Saturday, August 09, 2014

Can Psalm 25 teach me how to live a Christian life?

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
2 I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.
22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
(Psalm 25, NIV)

In reading through this Psalm, I am first struck by how it is a Psalm that is all about what God does, not much about what we do at all. Our first and only step is to put our trust in him, and, as Keith Green says, he’ll take care of the rest. I think it is meant to be that way, and its effect ought to be terribly humbling, since God seems to do it all. When we bring the question about Christian living before him, we discover that it is also all about him and not much at all about us.

Hebrew poetry frequently will give the same truths in threes, such as in Psalm One, Blessed is the man 1) who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, 2) or stand in the way of sinners, 3) or sit in the seat of mockers. In this Psalm, Psalm 25, we see the same thing, except the poet has taken poetical variation, in a very beautiful way.
First, David tells us of three beautiful things that God does for us in verses four and five, namely that the Lord shows us his ways, teaches us his paths, and guides us in his truth. In the middle of these three great things, he remembers us, forgets our sins, and forgives even our iniquities (v. 8, 9). But David does a clever maneuver, for just before telling us that God takes away our iniquities, he again repeats the triple formula, he instructs (shows) us his ways, guides us in his truth, and teaches us his paths.

And then after announcing that God forgives our iniquities, he repeats the formula one last time, he instructs (shows) us in the right way, he confides (guides) in us who fear him, and he makes known (teaches) his covenant to us. Thus the opening of the poem is magnificently poetical on two different levels. First, we are shown, taught, and guided. But folded cleverly in the center of these things repeated three times, we are remembered, sins are forgotten, and iniquities are forgiven.

But what do these verses teach us about the Christian life? First, we are to put our trust in him. On the basis of that trust, God will lead, guide, and direct us. Psalm 119:9 has the same idea when it asks how can a young man keep his way pure, and answers the question saying, “by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” God will lead, guide, and direct our paths, if we but will trust him. Luther rediscovered that great truth, that it is faith alone by which we are made righteous. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified” (Romans 10:10). Trusting him is all he asks, and then he really does take care of the rest. He directs our paths all of our life, throughout all eternity, if the Bible is to be believed. He guides our feet on the paths that we should go, again through all eternity. He teaches us through his own Holy Spirit the very word of God that provides our signposts to direct our lives.
I have put the pattern down below, that it might be easier to make sense of it:
1. He shows us His ways v. 4
2. He teaches us His paths v.4
3. He guides us in His truth v. 5

A. He remembers mercy and love for us v. 6
B. He remembers not our youthful sins v.7

1, 2, and 3: Parenthetically repeated 1.instructs (8) 2.guides (9) and 3. teaches (9)

C. He forgives our great iniquities for the sake of his name v. 11

1. He instructs us in the right way v. 12
2. He confides (guides?) in us who fear him v. 14
3. He makes known his covenant to them v. 14

But that is only the first half of this magnificent Psalm! Now David finishes with seven requests, asking God for things he needs to guide his life. He asks God:
1. to release him from any snares or traps (v. 15).
2. to turn towards him and be gracious to him (v. 16).
3. to relieve the troubles of his heart (v. 17).
4. to free him of his anguish (v. 17).
5. to take away all his sins (v. 18).
6. to guard his life (v. 20).
7. to rescue him. (v. 20).

In our lives we will find ourselves in many traps. Looking to God, we can be confident of his releasing us. We can be confident in Christ of him turning towards us with graciousness for all of eternity. Amazing Grace had a verse added to it, the last, that says when we have been there ten thousand years, we have only just begun. If our eyes are upon that, what possible troubles of this life would not be relieved? We will be forever free of anguish on that day, with all of our sins taken away, guarded and rescued forever by the Son of God. What could be better than that?

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