Summary: A prayer for all seasons.
TO YOU I LIFT MY SOUL
It is a prayer in celebration of God’s mercy and lovingkindness (Psalm 25:6). A prayer made in the consciousness of past sin (Psalm 25:7; cf. Psalm 25:11). A prayer confirming the goodness of the LORD (Psalm 25:8).
It is a prayer awaiting the teaching of His way (Psalm 25:8-9). “Way” speaks of Torah - but Torah points to Christ (cf. Luke 24:27). It is a prayer of trust in God’s covenant faithfulness (Psalm 25:10).
1. AFFIRMING TRUST
As we enter this prayer, we first affirm our trust in the LORD (Psalm 25:1).
To the Israelites, the lifting of their hands in prayer (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8) was a gesture of dependence upon the LORD for the answer to that prayer. It indicated openness to God’s grace, willingness to obey His instructions, and submission to His leadership. Self is vanquished when we thus “lift our soul”, and affirm our trust in Him (Psalm 25:1-2a).
Then we make our plea at the bar of God’s justice (Psalm 25:2-3).
The Psalmist’s plea not to be “put to shame” (Psalm 25:2) was not only personal, but also concerned the whole community of those who “wait” upon the LORD (Psalm 25:3). As such, it also concerned the honour of the God in whom we trust (cf. Joshua 7:8-9). The dependence and trust of the Psalmist is echoed in the expression, “for you are the God of my salvation: on you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25:5b).
Next, we seek His guidance (Psalm 25:4-5).
To obey the LORD, we need to hear His instructions. Dependence upon God should lead to right living. This involves: following His ways, walking in His paths (Psalm 25:4; cf. Psalm 119:1); being led in His truth, and being taught by Him (Psalm 25:5a). The Father said, ‘This is my beloved Son: hear Him’ (cf. Mark 9:7).
4. MERCY and LOVING KINDNESS
On the positive side, we ask the LORD to REMEMBER His tender mercy and loving kindness (Psalm 25:6).
For the Psalmist, these had been demonstrated in ages past: perhaps referring to the LORD’s revelation to Moses, after the golden calf incident (Exodus 34:6). We, too, can ‘count our blessings, name them one by one’ - acknowledging the mercy, compassion and faithfulness of the LORD (cf. Lamentations 3:22-23).
5. MERCY and GOODNESS
On the negative side, we ask the LORD effectively to FORGET our sins, and to look upon us in mercy as He would look on Christ (Psalm 25:7). That is what I see here, anyway: perfect substitution (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).
6. AFFIRMING GOD’S GOODNESS
Next, we affirm God’s goodness (Psalm 25:8).
It is because of the LORD’s goodness (cf. Psalm 145:9) that we can rely upon Him to teach us His way (Psalm 25:8). Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no-one comes to the Father but by Me’ (John 14:6).
7. A PROMISE FOR THE MEEK
Then we claim a promise (Psalm 25:9).
In the Old Testament, the Psalmist promises that the meek shall inherit the land (cf. Psalm 37:11). In the New Testament, Jesus promises that those who are meek shall inherit the earth (cf. Matthew 5:5). So, the LORD undertakes to guide the meek in judgment, and teach them His way (Psalm 25:9).
Finally, we claim God’s covenant and Word (Psalm 25:10).
This goodness, mercy and truth is based in God’s covenant, and is consistent with His Word (Psalm 25:10). God’s covenant is sure (cf. Psalm 89:34). The ultimate expression of God’s covenant mercy and love is seen in the Cross of Jesus (John 3:16).