First Sunday in Lent: Psalm 25, David’s Distress and Deliverance

People of God, this is the first Sunday in Lent. And as we enter into this season we will take a look at Psalm 25. In fact, if you plan on meditating on a biblical book this Lenten Season, I encourage you to make your way through the Psalms several times. If you have been here at Providence for at least a couple of years you may be able to sing through about 25 of those psalms.

If we were to ask ourselves what is unique about the psalms, a good way to begin answering this question is by saying that “in the law and the prophetic writings, it is God who speaks to his people; in the Psalter, we listen to the saints speaking to God.[1] It is the language of God’s people. The reason the Psalms are so inviting is because it is the language of life, of worship, and of the deathbed. Geerhardus Vos wrote the following words: “Our Lord himself found his inner life portrayed in the Psalter and in some of the highest moments of his ministry borrowed from it the language in which his soul spoke to God, thus recognizing that a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”[2]  This morning we are called to place the psalms in front of you, and see the psalms as images of a Christ-centered people.

In the 25th psalm we see a man after God’s own heart. David’s trust, his many conflicts, his great transgression, his bitter repentance, and his deep distresses are all here.”[3]  The psalmist makes painful references to the skills and cruelty of his enemies. This is the lament of David under distress, and this is his response to the unfathomable pain he is enduring. But though we are looking at only the first ten verses, it is wise to keep this psalm together. David individualizes his pain in this section, but ultimately David is speaking on behalf of the bride. David sees his distress as the distress of God’s people, Israel. We get to that in the last verse of this song: “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.” David’s supplications are communal. As we consider this passage, do not forget that David is acting as Bride. David is us. He is the picture of redemption accomplished and applied in the midst of suffering; in the midst of grief; in divine guidance.

The first observation to make about this psalm is that the twenty-two verses of this Psalm begin in the original with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in their proper order. It is the first instance we have of an inspired acrostic or alphabetical song. This method may have been adopted by the writer to assist the memory;”[4] but it also tells us that the Holy Spirit cares about style; that the Third Person of the Trinity uses poetry to communicate.

Psalm 25 breathes an air of quiet confidence and hopefulness in the goodness, covenant faithfulness and the guidance of God.[5] It is pointing us to our God.

The Psalm begins very much like a liturgical service. We do something similar when the minister says “Lift up your hearts.” We respond: “We lift them up to the Lord.”[6] In other words, we direct our attention, our being, our souls, our bodies to God. The Psalmist begins similarly: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” This is a visual illustration of the psalmists’ dependence on God. There is a hierarchy built in life. Servants look to masters; children to parents; sheep to their shepherd; and so, as children we look to God. David looks up in expectation; in prayer. We see this prayer elaborated in verse two:

“O my God, in you I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.”

Faith unites us to God, and causes us to draw near to him. To David, God is personal. He is not a far-away God. He wants to be near to him in his anguish. When David says “Do not put me to shame,” he is saying “Don’t allow the enemies to triumph over me in this state; don’t allow my testimony to your faithfulness be mocked by my enemies.” David was jealous for the reputation of God. All others hopes will be put to shame, but our hope and trust in God will never be confounded.  David’s prayer is filled with rich theology, and a profound sense of how the future unfolds for him and his enemies, as we read in verse three:

“Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.”

Here is the history of the world in one verse. Those who wait upon God find Him in the end to be faithful to his promises, and unrelenting in protecting his own. But some pursue evil, because it is in their very nature to do. As the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “…men sin because they will sin, not because it is either profitable or reasonable to do so.” They seek every chance to denigrate the Christian gospel. We see this daily in the paper and media. You give them a line and they will write a poem to the non-existing God. They are without excuse, but they choose to trample on truth and exchange it for a lie.[7] David does not want a vague notion of God; he wants to be led to God and his truth:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

There is a pattern unfolding. David first lifts his eyes to God, and now he seeks to know God. It is the pattern of the Christian life. Once we are united to God, we grow in knowledge of His word. We need a proper view of the world, and we find this view in his truth. We are weak and so we cry to the God of our salvation. God not only saves us, but also structures the world, and so he knows best the way that we should go. But at the core of David’s plea is his enduring patience. David waits for God all day long. “We cheerfully wait when we are certain that we will not wait in vain.[8] We can only afford to be patient if we know that our hope is not in vain. We can only wait in God when we realize that our petitions are heard by the God who knows what is best for us; who knows the time and the circumstance that is most advantageous to our existence as Christians.

The Christian, according to David, is also teachable. He learns from those who have accumulated wisdom. We move from an orientation to God by lifting our eyes to Him to an earnest prayer to wait upon Him.

On what basis is David seeking God’s favor? On the basis of his own goodness? David knows better:

“Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”

God does what He does on the basis of his mercy. He claims God as his helper on the basis of a history of benevolence towards David and Israel. This enduring, everlasting love is stamped in the pages of history. Certainly David could see how God delivered his forefathers from danger; how He sustained them in distress and persecution. David is pleading on behalf of a God who has shown Himself to be faithful again and again.

I remember one of the counseling projects we had to do in graduate school was to attend an AA meeting and write a paper on our experience. The group leader encouraged anyone to speak up. Suddenly one by one, they introduced themselves and began talking about what led them to where they are today. They were each remembering the sins of their youth. They were describing actions that they wish could be erased. David asks God to not remember the sins of his youth. He does not want God to judge him according to his past, but to his present faithfulness. “Those offences which we remember with repentance God forgets.”[9] David wants God to see him in light of God’s overflowing ability to erase transgressions when we repent and call on him. In other words, “Save and deliver me because I have been faithful to you and I have repented of my past sins.” This is no small matter. When you are young, do not think for a moment that those youthful sins will not come back to haunt you. This is why repentance must be daily and often. As one writer said: “The bones of our youthful feastings at Satan’s table will stick painfully in our throats when we are old men.”[10] I have often told parents jokingly, but with a degree of absolute seriousness, that you are to pray that your children have the most boring testimony of anyone you know. Pray that when someone asks them “When did you become a Christian?” that they will answer: “For as long as I remember breathing.” There is nothing normal about growing up in sin and coming to Christ later on in life. That is the abnormal way of entering the kingdom. God’s way is generational and covenantal: unto you and your children unto a thousand generations.[11] But the goodness of God outweighs the youthful sins of David. God sees David as his own covered by his glory and brightness.

The Psalmist knows that the God who forgives is a God who guides:

“8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

By upright, David affirms that God acts according to His promises.[12] And because He is faithful to his promises, He is the most able to instruct us in the way we should go. God himself will condescend to teach a sinner. He comes in Word and in flesh. He comes as man the God/Man to teach us the way of life. This implies that God’s teaching is practical; he wants us to walk in the way. But we cannot jump into the practicality of His ways, without knowing the character of the God we worship. Knowing God means humbling ourselves. The humble hears the Word of the Lord and is prepared to submit to it; the prideful may listen, but deep inside he says: “I have a better alternative. Listen to David’s conditional remarks in verse 10:

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” This is a message repeated all over the Scriptures, but a message we fear at times. Some are fearful of speaking of the law too much, but David had no problem with that. He understood that God pours his grace most when we follow him best. As David says: “…for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” We are called to keep his commands that we may taste of his faithfulness and love. Do you long to taste more of God’s love and faithfulness? Love His commandments. Jesus says: “If you love me keep my commandments.” What kind of commandments are these? Jesus says they are not burdensome. People of God, do not fear God’s ways and his words; they are given so we may walk in his love. Those who know grace best are those who do not view grace as an excuse to sin, but as a reason to obey.

In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Geerhardus Vos, a Sermon on Psalm 25:14

[2] Ibid.

[3] A Treasure of David by Charles Spurgeon. Commentary on Psalm 25

[4] Spurgeon.

[5] See Bill Long, Lectionary homily.

[6] Known as the sursum corda.

[7] See Paul in Romans 1.

[8] Spurgeon.

[9] Spurgeon, Treasure of David.

[10] Ibid.

[11] See David’s response in Psalm 22:9.

[12] See Jamieson commentary, on-line edition.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Prayers, Preaching, Psalms, Puritans, Reflections, Scriptures/Sola Scriptura, Sermons/Lent. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to First Sunday in Lent: Psalm 25, David’s Distress and Deliverance

  1. Pingback: We need a theology of rest | Resurrectio et Vita

  2. Pingback: Thirsting For God « Kevin Nunez

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