Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and loving devotion, for they are from age to age.
depends on known historic incident for its elucidation. And whoever desires to dive into the depths of its meaning will find the habit of waiting on God the best key to its words and phrases. No merely natural man can possibly unravel spiritual things, and he who is a stranger to prayer will get no help whatever in the understanding of this psalm from all the scholastic critics in the world. There are a few doubtful phrases, on which Perowne's notes will throw some light; but, speaking generally, this is one of the psalms on which Calvin and Matthew Henry will furnish adequately suggestive remarks. Reserving all dealing with specific texts in it for other writers in this Commentary, we propose to survey the psalm as a whole, though it may be that each heading thereon might furnish a theme for separate discourse. This prayer of an Old Testament saint suggests -
I. THAT WE KNOW ENOUGH OF GOD TO FURNISH US WITH A SOUND BASIS FOR PRAYER. Interspersed among the several petitions there are here several statements of exquisite beauty (cf. vers. 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 3, 13). These may be thus set forth:
1. God is good and upright; therefore will he teach and guide those who seek him. Good, so that he delights to do it; upright, so that he will be true to his promise.
2. This guidance he vouchsafes to the meek (ver. 9). Taken in a physical sense, the word translated "meek" is equivalent to "afflicted;" in a moral sense its meaning is as given here (cf. James 1:21; James 4:6; Matthew 11:25).
3. To loyal souls all his ways are mercy and truth (ver. 10); hence he cannot shut his ear to their prayer (see also ver. 12). "Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose;" Luther, "Er wird ihn unterweiseuden besten Weg."
4. He will give such souls a rest and refuge in himself (ver. 13)."His soul shall lodge in goodness" (Hebrew cf. Psalm 91:1 Hebrew).
5. To such God will open up the heavenly secrets of his covenant love. A glorious anticipation, By spiritual intuition, in Old Testament times, of John 15:15.
6. He will never put to shame those that wait on him (ver. 3, Revised Version; see Perowne's note thereon). As followers of our Lord Jesus, we may add to all this the amazing statement, "The Father seeketh such to worship him." God is not only willing to receive their worship, but he eagerly desires it (John 4:23).
(1) in the morning (Psalm 5:3);
(2) at noon and at evening (Psalm 55:17);
(3) seven times a day (Psalm 119:164);
(4) all the day (Psalm 25:5);
(5) Perpetually (Psalm 25:15).
The psalmist prayed not only when trouble came, but always. His heart spontaneously went up ever to God, as to the Friend without whose smile he could not live, and without whose protection he dared not move. Note: For elevation of life our spirits must be ever looking above and beyond themselves. An upward look will uplift character; the downward look will degrade.
III. THAT INWARD CONFLICTS AND OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES OFTEN GIVE SPECIAL INTENSITY TO PRAYER. Glancing over the varied forms of expression which indicate the psalmist's mental state and his surroundings, we shall see this:
1. The remembrance of past sins troubles him. Oh that the young would beware of sin! Long, long after it is forgiven by God, it will poison and worry the memory (ver. 7). So much so, that only as the sinning one flings himself on mercy, can he have any rest at all.
2. The psalmist is desolate, afflicted (ver. 16), troubled in heart (ver. 17), in a net (ver. 15), surrounded with bitter enemies (ver. 19). What a burden of care and grief he has to roll over upon God] Note: It is an infinite mercy to be Permitted to tell God exactly what we feel, and all that we feel, knowing that we shall never be misunderstood, but that we shall be laying open all our griefs only before infinite goodness and mercy.
IV. THE SPECIFIC PETITIONS IN PRAYER MAY BE VARIED AS OUR NEED. The petitions specified in this psalm are mainly for himself, but not exclusively. Those for himself are such as any child of God may present at any time. The special colouring given to each must need be the reflection of hues of his own, "fresh borrowed from the heart." The psalmist's petitions for himself may be grouped under eight heads.
1. That God would not put him to shame before his enemies (ver. 2).
2. He prays for light (ver. 4).
3. For teaching in the way in which he should go (vers. 4, 5).
4. That he may have experience in God's faithfulness (ver. 5; see notes, 'Variorum Bible').
5. For loving-kindness and mercy (ver. 6).
6. For forgiveness (ver. 11).
7. For Divine guardianship (ver. 20).
8. For a gracious, compassionate look (ver. 18).
9. That amidst all temptations to wander from the way, he may be kept in integrity and uprightness (vers. 21, 22).
But the pleading one cannot close without one prayer for the Church of God (ver. 22; cf. Psalm 51:18, 19). A noble, pious, public spirit existed in the Old Testament saints. Such a one as the writer of this psalm cannot forget his people at a throne of grace. Well would it be if such earnest public spirit were possessed by Christian people everywhere, so that, as priests unto God, they would never enter the holy of holies save with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel graven on their breast.
V. THE PRAYING ONE MAY USE MANIFOLD ARGUMENTS IN PLEADING WITH HIS GOD. There is a blending of simplicity, boldness, and grandeur in the pleas of this prayer.
1. "I trust in thee" (ver. 2). When there is trust on one side, we may be sure it is reciprocated by love and pity on God's side.
2. "Thou art the God of my salvation" (ver. 5). Thou hast undertaken to deliver me, and thou wilt be true to thine own promises. God loves to be reminded of his promises. He has never said in vain to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye me."
3. "Remember thy tender mercies," etc. (ver. 6). David's past experience of God's mercy was a pledge that God would not forget him.
4. "For thy Name's sake" (ver. 11). Gracious answers to his people's prayer magnify God's Name; they reveal his grace and love. And the psalmist, in holy daring, pleads with God to magnify his own Name in hearing him. Yea, more; a more startling argument still is used.
5. "For it [mine iniquity] is great" (ver. 11)! Who but those who know bow God delights to forgive, and even to multiply pardons, could ever venture to plead for forgiveness because their sin was so great? Yet surely the meaning is, "Lord, though my sin is great, the greater will thy mercy be, and the more lustrously thy pardoning love will shine forth on the background of my guilt!" Such prayers and such pleadings as these are not learnt in a day nor in a year. They can come only from one whose eyes are ever towards the Lord.
VI. SUCH TRUSTING AND PRAYING ONES WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME. (Ver. 3, Revised Version.) They never have been. They never will be. They cannot be. The revealed character and attributes of God assure us of this. The opening up of the new and living way to God, which our great High Priest has consecrated for ever for our use, ensures it. The blood of Christ seals the same; it is the "blood of the everlasting covenant." The love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost is another pledge of the efficacy of prayer. Yea, the immutability of God himself confirms this; not only that prayer will avail, but also that without prayer we have no right to expect the blessings we need. Our Lord has said, "Ask, and ye shall receive." Thus he teaches the Divine rule for us. If, then, it is God's will to give us blessing when we ask, it is useless for us to think to change the mind of God, and to expect the blessing without asking for it. - C.
Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies.
I. WE WISH TO BE REMEMBERED BY GOD. It is sweet to be had in remembrance by friends. No one of us likes to be forgotten. The religious man desires, above all things, to be remembered of God. It is the sign and proof of His sincerity. If there be no serious and solemn purpose in life; if all its aims and motives and actuating impulses are vulgar, sensual, selfish, there will be no wish to have God's eye upon it; there will be a sort of relief in the thought that He takes no notice of it, that He passes it by in forgetfulness. But to one whose endeavours are after the higher life the thought of having no place in God's mind is dreadful.
II. WE ARE HAPPY IN THE THOUGHT THAT GOD REMEMBERS. But we wish, like the Psalmist, that He could both remember and forget. Memory brought back to David the sins of bygone years. O God, he cried, forget all those crooked and dark things, as I would forget them, and call to mind only Thine own goodness and love. What a strangely mingled cup it is that memory gives us to drink — full to the brim, overflowing with sweetness. Yet we cannot take a deep draught of the cup without coming to bitter ingredients, nay, perhaps to fiery morsels that burn and blister the mouth. Memory is as the Ebal and Gerizim of our lives. The Psalmist wished to separate these two elements of memory. He was afraid lest God should eternalise those old sins by keeping them in mind. He did not like to remember them himself. He wished to think only of the brighter, lovelier things — the Divine, the promising, the hopeful. O God, forget the evil, that I may forget it too. Yes, forget as far as possible the dark scenes of the years that lie behind. Forget the very sorrows and trials and bereavements, unless, indeed, they are so recent and so acute that it would only mock you to ask you to forget them. Bring with you out of the passing years a large and generous legacy of sweet and pure and holy memories. Be sure that all the mercies which we have ever known, all the Divine love and pity and helpfulness which we have ever proved, all that compassion and sympathy of Jesus Christ which have been our stay, will be repeated in the coming days. He will not forget.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
For they have been forever.
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