The Path of the Lord
1 To you, YHWH, do I lift up my soul.
2 My God, I have trusted in you.
Don't let me be shamed.
Don't let my enemies triumph over me.
3 Yes, no one who waits for you shall be shamed.
They shall be shamed who deal treacherously without cause.
4 Show me your ways, YHWH.
Teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth, and teach me,
For you are the God of my salvation,
I wait for you all day long.
6 YHWH, remember your tender mercies and your loving kindness,
for they are from old times.
7 Don't remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.
Remember me according to your loving kindness,
for your goodness' sake, YHWH.
8 Good and upright is YHWH,
therefore he will instruct sinners in the way.
9 He will guide the humble in justice.
He will teach the humble his way.
10 All the paths of YHWH are loving kindness and truth
to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name's sake, YHWH,
pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
12 What man is he who fears YHWH?
He shall instruct him in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease.
His seed shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of YHWH is with those who fear him.
He will show them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever on YHWH,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me, and have mercy on me,
for I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged.
Oh bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my travail.
Forgive all my sins.
19 Consider my enemies, for they are many.
They hate me with cruel hatred.
20 Oh keep my soul, and deliver me.
Let me not be disappointed, for I take refuge in you.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, God,
out all of his troubles.
World English Bible
How smooth or rough has your spiritual path been over the past year?
"No pain, no gain." This popular dictum from body building does resonate with spiritual growth. The smooth times in life seem to yield little; the tough times seem to see leaps in insight and spiritual maturity. By no means should we seek tough times, but we shouldn't shrink from them either. Facing the challenges of life does bring us closer to God.
Yet, "no pain, no gain" must be put into context. While we might see growth spurts in tough times, it is really the daily practice of faith that makes growth possible. Like a regular fitness routine, we must pray, study, and share faith on a daily basis and in a deliberate way. We can only realize growth by exercising our spiritual "muscles." We cannot expect to show spiritual strength only when challenges face us, then conveniently forget about feeding our spirit in the good times.
Psalm 25 made a subtle appeal for consistency in the spiritual life. For the psalmist, the path of the Lord was based on a consistent duty to God's Law. While much of the hymn asked God for relief, its center extolled the audience to remain faithful, for the path of the Lord had its own reward.
Psalm 25 is an unusual hymn. A quick reading reveals a theme of supplication. Yet, it is highly stylized, like wisdom literature. Nearly every line in the psalm begins with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet (two letters are missing while two letters are doubled). The psalm has a chiastic or "A-B-A" overtones. The themes of 25:1-7 are loosely reflected in 25:11-21. "Wait for the LORD" is mentioned in 25:1 and 22, escape from shame and enemies in 25:2-3 and 25:19-21, follow the ways of YHWH and relief from troubles of the heart in 25:4-5, 16-18, and love and forgiveness in 25:6-7, 11-15. These steps lead to 25:8-10, where the psalmist praised the way of the YHWH (i.e., the Torah); the humble person who follows the Law walks the path of "faithful love" (enjoys the blessings of God).
The tone and structure of the psalm point to an author who lived after the Babylonian exile. The spiritual themes are waiting and duty to the Law, not the triumphant songs of the monarchy in its glory. The psalmist asked the Lord for pardon, praised the wisdom of the Torah's lifestyle, and waited for the Lord to act in the life of the his people. These themes were present among Jews at the time of Jesus and were part of the spiritual groundwork for modern Judaism.
Psalm 25 presents us with a different tack on the spiritual life. As Christians, most of our spiritual focus is on the afterlife. Yet, God meant his life to be realized in the present. In other words, the struggle of the spiritual life has its own rewards in this realm. As we walk the path of the Lord, let us realize (and enjoy) his faithfulness and love, for he is with us now.
How do you feed your spirit every day? How have your efforts given you comfort, even in the tough times?