Theme: Trusting to the End
This week’s lessons instruct us of the need to put our trust in God throughout our lives, because he alone will never let us down.
Scripture: Psalm 25:1-22
Since Psalm 25 is not a highly dramatic or emotionally charged psalm but rather a quietly mature one, it presents its theme in a way most of us can easily identify with. We see it at the beginning. The entry point or door of the psalm is “shame,” a word that occurs three times in the opening verses (once in verse 2 and twice in verse 3). Since the word also occurs in verse 20, near the end of the psalm, the thought of shame provides a context or background for what is said.
To understand what David is talking about we have to realize that the Bible uses the words “shame” or “ashamed” differently than we do. In fact, the primary biblical use is not even in most of our dictionaries. When we speak of being ashamed we usually mean being embarrassed or feeling foolish. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines shame this way: a “painful emotion excited by a consciousness of guilt, disgrace or dishonor.” This idea is found in the Bible, particularly in appeals to us not to be ashamed of God or of spiritual things. Jesus was speaking along these lines when he said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory” (Luke 9:26). In the same way, Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). We are warned against shame because we all are often embarrassed of Jesus or the gospel, though we should actually be embarrassed to be embarrassed.
Yet this is not the chief biblical idea, as I said. The unique biblical idea is that of being let down, disappointed or being seen to have trusted in something that in the end proves itself unworthy of our trust.
Here are a few places where this important meaning is unmistakable. In Romans 5:5 Paul writes about the Christian’s hope, saying, as the older King James Version of the Bible had it, “Hope maketh not ashamed.” This means that the Christian’s hope will never be seen to be illusory. It will never be exposed as being vain. Recognizing this meaning, the New International Version has altered the King James reading to say, “Hope does not disappoint us.” Another verse that requires this translation is Isaiah 28:16 (perhaps Isaiah 49:23 too, a parallel), which Paul quotes twice further on in Romans (Rom. 9:33; 10:11). The King James Version says, “They shall not be ashamed who wait for me”. The New International Version rightly reads, “The one who trusts will never be dismayed” (or, in Isaiah 49:23, “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed”). These verses all mean that those who have staked their all on God will not be abandoned by him in the end. This is the way David uses shame in this psalm.
But why should there even be the thought of his being abandoned by God, particularly if he is writing as a mature believer, as I have suggested he is. There are two reasons, and this is where the psalm comes around to where we can easily understand it. First, David is surrounded by enemies. He mentions them explicitly in verses 2 and 19 (“do not … let my enemies triumph over me” and “see how my enemies have increased”). He refers to them indirectly elsewhere by mentioning the threat they pose (“only he [God] will release my feet from the snare,” v. 15). Second, David is conscious of his sins, particularly the sins of his youth which he asks God to forget (v. 7). He speaks of these as “iniquity” in verse 11 and as being many (“all my sins”) in verse 18.
It is easy to identify with these two problems, especially as we grow older and come to know ourselves better than we did when we were young. When we were young we considered ourselves equal to almost anything. We did not fear anyone, and we were not aware of the sins of which we now know ourselves to be capable.
Now we know that we do have formidable enemies. The world is our enemy. It is opposed to every good and godly thing. The devil is our enemy. The Bible tells us that he is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44) and that he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Then, as if that were not enough, we have an enemy within, even our own sinful natures together with the memory of the sins we have committed. What if our enemies should prove to be too strong for us? What if they should succeed in drawing us down to their level or causing us to abandon our former trust in God? Or what if God, remembering our past sins, should in the end be unwilling to save and help us?
Haven’t you ever felt like that? If that should be the case, then in the end we would be put to shame. We would be abandoned.
How does the Bible use the words “shame” or “ashamed” as compared to our common definition today?
Identify the two reasons David was concerned that he not be abandoned by God. How are your experiences similar and dissimilar to Davidʼs?
Application: Have you ever felt abandoned by the Lord? How was your faith and confidence in his unfailing love restored?