Studies in the Psalms
Third, the psalmist prays for pardon. “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great (Ps. 25:14). “Take away all my sins” (Ps. 25:18).
Fourth, the psalmist appeals to God for deliverance. “Look upon my affliction and my distress. . . . Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you” (Ps. 25:18, 20).
The reason the psalmist can make these kinds of appeals to God is because of the kind of God to whom the psalmist is praying. The doctrine or theology of God in this psalm is of the highest order. This psalm is a confession of faith and trust in God’s absolute perfection. “Good and upright is the LORD. . . . All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful” (Ps. 25:8, 10). The psalmist knows that human merit will not give him victory in his prayers. Redemption will come only because God is a merciful and gracious God (Ps. 25:6, 16). The psalmist is extremely humble and contrite in appealing to God for forgiveness. He does make one brief appeal to his “integrity and uprightness” (Ps. 25:21). After all, we do have obligations to be obedient to God (Ps. 25:10). Nevertheless, the psalmist’s emphasis is on his own sinfulness and unworthiness in contrast to God’s infinite perfection in which he hopes. “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD” (Ps. 25:7).
The psalmist knows that God will forgive, not primarily because of who the psalmist is as a human being, but because of who God is in his inner being, which is what is meant by the “name” of God. “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Ps. 25:11). This is the way God has always been. God’s mercy and love “are from of old” (Ps. 25:6). God’s basic nature and holy character are unchangeable (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 3:27). Therefore, today we can trust in God in the exact same way as the psalmist did long ago. What this means is that “a man must live by the help of God, not by his wits” (Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, IVP, 116). It is because of the great trust that the psalmist has in God’s goodness and moral perfection that this psalm might be called a “prayer of confidence” (Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, WBC, Waco, TX, 217).
God does not leave mankind in the dark about what is expected of us. The psalmist appeals to God to teach him his ways and paths (Ps. 25:4). “Guide me in your truth and teach me,” he writes (Ps. 25:5). God “instructs sinners in his ways” (Ps. 25:8). “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Ps. 25:9). If people will fear God, he will instruct them “in the way chosen” for them (Ps. 25:12). This is similar to the teaching of the apostle Peter: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Not only does the psalmist appeal to the moral perfection of God and God’s desire for mankind to know his will, but also he highlights God’s sovereign power. Only God is able to deliver the psalmist from the difficult situation with which he is surrounded (Ps. 25:15). There is only one hope, one salvation, and one possible savior—the God of Israel. That is why the psalmist says, “I take refuge in you. . . . My hope is in you” (Ps. 25:20, 21). He expresses the conviction that “No one whose hope is in [God] will ever be put to shame” (Ps. 25:3).
Psalm 25 is a powerful prayer of piety and devotion which can serve as a model for our prayers to God today. Let us approach God in the same spirit of humility and reverence as the psalmist did, believing in God’s absolute goodness and sovereignty, as we make our requests known to him.