Psalm 25 is a lament grounded in deep trust. The psalmist prays to the LORD for forgiveness of sin and protection from enemies. This psalm teaches us to pray in trying times and invites us to receive and act on the LORD’s instruction to forge a godly character.
Psalm 25 uses an acrostic design. This means that in the original Hebrew each successive verse begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This gives the psalm a unity and completeness. Verse 1 begins with the letter aleph and verse 21 with the letter tav. Verse 22 stands outside of the acrostic design and brings the psalm to a conclusion with a final plea for help.
1 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 Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!
In verses 1–2, the psalmist twice declares his trust in the LORD. He addresses the LORD as “my God.” He recognizes his dependence on the LORD. This is the proper posture by which to approach the King of Glory (see Ps 24). The psalmist then petitions the LORD to keep him from shame and from the triumphs of his enemies. Verse 3 affirms the psalmist’s faith in the form of an affirmation that those who hope in the LORD will be spared shame at the hands of their enemies. The LORD will instead shame those who are intent on acting wickedly.
The psalmist recognizes his dependence on God and in vv. 4–7 asks for the LORD’s instruction so that he may walk faithfully through the world. Thus far, we’ve read psalms in which there is a clear line between the righteous and the wicked. The psalmist in Ps 25 includes himself with the righteous, but demonstrates a key trait for God’s people to nurture: a teachable spirit mixed with a desire for growth.
In verses 4–5a, the psalmist prays, “Show me your ways.” This is a prayer for the LORD to cause the psalmist to know the LORD’s ways or paths. The assumption is that life is a journey and guidance is necessary. A second assumption is that God is willing and able to teach. The psalmist understands that he needs the GPS of God to help him navigate the world.
In verses 5b–7, the psalmist grounds his prayer in his confidence in the LORD’s character. In v. 5b, the psalmist declares his loyalty to God. The psalmist is “all in” in his trust. The LORD is plan A, B, C, and D. He recognizes that the LORD is his God and his Savior.
The psalmist appeals to the core of the LORD’s character: his mercy and faithful love (cf. Exod 34:6–7a). These are the traits that the LORD demonstrated in saving God’s people from bondage in Egypt and in revealing to God’s people the Law on Sinai. The psalmist trusts that God will deal with him in the same way. The psalmist recognizes his own need for cleansing and asks God to deal with him out of his love and goodness.
As we seek to grow into the people whom God desires for us to be, let us pray out of dependence and need while opening ourselves to God’s cleansing and empowerment.
In verses 1–7, the psalmist declared his trust and dependence on the LORD and appealed to the LORD’s love, mercy, and goodness as the basis for forgiving his sins and delivering him from enemies.
Now in the remainder of the psalm (vv. 8–22) the psalmist reiterates his need for deliverance and his belief in the LORD’s goodness. The psalmist moves back and forth in his prayer between proclaiming the guidance and kindness of God with his petitions for God to act to save him.
Verses 8–11 illustrate this well. In verses 8–10, the psalmist praises the LORD for his instruction and guidance. These flow directly out of God’s character. The psalmist describes the LORD as good, upright, loving, and faithful. In other words, the LORD embodies the positive traits that we long to experience in our own lives. The psalmist appeals to these core characteristics of the LORD by crying out for forgiveness for his own sense of lostness. Notice the phrase in v. 11, “for the sake of your name LORD.” The psalmist desires forgiveness not only as means of saving his own neck but for the testimony and honor that it will provide for the LORD. The psalmist can again join in the chorus of creation that will testify to the LORD’s goodness to those who do not know the LORD.
In verses 12–21, the pattern repeats. The psalmist describes God’s character and actions (vv. 12–14) and then the psalmist follows with a longer list of petitions (vv. 15–21). Verses 12–14 describe the benefits of being in proper relationship with the LORD (“those who fear the LORD”). God will instruct them and give them prosperity. The assumption is that God’s people desire and receive this guidance. Verse 14 mentions “covenant.” This likely refers to the Sinai covenant. At Sinai, God offered God’s people a relationship rooted in grace.
In vv. 15–21, the psalmist aligns himself and his hope for a future with the LORD. He sees in the God the only means of release from his bondage and affliction. The psalmist struggles both internally as a result of his sins, but he also faces serious challenges and danger from numerous enemies all around him. He releases all of his hurts and desires to God. This is a key step in prayer. The pray-er relinquishes to God all concerns. Doing this allows God’s people (including us) to live in the moment and free ourselves from the affliction of worry. Verse 21 is a final proclamation of the psalmist’s personal trust. The psalmist is direct and to the point: “my hope, LORD, is in you.” The psalmist does not waffle between options. If there is a way out, it will be through the help of the LORD.
The psalmist concludes Ps 25 with a general petition for God to act on behalf of God’s people as whole to deliver them from all their troubles. This final verse reminds us that true piety can never be confined to our experiences as individuals. We must be mindful of our neighbor in our prayers too!