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Morning Pages | Psalm 25
When You Need God To Show Up
Have you ever felt like you need God to show up? You need to know he is present and engaged in the circumstances of your life? You need to know he is with you and guiding you? You need to know that the ground beneath your feet will not give way because God is upholding you?
This is where David finds himself in Psalm 25. He needs God to show up in all aspects of his life. And so, as David often does, he turns to the Lord and asks for what he needs,
Vs. 1-2a “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.”
Right away, the psalm begins with David seeking the Lord. He lifts his soul to his God—carrying himself into the Lord’s presence in a humble posture of surrender and dependence.
I love this imagery, and it reminds me of something my mentor has often mentioned during our time together. Whenever she is facing challenging circumstances, and she isn’t even sure how to pray, she will turn her palms face up and lift them up to the Lord—embodying the act of surrendering all her troubles to him. Rather than clinging, clutching, and grabbing for assurances and control, she releases it with a physical gesture, which she can only do because she believes God can be trusted with all she cares about.
This is where we find David—entrusting himself to the faithful hands of his God.
He continues now with more specificity, praying for God to intervene and thwart his enemy’s attempts to disgrace him,
Vs. 2b-3 “Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.”
The Bible has much to say about shame—something I’ve spent years studying both theologically and learning how it operates in my own life. We experience shame in three ways. First, as a result of our own sin. In this way, shame is legitimate; it results from something we did or failed to do. And it is an invitation from God to turn toward him in confession and repentance so that we may receive his forgiveness and experience intimate communion with him. But we also experience shame in two other ways: when others sin against us or as a result of something we are associated with that society has deemed shameful (ex., poverty, mental illness). In these ways, our shame is illegitimate because we didn’t do anything wrong. It is the result of living in a broken world. And here, too, God invites us to turn toward him and receive his comfort and compassion. Whether our shame is legitimate because of something we did or illegitimate because of something done to us or something we’re associated with, God provides us with a path to find freedom from shame and a place of belonging in his presence.
Here in David’s psalm, we find shame present in two ways.
First, David feels the threat of shame at the hand of those who wish him harm. This shame is the result of sins others commit against him. He is innocent of wrongdoing, and the shame threatening him is illegitimate. But rather than attempting to vindicate himself, David turns to the Lord. He is confident that the shame he experiences at the hands of others will not mark him because those who wait on/rely on/trust in the Lord as their hope/strength/deliverance/reputation will not ultimately be put to shame. They may experience undue shame on this side of eternity, but their future is one unmarked, untainted by shame.
Second, David affirms that those who are “wantonly treacherous” or bring harm without cause will eventually experience legitimate shame in the form of God’s judgment because of their sinful actions. Because David knows God is just and righteous, he trusts that though the wantonly treacherous may have fame, glory, and victory here and now, shame ultimately awaits them.
David now turns to the Lord for wisdom and direction,
Vs. 4-5 “Make me 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.”
David shifts his focus from his external needs to his internal needs—petitioning the Lord to lead and teach him in the way he should go. He understands the limits of his own wisdom and knowledge and is, therefore, hungry for the Lord to guide him. And so he says, “Make me know your ways…” Know is again the Hebrew word yada—a deep, intimate knowing. He wants to know in his innermost being who the Lord is, how he acts, and what he desires from his children. He is fiercely committed to waiting for his direction because he knows that God’s ways lead along the path of life.
Not only does David recognize the insufficiency of his own wisdom, but he also understands the insufficiency of his own faithfulness and his need for the Lord’s mercy,
Vs. 6-7 “Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 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!”
These verses have an interesting juxtaposition: Don’t forget to be merciful to me. Do forget my sins. David appeals to a God who will forget sin but not mercy. I don’t know about you, but I often get these backward in my daily life. I fear the Lord will always remember my sin and failings and will forget to show me mercy and compassion. Instead, I mistakenly believe he will treat me according to my sin—with frustration and contempt—rather than according to his character. So rather than running to the Lord and seeking his mercy in my sin, I run from him and try to make myself worthy of his love and mercy. But that is not the Lord’s way for those who understand their need and depend on him for mercy. He has promised that when we turn to him, he will forget our sins, but he will not forget his mercy.
Perhaps this thought is what leads David to proclaim in verses 8-10,
Vs. 8-10 “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”
The Lord is good. And from his goodness, he instructs both sinners and sufferers in his truth—not just the strong, mighty, and powerful and not just those who’ve cleaned themselves up, gotten their acts together, or proven themselves worthy. He gladly instructs and leads all who would listen and follow—the week, meek, wretched, and rebellious.
And for those who trust and follow him, all the paths of the Lord fall securely between the guard rails of his steadfast love and faithfulness. Not just some or a few or one. ALL! There is nowhere the Lord leads us that is not within the boundaries of his faithfulness and love. Even when the way seems hidden or treacherous. Even when our circumstances overwhelm us and threaten to take us under. Even when those who harm us seem to prosper while we languish. Even when our road has been marked by betrayal or injustice, loss or unfulfilled dreams. Even when (fill in the blank). All the paths of the Lord are grounded in his steadfast love and faithfulness.
In light of that, David appeals to God’s mercy—once again remembering his own unfaithfulness and insufficiency,
Vs. 11 “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt for it is great.”
In Exodus 34:6-7, the Lord described himself to Moses as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” It is to this God David appeals when he says, “For your name’s sake…pardon my guilt.” David is asking the Lord to live up to his reputation and to be who he has claimed to be.
Remarkably, even as David faces threats from his enemies, he can recognize his own brokenness. So he prays for both deliverance from his physical enemies as well as deliverance from his own sin.
David’s prayer illustrates the fullness of the human experience. Our lives are never marked only by suffering at the hands of another or only by our own personal sins. On the contrary, our lives are always a complex combination of both sin and suffering. As believers, we are simultaneously sinners, sufferers, and saints. And so, like David, our prayers should also reflect each of these aspects of our lives.
Vs. 12-15 “Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.”
On the heels of praying for deliverance from both his enemies and his own sin, David turns his eyes to his covenantal God, assuring himself that his trust in the Lord is not in vain. The fruit of relationship with the Lord is rich: instruction, well-being, inheritance, intimacy, and protection. And yet, we don’t always experience God in that way. In fact, at times, it feels the exact opposite. We languish. He feels distant and disengaged. We suffer and struggle. This was true of David’s life, and it is true of ours as well.
So how is it that David can say this about the Lord with such confidence? Because confidence in God’s faithfulness is forged in the fires of suffering, whether as a result of our own sin, sins committed against us, or the realities of life in a broken world. And David has had more than his fair share of suffering.
Romans 5:3-4 says that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces a hope that will not put us to shame. God’s love is not defined by the absence of suffering. His love is defined by his presence in our suffering. In suffering, we see the depth and breadth of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness—his unrelenting commitment to forgive, be with, instruct, and provide for those who look to him.
Which leads David to pray,
Vs. 16-22 “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”
David’s back is against the wall. He is counting on the Lord to intervene, to break in with grace, relief, rescue, forgiveness, and protection. He knows the limits of his humanity. He is powerless and cannot meet his own needs. And so, in humble dependence, he waits on the Lord to show up.
We don’t like to feel powerless. Because powerlessness feels like failure. And we don’t like failure either. But Psalm 25 reminds me that our limitations aren’t failure; they are invitations—invitations from our gracious God to turn to him in our weakness and need and to find him sufficient. They are invitations to rest, surrender, trust, and hope in him. And they are invitations to allow him to prove himself faithful to us once again.
Until next week.
Engage the Scripture
Draw two columns at the top of a piece of paper or in the margin of your Bible. Label the first column “God” and the second “I”.
Now read back through this psalm. Under the column labeled “God” write all the ways God moves and provides (ex., instructs, forgives). Under the column labeled “I” write all the ways David acts in relation to God (ex., waits, trusts).
Explore Your Story
Think of a time you needed God to show up in your sin. What was going on? How did you feel? What did you need? How has your faith grown as a result?
Think of a time you needed God to show up in your suffering. What was going on? How did you feel? What did you need? How has your faith grown as a result?
As you reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, how has God provided for you in both your sin and suffering?
How might remembering this provide you assurance the next time you need God to show up?
Experience Hope, Healing, and Freedom
Verses 16-22 provide a robust prayer in times of sin and suffering. Rewrite these verses in your own words and pray them whenever you need God to show up.
Psalm 25 by Poor Bishop Hooper
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