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THE PENTATEUCH

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--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

The Book of Psalms (The Psalter) - 23-26 (3).

A Commentary by Dr Peter Pett BA BD Hons London DD

Note: Throughout this commentary God's Name is represented as YHWH in accordance with the Hebrew text. LXX repesented it as 'LORD'. It is in fact a name that was seen as so sacred that no one ever pronounced it. Thus how to do so has been forgotten. Yahweh is probably the nearest best guess, although others suggest Yohweh. Jehovah is a corruption of it.

Psalm 23.

Here we have one of the most beautiful of Psalms, described as 'A Psalm to David', and its very content points to David as its author. It likens YHWH to a shepherd Who watches over His sheep. None knew better the needs of the sheep and the duties of a shepherd than David. Indeed he had experienced them both as a shepherd over his wayward sheep, and as a King over his equally wayward subjects. And here he pictures YHWH as the perfect shepherd Who meets all the needs of His sheep.

The story is told of how at a particular gathering the Psalm was read by a famous actor whose rendering of the Psalm was extolled for its great beauty. Shortly afterwards it was read by a godly Pastor. When the meeting was over the actor, moved by the Pastor's rendering, approached him and said, 'Sir, I may know the Psalm, but you know the Shepherd'. And that is what is important as we study the Psalm, to know the Shepherd.

Heading.

23.1a 'A Psalm of David.'

The Psalm begins with an ascription to David, and there is no real reason for seeing it as not written by him. He had the reputation of being 'the sweet Psalmist of Israel' (2 Samuel 23.1), which confirms that he must have written a good number of Psalms. The mention of 'the house of YHWH' in verse 6 is not against this idea, for 'the house of YHWH is not synonymous with 'the Temple of YHWH'. Indeed it might seem a better parallel with 'The Dwellingplace (Tabernacle) of YHWH'. For references to 'the house of YHWH/God' prior to the building of the Temple see Exodus 23.19; Judges 18.31; 1 Samuel 1.7. They did not think of a 'house' as we do. It rather represented 'home' wherever it may be. It is doubtful if David wanted to live in the Temple for ever, even idealistically.

The Psalmist picture himself as walking through life serenely and unafraid because of the One Who watches over Him. It is the idealistic picture of what we ought to be. It is a picture of how Jesus walked. If only we would truly hold on to these words and believe them our lives would be serene in all circumstances, for we would know His care over us at all times, and that even in the valley of the shadow of death we would not need to be afraid. For the point is not that trials and problems will not come, but that when they do the Shepherd will step forward and deal with them.

For this idea of YHWH as shepherd compare 74.1; 77.20; 78.52, 70 ff; 79.13; 80.1;95.7; 100.3; Micah 7.14; Isaiah 40.11. Jesus described Himself as 'the good (effective, fully responsive) Shepherd' in contrast with the false shepherds (John 10.11; see also Hebrews 13.20; 1 Peter 2.25).

23.1b 'YHWH is my shepherd; I shall not want.'

The idea of a shepherd is of one who cares for and watches over his sheep. Kings liked to describe themselves as shepherds of their people when they were feeling sentimental and wanted to give a good impression. They wanted their people to love them and see them as a father figure (however unfatherlike they really were), and their people spoke of them as their shepherd when they wanted to flatter them, and receive some benefit from them. The spiritual leaders of Israel were regularly spoken of as shepherds, although sadly in many cases as failing shepherds. But here we have the Shepherd above all shepherds, the unfailing and compassionate One Whose power is infinite and Who would never fail His sheep. And once He is our Shepherd we can be confident at all times, for the provision of good pasture (compare Matthew 6.32), the protection from all evil, and the sustaining of our souls, then become His responsibility. The problem lies in our unwillingness to trust Him.

'I shall not want.' This does not mean that He will provide for the fulfilment of all our desires. It means that He will 'withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly' (84.11). We can compare how He was able to say to Israel when they had wandered in the wilderness, ''you have lacked nothing' (Deuteronomy 2.7). It is a reminder that He will make full provision for whatever He sees that we need. If therefore we find ourselves 'wanting' we should recognise that it is not because He has failed, but because our Shepherd knows that it is good for us, and we should therefore be content (compare 34.10; 84.11).

23.2 'He makes me to lie down in pastures of luscious grass, He leads me beside the waters of rest.'

The oriental shepherd goes ahead of his sheep, seeking out good pasturage for them. And once he finds it he brings his sheep to rest that they may enjoy it. They are enabled to lie down in 'pastures of luscious grass'. There, feeding safely and well, they can settle down fully content with his provision. This picture of the shepherd causing his sheep to lie down was used by Jeremiah in his prison cell as a picture of the future restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 33.12). It is a reminder of the Lord's continual and full provision for His own. Compare here also Ezekiel 34.13-16 which describes what the Shepherd God will do for His people.

And when they are thirsty, He leads them to the waters of rest where they can drink to their full without fear. The idea behind 'leading' is of 'gentle guidance'. Compare Isaiah 40.11, 'He will gently lead those who are with young'. The 'waters of rest' will result in sheep which are fully satiated and at peace. They are conscious that all their needs have been supplied. The same idea is contained in the idyllistic picture of Paradise, 'they will hunger no more, nor thirst any more, nor will the sun strike on them or any heat' (Revelation 7.16). It is also found in Isaiah 49.10 from which Revelation 7.16 is taken, and which then adds 'He Who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them'. But Isaiah has in mind more the blessings of the coming of the Messiah. However, the difference in this Psalm is that this is promised even in David's time as a present experience. It is to be the continual experience of those who love Him, who are to experience relaxation and full contentment in the presence of God, for 'in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength' (Isaiah 30.15). As Isaiah says elsewhere, within His purposes 'My people will live continually in a peaceable habitation, and in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places' (Isaiah 32.18).

23.3 'He restores my soul (inner life). He guides me in the right paths (the paths of righteousness) for his name's sake.'

Having been led to the pastures of luscious grass, and the rest-giving waters, the sheep are fully restored. In the same way can we be sure that He will continually 'restore our inner lives'. Whatever the trials that beset us He will bring us through to perfect peace with our strength restored. We will be restored to full equilibrium. And this restoration will then be maintained because He will guide us in the paths of righteousness (compare Proverbs 8.20). He will not only lead us in the right way so that we do not get lost, but He will lead us in the way of rightness. There can be no peace without this. These are the paths where our feet do not slip (17.5). They are the way of wisdom, the paths of uprightness, where our ways will not be hindered, and where we can run without stumbling (Proverbs 4.11). It is important to recognise this requirement for His sheep, if they would be at rest. They cannot just go their own way, they must follow the Shepherd in His ways. For in the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death (Proverbs 12.28).

And He guides us in these ways, 'for His Name's sake'. Note the idea of sovereignty. He guides them inexorably in these ways because He is concerned for His reputation and His purposes and wants them to be maintained by His people in order that He might be glorified. (Compare Isaiah 63.14). And He does it because of the kind of Being that He is. He does it in order to reveal that He is such that He can do no other. By it He is revealing precisely Who and What He is, the Righteous One Who upholds righteousness in all who seek righteousness.

23.4 'Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'

In the seemingly calm and peaceful mountains of Israel danger ever threatened. There were hidden deep ravines where wild beasts lurked, or into which wayward sheep could fall. The lion and the bear and the wolf were ever ready to tear the heart out of the flock. But the sheep who remain close to the Shepherd have no need to be afraid. When the lion or the bear suddenly arise from their hiding place, the Shepherd will seize them by the beard, and smite them and slay them (see 1 Samuel 17.34-35). And those who walk close in His footsteps will avoid the treacherous ravines. Their ways may lie in the valley where death lurks, and they may constantly be under its shadow, but they do not need to be afraid, for the Lord of life is with them. Thus can they say, 'I will fear no evil, because You are with me'.

'The valley of the shadow of death.' This translation was obtained by pointing (putting consonants into) zlmwth and making it zalmaweth. But it could equally well be made into zalmuth (a dark shadow), treating the waw as an ancient vowel. But the meaning is little different apart from the fact that the actual mention of death seems to be slightly ill fitting. On the other hand the shadows certainly did threaten death.

And one reason for their sense of total security is His mighty club and great staff, in the latter case to assist the sheep that have got themselves into trouble in some hidden crevice, lifting them out to safety, and in the former case to drive off the enemies that come against them. 'They will never perish, and none shall pluck them from MY hand' (John 10.28). They have seen them many times in action and they know how powerful they are. For the effectiveness of such a rod see 2 Samuel 23.21; Psalm 2.9; Micah 7.14.

23.5 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil. My cup runs over.'

This idea of His full provision now turns the Psalmist's thoughts to a great feast. Jesus regularly depicted what He had come to offer in terms of a great feast. Here the table was prepared, like the good pasturage for the sheep, and it was laden with good things. Even when surrounded by their enemies His people can feast at His table. For the Shepherd watches over them to protect them. There are already echoes here of the coming Messianic feast.

And they eat in comfort and luxuriously, the sweat of the hills forgotten, for He anoints their heads with oils and perfumes, and He ensures that their cups are full and overflowing. The perfumes are the perfumes of Arabia (1 Kings 10.15), and there is no stinting when it is He Who pours out the wine (compare 36.8). 'I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly' (John 10.10). Thus do they feast at the King's table (2 Samuel 9.7). And this is not just some future hope, although it is that, but is intended to be enjoyed in the present. For He has provided us with His word and the means of entry into His presence (Hebrews 10.19-20), as He had David (Deuteronomy 17.18-19), and we can constantly feast at His table, even in the darkest circumstances.

23.6 'Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of YHWH for ever.'

And accompanying the shepherd are His two faithful 'sheepdogs', 'Goodness'' and 'Lovingkindness'. Their names reveal the very heart of the Shepherd. For His people are continually trailed by goodness and lovingkindness, on the one hand full provision for their spiritual needs (how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him - Matthew 7.11) and on the other fullness of compassion in the way ('I have loved you with an everlasting love' - Jeremiah 31.3; 'in this is love, not that we love Him, but that He loved us, and that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins' - 1 John 4.10). This ensures that they walk in wholesome ways, where their Shepherd can be found, and where goodness and lovingkindness can be found, and where they can be sure of His tenderness towards them even when they fail.

This indeed is the test of whether they are His sheep. They walk in conjunction with goodness and lovingkindness. Many love the idea of being trailed by lovingkindness, but they are not so sure about goodness. They certainly want to be loved, and they do not mind being average, but they do not want to be good (they speak of such people derisively as do-gooders'). But God is good, and He expects goodness from His people, for He knows that without true goodness they can never be really happy. They are to let their light so shine before men, that they see their good works and glorify their Father Who is in Heaven (Matthew 5.16).

'And I will dwell in the house of YHWH for ever.' This is not to switch his thoughts directly to the Temple or Tabernacle, even though the latter might be in the background of his thoughts as the sacred Dwellingplace of YHWH. He visualises rather the house of feasting as previously described. It is YHWH's house where the banquet is ever in progress, comparable, though on a larger scale, with the king's palace. And there will His people feast with Him for ever, both in this world and the next. (In Israel feasting around the Dwellingplace (Tabernacle) of YHWH was a feature of the major feasts, even for many who could not actually enter the Tabernacle. They too felt that they had 'entered the house of YHWH'). As the Psalmist says elsewhere, 'They will be abundantly satisfied with the luxurious provision of Your house, and You will make them drink of the rivers of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light shall we see life' (36.8-9). 'For ever.' It is true that this can mean simply 'into the distant future'. But that is the point. As in Psalm 16 he cannot visualise a time when he is separated from YHWH. Such a thought seems impossible to him. For in the end he carries within himself the thought of immortality, he has everlastingness in his heart (Isaiah 57.15; Ecclesiastes 3.11 - 'He has set eternity ('owlam) in his heart').

Psalm 24.

In a sense this may well have been a propaganda Psalm, although with a very spiritual (and political) purpose in view. For David, having captured Jerusalem and having made it his capital (2 Samuel 5.9), erected a tent there which was to house the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH (2 Samuel 6.17). His desire was to see the independent city of Jerusalem, which he had captured from the Jebusites with 'his men', calling it the City of David (2 Samuel 5.9), accepted as the sacred city of Israel, and looked on as such by both Judah and Israel. In other words he wanted it to be seen by them as the place where YHWH dwelt, even though the Tabernacle (without the Ark) was erected elsewhere (1 Kings 3.4; 8.4). And to that end he provided a no doubt sumptuous tent so that he could bring the Ark in from where it was lying unutilised, (it had been out of sight for many years since its capture and subsequent release by the Philistines twenty years earlier) thus designating Jerusalem as the place where YHWH was enthroned (2 Samuel 6). This may well have been why, in a huge display of pageantry, he sought to fix these ideas in the people's minds, with this Psalm intended to underpin the whole pageantry. This was the commencement of Israel referring to this mountain by the name Zion (1 Kings 8.1).

The Psalm commences with the fact that YHWH as Creator is Lord over the whole earth and subduer of the seas. It then asks who is fit to ascend the mountain that is to be YHWH's dwelling place, and provides a detailed answer which reveals the high moral tone of Israel. After this it calls on the great gates of the city to open up so that YHWH may enter in triumph as the One Who is mighty in battle, for He has not only enabled the capture of the city (2 Samuel 5.6-9), but has also accomplished the defeat of the powerful Philistines (2 Samuel 5.17-25).

The Psalm splits up into parts, and it is probable that, as happens in other Psalms, different groups of singers were to sing different parts. Thus verse 1-2 may have been sung generally, followed by a group accompanying those who were bearing the Ark on its entry into the city singing verses 3-5 (or one group may have sung verse 3 with another group replying in verses 4-5), this being followed by a general response being made in verse 6. After that the group bearing the Ark calls on the gates to be opened in verse 7, with another group responding by asking the question in verse 8a, followed by the first group then giving the reply in verse 8b. We may then see the same process being repeated in verses 9-10, at which point the gates would be ceremonially opened and the Ark would enter and be set down in the Tent erected for it higher up the mountain, thereby demonstrating that YHWH had made the city and mountain His own.

We can compare this entry of the Ark into the city with how the Ark went before Israel on its journeying, and was each time set down within the newly erected Tabernacle, so as to demonstrate that YHWH was journeying with His people and going before them in the way (Numbers 10.33-36) with the purpose of seeking out a resting place for them. In the same way, having brought the Ark into Jerusalem in the first flush of their recent victories David clearly hoped that, as a result, they would from now on see a Jerusalem containing the Ark as evidence that YHWH had found a resting place for them with the independent Jerusalem as its capital. By doing so he hoped to remove all jealousy between Judah and Israel as to which should house the Dwellingplace of YHWH and at the same time made Jerusalem his own unique power base. One result of this was that he would take over the priesthood of Melchizedek, which was the ancient priesthood of Jerusalem (Genesis 14.18), submitting it to YHWH and incorporating it as a non-sacrificial, intercessory priesthood within the cult of Israel (Psalm 110.4).

The ceremony which celebrated the entry of the Ark might well then have been repeated annually at one of the great feasts. It would have especially suited the Feast of Tabernacles which, as ending the old year and bringing in the new, was associated with creation, kingship and victory. In this regard the significance of the Psalm would alter to indicate more generally YHWH's triumph as the King of creation, and the Lord of battle. It might have gone thus:

IN UNISON

'The earth is YHWH's and its fullness,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For he has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods.'

FIRST GROUP

'Who shall ascend into the hill of YHWH?
And who shall stand in his holy place?'

SECOND GROUP OR IN UNISON

'He who has clean hands, and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood,
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive a blessing from YHWH,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.'

IN UNISON OR FIRST GROUP

'This is the generation of those who seek after him,
That seek your face, Oh Jacob. (Selah).'

FIRST GROUP

'Lift up your heads, O you gates,
And be you lifted up, you everlasting doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

SECOND GROUP OR IN UNISON

'Who is the King of glory?'

FIRST GROUP
'YHWH strong and mighty,
YHWH mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates,
Yes, lift them up, you everlasting doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

SECOND GROUP OR IN UNISON

'Who is this King of glory?'

FIRST GROUP

'YHWH of hosts,
He is the King of glory.' (Selah).

Comments.

Following on its use at the first introducing of the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH into Jerusalem, the Psalm would continue in use at the festal gatherings, and may well have been used at an annual repetition of the occasion. It is the significance of this on which we will now concentrate as we consider its permanent message.

24.1a 'A Psalm of David.'

This heading indicates that it is a Psalm connected with the house of David, either because it was written by him or one of his descendants, or because it was written concerning them.

The Glory of YHWH (24.1b-2).

24.1b-2

'YHWH's is the earth and its fullness,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For HE has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods.'

Note the continual parallelisms throughout the Psalm where the second statement repeats the idea of the first in a different way, typical of Hebrew poetry.

The initial verses make clear that YHWH, the One who is to seek entry into Jerusalem, is the Creator of the whole earth, Who therefore possesses it by right, together with everything that is in it, including the peoples (its fullness, and those who dwell in it). In the Hebrew YHWH in verse 1 is emphatic, 'To YHWH belongs the earth', as is 'He in verse 2. This vision of universality fits well with the ideas of worldwideness prevalent in David's day, as evidenced by Psalm 2, where the expectation was that one day his descendants would rule the nations with a rod of iron, nations who were meanwhile seen as helpless before him because YHWH was with him and he was YHWH's anointed. Compare also Exodus 19.5, 'all the earth is Mine'; Deuteronomy 10.14, 'to YHWH your God belongs the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all that is within it'; Psalm 50.12, 'every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills'; Psalm 89.11, 'the heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours, the world and its fullness You have founded them'.

And this world is seen as 'founded' (established securely) on the seas and the water sources that were under the ground, which regularly caused flooding (compare Psalm 33.7) but were controlled by YHWH, 'you have set a bound that they may not pass, that they turn not again to cover the earth' (Psalm 104.9). We are not to see this as a pseudo-scientific explanation of the world, (Israel were not into scientific investigation), but as a description based on observation (just as we speak of the sun going down) and on the records in Genesis 1.6-9. There too the earth came up out of the waters, and was established above them. And whenever they went to the edge of the seas and looked in they could see the earth going down to its foundations in the seas. So that is how they described it.

But they did not see the earth as simply resting on the waters, for they described YHWH as the One Who 'laid the foundation of the earth that it should not be moved for ever'. He 'covered it with the deep as with an undergarment, the waters stood above the mountains', after which 'at His rebuke they fled, at the voice of His thunder they hurried away, they went up by the mountains, they went down by the valleys, to the place which He had founded for them'. So the waters themselves were seen as established on solid earth, with dry land arising from them, and thus established upon them.

The major emphasis being brought out is that the earth on which men lived has been established by YHWH in the midst of the powerful and hostile seas which are, however, under YHWH's total control (Job 38.11), and over the waters that are under the ground as revealed, for example, by the springs that poured forth water in abundance ('the water under the earth' - Exodus 20.4). The earth is firm and secure under His control, and all within it is His. All is thus submissive to His will, and man is kept safe within it, for floods will never again be allowed to destroy mankind (Genesis 9.11).

It is this Creator God Who will seek to enter Zion, the new city of David, and establish His dwelling in the holy mount.

Who May Enter The Holy Place Of YHWH? (24.3-6)

24.3

'Who will ascend into the hill of YHWH?
And who will stand in his holy place?'

But now having considered the greatness of YHWH an important question arises. Who is fitted to ascend into the place where this powerful Creator and Sustainer of the world will make His earthly dwellingplace? And especially who will be able to face up to His holiness, His total purity and 'otherness', and stand his ground before Him (compare 1.5) in that holy place. The thought is not of the Holy Place within the Tabernacle, for the Tabernacle was not yet there, but of the whole mountain seen as a holy place. ('Holy place' parallels 'the hill of YHWH'). It is thus referring to the holy hill of YHWH, that is the holy hill of Zion (see 2.6; 3.4; 15.1; 43.3; Isaiah 2.2-3). At this stage 'Zion' is limited to the one mountain, later the name will expand to cover all Jerusalem, and then be used as a synonym for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (e.g. Zechariah 2.7). And the question is as to who is fitted to ascend and enter there so as to meet with YHWH. By this he was establishing central Jerusalem (the one time Jebusite fortress on what would be the Temple mount) as 'the holy city' (Isaiah 48.2; 52.1), a description which would gradually spread to include its environs. See here Judges 1.8, 21; where outer Jerusalem was settled by Judah and Benjamin, who were, however, unable to capture the Jebusite stronghold and the hill now taken by David, which has now here become 'the hill of YHWH'. It was, however, a place full of sacred associations for Israel, for it was from there that the priest of the Most High God (El Elyon) had brought sustenance to their forefather Abraham and his men (Genesis 14.18-20), and had received tithes from him, at which Abraham had declared that YHWH was God Most High. Thus this was already the hill of YHWH, and had simply been awaiting His possession of it.

'Who will ascend.' The idea of ascending is regularly associated with worship (1 Samuel 1.3, 22; Isaiah 2.3; 37.14; 38.22).

For us, however, there is a new and even greater vision of Jerusalem because in the New Testament the true Jerusalem is now seen as being in Heaven where our Lord Jesus Christ is established on His throne (Galatians 4.26; Hebrews 12.22; and continually in Revelation) among His glorified people (Hebrews 12.23; Revelation 14.1). For in the end Jerusalem is a concept and not a place. It is the place where YHWH is seen as enthroned. The last thing that we can do is limit God to a piece of ground. Ezekiel saw this when he declared that the idealistic heavenly Temple was on a high mountain away from Jerusalem.

24.4-5

'He who has clean hands, and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood,
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive a blessing from YHWH,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.'

The question as to who is fitted to ascend into the hill of YHWH, the place where YHWH is to dwell, is now answered. It is those who are clean and pure, and this not just in ritual terms, but in terms of true purity of heart and life. It is those who are fulfilling the covenant that YHWH has made with them.

To have clean hands and a pure heart, is to have rid the hands and heart of all impurity by turning from sin and offering the appropriate sacrifice, having made any necessary compensation (Leviticus 1-7), thus being brought back into a state of full obedience to the Law, combined with having been rid of all 'uncleanness' in the ways prescribed in the Law (Leviticus 11-15), all as epitomised in the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). We can compare here 18.20, 24 where to have clean hands is to be righteous. In Christian terms it is to have admitted our sins, bringing them to God and finding cleansing in the blood of Jesus, so that He might justly forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.7-9).

'Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully.' This may be succintly describing obedience to the Law in terms of total honesty before the judges of Israel, and the Great Judge Himself, or the idea may be of obedience to the covenant, with all its requirements, which Israel had sworn to keep (Exodus 24.3 along with its context; 19.5-8; Deuteronomy 6.13; 10.20). It is a reminder to us that we must deal honestly with God, and keep the promises that we have made to Him. This does of course include honesty towards our fellowmen, but its main emphasis is on honesty before God and obedience to His will, although in fact the two cannot be separated in practise, for to be honest towards God involves being honest to each other (see Matthew 5.23-24).

To 'lift up the soul' is to 'set one's mind and will on' (20.25; 25.1; Deuteronomy 24.15). 'Falsehood.' The word can indicate what is vain and empty (Job 15.31), what is false and hypocritical (12.2), or what is basically wrong (Isaiah 5.18). Here, paralleled as it is with deceitfulness, it therefore tends towards signifying all that is false.

'He will receive a blessing from YHWH, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.' And it is the one who is true to His covenant and His commands, who will receive blessing from YHWH and righteous dealings from their saving God. Included in the idea of righteous dealings is the righteousness imputed to them because of their genuinely offered sacrifices, which are a part of His saving plan. But it also includes His righteous dealings in all that is to do with them, including deliverance from all who hate them. Such are YHWH's blessings.

For us it is a reminder that having received righteousness once for all in Jesus Christ, we can only enjoy the full benefits of that righteousness by responding in righteousness in our lives. Thus, and thus only, can we be sure of a welcome when we go into God's presence. 'If I regard iniquity in my heart YHWH will not hear me' (Psalm 66.18). Only the one who comes with a true and open heart can expect to be received.

24.6

'This is the generation of those who seek after him,
Who seek your face, Oh Jacob. (Selah).'

The whole people then respond that they are the generation who are truly seeking after Him, who are seeking the face of the God Who is there as the God of their father Jacob. He is addressed as Jacob because He represents all that Jacob stood for, and worshipped, and because He is the God of Jacob, and their obedience is to Him through Jacob. He is addressed as Jacob as the One to Whom Jacob pointed, and in Him Jacob still calls for their obedience. (Some, however, translate as 'even Jacob' signifying that they are, as 'Jacob', seeking His face).

Or 'this is the generation' may signify 'this is the specific type of person' with reference to the previous description (compare 12.7; 14.5; 73.15).

'Who seek after Him, who seek Your face --.' Two words are used for seek, both having a similar meaning. The idea is of the seeking of the inner heart. But the first may be seen as tending towards loving devotion, and the second as indicating more a petitioning heart.

'Selah.' A musical pause, probably also suggesting, 'pause and think of that'.

The Call To Let YHWH Enter His Holy City, Bringing About A Revelation Of Who He Is (24.7-10).

24.7

'Lift up your heads, O you gates,
And be you lifted up, you ancient (everlasting) doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

The call now goes out that YHWH might enter in and take possession of what has been His from ancient times. For from of old it had been the city of the Most High God, Who was clearly identified as YHWH, both by its own priest from ancient times (who identified God Most High as Abraham's God), and by Abraham specifically (Genesis 14.18-24).

The gates are to 'lift up their heads'. Comparison with Job 10 15 suggests that this indicates a pride in what is about the happen. The gates can lift up their heads because, although His coming has been delayed, He is here at last. The King of glory will pass through the gates of Zion to His new dwelling place on the mount.

Note the emphasis on the ancientness of the city. All Israel knew of Salem as the place from which in the distant past blessing had come to Abraham, and to whose king-priest Abraham had paid his dues because he was the priest of the Most High God. The word 'olam, often translated everlasting, rather indicates 'into the ancient past', or 'into the far distant future'. It would only later (in the far distant future) come to mean 'everlasting'. At this time there was no concept of strict everlastingness, except as time without end when looking into the future.

So those ancient gates are now to open in order to admit 'the King of glory' as the Ark passes through them. He is seeking His rightful earthly dwelling place. Like his son Solomon, David was aware that 'even the heaven of heavens could not contain Him' (1 Kings 8.27), yet he gratefully recognised that YHWH was also pleased to invisibly manifest Himself on earth on His sacred throne, the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, and would henceforth do so in His holy city, Jerusalem. Note 2 Samuel 6.2 where the Ark of God 'is called by the Name, even the Name of YHWH of hosts, who sits on the cherubim' while once the Ark had been captured 'the glory had departed' (1 Samuel 4.21-22).

For us the Tabernacle and Temple in which the Ark was housed has been replaced by the people of God as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3.16; 2 Corinthians 6.16), and our cry is therefore that the living God, the King of Glory, might enter among us, His people, and subsequently reveal His glory.

24.8a

'Who is the King of glory?'

The question then comes back, 'Who is the King of glory?' Let Him be identified if He is to enter and take possession of His holy city. How can they be sure that He has the right?

24.8b

'YHWH strong and mighty,
YHWH mighty in battle.

The reply is powerful. He is 'YHWH the Strong and Mighty', He is 'YHWH Who has proved Himself mighty in battle'. That is why the usurpers have been turned out of Jerusalem. That is why the Philistines have fled before David. That is why the city is His. And all this is further evidenced by their past history, written in their sacred writings, which reveal how He has delivered His people again and again, commencing with the defeat of mighty Egypt, and continuing with all that followed. So let them recognise that it is the Strong One and the Mighty One, the Great Victor, Who seeks to enter in.

We can compare for this the words of Exodus 15.2, 3, 18, 'YHWH is my strength and my song, and He is become my deliverance' --- 'YHWH is a man of war, YHWH is His Name' --- 'YHWH will reign for ever'. Here then parallel ideas are proclaimed in proclamation of a new deliverance.

For us this is a reminder that our God is strong and well able to fight our battles and protect us, and that our Redeemer came as the mighty One in order to deliver us through His cross (Isaiah 59.16-20), and as the King of glory.

24.9

Lift up your heads, O you gates,
Yes, lift them up, you everlasting doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

Again the call comes. Let the ancient gates be opened that the King of glory might enter. The point is being emphasised by repetition. The required twofold witness must be given.

24.10a

'Who is this King of glory?'

Again the question comes back, 'Who is this King of glory?' But possibly this time we are to understand a request for more information about this Mighty One Who is about to enter. Who and What is He?

24.10b

'YHWH of hosts,
He is the King of glory.' (Selah).

And now is given the decisive reply, it is 'YHWH of hosts, He is the King of glory'. YHWH of hosts is a comprehensive title. It includes the thought that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and of the sun, moon and stars, and of all their host (Genesis 2.1, compare Isaiah 24.3), and of the heavenly beings (148.2; 1 Kings 22.19). And it also includes the thought that He is the Lord of the hosts of Israel (Joshua 5.14; 1 Samuel 17.45; and often). He is thus the One Who has all power in heaven and on earth, and Who is over all. He is the One Who leads forward His people to victory. He is the Almighty. He is truly the King of glory.

'Selah.' Again a musical notation probably suggesting, 'pause and think of that'.

Meditation.

We may see also on this Psalm a picture of Jesus making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when, as Creator of heaven and earth, He entered Jerusalem as its King to approach the Temple mount, offering Himself to a world who would not receive Him. And it is even more a picture of His even more triumphal entry into Heaven after His resurrection, when He ascended and entered the new Jerusalem, ascending the heavenly Mount Zion (Hebrews 12.22) in order to receive His crown. But how different were the welcomes of earth and Heaven.

'The earth is YHWH's and its fullness,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For he has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods.'

Initially we have here the declaration of the great power of the Creator. And this we know was the power of the One Who was about to seek entry into Jerusalem. For it was from a position of such power that He came among us as a man upon earth. 'All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made' (John 1.3). For He 'is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things have been created through Him and to Him, and by Him all things hold together' (Colossians 1.15-17). He is the One 'by Whom also He made the worlds, Who being the outshining of His glory and the stamped out image of His substance, and upholding all things by His word of power --' (Hebrews 1.3). This was the One Who sought to enter Jerusalem in humility on an asses colt as its King, and Who in return was spurned, rejected and crucified.

But rising again He sought again to enter Jerusalem, but this time it was the heavenly Jerusalem, and in this case the angels waved their palm branches in welcome, and the Lord of the heavenly Temple bid Him welcome. He was not wanted on earth, but Heaven had waited for this moment.

'Who shall ascend into the hill of YHWH?
And who shall stand in his holy place?'
'He who has clean hands, and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood,
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive a blessing from YHWH,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.'

As Jesus rode onwards into Jerusalem we can here the question from those who stand by. 'Who can ascend into the hill of the Lord, and Who will stand in His holy place?.' And the reply comes, 'He Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth' (Isaiah 53.9; 1 Peter 2.22), 'Who when He was reviled, did not revile again, Who when He suffered did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him Who judges righteously' (1 Peter 2.23). 'He Who knew no sin' (1 Corinthians 5.21). 'He Who was tempted in all points like we are, and yet without sin' (Hebrews 4.15). He Whose hands were clean and Whose heart was pure, Who had not lifted up His soul to falsehood and deceit, and had not sworn deceitfully.' This is the One Who will receive the blessing of YHWH. But He needed to receive no righteousness, for He was righteous through and through, and He Himself was the God of salvation. Yet in spite of that He had no welcome on earth, for they could not bear the way that His life shone out. And so they consigned Him to the cross.

But, once He was risen, how different was the story for as He rode towards the heavenly Jerusalem the angels ran to meet Him and bid Him welcome, rejoicing in His sinlessness which He had retained in spite of His sojourn among the cesspits of humanity, and the Lord of Glory Himself came forward to receive Him personally and welcome back His Son, and sat Him at His Own right hand far above all.

'This is the generation of those who seek after him,
That seek your face, Oh Jacob. (Selah).'

For here was the perfect example of those who seek Him, of those who seek the God of Jacob. This was the son of Jacob, Who alone among all the sons of Jacob, had sought God truly from the heart. And it was because of this that He would be able to lead many sons of Jacob to glory.

'Lift up your heads, O you gates,
And be you lifted up, you everlasting doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

And as Jesus approached the holy mount in Jerusalem on the asses colt the call came from Heaven, 'lift up your heads O you gates, and be lifted up you everlasting doors. That the King of glory might come in.' They cried it out as loudly as they could. They could not believe that no one heard, it was so clear to them. But earth was deaf to their cries, and no one opened the doors for Him, and when He entered the Temple He was ignored, and when He cleansed it He was crucified for His pains. The earthly Temple in Jerusalem had no place for the King of glory.

But how different again it was after His resurrection. For as He approached the heavenly city of Jerusalem and the call came for the gates to be opened up, the angels ran and vied to remove the bars, that they might be the first to welcome back the One Who was the Joy of Heaven.

'Who is the King of glory?'

This was the question that with supercilious faces was asked by the chief priests and the scribes and the people of Jerusalem. Who is this man? Whose son is He? Have you not heard what these people are saying about you? But as the angels asked the question it was not because they did not know the answer, but in order that it might ring out to all creation, this is the King of glory.

'YHWH strong and mighty,
YHWH mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates,
Yes, lift them up, you everlasting doors,
And the King of glory will come in.'

Had Jerusalem but known it, the One Who entered could have changed the world. But they did not know. The strong and mighty One, mighty in battle was among them and they knew it not. And He would need all of that. For the battle lay ahead and it was against forces that no man could ever have dreamed of. For as He hung on the cross He disarmed the principalities and powers which had for so long held men in darkness, and made an open show of them, triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2.15).

And thus when after His resurrection He was welcomed though the gates of the new Jerusalem, it was as the victor leading a host of captives in His train (Ephesians 4.8).

'Who is this King of glory?'

Again the angel cry goes up in order to glorify the Victor. Who is this King of glory Who leads these captives in His train?

'YHWH of hosts,
He is the King of glory.' (Selah).

And the reply comes, 'He is YHWH of Hosts (Matthew 28.19; Philippians 2.8-11), He is the King of glory'. The King had returned to the glory that was His before the world was (John 17.5).

Psalm 25.

This Psalm basically opens each line with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, moving consecutively through the Hebrew alphabet. It does not, however, do this totally consistently for W and Q are omitted and R is repeated where Q would have been. This latter may simply have been because what the writer wanted to say at that point did not provide him with an opportunity to open the line with Q, a word beginning with R providing what he wanted. The final line then repeats P which was used earlier. Interestingly the same phenomenon as this latter occurs in Psalm 34, and there also W is omitted, although Q is included. We have endeavoured to demonstrate this, a little inadequately, with English letters.

One lesson this arrangement brings home to us is that those who wrote the inspired word did it with perspiration as well as inspiration. God worked through their artistic abilities in order to produce His word. Thus they were not just channels, they were active participators. Any view of inspiration that does not take that into account is therefore false.

The Psalm can be divided into three sections, with a postscript.

  • The first part is a prayer for protection and guidance from YHWH (verses 1-7).
  • The second part describes the character of God and how He deals with those who fear Him (8-14).
  • The third part is a further prayer, a prayer for deliverance from distress (15-21).
  • The final verse is probably an inspired addition in order to fit the Psalm for corporate worship.

    But there is also a pattern running through it. The opening ideas in verses 1-4 are paralleled by the closing ideas in verses 19-22 (see in the commentary below), while the prayer in verses 5-7, is paralleled in terms of its certain fulfilment because of the nature of God in verses 8-10, and is applied to all God's people in verses 11-15. It is on the basis of this certainty that he makes his final plea in verses 15-21 (see in the commentary below).

    Thus an alternative division is:

    • An initial plea followed by the expression of confidence in its fulfilment (1-3).
    • A plea for guidance for himself, and that YHWH will remember His covenant promises, and that he will not remember his sins (4-7).
    • A confident assertion that YHWH will guide those who look to Him, and will remember His covenant towards them, followed by a further plea for the forgiveness of his iniquity (8-11).
    • An indication that the one who fears YHWH will be taught by Him, and that He will reveal to them His secret things and will show His covenant to them, followed by a promise that He will pluck their feet out of the snare (12-15).
    • A final plea for deliverance out of his afflictions, forgiveness for his sins, and rescue from the hands of his enemies, so that his soul might be kept in integrity and uprightness (16-21).
    • A final prayer for the redemption of Israel out of all its troubles (verse 22).

      Prior to considering it verse by verse we will first give a rendering of the whole Psalm so that the alphabetic sequence and the parallels in each stanza can be observed (the letters are in the order of the Hebrew alphabet).

      Heading.

      25.1a A Psalm of David.

      25.1b-2b

      A 'To you, O YHWH,
      Do I lift up my soul, O my God.

      B 'In you have I trusted, let me not be put to shame.
      Do not let my enemies triumph over me.'

      25.3

      G 'Yes, none who wait for you will be put to shame.
      They will be put to shame who deal treacherously without cause.'

      D 'Show me your ways, O YHWH.
      Teach me your paths.'

      25.5

      H 'Guide me in your truth,
      And teach me.
      For you are the God of my salvation,
      For you do I wait all the day.'

      25.6

      Z 'Remember, O YHWH, your tender mercies,
      And your lovingkindness, for they have been ever of old.'

      25.7

      CH 'Do not remember the sins of my youth,
      Nor my transgressions.
      According to your lovingkindness remember you me,
      For the sake of your goodness, O YHWH.'

      25.8

      T 'Good and upright is YHWH.
      Therefore will he instruct sinners in the way.'

      25.9

      Y 'The meek will he guide in justice,
      And the meek will he teach his way.'

      25.10

      C 'All the paths of YHWH are lovingkindness and truth.
      To such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.'

      25.11

      L 'For your name's sake, O YHWH,
      Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.'

      25.12

      M 'What man is he who fears YHWH?
      Him will he instruct in the way that he will choose.'

      25.13

      N 'His soul will dwell at ease,
      And his seed will inherit the land.'

      25.14

      S 'The friendship of YHWH is with those who fear him,
      And he will show them his covenant.'

      25.15

      GH 'My eyes are ever towards YHWH;
      For he will pluck my feet out of the net'.

      25.16

      P 'Turn you to me, and have mercy on me,
      For I am desolate and afflicted.'

      25.17

      TS 'The troubles of my heart are enlarged.
      Oh, do you bring me out of my distresses'.

      25.18

      R 'Consider my affliction and my travail,
      And forgive all my sins.'

      25.19

      R 'Consider my enemies, for they are many,
      And they hate me with cruel hatred.'

      25.20

      SH 'Oh keep my soul, and deliver me.
      Do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.'

      25.21

      T 'Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
      For I wait for you.'

      25.22

      P 'Redeem Israel, O God,
      Out all of his troubles.'

      We will now consider the Psalm in detail.

      Heading.

      25.1a A Psalm of David.

      We have here again an indication that this is one of the Psalms associated with the house of David, and many see it as an indication that David wrote the Psalm, although no indication is given of any particular time in his life to which it might apply. But it is clearly written by someone in his maturity for he refers to the sins of his youth,

      A Prayer For Protection And Guidance From YHWH (25.1-7).

      In verses 1-2 the Psalmist lifts up His soul to God, and prays that his cause might be upheld, and then in verse 3 he asserts his confidence that God will indeed hear his prayer. This is followed in verses 4-5 by a request to be taught by YHWH because He is his saving God for whom he continually waits, and a plea in verses 6-7 that YHWH will remember His own tender mercies rather than the Psalmist's sins. Thus it follows the pattern of: dependence on God (1-2), confidence in God (3), a desire to obey God (4-5), and a longing that God will deal with him in mercy rather than in accordance with his past sins (6-7).

      The Psalmist's Initial Plea And Expression Of Confidence That YHWH Will Hear Him (25.1-3).

      25.1b-2a

      A 'To you, O YHWH,
      Do I lift up my soul, O my God.'

      (The movement of 'O my God' to this first stanza is required by the alphabetical arrangement in the Hebrew text. Its use in the opening stanza also fits in with 'O God' in the final line of the Psalm, giving a solemn opening and close to the Psalm, with 'O YHWH' the more personal covenant Name, being used in the main body of the Psalm (verses 1, 4, 6, 7, 11)).

      It is to YHWH that he 'lifts up' his inner life (nephesh), recognising that YHWH is his only God. It is to YHWH and His ways that he is committing himself (in contrast to committing himself to vain things, that is, 'lifting up his soul to vanity' in 24.4). He is putting YHWH before anything else, offering him his very life, and he wants Him to look on him, to examine his inner life, and to observe his true faith in Him. His greatest concern is that his relationship with his God might be close, and right. How wise we are when we lift up our souls to God, that we might come under His observation.

      Note how the initial ideas in these opening verses are paralleled with the closing ideas in the Psalm;

      'To you I lift up my soul' --------------------------------- 'O keep my soul and deliver me' (verse 20).
      'O my God' ------------------------------------------------ 'O God' (verse 22).
      'In you have I trusted' ----------------------------------- 'for I put my trust in you' (verse 20).
      'Let me not be put to shame' ------------------------------ 'let me not be ashamed' (verse 20).
      'Let not my enemies triumph over me ----------------------- 'consider my enemies' (verse 19).
      'None that wait on you will be ashamed' ------------------- 'for I will wait on you' (verse 21).

      So the Psalmist will end with similar thoughts to those with which he begins. Herein is the essence of the Psalm

      25.2b

      B 'In you have I trusted, let me not be put to shame.
      Do not let my enemies triumph over me.'

      He asks YHWH to be aware that he has trusted in Him, when others have looked elsewhere, and on this ground of faith he asks that he not be let down (put to shame) but that YHWH will prevent those who oppose him from triumphing over him. It is a reminder to us that if we have faith in God, and seek God and His Kingly Rule, everything else will be added to us, including His protection, because we will be under His Fatherly care (Matthew 6.33).

      Note that the parallel in verse 19 makes clear that the opposition is both fierce and intense. 'They are many, and they hate me with cruel hatred'. This is a heartfelt plea, not just a general request. Along with the reference to 'those who deal treacherously' it may well indicate a time when an anti-YHWH party were conspiring to overthrow his own stress on YHWH as Israel's God. For having become 'a priest after the order of Melchizedek' on his capturing Jerusalem David had subsumed that priesthood to an intercessory role looking to YHWH. But the opposition would not necessarily lie down. It is a reminder to us that we must stand firm for the truth about God, and mot let those who would debase Him from achieving their aims.

      25.3

      G 'Yes, none who wait for you will be put to shame.
      They will be put to shame who deal treacherously without cause.'

      Having first committed himself to YHWH he now asserts his full confidence in Him. His prayer was not in doubt but in faith. He wants YHWH to know that he has no doubt of the fact that no one who waits on YHWH will be disappointed. They will not have cause for being ashamed of trusting in Him. Rather it is those who deal treacherously, when there are no real grounds for them to do so, who will be put to shame. This idea of 'waiting' in expectancy is repeated in verse 21, 'let integrity and uprightness preserve me for I wait on you'. So those who wait on Him must do so in total integrity and uprightness (in contrast with the treacherous) if they are to expect a response.

      The treacherous are those who deal treacherously with His word. 'I beheld the treacherous dealers and was grieved, because they observed not your word' (119.158). They put on an outward show of piety and religion, but they do not really observe God's instruction. They seek their own ways, and plot against the truth. Compare also Jeremiah 3.20, 'as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel'. Like faithless wives they have deserted YHWH. We are reminded here of Jesus' condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees for the same reason (Mark 7.8, 13). How careful we must be that we do not forsake the living God, by allowing a false image of Him to replace what He really is.

      And what will be the result of his waiting on YHWH, his looking constantly to YHWH? 'Those who wait on YHWH will renew their strength, they will mount on wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and will not faint' (Isaiah 40.31). He will find his inner strength daily renewed. Compare also 130.5, 'I wait for YHWH and my soul waits, and in His word do I hope. My soul looks for the Lord more than watchmen look for the morning.' The idea is of an expectant and confident waiting that looks with determined faith to the response that it will receive, and is closely connected with prayer.

      A Plea For Guidance For Himself, and that YHWH Will Remember His Covenant Promises And Covenant Love, And That He Will Not Remember His Sins (4-7).

      This is the first section in a three stage pattern, the first two stages of which can be illustrated as follows:

      Show me Your ways, O YHWH.---------------------------------------------------------------- Good and upright is YHWH.
      Teach me Your paths. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Therefore will He instruct sinners in the way.'
      Guide me in Your truth, ------------------------------------------------------------------------- The meek will He guide in justice,
      And teach me. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And the meek will He teach his way

      For you are the God of my salvation, ----------------------------------------------------------- All the paths of YHWH are
      For You do I wait all the day.
      Remember, O YHWH, Your tender mercies, ------------------------------------------------ lovingkindness and truth
      And Your lovingkindness,
      for they have been ever of old ------------------------------------------------------------------- To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.

      Do not remember the sins of my youth, -------------------------------------------------------- Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
      Nor my transgressions (or 'rebellions').
      According to Your lovingkindness remember you me,
      For the sake of Your goodness, O YHWH.'-------------------------------------------------- For Your name's sake, O YHWH.

      We will now consider it in detail.

      25.4

      D 'Show me your ways, O YHWH.
      Teach me your paths.'

      The Psalmist knows that if his 'waiting' is to result in a successful outcome it must be connected with living in accordance with God's ways, and walking in His paths, and so he asks that YHWH will show him His ways, and will teach him His paths. For this is his longing, to walk in the way of righteousness, the way of full obedience to YHWH. Compare 27.11, 'teach me your way, O YHWH, and lead me in a plain path'; 143.8, 'cause me to know the way in which I should walk'. It is the heart cry of all who truly know God.

      'Show me your ways' was the prayer of Moses when he was in perplexity and was not clear about the way ahead (Exodus 33.13). And God's final reply to him was to show him His glory. Once he had experienced His glory he knew that he could trust God in the way ahead, and he did not need to know any more. And for us that glory is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.4-6). It is from knowing Jesus more fully in His glory (by meditation on His word and through prayer) that we will know His ways. If we neglect Him, we will soon neglect His ways.

      25.5

      H 'Guide me in your truth (or 'trustworthiness'),
      And teach me.
      For you are the God of my salvation,
      For you do I wait all the day.'

      So he prays that YHWH will guide him in His truth and teach him. He wants to know the true way of God. This is important to him because while he knows that God is his saving God, his Saviour, and he is waiting on him for deliverance, he also knows that parallel with God saving him must be his own obedience to His truth. What God is working in him to will and to do of His good pleasure, he must work out with greatest care (Philippians 2.12-13). Total confidence in God must go along with full obedience to His truth. We cannot look to Christ as our Saviour if our desire is not to be guided into His truth.

      But the word for 'truth' ('emeth) can also mean 'trustworthiness', and this translation provides a better parallel to the second line in the stanza.. So it may be that what the Palmist means is 'let me become more aware of Your total trustworthiness', thus indicating his desire to have an increasing confidence in God. This would tie in with the fact that he has already prayed in the previous verse that he might be taught His paths, so that he does not need to pray it again. On the other hand we should note verses 9-10 where again the emphasis is on knowing and following God's ways. Both attitudes are of course necessary for the believer, that of trusting and having confidence in God, and that of obedience to His word. That is what this Psalm makes clear. Note verse 3, and verse 6 concerning having confidence in God, and verse 4 and verses 9-10 about walking in His ways.

      25.6

      Z 'Remember, O YHWH, your tender mercies,
      And your lovingkindness, for they have been ever of old (or 'from everlasting').'

      But in seeking God with his whole heart the Psalmist is reminded of how he has failed God in the past, and so now he calls on Him to remember that He is a God of tender mercies, a God Whose lovingkindness and 'covenant love' has been manifested from of old, even from everlasting. He is the unchanging God (Malachi 3.6) who has drawn him, and has loved him with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 2.2; 31.3). He does not want God to look on whether he is worthy or not, for he knows that he is not. He wants Him to be loving and merciful towards him, in terms of the covenant of love that He had made towards him and towards His people. The word translated 'lovingkindness' (chesed) basically means 'covenant love'. He wants Him to remember that 'the mercy of YHWH is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him' (103.17), because He Himself is from everlasting (90.2; 93.2). Then he will be caught up in that everlasting mercy. He will know that 'the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (Deuteronomy 33.27). In the same way we also must come to our Heavenly Father, and to Jesus Christ our Lord, pointing not to ourselves but to His covenant of mercy towards us established through the cross (Colossians 2.14; Hebrews 8.6-13). We come claiming no merit of our own, but openly admitting our sinfulness, as the Psalmist did, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1.7).

      25.7

      CH 'Do not remember the sins of my youth,
      Nor my transgressions (or 'rebellions').
      According to your lovingkindness remember you me,
      For the sake of your goodness, O YHWH.'

      So he prays that YHWH will not remember the sins of his youth, how he had failed God in the past, nor remember his recent transgressions, but will rather remember him in terms of His loving covenant towards His people, because He is truly good. He throws himself on the goodness and lovingkindness of God. He knows that if that is his hope and his confidence he has nothing to be afraid of. This is something that all of us must do. For this is the evidence of our genuine relationship with Him. Admitting and turning from our sin daily (compare Matthew 6.12), we must daily allow it to drive us to an awareness of the love and compassion of God, knowing that our sin has been wholly dealt with in the cross, and we are now walking in newness of life.

      The word for 'sins' indicates a missing of the mark, a losing of the way. It expresses an awareness of coming short, an awareness that 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God' (Romans 3.23), including ourselves. The word for 'transgressions' contains within it the element of rebellion. It is an indication of the rebellious spirit. For in the end that is what our sin is, rebellion against God and His ways, rebellion against His love.

      God In His Goodness Guides All Who Are Responsive To Him, And Reveals To Them His Goodness In Mercy And Covenant Love, Including Pardoning Their Iniquity (25.8-11).

      Having called on God to guide him and show His covenant mercy towards him, the Psalmist now points out that this is in fact what YHWH, Who is good and upright, does for all sinners who are willing to be responsive to Him. He guides and leads them in His way, and reveals His covenant love (chesed) and faithfulness towards those who keep His covenant and His laws. The main emphasis here is on the activity of YHWH.

      25.8

      T 'Good and upright is YHWH.
      Therefore will he instruct sinners in the way.'

      25.9
      Y 'The meek will he guide in justice,
      And the meek will he teach his way.'

      Because YHWH is good and upright that is why ('therefore') He does not just leave sinners to struggle on in ignorance, but instructs them in the right way, and when they are humble and responsive, guides them in what true righteousness involves, and indeed in His own way, the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35.8).

      'Instructs' is from the same root as the word 'torah', (God's instruction). Thus He instructs them in His Law. 'Meek.' These are the humble minded who are 'poor in spirit' (compare 9.12, and see Matthew 5.3, 5; 1 Peter 5.5). 'Justice.' This is referring to the way of righteousness (see Proverbs 1.3, and compare Matthew 21.32).

      25.10

      C 'All the paths of YHWH are lovingkindness and truth.
      To such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.'

      And to those who are responsive to His covenant and to His instructions He reveals His own 'covenant love' (lovingkindness) and genuine faithfulness (compare Exodus 34.6). He never fails them but goes with them every step of the way, leading them in His own paths, paths which are paths of lovingkindness and truth.

      His covenant, which contained His 'testimonies', His commandments (Deuteronomy 4.45; 6.17, 10), was made with His people at Sinai on the basis of earlier covenants (Exodus 20-23; compare Exodus 19.1-6; Genesis 17.2 ff). There Israel had committed themselves to the covenant, so the requirement here was that they fulfil their promise. And YHWH would respond with covenant love and true behaviour.

      25.11

      L 'For your name's sake, O YHWH,
      Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.'

      The thought of God's faithfulness to responsive sinners reminds him again of his own sins, and recognising how great his sins are, he again humbly calls on YHWH for pardon 'for His Name's sake'.

      'For His Name's sake.' In other words because He is the One Who has represented Himself in His Law as the Great Forgiver, He must therefore forgive in order to maintain His honour, and in order that the world might know that He fulfils His promises.

      It is significant that he does not speak here of forgiveness being available to those who respond to YHWH, although he is no doubt very much aware that it is. He refers rather to his own need for forgiveness. This was clearly because he had such a deep sense of his own sinfulness that at this stage he was overwhelmed by it. It reveals someone with a true heart, a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13.14).

      'Iniquity.' Activity that is crooked or wrong resulting from a heart that is wrong.

      The One Who Fears YHWH Will Receive His Instruction, Will Enjoy Security And Prosperity, Will Be Aware That He Is One Of His Covenant People, And Will Be Kept From Falling (25.12-15).

      We now come to the second and third stage in the parallels. In the case of the second stage the emphasis has been on YHWH's activity towards His responsive people, in the case of the third stage it is on how His people who fear Him will benefit from it. But both have a similar pattern in mind:

      ----------- Verses 8-11 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Verses 12-15 -----------------

      Good and upright is YHWH.--------------------------------------------------------------------- What man is he who fears YHWH?
      Therefore will He instruct sinners in the way
      The meek will He guide in justice,
      And the meek will He teach his way ----------------------------------------------------------- him will He instruct in the way that he will choose.'

      All the paths of YHWH are ---------------------------------------------------------------------- his soul will dwell at ease
      lovingkindness and truth ------------------------------------------------------------------------- And his seed will inherit the land
      To such as keep His covenant ------------------------------------------------------------------- The friendship of YHWH is with those who fear Him,
      and His testimonies -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And he will show them His covenant.

      For Your name's sake, O YHWH---------------------------------------------------------------- My eyes are ever towards YHWH;
      Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. ------------------------------------------------------------- For He will pluck my feet out of the net'

      In this third stage it His people's benefit that is in mind. He who reverentially fears YHWH will receive His instruction, will dwell with ease of soul, his children will inherit what God had promised, he will experience His friendship, will have the truth of the covenant made known to him by Him, and because his eyes are on Him will have his feet plucked out of the net that ensnares sinners. This is one step further than God not remembering his sins (verse 7) and pardoning his iniquity (verse 11). It is practical deliverance from sin. 'Sin will no longer have dominion over you, for you are not under Law but under grace' (Romans 6.14).

      25.12

      M 'What man is he who fears YHWH?
      Him will he instruct in the way that he will choose.'

      The Psalmist now points out what kind of a man God will have dealings with. It is a man who 'is in awe of YHWH' sufficiently to respond to His requirements. It is such a man who will be chosen by YHWH, so that YHWH will instruct him in His chosen way (Isaiah 30.21), or in his chosen way (Psalm 119.30, 173; Proverbs 1.29).

      25.13

      N 'His soul will dwell at ease,
      And his seed will inherit the land.'

      And the result will be that his inner life is at peace (his soul will dwell at ease) and his children will receive their God promised inheritance. Compare here Jesus' promise, 'blessed ones are those who are meek, for they will inherit the land'. 'Inheriting the land' basically means receiving the future that God has promised. The writer to the Hebrews points out that this means coming to a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11.10; compare Hebrews 12.22).

      25.14

      S 'The friendship (or 'secret') of YHWH is with those who fear him,
      And he will show them his covenant.'

      And those who fear Him will also enjoy the intimate friendship of YHWH, the kind of friendship which results in the sharing of secrets. The word for 'friendship' signifies the idea of a confidential and intimate relationship (compare its use in 55.14 - 'sweet counsel'). And He will also show them ('make them to know') His covenant. They will have it ever brought to mind by Him (through His word) and will experience it in ever deeper measure because of their relationship with Him.

      25.15

      GH 'My eyes are ever towards YHWH;
      For he will pluck my feet out of the net'.

      And finally because the Psalmists eyes are ever towards YHWH, the Psalmist knows that YHWH will preserve him from being caught in snares and traps. Note the sudden change to the first person which parallels verse 11. There he had called for forgiveness for his iniquity. Here he asserts his confidence that he will be delivered from all that could cause him to stumble because of YHWH's intervention on his behalf

      The Psalmist Now Prays For Deliverance From His Afflictions And Again For Forgiveness For His Sins (25.16-18).

      Following the confidence expressed in the previous verses the Psalmist's situation now again comes strongly home to him, and he sends up a heartfelt plea for deliverance. Three problems are especially in mind in the final verses of the Psalm, firstly his need to be delivered from his afflictions, secondly his repeated need for forgiveness, and thirdly his need to be saved from his enemies, although all three may well be connected. The enemy and their activities may well have contributed to his afflictions, and have increased the level of his sins. Once again in the midst of it all he is especially conscious of his need for his sins to be forgiven, something which has come out all the way through.

      25.16

      P 'Turn you to me, and have mercy on me,
      For I am desolate and afflicted.'

      25.17
      TS 'The troubles of my heart are enlarged.
      Oh, do you bring me out of my distresses'.

      It is a salutary lesson that up to this point, while he has mentioned his enemies, the Psalmist has not mentioned his afflictions. He has been more concerned about his sins. To him his afflictions were less important than his continuing in the grace of God. But now he finally feels that he can bring them to God's attention. So he calls on God to note his afflictions, and asks that God will turn towards him in them, for they seem to be getting bigger and bigger.

      We can compare here Psalm 119.132, 'turn you to me and have mercy on me, as is the right of those who love your name (or as is right for those who love your name)'. Compare also 86.16.

      'Have mercy on me.' That is, 'show your compassion towards me.' He is very conscious that he needs to be held up by the love of God.

      'For I am desolate and afflicted.' He is both lonely and afflicted. Every hand seems against him. This was Elijah's cry on the mount, 'I only I am left and they seek my life' (1 Kings 19.10). It is very easy at such times to feel alone. (But there are always seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal).

      'The troubles of my heart are enlarged.' The troubles of his heart appear to be piling one on top of the other. They just seem to be getting larger and larger. How often this can appear so to the believer. At such times we must remember that God is larger still and can enlarge us so that our troubles appear as nothing (119.32). It is amazing what a difference it can make if we remember that we are sons of the King, and that our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3.20).

      'Oh, do you bring me out of my distresses'. So his final plea is that God will deliver him out of his distresses, which include his consciousness of his sins (verse 18).

      25.18

      R 'Consider my affliction and my travail,
      And forgive all my sins.'

      'And forgive all my sins.' Once again his consciousness of his sins comes to the forefront, compare verses 7, 11. He is aware that his afflictions and travail have caused him to fall short of what he should be, and so he again seeks forgiveness. This need is thus at the very heart of the Psalm, along with his persistence in having communion with God.

      Finally He Prays For Rescue From The Hands Of His Enemies, So That His Soul Might Be Kept In Integrity and Uprightness As He Waits On God (25.19-21).

      As we saw at the beginning the thoughts here parallel those with which he began the Psalm. But we should note here that his final concern is to be kept in integrity and uprightness. That is his prime goal. He does not want his light to go out (Matthew 5.16).

      The comparisons are as follows:

      'Consider my enemies' (verse 19) -- ------------------------------------------------------------- 'Let not my enemies triumph over me (verse 2).
      'O keep my soul and deliver me' (verse 20) ------------------------------------------------- 'To you I lift up my soul' (verse 1).
      'Let me not be ashamed' (verse 20) ------------------------------------------------------------ 'Let me not be put to shame' (verses 2, 3).
      'For I put my trust in you' (verse 20) ---------------------------------------------------------- 'In you have I trusted' (verse 2)
      'For I will wait on you' (verse 21) -------------------------------------------------------------- 'None that wait on you will be ashamed' (verse 3)
      'O God' (verse 22) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 'O my God' (verse 1/2).

      25.19

      R 'Consider my enemies, for they are many,
      And they hate me with cruel hatred.'

      His thoughts now turn back to his enemies whom he has disregarded for most of the Psalm, for what has mattered first of all has been establishing his confidence in God and in His covenant, walking in God's ways and enjoying God's forgiveness of his sins. But if his enemies do triumph over him (verse 2) he knows that that will bring dishonour on YHWH for they are treacherous (verse 3), both towards him and towards God. And so he prays that God will behold his enemies who are many, and are not only many but are full of the kind of hatred that produces violence ('the hatred of cruel violence'). Such experiences often occur to those who are faithful to God and His word.

      25.20

      SH 'Oh keep my soul, and deliver me.
      Do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you (put my trust in you).'

      So he asks that his inner heart might be kept true, and that he might experience deliverance. For to be put to shame would reflect on the One in Whom he takes refuge, the One in Whom he trusts.

      25.21

      T 'Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
      For I wait for you.'

      His final concern is for the triumph of integrity and uprightness (in contrast with his enemies' treachery - verse 3). He does not just want to be preserved, but preserved in integrity and uprightness. He wants them to act as his Preserver (compare goodness and mercy in 23.6; lovingkindness and truth in 40.11). And this is because he waits on God. He knows that there is no point in waiting on God without integrity and uprightness. He can wait in expectancy for God to act because what he is reveals that he is God's man, and he will be preserved in integrity and uprightness because he is waiting on God as God's man.

      'Integrity and uprightness.' Compare 18.23, 'I was also perfect with Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity', and 15.2, where 'he who walks uprightly and works righteousness' will dwell in His holy hill. God answered his prayer, for this was in fact God's testimony to Solomon concerning David, 'as David your father walked in integrity of heart and in uprightness' (1 Kings 9.4). Blessed indeed is the one of whom God can say that.

      25.22

      P 'Redeem, O God, Israel, out all of his troubles.'

      The Psalmists final plea is that God will redeem (deliver at a cost) Israel from all its troubles. He does not want to be thought of as just concerned about himself.

      Many consider that this was added on when the Psalm was introduced into public worship. We should, however, note that the Psalmist has already had the true Israel in mind (verses 8-10, 12-14). Thus such a prayer is not inconsistent with the Psalm, and the use of 'O God parallels the opening stanza. The prayer fits well with the concern of a king for his people, especially as he was the intercessory priest after the order of Melchizedek. Having prayed through about his own position he now prays for his people.

      The use of 'O God' is rare in this section of the Psalms, but it parallels verse 1/2.

      Psalm 26.

      It should be considered that this Psalm could never have been written unless it had been preceded by Psalm 25. It was only once the question of forgiveness had been settled that the Psalmist could speak like this. For in this Psalm he approaches God with the confidence of a forgiven sinner.

      Heading.

      26.1a A Psalm of David.

      In this Psalm the Psalmist testifies to YHWH that he has responded to YHWH's covenant love and trustworthiness with a life of integrity and obedience, and he brings his life openly to God and calls on God to give him a religious check up. He is not afraid of this because he has already prepared himself by putting right all that was wrong in his life and seeking forgiveness ('washing his hands in innocency'). He can also declare that he has not kept bad company, whether it be religiously devious, or openly sinful, and can therefore approach God to worship Him in innocency, which he does joyously because he loves His house and the place where His glory dwells. It is on these grounds that he looks to YHWH for long life so that he might continue to worship Him.

      26.1b

      Judge me, O YHWH, for I have walked in my integrity,
      I have trusted also in YHWH without wavering.

      He is confident that having received the forgiveness that he had pleaded for in Psalm 25 he can now call on YHWH to judge him in the present as one who has been faithful, and has walked in integrity (compare 25.21). He is ready to open his whole life to YHWH's scrutiny. And he is not afraid, because he knows that he has trusted YHWH with an unwavering trust (compare 25.2), a trust that does not slide about in constant changeableness, 'none of his steps will slide' (37.31). He has turned neither to left nor right (compare Isaiah 30.21). In all this he wants YHWH to shine His light on him so that he may 'walk in the light' before Him (compare 1 John 1.7).

      The request to be judged is also a prayer that God will stand on his side against his adversaries (43.1). He is aware that unless YHWH is satisfied with what he is he has no right to such protection and help.

      26.2

      Examine me, O YHWH, and prove me,
      Try my heart and my mind.

      He is so confident of his current faithfulness to YHWH that he is ready to open himself for a thorough examination. 'Examine me.' He wants Him to test his integrity like an assayer tests the purity of metal. Compare Jeremiah 6.27 where Jeremiah was to act as such an assayer, 'I have made you an assayer and a tester among my people that you may know and try their way'. See also 66.10. 'Prove me.' By weighing him up, measuring him against the Law, and coming to a fair conclusion. 'Try my heart and my mind.' By assessing all his inner thoughts. The word for 'heart' is often translated kidneys, which were seen as the seat of the emotions, or as 'reins', that which controlled those emotions (compare 7.9). The word for 'mind' signifies that which controls the thought and will.

      We should note that he is not asking God to send him trials in order to test him. He has had enough of those. Rather he wants Him now to examine the results of those trials in order to discover that they have accomplished their purpose (compare 11.4-5). We should never pray for trials to come on us, for as Jesus stressed, our prayer should be, 'do not bring us into trials but deliver us from evil' (Matthew 6.13).

      A prayer like this in public would rightly have been dismissed as showmanship (compare Luke 18.11-12). But in private it is the sign of a genuine desire to be pleasing to God. We should all be making such a prayer on a regular basis so that God can carry out His regular 'service' on our lives.

      26.3

      For your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
      And I have walked in your truth.

      His confidence lies in the fact that he has kept God's covenant love firmly before his eyes, responding to it and walking in the light of His trustworthiness as the God of truth, believing wholeheartedly that He is the God Who is true and faithful.

      26.4-5

      I have not sat with men of falsehood (vanity),
      Nor will I go in with dissemblers.
      I hate the assembly of evil-doers,
      And will not sit with the wicked.

      And because his eyes are on YHWH he has avoided contact with all those who would seek to lead him astray. He has not sat with men whose thoughts were on what is vain and useless, on what is false rather than what is true. Compare 1.1 'sat in the seat of the scornful'. Nor has he gone into the houses of (or possibly 'gone in and out with') those who hide the truth about themselves and pretend to be what they really are not ('dissemblers'). He is straight and open and has avoided all that is doubtful and has an appearance of evil.

      He hates the company of evil-doers, (but not the evil-doers themselves), for their ways bring dishonour on YHWH, and he will not sit with the wicked. While the first two mentioned were subtle and devious in their ways, these are openly and downright sinful. With 'I hate the assembly of evil-doers' compare 'I love the dwellingplace of your house' (verse 8). It was his contemplation of YHWH that made him turn from all who did evil. Also compare 'in the assemblies I will bless YHWH'. The company that he preferred was that of righteous men whose hearts were fixed on YHWH.

      26.6

      I will wash my hands in innocency,
      So will I compass your altar, O YHWH.

      Furthermore when he comes to stand around the altar with those who offer sacrifices, he prepares himself by making himself 'innocent' as a result of having had his sin dealt with by seeking God and putting it away from him. He has heeded the words of Isaiah, 'Wash yourselves, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes' (Isaiah 1.16). Now therefore he only has to 'wash his hands' that is deal with current sins. (We can compare Jesus' words, 'he who has been bathed needs only to was his feet' - John 13.10). The washing of the hands has in mind the fact that the priests had to wash their hands and feet regularly as they operated between the altar and the holy place lest they die (Exodus 30.17-21), because of the defilement of earth contacted during that short walk, but the lack of mention of the feet here makes clear that this is intended to be seen as metaphorical. Compare 73.13 where washing the hands in innocency parallels the cleansing of the heart. Before coming into God's presence in this way he has prepared his heart.

      26.7

      That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard,
      And tell of all your wondrous works.

      And the result of his coming before YHWH fully clean will be that his voice will ring out in thanksgiving, and he will proclaim all that the Lord has done for him.

      Connecting with the previous verse this verse may suggest that he sees himself as there because of a fervent desire to offer a thanksgiving offering which would then be partaken of in his home or palace where he would tell his guests the reason for his gratitude to YHWH, recounting the wonderful things that He had done for him. But whether that is so or not, it is a reminder that all our worship should finally result in thanksgiving and testimony.

      26.8

      YHWH, I love the habitation of your house,
      And the place where your glory dwells.'

      He wants YHWH to be aware of how much he loves His dwellingplace, the Tabernacle, the place in which is the Ark of the covenant of YHWH, the symbolic representation of God's glorious presence. (When the Ark was captured by the Philistines, the 'glory' was said to have departed - 1 Samuel 4.22). He loves it because it is where YHWH reveals Himself among His people (compare Exodus 29.43; 40.34), and where they can meet with Him.

      26.9-10

      Gather not my soul with sinners,
      Nor my life with men of blood,
      In whose hands is wickedness,
      And their right hand is full of bribes.

      He prays that his soul will not be 'snatched away' and his life taken from him. Premature death is the lot of men of violence, and men who propagate violence, those whose ways are wicked, who constantly use underhand methods to get their way. It may be that a pestilence was raging, which would explain why he felt that some of the evil-doers might in the near future reap their deserts, and from which he himself was anticipating protection because he was under YHWH's eye.

      'In whose hands is wickedness,' They were guilty of corruption and defrauding the people, and if it seemed as though they might be caught they prevented it by the payment of bribes.

      26.11

      But as for me, I will walk in my integrity,
      Redeem me, and be merciful to me.

      But the Psalmist is not like that. His back is turned on corruption, and he intends to continue walking in integrity. And so he prays that YHWH will deliver him by an exertion of power at a cost to Himself, and will be merciful to him, so that he may prevail against those who are against him.

      26.12

      My foot stands in an even place,
      In the congregations will I bless YHWH.

      And having the assurance of verse 11 he can declare that his foot now stands in a level place. No longer for him the valley of darkness, where danger ever lurks (23.4), or the rough paths along which it is easy to stumble, for YHWH has brought him out into a pleasant place, and among the assemblies of YHWH He will stand in order to bless Him.

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