psalms 103:10-2 Kings :; Micah 7:18-Psalms :).

Verses 12-14

Assurance of Guidance

After coming again under the impression of the greatness of his sins and the need for forgiveness, he again testifies to and teaches about the LORD’s guidance for the way forward (Psalms 25:12). This teaching can only be enjoyed by “the man who fears the LORD”. That man is in awe of the LORD and will only do what is pleasing to Him. This is the mind needed to receive, understand and put into practice this teaching.

The teaching does not consist of multiple choice questions, choosing from a number of options. It is about the way that “he should choose” and not the way that seems most appealing to him. It is the way that God has selected for him. The man who fears God will wholeheartedly agree to it. On that way he is assured of the guidance and support of God. God knows that road perfectly, from the beginning to the end.

Assent to God’s ‘route plan’ implies blessing for himself and also for his descendants (Psalms 25:13). The blessing, the “prosperity”, comes from the covenant mentioned in Psalms 25:14. That blessing, by virtue of the covenant, continues into the following generations. The “prosperity” is the inheritance they will receive.

David is like someone who has come “home” after a journey, comes to rest there, makes himself comfortable. He is safe and at peace and enjoys all the good things he possesses. Those who are God-fearing also do their descendants a tremendous favor. The children who walk in his footsteps will “inherit the land”. They will have their home in the land under the government of the Messiah.

In Psalms 25:14, it is no longer just “the man who fears the LORD” (Psalms 25:12), but we read about “those who fear Him”, which is plural. The consequence of the confession of Psalms 25:11 is that the way is clear for the LORD to be intimate [this is the meaning of “secret”] “with those who fear Him”, which is a company of God-fearers.

God will make known to them the real meaning of “His covenant”. They will know that in Christ He has fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant and that on that basis they will enjoy all the blessings of the covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-Nahum :). The blessings of the covenant that will be their portion can be summarized in having an intimate fellowship with the LORD in which He makes known His thoughts.

Verses 15-22

Prayer for Deliverance and Preservation

It is about having the eyes of the God-fearing continually fixed on Him (Psalms 25:15). It means expecting everything from Him. When we look to the Lord Jesus, it is the assurance of deliverance from the evil that people want to do to us, for which they have stretched a net in front of us.

David has said that he is continually looking to the LORD. Now he asks the LORD if He will turn to him and be gracious to him (Psalms 25:16). He is aware that he does not deserve to have the LORD look out for him. Therefore, he appeals to His grace, pointing out his loneliness and affliction.

Loneliness is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. It greatly increases the misery in which a person finds himself if there is no one who cares about him, who shows any interest in him. Affliction – Hebrew ani – means defeated in spirit and trembling before God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2) and is a reason for God to look after someone.

With “the troubles” of his heart (Psalms 25:17), David seems to mean his sins and the oppressions and enemies resulting from his sins. He is overwhelmed by them, for they “are enlarged”. They have taken possession of him, as it were. In Psalms 25:15 he asked for the deliverance of his feet from the net his enemies had stretched before him. Here he asks for deliverance from his “distresses”. Outward difficulties can have the effect of bringing past sins back to mind (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-Job :).

With an urgent “look upon”, David prays that the LORD will yet regard his “affliction” and his “trouble” (Psalms 25:18). He also asks – for the third time in this psalm (Psalms 25:7; Psalms 25:11Psalms 25:18) – if the LORD will forgive “all my sins”. David was uncertain about this because he did not know of a finished work at Calvary. We, by grace, do know that.

Outwardly he is in affliction and trouble and inwardly he is plagued by the thoughts of all his sins. It is not just a single sin. He sees that there are many. It seems that he sees his affliction and trouble as a result of his sins. This can be the case with us as well. Many people want to be delivered from affliction but do not want to break with their sins because they love them. This is not the case with David.

Having called God’s attention to his affliction, trouble, and sins with a “look upon” in Psalms 25:18, he can call God’s attention to his “enemies” with a new “look upon” (Psalms 25:19). His enemies “are many”, they increase in number (quantity), and they hate him “with a violent hatred” (quality). Again, he is not asking God to put them down, but to take note of them. He leaves it up to God how He deals with it.

In Psalms 25:20 he asks for to guard his soul, which he lifted up to God in Psalms 25:1, by delivering him from his hopeless position. Again, he asks that God do not let him be ashamed, as he did in Psalms 25:2. There he expresses that he trusts in God. Here he expresses that he has taken refuge in God. In both cases, all his hope for salvation is completely in God. Therefore, in this prayer not to be ashamed, the certainty that God will hear him is also heard.

David also points to his “integrity and uprightness” (Psalms 25:21). We can only expect God’s lovingkindness and goodness (Psalms 25:6) if we ourselves are integrous and upright. He holds these up to God, saying that these qualities are conditions for God to preserve him. This means that he is not appealing to his own merits. He knows that he cannot attribute his integrity and uprightness to himself. His confession of his sins does make that clear.

What he means by this is that God has given him integrity and uprightness, that he has lived in accordance with it by His grace, and that God will therefore preserve him. He expects nothing from his own achievements, for he has none, but he “waits for” God. God is the Only One Who can give outcome.

The psalm concludes with a prayer for Israel (Psalms 25:22). David has prayed for himself that God will deliver him from his affliction. Now his view widens. He no longer sees only his own troubles, but thinks of the troubles in which God’s Israel finds itself. God’s intention is that the troubles He brings upon His own will cause them to take refuge in Him and become intercessors for others.

This psalm is in the form of an acrostic, that is, each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. With Psalms 25:21 the alphabet, the acrostic, of this psalm ends. Psalms 25:22 is a kind of postscript, where the psalmist now becomes mindful of the need of others. In the same way, if we drink of the living water, we ourselves will become a source of water for others (John 7:37-Zechariah :).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 25". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.