A psalm of trust in God's mercy and deliverance
"A Psalm of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause." (verses 1-3)
David is clearly in a state of distress and in his turmoil, he cries out to the One who he knows will hear his cry and answer. To the LORD he "lifts up his soul". David is a unique man, in that, throughout the psalms we see him admonishing his "soul" to do what is right. It is as if his emotions and even his reason argue against what he knows to be true, and thus has to direct his soul- his innermost being- to do or think what is right. In Psalm 42, he writes:
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." (Psalm 42:5)
Here we see him again directing his soul heavenward, to seek help from God above, rather than to dwell in despair. David declares his faith in God's faithfulness to him, in one breath both affirming his trust in God's deliverance and pleading for God to deliver him. He says, "I trust in You; let me not be ashamed." Is that not our same fear when we step out in faith, acting upon the promises of God? We say, like David, "I believe what You said, God... and please, please, please do what You said You would do... I'm laying it all on the line in trusting You. Don't let me be ashamed of my faith in You!" And He comes through. He upholds His Word. Isn't that wonderful to know? We have a God who never lies; He always does what He says He will do. That is GREAT confidence.
David adds a prayer that those who are causing his distress, who make a mockery of his faith, would be in fact the ones who are ashamed. This prayer comes true, sadly, after death for too many. Ashamed before the Throne of God for their sins that could have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and they are now condemned for eternity. Oh, that men would see their need for a Saviour in this life and repent, while it is not yet too late!
"Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day." (verses 4-5)
There is only one right way. There is only one truth. For it to be otherwise is both illogical and self defeating. Yet, our generation insists that truth is relative and that there are many equally right paths. If your path says there are many paths and my path says there is only one path, can we both be right? They exclude each other by nature and thus cannot both be right, without cancelling out each other. This is basic logic, not a complex philosophy, and yet such plain reason is largely rejected by most of of our peers.
The world can believe what it wants, however unreasonable it may be, but as for me, there is but one God who made one way, and I want to walk in that way, for it is true. Three thousand years ago David wrote these lines and they stand as powerful today as they did then, and will remain so for eternity, for they are right.
Every morning of every day, and all throughout the day, we need to come before the Lord and pray as David did for guidance and direction that we may know the truth and walk in it. There is but one right way, and we are prone to wander. May we bring our steps before the Lord before we take them, that there need be no back tracking.
"Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness' sake, O LORD." (verses 6-7)
The theme of the Bible is the mercy of God. Mercy implies both righteousness and love. Righteousness demands justice and love demands forgiveness. Mercy is where they meet. The mercy of God was lived out in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our Saviour. Mercy, we find, is a Person. God has always been merciful, from the first sin of Adam onward; God has always shown mercy. He covered the sin of men and women during the ages before He Himself made an end of sin, by simple faith in the promise of a future Deliverer. He continues to pardon sin through faith in that same Deliverer who has now come: Jesus our Lord.
David knows of the Lord's mercy and he here pleads for it. He is remembering past sins, done in the foolishness of youth, and begs the Lord to not remember them, but rather to recall His own merciful nature.
Some of my most shameful sins were done in my teenage years and I still blush to think of them. It says in the Bible that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and my own life is proof of that. Whatever you may have done in the past, whether as a teenager or an adult, know that God is merciful and that when He forgives, He forgives completely. Those sins are washed away, never to be brought to mind before God forever. He has made an end of them in the death of His Son Jesus our Saviour. They are not hanging over your head, nor are they hidden under a carpet, always threatening exposure. If you have confessed them to God and placed your faith in Jesus, they are gone. Forever. All He thinks of when He thinks of you is how much He loves you. You are pure before Him, as Jesus Himself is pure, because He has clothed you in the righteousness of Jesus Himself.
"Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies. For Your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great." (verses 8-11)
God has not left us to try to figure out how to get through life on our own. He is not the god of the deist who merely believes in a supreme being who started the universe, winding it up like a clock, and then let it go. There is purpose and meaning to life, and that in found only in relationship with the Creator of life Himself, Jesus Christ.
Notice that He teaches sinners in the way; finding purpose and meaning starts with humility. When we understand our need for salvation, we are ready for God to teach us divine wisdom. It says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." And again in Proverbs 15:33, "The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honour is humility."
Job, the oldest book in the Bible, says, "And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.' "
God is good and upright, therefore He does not leave us to try to figure out life on our own, but reveals Himself through His creation, through His Word, and through the person of Jesus Christ, that we may know Him and know His way.
David knows the Lord's mercy and His covenants, both that of Abraham and of Moses. Abraham's covenant preceded Moses and it was a one sided covenant of faith. God carried the burden of fulfillment while mankind carried only the requirement of faith. God would impart righteousness to all who placed their trust in Him.
The covenant of Moses was two sided, and was given to the children of Israel. If they obeyed the laws God gave them, He would bless them. If they disobeyed, He would discipline them.
David understands both. He knows his sins have consequences, as ordained by God in the law, and yet He also knows that God is full of mercy and receives humble faith with great joy. David appeals to the "name", or character, of the God of mercy, in acknowledging his great sin (and hence, need for punishment), and yet asking pardon for it.
"Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity, and his descendants shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net." (verses 12-15)
David once more affirms that those who humble themselves before the righteous and merciful God, acknowledging their sin, will be led by God into truth. He says that God will reveal His "secret" to them and show them His covenant. What else could David be speaking about, but the mercy of God? God's covenant with Abraham was a shadow of the the New Covenant we have in Christ, where all righteousness is ours through simple trust in Jesus our Saviour and Lord. David also speaks of prosperity and inheritance. Of course there were the promised earthly blessings for the Jewish nation when they turned their hearts to God's ways, which included prosperity for both themselves and their descendants, but what David is speaking of goes deeper and further.
Those who turn to Jesus in humility and trust in His salvation are promised life eternal. Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth, and Jeremiah the prophet spoke of the day when Jesus Himself would reign on the earth in prosperity and righteousness. (Matthew 5:5, Jeremiah 23:5)
David's eyes were miles ahead of his present distress; he was focused on eternity. His confidence has only grown stronger in the Lord's deliverance, as he encourages himself with the words he writes, so that he can now emphatically say, "He shall pluck my feet out of the net." Like a bird caught in the fowler's net, David needs to be rescued, and He is certain that His God will indeed rescue him.
"Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles!" (verses 16-22)
As though his present reality came suddenly before him in the midst of his confidence, David returns to his original plea. Help me, God! I was in the ER not too long ago, and while waiting in the appropriately named "waiting room," a man was brought in. Howling with pain, he cried out again and again, "Oh God! Help me!!" The staff were at a loss of what to do. The patients were greatly discomfited by his outbursts. The security was demanding he lower his voice, but still the man kept crying. I approached him with a psalm written out on a scrap of paper and offered it to him, saying it was from the God who he was crying out to. He grasped at it with hunger and thankfulness. He was comforted in the midst of his pain in knowing God heard him and cared for him.
God is the God of the distressed. God is the God of the afflicted and desolate. He is God and there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. David cries out to this great God who alone can deliver him and pours out his troubles before Him. His struggles are many, but in them all he puts his trust in God. It is an active choice. Appealing to God's sense of justice and integrity, he declares that he will simply wait on God until He answers. All his eggs are in this one basket, so to speak, and David is saying that he has no hope apart from God's intervention. That is true trust. He repeats his plea that he be not ashamed of this extravagant trust, and ends with a cry for God to deliver all of Israel.
We know from history that God did indeed deliver David, as He always did, and that God has time and again delivered His people. We are living in a day and age when that deliverance is available to all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. He paid for all our sins, abolished death, and has freely given us eternal life. Whatever may befall us in this earthly body, we have a hope that is no less extravagant than David's. Putting all our eggs in this one basket, we wait with confidence in the Lord's soon return and His promise of the redemption of our bodies. He is true and His Word is true. We need not fear being ashamed, for what He says, He does. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!