What is your favorite book of the Bible? Perhaps you are like me and often find yourself gravitating toward the book of Psalms when opening your Bible. Maybe you and I are drawn to it because we can often see ourselves in the varied emotions of the Psalmists. We find comfort knowing that the writers experienced and felt some of the same things that we do.
The Psalms give us words for expressing our own emotions of fear, joy, loneliness, confusion, anger, and more. But they also do more than that. They teach us how to rightly respond to the different circumstances that led to those emotions in the first place. Psalm 25 is no exception. It is a guide to all of us who find ourselves in times of trouble.
What does Psalm 25 mean?
In Psalm 25, David expresses in prayer his desire to take refuge in the Lord and walk in God’s ways, just like Psalm 1 and 2 instructs us to do. He petitions the Lord for guidance and protection from his enemies. But like us, David struggles to pray with confidence because he is very aware of his sinfulness. He begs God for forgiveness throughout the Psalm. But David also asserts his unwavering trust in the Lord—a trust that is not shaken by circumstances outside him or by the guilt within him.
Psalm 25 Background
Psalm 25 is attributed to David. Although the Bible doesn’t give us the historical background for this Psalm, we can assume that it was written during a time of serious trouble in David’s life. Throughout David’s life, he had many periods of trial or struggle in his life, from his time being hunted by Saul to the loss of his son. Based on his reference to the sins of his youth, we can also assume that it was written later in his life.
Psalm 25 themes
- Petitioning the Lord for protection from enemies (Psalm 25:2–3)
- Asking the Lord for direction (Psalm 25:4)
- Seeking forgiveness for sin (Psalm 25:7)
- Waiting on the Lord(Psalm 25:11; 21)
What does David mean when he writes…
“Let not mine enemies triumph over me”—Psalm 25:2
Psalm 2 promises blessing to people who have taken refuge in the Lord. In Psalm 25, David, as he places his confidence in God, prays that his enemies would not have victory over him.
“Let none who wait on thee be ashamed” —Psalm 25:3
David is praying that he would not experience the embarrassment that would come if his confidence in the Lord was unfounded, and his enemies did indeed triumph in the end.
“Teach me thy paths” —Psalm 25:4
David is petitioning the Lord to teach him and lead him in the ways of the Lord. No doubt he desires to walk in the way of the righteous as Psalm 1 describes and avoid the way of the wicked.
“Remember not the sins of my youth” —Psalm 25:7
Like many of us during times of trouble, David struggles to pray with confidence to God because of the awareness of his own sinfulness. Specifically, he still very much remembers the sins that he committed in his youth, and he begs the Lord not to lay them to his charge (as in a court of law).
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” —Psalm 25:11
The Lord promises that those that fear the Lord—who stand in awe of Him, who reverence and obey Him—will enjoy special fellowship with Him, the kind of fellowship that exists between two intimate friends.
How should we respond in times of trouble?
We live in a world just like the one Psalm 2 describes—the enemies of God are all around us. World leaders and ordinary people discard God’s laws, and the righteous often find themselves surrounded by trouble. In this Psalm, the Holy Spirit counsels us regarding how to respond. Betty Henderson, in her woman’s bible study book Selah: Studying God’s Songbook, explains Psalm 25 and outlines the biblical response to trouble it teaches us in the following three steps.
1. I Am to Pray (Psalm 25:1–7)
We, as believers, are the most privileged of people—we have direct access to the Sovereign of the Universe, the only One who can truly help us when we are in trouble. Yet, we often fail to take advantage of the privilege that has been given to us. Instead of praying, we fret. We scheme. We make a Plan A, a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C in our feeble attempts to control the world around us. Psalm 25 models for us what believers should do in times of trouble. We should pray. Prayer must always be the first response of every true believer because it is the only response of faith.
2. I Am to Fear the Lord (Psalm 25:8–14)
As David prays, his thoughts turn to the Lord, His character, and His works. He remembers that the Lord is “good and upright’ (vs. 8), and His paths are “mercy and truth” (v. 10). He reflects on how the Lord guides and instructs the righteous (the very thing the Psalmist desires!) and how He protects and provides for those who fear Him (vv. 12-13). What great comforts to a distressed soul! The great promises described here urge us to make a similar choice and respond to the Lord with awe and reverence.
3. I Am to Trust (Psalm 25:15–22)
Despite all the trouble around Him, David’s trust in the Lord is unwavering. He states that his soul’s gaze is fixed on the Lord (vs. 15) and that he is waiting on the Lord to answer his pleas for deliverance and direction (vs. 21). David is standing firm on the character and promises of God and so can we.
So what should we do when we find ourselves in the midst of serious trouble? We are to do just what Psalm 25 directs us to do–pray, fear the Lord, and trust in the Lord. If we respond the way this Psalm directs us to, we will be able to stand with confidence in the day of trouble, knowing that the Lord will give us the direction and protection that we seek.