Sermon / September 28th, 2014 / Psalm 25 / A Teachable Spirit / Pastor Terry Defoe
4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you – all day long. 7. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD. (N.I.V.)
It’s been said that, in most of the Bible, God speaks to His people. But in the Psalms, it’s different. In the Psalms, God’s people speak to Him. The Psalms are popular from one generation to another because they honestly describe life as we live it everyday. The Psalms deal honestly with life’s highs and lows. In the Psalms, we learn what it’s like to live in close relationship to God. And we learn what it’s like when that relationship is strained. In the Psalms, God’s people come to Him with their joys – which are many – and also with their sorrows. As we consider these sacred words from God this morning, we will find that the thoughts expressed here are our thoughts, too. I pray, as I always do, that God would bless our consideration of this important part His holy Word on this day.
The Psalm before us this morning – Psalm 25 – is a good example of what I’ve just been talking about. The Psalmist has experienced life’s ups and downs, life’s challenges and joys. Here in this Psalm, we find his praise to God. And we also find requests that he is making of God as well. The Psalmist is facing hardships. Sometimes loneliness catches up with him. Sometimes, he’s overcome by grief and sorrow. In the midst of life’s messiness, the psalmist wants to learn about God and His will. He wants to live according to God’s Word. In this Psalm, the Psalmist’s sins are openly confessed. They are laid before the throne of God’s grace and mercy. And God forgives those sins as he does so graciously with us.
Most people are unaware that there’s a hidden structure to this Psalm. It’s hidden below the surface in the English text, but that structure is clearly revealed in the original Hebrew. Bible scholars tell us that Psalm 25 is an “acrostic” Psalm, which means that each successive line of the Psalm begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, the Psalm has twenty-two lines, the first line in Hebrew beginning with the letter "A," the second with the letter "B" and so on. Bible scholars are of the opinion that some Psalms were constructed this way to help people memorize them. Back when these Psalms were written, very few people could read or had access to printed material. So if they were to hold on to these thoughts, they would have to memorize them. The ancient Hebrew people couldn’t just "look it up" in the Bible as we do today. They didn’t have “Google” on a computer or a smartphone, like many of us do. Memorizing the words – rehearsed them over and over in their mind – meant that these words become part of who they were. Memorizing the words meant that they were filed away for future reference.
Psalm 25 is a basically a prayer. It asks for three things from God:
- First, it’s prayer for Deliverance,
- Second, it’s a prayer for God’s Guidance,
- And third, it’s a prayer for God’s Forgiveness.
The psalmist wants God’s Holy Spirit to teach him how to live out his faith in a God-pleasing way. This Psalm reminds us that an essential attitude for God’s people is teachability. God wants to teach His people by His Holy Spirit, as the Spirit works through the Word. God wants to teach His people by His Spirit, so that they, in turn, can teach others. Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 9 says:
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen – or let them fade from your heart – as long as you live. Teach them to your children – and to their children after them. (N.I.V.)
In the New Testament, we read the following words in Matthew chapter 11, verse 1:
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. (N.I.V.)
As Christians, we know that it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand God’s Word. It is the Holy Spirit that makes Christian teaching come alive in our hearts. In John, chapter 14, verse 26 we read Jesus’ words, where, referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, He says:
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (N.I.V.)
In Psalm 25, God is the master teacher who teaches sinners His ways. To us in the church today, the word "disciple" means "follower." But the original word actually meant "student." Jesus’ disciples attached themselves to Him because they wanted to learn from Him. And, you know, good Christian teachers take their students seriously. They want their students to know the truth about how the world – both the spiritual world and the material world.
In Psalm 25, verse 1, the Psalm-writer says to God,
“To you, I lift up my soul.”
In other words,
“I look to you, Lord, for help. To you, I lift up everything that makes me what I am. I want you to guide me. I want you to teach me. And I want you to discipline me when I do not do your will.”
The Psalm-writer asks God not to remember the sins of his youth. He doesn’t want God to remember his past sins, his shortcomings, or his rebellious spirit. All of us remember times when we did things that were foolish and thoughtless. I once saw a picture of a young boy wearing a tee shirt that said,
“It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
We all know the truth of these words. We’ve all done or said things we regret. In Psalm 25, the Psalmist doesn’t hide his sins – or their importance – either from himself or from God. In his quiet moments, as he searches his own heart, the foolish sins of his youth come to mind. But now, at this stage in his life, he takes comfort in knowing and experiencing the grace of God. And so do we. Our sins were forgiven at the cross.
In Psalm 25, verse 2, the Psalm-writer prays,
“Lord, don’t let shame ruin my life.”
So, let me ask you – how would you define shame? Shame is public embarrassment over something we’ve done wrong. Unlike guilt, shame is more than personal discomfort, with shame there’s an audience that’s aware of our shortcomings. The Psalm-writer’s audience was God Himself. He prayed that God would forgive his sins and not let shame ruin his life. And we do the same.
Bible interpreters tell us that it’s possible that the Psalm-writer was being shunned by former friends who had decided to walk another path in life – a path leading away from God. It’s possible that his enemies sneered at his suffering, taking perverted pleasure in the thought that God had forsaken him. All of us have enemies, individuals who seek to cause us grief. Martin Luther said that Christians have three powerful enemies they need to watch out for. The first is the world of unbelief. The second is the demands of our flesh. And the third is our spiritual adversary, the devil. Along with the Psalm-writer, we pray that God would restrain our enemies and enable us to experience the peace that passes all understanding.
In this Psalm, we hear the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” To fear God is to revere Him – to respect Him. When we fear the Lord, we are open to His leading. When we fear Him, we stand in awe and reverence before Him and what He has done has done for us through His Son. When you think about it, “the fear of the Lord” is at the heart of all true faith. The Psalm-writer knows that to the one who fears the Lord comes great blessings. He knows that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He knows that God guides his people on the paths of righteousness – for His name’s sake. God lays out the path he wants His people to follow. And, along the way, His people enjoy fellowship with him and with each other.
The Psalmist prays to God for protection and security. He knows that God is a hiding place for His people. As God’s people in the world today, you and I take refuge under the Savior’s wings. He is our protection from life’s storms. These storms often strike with little warning. Our protection, as the storm rages, often seems inadequate at the time. The rain pours down. And the winds howl. And we feel vulnerable. We are reminded that we cannot control what’s happening. That’s when, like the writer of Psalm 25, we turn our situation over to God and know that He will never leave us or forsake us – that He will intervene for us.
You and I take comfort in knowing that God comes to us in His Word and through the Sacraments. We take comfort in knowing that fellow believers will be there to offer us support and encouragement. We take comfort in knowing that God understands our suffering and our many troubles. Our Savior certainly understands suffering. The events of Good Friday come to mind when we think of the suffering he endured for our sakes, so that he might earn salvation for us – the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life in heaven. Sometimes, as the Apostle Paul so clearly expressed it, it may be God’s will that the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 5 Paul says:
5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (N.I.V.)
It’s clear from Psalm 25 that the psalmist’s past sins weigh heavily upon him. That’s why he asks for the Lord’s forgiveness. Sometimes, we, too, suffer because of our own sins. Sometimes, we have to pay the price for our indiscretion. But, at other times, the suffering we endure is NOT our fault. No matter what our situation, however, we pray for God’s intervention. When you think about it, times of adversity often bring us to a of renewed faith. That when we pray, along with our Lord Jesus,
“Lord, your will, not mine, be done!”
God’s people look to their Heavenly Father for guidance and strength. They look to the Lord for His precious salvation in and through Jesus Christ. And they rejoice in the forgiveness that Christ earned for them at the cross and the empty tomb.
The Psalm-writer says to God, “I trust in you.” According to the dictionary, to trust is to rely on the integrity, the strength, and the ability of something or someone. With trust comes assurance, a feeling of security. Psalm 25 begins and ends with an expression of trust in the Lord. As Christians, we know that God is forgiving, merciful and gracious. We know that the forgiveness we enjoy cost Jesus His lifeblood. As I’ve said so many times before, the forgiveness we receive from God through His Son is free, but it’s certainly not cheap. Because God is faithful, his people can be faithful, too. Because God is forgiving, His people can be forgiving, as well. We are faithful and forgiving because God’s power dwells in us by means of His Holy Spirit.
His Word blesses us. Those blessings are delivered to our address through the water of Holy Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. When we know the Lord by faith, when we trust Him, when we are in relationship with Him, He teaches His truth to us. When we know the Lord by faith, we know that we are members of His family. We know that we are, in the fullest sense of the term, children of the heavenly father. We’re told in Psalm 25, verse 14 something utterly amazing. We’re told that God confides in those who fear him. In other words, by means of the Holy Spirit working through His Word, God communicates truths to His children that they could not know otherwise. He graciously takes us into his confidence.
According to Psalm 25, when we trust the Lord, we experience prosperity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be rich or wealthy. It means that, as God’s beloved children, we live the abundant life that Jesus Christ promised His followers in John, chapter 10, verse 10. According to the Psalm before us this morning, when we fear the Lord and trust in Him, we “inherit the land.” In other words, we inherit God’s kingdom here on earth, and we know that we will dwell with Him – in heaven – forever. As Christian people, we see Christ in this Psalm. Jesus Christ is the best evidence we have that God keeps His promises. God’s kingdom has come to us – in and through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Savior. We experience a foretaste of God’s Kingdom at the Table of our Lord, which we attend this morning. With Jesus’ body, given to us with the bread we receive, and with His blood, shed to deal with sin, guilt, and death, we actively “remember” God’s blessings and grace. Just as our body is in want of food, so too our soul needs the nourishing presence of God.
Psalm 25 ends with a prayer. The Psalmist prays that all people would be redeemed from their troubles. And the root of our troubles is the sin in our lives. And, at the root of our redemption, is Christ our Savior – the One who died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. As I mentioned at the beginning of my message this morning, in most of the Holy Scriptures, it is God who is speaking to his people. But in the Psalms, God’s people are speaking to Him. In the Psalms, God’s people speak to Him – humbly, faithfully, and often with brutal honestly. In the Psalms, God’s people share their deepest needs with their Heavenly Father. It’s true. The Psalms are popular – and helpful – because they relate so well to the life that you and I live every day. May God continue to speak to us through these precious words. Amen.
Let’s Pray – DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – When the storms of life come, shelter us under your protecting wings. Forgive us our sins. Continue to teach us Your will and Your ways. Keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith. In His most precious and holy name we pray. Amen.