PSALM 25 OVERVIEW
Title. A Psalm of David. David is pictured in this Psalm as in a faithful miniature. His holy trust, his many conflicts, his great transgression, his bitter repentance, and his deep distresses are all here; so that we see the very heart of "the man after God's own heart." It is evidently a composition of David's later days, for he mentions the sins of his youth, and from its painful references to the craft and cruelty of his many foes, it will not be too speculative a theory to refer it to the period when Absalom was heading the great rebellion against him. This has been styled the second of the seven Penitential Psalms. It is the mark of a true saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins, and his sorrow for sin drives him to his God.
Subject and Division. 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; and the Holy Spirit may have employed it to show us that the graces of style and the arts of poetry may lawfully be used in his service. Why should not all the wit and ingenuity of man be sanctified to noblest ends by being laid upon the altar of God? From the singularity of the structure of the Psalm, it is not easy to discover any marked divisions; there are great changes of thought, but there is no variation of subject; the moods of the writer's mind are twofold -- prayer and meditation; and as these appear in turns, we should thus divide the verses. Prayer from Psalms 25:1-7 ; meditation, Psalms 25:8-10 ; prayer, Psalms 25:11 ; meditation, Psalms 25:12-15 ; prayer, Psalms 25:16-22 .
Verse 1. Unto thee, O Lord. See how the holy soul flies to its God like a dove to its cote. When the storm winds are out, the Lord's vessels put about and make for their well remembered harbour of refuge. What a mercy that the Lord will condescend to hear our cries in time of trouble, although we may have almost forgotten him in our hours of fancied prosperity. Unto thee, O Jehovah, do I lift up my soul. It is but a mockery to uplift the hands and the eyes unless we also bring our souls into our devotions. True prayer may be described as the soul rising from earth to have fellowship with heaven; it is taking a journey upon Jacob's ladder, leaving our cares and fears at the foot, and meeting with a covenant God at the top. Very often the soul cannot rise, she has lost her wings, and is heavy and earth bound; more like a burrowing mole than a soaring eagle. At such dull seasons we must not give over prayer, but must, by God's assistance, exert all our powers to lift up our hearts. Let faith be the lever and grace be the arm, and the dead lump will yet be stirred. But what a lift it has sometimes proved! With all our tugging and straining we have been utterly defeated, until the heavenly loadstone of our Saviour's love has displayed its omnipotent attractions, and then our hearts have gone up to our Beloved like mounting flames of fire.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This is the first of the seven alphabetical Psalms, the others being the 34th, 37th, 111th, 112th, 119th, and 145th. They are specimens of that acrostic mode of writing which seems to have been once so fashionable among the Jews, as is testified by numerous instances of such composition, which are to be met with in their works. Other poetic artifices were likewise adopted. We find many instances of poems being so constructed, that a proper name, or some particular sentiment, would not infrequently be expressed by the initial letters of the verses. See Bartolocci's "Bibliotheca Rabbinica," vol. 2 pg 260, where examples of such artifices are cited. George Phillips, B.D., in "The Psalms in Hebrew, with a Commentary." 1846.
Whole Psalm. This is the first fully alphabetic Psalm ... The only lesson which the use of the alphabetic form may teach is this: -- that the Holy Spirit was willing to throw his words into all the moulds of human thought and speech; and whatever ingenuity man may exhibit in intellectual efforts, he should consecrate these to his Lord, making him the "Alpha and Omega" of his pursuits. Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. Saving grace is a secret that no man knows but the elect, and the elect cannot know it neither without special illumination: --
- Special showing -- Shew me thy ways, O Lord, saith David.
- Barely showing will not serve the turn, but there must be a special teaching -- Teach me thy paths, Psalms 25:4 .
- Bare teaching will not avail neither, but there must be a special inculcative teaching -- Teach me in thy ways, to Psalms 25:8 .
- Inculcative teaching will not do the deed neither, but there must be a special directive teaching -- Guide in judgment and teach, Psalms 25:9 .
- Directive teaching will not be sufficient neither, but there must be a special manuductive teaching -- Lead me forth in thy truth, and teach me, Psalms 25:5 .
- Manuductive teaching will not be effectual, but there must be also a special, choice teaching, a determining of the very will, an elective teaching -- Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose, Psalms 25:12 . And what secret is this? not common grace, for that is not the secret of the elect, but special and peculiar grace.
- The special grace of prayer -- Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul Psalms 25:1 .
- A special grace of faith -- My God, I trust in thee, Psalms 25:2 .
- A special grace of repentance -- Remember not the sins of my youth, etc., Psalms 25:7 .
- A special grace of hope -- My hope is in thee, Psalms 25:21 .
- A special grace of continual living in God's sight, and dependence upon God -- Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord, Psalms 25:15 .
- Which is the root of all God's special and eternal favour and mercy -- Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old, Psalms 25:6 ; even God's special mercy to him in particular, Psalms 25:11 . William Fenner, in "Hidden Manna,"
Whole Psalm. In these four Psalms which immediately follow one another, we may find the soul of David presented in all the several postures of piety -- lying, standing, sitting, kneeling. In the twenty-second Psalm, he is lying all along, falling flat on his face, low grovelling on the ground, even almost entering into a degree of despair. Speaking of himself in the history of Christ in the mystery, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In the twenty-third Psalm, he is standing, and through God's favour, in despite of his foes, trampling and triumphing over all opposition; "The Lord is my shepherd, therefore shall I lack nothing." In the twenty-fourth Psalm he is sitting, like a doctor in his chair, or a professor in his place, reading a lecture of divinity, and describing the character of that man -- how he must be accomplished -- "who shall ascend into thy holy hill," and hereafter be partaker of happiness. In this twenty-fifth Psalm, he is kneeling, with hands and voice lifted up to God, and on these two hinges the whole Psalm turneth; the one is a hearty beseeching of God's mercy, the other a humble bemoaning of his own misery. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 1. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. The lifting up of the heart presupposes a former dejection of his soul. The soul of man is pressed down with sin and with the cares of this world, which, as lead doth the net, draweth is so down, that it cannot mount above till God send spiritual prayers, as cork to the net, to exalt it; which arise out of faith, as the flame doth out of the fire, and which must be free of secular cares, and all things pressing down, which showeth unto us that worldlings can no more pray than a mole is able to fly. But Christians are as eagles which mount upward. Seeing then the heart of man by nature is fixed to the earth, and of itself is no more able to rise therefrom than a stone which is fixed to the ground, till God raises it by his power, word, and workmen; it should be our principal petition to the Lord that it would please him to draw us, that we might run after him; that he would exalt and lift up our hearts to heaven, that they may not lie still in the puddle of this earth. Archibald Symson.
Verse 1. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. A godly man prays as a builder builds. Now a builder first layeth a foundation, and because he cannot finish in one day, he comes the second day, and finds the frame standing that he made the first day, and then he adds a second day's work; and then he comes a third day and finds his two former day's work standing; then he proceeds to a third day's work, and makes walls to it, and so he goes on till his building be finished. So prayer is the building of the soul till it reach up to heaven; therefore a godly heart prays, and reacheth higher and higher in prayer, till at last his prayers reach up to God. William Fenner.
Verse 1. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: unto thee in the fulness of thy merits, unto thee in the riches of thy grace; unto thee in the embraces of thy love and comforts of thy Spirit; unto thee, that thy thorns may be my crown, thy blood my balsam, thy curse my blessing, thy death my life, thy cross my triumph. Thus is my "life hid with Christ in God;" and if so, then where should be my soul, but where is my life? And, therefore, unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. ... O make good thy name of Lord unto me; as Lord, rebuke Satan and restrain all earthly and carnal affections, that they do not once dare to whisper a temptation to my soul, a distraction to my thoughts, whilst I am in communion with thee, in prayer at thy holy ordinance. Do thou as Lord, rule me by thy grace, govern me by thy Spirit, defend me by thy power, and crown me with thy salvation. Thou, Lord, the preserver of heaven and earth, "thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." Psalms 145:16 . O open now thine hand, thy bosom, thy bounty, thy love, and satisfy the desires of my longing soul, which I here "lift up unto thee." Robert Mossom, 1657.
Verse 1. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Cyprian saith, that in the primitive times the minister was wont to prepare the people's minds to pray, by prefacing, Sursum corda, lift up your hearts. The Jews at this day write upon the walls of their synagogues these words, Tephillah belo cavannah ceguph belo neshamah; that is, A prayer without the intention of the affection is like a body without a soul. And yet their devotion is a mere outside, saith one -- a brainless head and a soulless body: "This people draw nigh to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Isaiah 29:13 . A carnal man can as little lift up his heart in prayer, as a mole can fly. A David finds it a hard task; since the best heart is lumpish, and naturally beareth downwards, as the poise of a clock, as the lead of a net. Let us therefore "lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us;" and pray to God to draw us up to himself, as the lodestone doth the iron. John Trapp.
Verse 1. Unto thee, I lift up my soul. This follows by a natural consequence after the sublime appeal in the foregoing Psalm to the gates of heaven to lift up their heads to receive Christ, the Lord of hosts and the King of glory, ascending into heaven. As the Collect for Ascension day expresses it, "Grant O Lord, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also, in heart and mind thither ascend;" and for the Sunday after Ascension, "O God, who hast exalted thine only Son with great triumph to thy kingdom in heaven, send thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us to the same place, whither our Saviour Christ is gone before." Christopher Wordsworth, in loc.
Verse 1. I lift up my soul, alluding to the sacrifices, which were wont to be lifted up. Hence prayers not answered, not accepted, are said to be stopped from ascending. Lamentations 3:44 . When you meet with such expressions in the Old Testament concerning prayer, you must still understand them to be allusions to the sacrifices, because the sacrifices were lifted up and did ascend. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 1. My soul. But how shall I call it mine, seeing it is thine, thine by purchase, thine, having bought it with thy blood? Yea, is it not thy spouse, whom thou hast wedded to thyself by the Spirit through faith? And is not this holy sacrament the marriage feast? If so, sure then, my Jesus, I was lost in myself, till found in thee; and therefore my soul is now, and not till now, truly mine, in being wholly thine; so that I can say with confidence, "I lift up my soul unto thee." Robert Mossom.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Heavenly machinery for uplifting an earthbound soul.
Verse 1. Genuine devotion described and commended.
WORKS ON THE TWENTY-FIFTH PSALM
A Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Twenty-fifth Psalme, the second of the Penitentials; (in "A Sacred Septenarie.") By ARCHIBALD SYMSON. 1638. (See page 74.)
The Preacher's Tripartie, in Three Books. The First, to raise Devotion in Divine Meditations upon Psalm XXV. By R. MOSSOM, Preacher of God's Word, late at St. Peter's, Paul's Wharf, London, 1657. Folio.
Six Sermons in "Expository Discourses," by the late Rev. WILLIAM RICHARDSON, Subchanter of York Cathedral. 1825.