A Psalm of David.

This is another psalm by David, Israel’s great shepherd-king. This is an acrostic psalm, and each verse begins, in Hebrew, with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The letter koph is missing, which means that there are twenty-one letters. (Verse 22 should be combined with verse 21.) The last psalm spoke of the LORD’s glorious entry into Jerusalem at His coming parousia. Now, this psalm speaks of the works of the LORD as He sends forth His truth and judgments to the people of the earth, foreshadowing the work He shall do then as He reigns in righteousness.

1.  To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

To lift up your soul means to lift up yourself. The idea is of lifting up something to someone to allow him to take it from you. David lifts up himself to the LORD, entrusting Him with control of his very soul. We, too, can trust Him with our very lives, knowing that He is the source of all that makes life worth living. And how trustworthy indeed will He prove to be in that future Day when He takes control of the earth and shows all men what a wonderful Ruler He truly is!

2.  O my God, I trust in You;

This is the reason that David is willing to lift up His soul to God. He trusts in Him completely. It makes me think that many in our day who refuse to give their lives to God as they should do so because they simply do not trust Him.

This line also starts with aleph, which would seem to mess up the acrostic right away. Yet the next line starts with beth, so the acrostic continues.

Let me not be ashamed;

Now, having placed his soul in the LORD’s hands, David calls upon Him to see to it that he never has reason to be ashamed. He wants it to be clear to all that he made the right decision by doing so.

Let not my enemies triumph over me.

This was the cause that made David lift up his soul to the LORD. He is being threatened by his enemies. This sounds like it could be taking us back to the event of David’s flight from Jerusalem about which many of the early Psalms in this first book had to do. Of course, we cannot know for certain. There were many times in his life when David was faced with enemies.

So David is in danger from his enemies, yet in his distress, he entrusts his life to the LORD. Now, he calls upon Him to see to it that these enemies do not triumph over him. David had every right to call upon the LORD to do this, for he was God’s chosen king of Israel, and the LORD had promised blessing to him as long as he trusted in Him. David was calling upon God, therefore, to fulfill His promise. This was consistent with the promises God had made to Israel under the law. Yet God has made no such promises to us today. Though we may and should place our lives in God’s hands, we have no guarantee that this will result in victory over all our enemies. Yet David and Israel had such assurance, and so David calls upon God to fulfill His word by protecting him from his enemies.

3.  Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;

David calls upon God to let no one who waits on Him be ashamed. When God’s kingdom comes to earth, this is the way it will be. All will be called upon to wait on Him, and those who do shall never be ashamed. In our day, when sin and wickedness have free reign, sometimes those who wait on the LORD are put to shame by their enemies. Yet that will never be the case once God takes control and makes things the way He wants them to be!

Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.

These are the ones who deserve to be ashamed. Sometimes, in our day, such people get away with it. Yet when God takes control, all those who deal treacherously without a cause will be ashamed because of it.

Notice that this does not say that all those who deal treacherously will be ashamed, but rather those who do so without a cause. There are times when wicked men are in charge when treachery against them is well justified. Yet this speaks of treachery for no good reason. All who deal in this way will be ashamed in the Kingdom to come.

4.  Show me Your ways, O LORD;

David desires for the LORD to show him His ways. The LORD did so to a limited extent in the past. Yet when His Kingdom comes, the LORD will show David and all those who dwell on earth His ways. What a glorious time that will be, when all men know the ways of God!

Teach me Your paths.

David repeats his desire, this time asking the LORD to teach him His paths. By saying this twice in slightly different ways, David emphasizes that this is his earnest desire. He truly wants to know the ways and the paths of the LORD.
5.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me,

Many people want to be led, but do they truly desire to be led in the truth? Many want to be led in the comfortable teachings they have learned from their youth. Others want to be led in serving. Others wish to be led to improve their lives or their businesses or their marriages and families. Most wish to be led in some religious organization they call the “church.” Yet how many truly want to be led in the LORD’s truth? How many are willing to pay the price that comes along with following the truth? Do we truly desire God’s truth, if that truth is going to come with a price? Do we truly want to be taught by God, or do we prefer the teachers we heap to ourselves to scratch our itching ears? It was David’s desire to be led and taught in the truth. I pray it is our desire as well.

For You are the God of my salvation;

He was the God of David’s salvation. Many look to their church for salvation. Others look to some ceremony they perform or have performed upon them for salvation. Still others look to some religious leader or organization for salvation. Yet for us, God is the only way to salvation. He truly is the God Who saves us. Let us never forget this!

On You I wait all the day.

David waits upon the LORD and His truth all the day. Let us make Him and His truth our expectation every day as well!

The letter vav is missing from the acrostic, but there is some manuscript evidence that this line originally read “And for You I wait all the day,” which restores the acrostic. Thus, there are two letters covered in this verse.

6.  Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,

Now, David calls upon the LORD to remember His tender mercies and His lovingkindnesses. “Remember” means not just that He wants God to bring them to mind, but also to act upon them. Indeed, in all His dealings with us our Lord must remember his mercy and grace, for we are deserving of none of what He does for us. We do not deserve the salvation He provides for us, the love He bestows upon us, or the truth He teaches us, and yet He graciously desires to give them to us. Praise God for the outflowing riches of His grace!

For they are from of old.

The LORD has been showing mercy and grace to men ever since Adam sinned and fell away from God. Thus, these tender mercies and lovingkindnesses are of old.

7.  Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;

Now David remembers the sins he had committed when he was a “youth.” Rather than just turning our thoughts to the time when David was young, we might rather understand that he is speaking just of his past in general, and considering his past sins. Now from the very first time we see David in the Bible, we see him following after the LORD, even as a young man. Yet we know that David was not perfect, and he acknowledges here that he has committed sins in the past. Whether or not this was written after his sin with Bathsheba it is hard to say. If it does relate to his flight from Absalom, it was after, and David certainly knew that the troubles he was in were a direct result of his sinful behavior in the past. But even if this was written before, certainly David knows that he has sinned in the past. Now, he calls upon the LORD to no longer remember those sins. This does not mean that the LORD will forget that they ever happened, but rather that He will not call them to mind to act upon them. For Him to remember them would result in punishment, but for Him to not remember them would result in grace. So David is again calling upon the LORD to act in grace towards him.

According to Your mercy remember me,

Instead of remembering his sins, David asks the LORD to act towards him according to His mercy. This is what we desire as well, and this is how God does act towards us, as we know from Ephesians 4:32. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” In Greek, the word “forgave” is the verb form of “graced.” God in Christ gives us grace. He truly does remember us according to His mercy.

For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

David knows he cannot appeal to the LORD’s righteous judgment for these things he asks. He does not truly deserve to have the LORD acts towards him in grace. So, he makes his appeal based on the sake of the LORD’s goodness. Indeed, it is because of His goodness that we too can find grace in His sight.

8.  Good and upright is the LORD;

David knows that the LORD is good and upright. That is why he has made this appeal to Him for mercy. That is also why he has entrusted his soul with the LORD.

Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

Because the LORD is good and upright, He will teach sinners in the way. The word for “teach” is a forceful word. The idea is having knowledge forced upon you, like when we say that you are “slapped in the face with it.” The LORD gives these sinners knowledge whether they like it or not. This is certainly not something that the LORD does today, or has done often in the past. Yet we do have one notable example, and that is the man Saul of Tarsus. He was dead set against the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples, and then God forced the truth upon him. This action of God changed his life.

We know that, in time to come, our LORD will do an action that will cause all sinners to be taught in the way that is right. This action is the general gift of knowledge to all men on earth that takes place when God’s Kingdom comes at last. This is the same thing that the Lord Jesus said of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” When the world is convicted of these things, sinners will be taught in the way. That, not wars or violence, is what will ultimate solidify God’s control over the earth. Men at last will know the truth, and even sinners will be instructed in the way of the LORD. This will happen, not because God remembers the sin of the world, but rather because He shows the world mercy, because He is good and upright.

9.  The humble He guides in justice,

When the LORD forces teaching upon sinners, not all will respond as they should. Some might refuse God even when they do know the truth about him. Yet in the man Saul we have an example of a man who responded correctly. When he had this truth forced upon him, his response was “Lord, what do you want me to do?” This was a very meek and humble attitude. Saul was submissive to what he had just learned, and he was willing to do whatever the Lord might ask of him next. In the same way, we see that in the future teaching of sinners, some will respond in humility and submission. These, the LORD goes on to guide in justice. This could also mean in vindication. That is what happened to Saul next. He was forgiven by God for all the wickedness he had done, and he was justified in God’s sight, receiving salvation. This brought him into relationship with God. And this will be open as well to those sinners in that future day when the Kingdom begins who respond in meekness to the truth that God forces upon them.

And the humble He teaches His way.

The word for “teach” here is a different word than that in the previous verse. This indicates a long and protracted teaching, like when one goes to a college to be taught. This teaching is not a short thing, but takes place over an extended period of time. In the same way, those sinners who respond to the LORD’s teaching humbly and who are guided in vindication by Him will be further taught in His way over time. They will learn what they did not know before. Imagine if some might become men like the apostle Paul was after he began his ministry!

10.  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,

As these humble men learn of His way, they find that all the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth. Yes, we can know today that as we seek after and find the truth, we have found and are walking the paths of the LORD. Many never seek the paths of the truth. Let us not be such, but rather be those who are following after the LORD on His paths as we allow Him to teach us His way!

To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.

This was the truth for the day in which David was writing. It was those who kept His covenant and His testimonies that the LORD blessed with His teaching. In our day we have a different basis for blessing from God. We are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by believing, we receive the Holy Spirit, and we then can learn from Him and seek the paths of mercy and truth that He would have us to walk.

11.  For Your name’s sake, O LORD,

David can find no reason in himself for the LORD to grant his request, so instead he asks based on the LORD’s own name’s sake.

Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

For the LORD’s name, for His reputation and character, he asks that the LORD pardon his iniquity. David had done things that made him no longer worthy of the LORD’s pardon. Yet he asks the LORD to pardon him, not for his sake, but for the LORD’s own name’s sake. That was the only basis upon which he could ask for such a pardon. In the same way, those sinners whom the LORD pardons in that future day at the beginning of the Kingdom will have no appeal to make to God for forgiveness based on themselves. In their own right, they deserve His wrath and punishment. Yet what they can and do request is pardon based on the LORD’s own name. And we know that the LORD will respond to this and forgive their sins, for that is what He said he would do in the previous verse. Though their iniquity might be great, His grace is greater! Then, as Saul of Tarsus was, they too can be forgiven based on that grace.

12.  Who is the man that fears the LORD?

David asks who is the man that fears the LORD? David was one, certainly. And those who respond submissively to the LORD’s teaching at the future beginning of the Kingdom of God will qualify as well as those who respect and reverence Him.

Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.

Those who respect Him He shall teach in the way He chooses. He forces certain knowledge upon men, but it is only those who respect Him for what they have now learned of Him that He will teach in the way He chooses. We, too, need to respect and be in awe of the LORD. If we have no respect for Him, certainly we can expect none of His teaching.

13.  He himself shall dwell in prosperity,

Now we move even farther along in the fate of these sinners who have responded in humility to the LORD’s forced teaching upon them. They have been taught how to be just in His sight, they have received His further instruction, and now they are given physical blessings, being made to dwell in prosperity. This sounds good, but really it will be the fate of all who are privileged to be allowed to continue to live under His divine government.

“He himself” here is, in Hebrew, the word nephesh, so we could read this as, “His soul shall dwell in prosperity.” Ones’ soul has to do with his emotions and desires. So this prosperity satisfies, not just his physical needs, but also his desires.

And his descendants shall inherit the earth.

Of course, this does not mean that his descendants will but he won’t. This tells us that this submissive sinner, justified and taught, is now blessed with offspring. And he, together with them, inherits the earth. Of course, he does not get all of it, but he is given a place and a portion in it. There is no talk of some reward waiting for him in heaven here. His reward is to be given a place on the earth when, in the future, God’s perfect government reigns over it. To have a place there will be a privilege indeed, and so this one who started out as a sinner upon whom God forced knowledge is now richly blessed.

14.  The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,

Now we move even further in our example of what can happen to these sinners who have come so far since the LORD taught them at the beginning of the Kingdom. Now, since these submissive, justified, and taught sinners have feared Him and continued to follow Him for some time, at least enough to have “descendants” who have become old enough to “inherit the earth,” now the LORD blesses them even more. Now, He lets them in on His secret counsels. How much blessing is open to those who are willing to respond rightly to the LORD’s revelation and leading! We, too, can know the secret counsels of the LORD, but not through being blessed with them by living in the Kingdom, as will happen in the future day. Rather, we can know His secret counsels for this day by reading the Scriptures and becoming instructed in the truths for today that God calls secret, those truths that are revealed through the apostle Paul. It is interesting that Paul is our pattern here, and that He became the revealer of the secret of God. He truly did follow this progression to the letter. First, the Lord forced the truth upon him. He responded humbly, and so the Lord justified him and forgave his sins. He continued in humility, and the Lord taught him His ways. He respected the Lord, and he became very prosperous, not in the things of this word, as in the Kingdom, but in God’s economy of the Acts period. Many believed in Christ through his ministry, and these became his “descendants,” who shall inherit the earth with him in the coming kingdom. Then, the Lord revealed His secret to him, as we read about in the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians. He followed this pattern, though he never received the full Kingdom that will come in the future.

And He will show them His covenant.

This just means that He shows His agreements to them. He offers them a place in His agreements. Again, Paul speaks of himself as the minister of a new covenant. He truly fit all these things, as a pattern for us of those who come to the LORD this way at the start of the Kingdom that is yet to come.

15.  My eyes are ever toward the LORD,

David brings us back from the future to his own troubles, and the threat he faced from his enemies. He assures us that his eyes are ever toward the LORD. That means that he was looking to Him for help, and not to anyone else. His eyes were toward the LORD as he waited on Him to deliver him. How good would it be if we, too, looked ever to the LORD in times of trouble!

For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.

David expresses confidence that the LORD shall pluck his feet out of the net. The net would be the trap laid for him by his enemies. If this was Absalom’s revolt, we know that the LORD did rescue him from the trap he was in when He gave him victory and allowed him to return to his home in Jerusalem. But if not, we know that whatever trouble David was in during his life and reign, the LORD delivered him from them all, and always plucked his feet out of the net.

16.  Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,

David pleads with the LORD to turn Himself to him. To David, it has seemed as if the LORD was turned away from him, refusing to see or deliver him from the schemes of his enemies that were against him. Now, David asks the LORD to turn Himself back towards him. This would be a sign of God’s blessing, and proof that He was going to have mercy on him.

For I am desolate and afflicted.

David makes this request because he is desolate and afflicted. Yet the word “desolate” is a bad translation here, for the Hebrew yachid does not mean “desolate.” The idea is not of being alone, but of singleness. We might say better render this phrase as “For I am (Your) only one, and afflicted.” David views himself as the LORD’s only one. Indeed, he was the only one that God had chosen to be King of Israel, so in some ways he truly was unique, the LORD’s “only one.” Yet this also is a foreshadowing of Christ, Whose eyes were also ever toward the Father, Whose feet were plucked out of nets many times, Who was God’s only Son, and Who was afflicted.

17.  The troubles of my heart have enlarged;

David’s troubles had grown larger at this point in his life. This could also read that “Troubles have enlarged my heart,” according to the Companion Bible. Often times it is true that our troubles enlarge our hearts, and make us more sympathetic towards those who are in similar troubles. Going through a severe illness, for example, can make one much more sympathetic towards those who are sick.

Bring me out of my distresses!

In his troubles, David looks to the LORD for deliverance, as the One Who was able to bring him out of the distresses he was in. Let us similarly look to Him in our own distresses and troubles!

18.  Look on my affliction and my pain,

Now David calls upon God to looks upon his affliction (or humiliation) and his pain. To look here carries with it the idea of taking notice of it in order to take action concerning it.

And forgive all my sins.

David’s request to the LORD in calling upon Him to notice his affliction and pain is that He would forgive David’s sins. He wants him to carry them away, feeling perhaps that they are a burden too heavy for him to bear. In all his troubles, this is the problem that most bothers him! How often do we think of our own sins when we are in terrible troubles from without? All too often we want to forget everything we have done wrong, and pretend to ourselves that we deserve better from the hand of God because we have been so righteous! Yet these words of David become an example for us here. There is no problem more urgent than what will be done with our sins. Thank the LORD that He is the One Who can bear away our sins!

Perhaps these words mean that David realized that his current distress was caused by his own sins. This may therefore be another fact that supports the idea that this psalm was written at the time of David’s flight from his son Absalom.

19.  Consider my enemies, for they are many;

As we can see, David is a king in trouble here, in danger from many enemies. In this situation, he does exactly what the LORD would have had him do in such circumstances, praying just the prayer that God would have had him pray. In this he becomes an example of the character of the LORD.

And they hate me with cruel hatred.

Although he had done nothing to deserve it, David’s enemies hated him with a cruel hatred. Again, what a picture he was of Jesus Christ, the One Whose enemies’ hatred of Him was truly causeless. In the same way, those who serve the Lord Jesus can expect that men will hate them as well, even though they have done nothing to deserve it.

20.  Keep my soul, and deliver me;

David commits his soul, which in this case is put for his entire being, into the hands of the LORD. He requests that the LORD will deliver his soul, thus committed to Him, from the terrible troubles that he is in. In the same way, when we commit our beings to the LORD, we realize that we cannot force Him to then do what we want with them. Once our lives are His, all we can do is make our requests to Him as to what we wish Him to do with them. When we commit ourselves to Christ, we are truly no longer our own!

Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.

David calls upon the LORD to not let him be ashamed, since he has thus put his trust in Him. He looks to the LORD to be His refuge in this time of trouble. When we trust the LORD, we likewise look to Him to keep us from shame for doing so.

21.  Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,

As David trusts in the LORD, he asks that integrity and uprightness will preserve him. This is what he asks of the LORD, not what he claims for himself. If he has integrity and is upright, it will be because the LORD has helped him be that way. Indeed, in his future life to come, David will be preserved by integrity and uprightness, and he will have the LORD to thank for it, as will we all.

For I wait for You.

It is because he waits for the LORD that David asks to be preserved. He was waiting for the LORD to deliver him out of the troubles he was in, as well as from the sinful condition that kept him from always acting in uprightness and integrity. Indeed, we too wait for the LORD to change us, looking for Him to “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”

22.  Redeem Israel, O God,

It was not just the king, but the whole nation that was in difficulty. And the whole nation likewise needed forgiveness from sins. Thus, David calls upon God to redeem Israel. That is exactly what God will do in His future Kingdom, for this verse follows the prayer-prophecy principle, that a prayer in the Bible does not just indicate what God wants to have happen, but also what He will cause to happen in the future. God wants Israel to be redeemed, and they will be redeemed in that Day!

Out of all their troubles!

What a glorious day will it be for Israel when they no longer have to fear all the troubles they have faced in the past! That day, that Kingdom, will be a glorious one indeed.