Psalm 25 begins and ends with the psalmist David waiting for God. Psalm 25 is an acrostic prayer for instruction, deliverance, and forgiveness; it is also the first acrostic psalm in the psalter. The circumstances under which this psalm was written are uncertain, but it expresses a strong desire on the part of David to live in conformity to God’s word. But in order for him to do this, if he is to know anything about God or His will, God must first reveal it to him – not a revelation apart from God’s word, but an illumination of what God has already revealed. Private judgment divorced from God’s revelation is a failure to be dependent on God and only gives a person the right to be wrong. The path of righteousness is fraught with too many difficulties to be traveled without God’s constant presence to guide us. The psalm expresses David’s total dependence on God’s own revelation for any information about God as well as his complete confidence that God will not disappoint anyone who truly trusts in Him; none of those who wait for Thee will be ashamed (Psalm 25:3). David’s attitude is one of complete submission and confident expectation in the God whose promises he trusts and believes.
Psalm 25:3 is at the same time a prayer and a promise, but it is a promise with a condition. The promise is conditioned upon waiting for God. The shame of which David speaks is not a fear of being embarrassed, or looking foolish; rather it is the disappointment, disillusionment, dismay, and confusion of discovering that the object of our trust is not trustworthy. We can only be disappointed if the object of our trust is unable or unwilling to do what we expected or has promised. Misplaced trust not only brings disappointment, but also usually comes with disastrous and catastrophic consequences.
Trusting in False Hopes
The nation of Israel was put to shame because they trusted in their idols, their false prophets, and their alliances with pagan nations: “They shall be turned back and be utterly put to shame, who trust in idols, who say to molten images, ‘You are our gods’ “ (Isaiah 42:17); “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray…The seers will be ashamed and the diviners embarrassed. Indeed, they will cover their mouths because there is no answer from God” (Micah 3:5, 7); “Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast” (Isaiah 20:5; cf. Ezekiel 29:6, 7). How often must people be ashamed, disillusioned, and disappointed by their idols and alliances before God becomes the sole object of their trust? Sadly, for most, He never does.
Our Contemporary Situation
How many people look to government, financial security, science, technology, education, the right connections, or their own abilities as the panacea for all their problems? How many trust in their religious self-effort and good works to get them to heaven? How many think they are Christians simply because they prayed a prayer, made a “decision,” were baptized, or went through a religious ceremony? How many believe they have done enough to pacify God and earn His favor? How many hope that God’s threats and warnings of an actual, literal hell are not real? How many place their faith in a god of their own imagination, in God as they would like Him to be? How many people gullibly trust in the words of some self-appointed prophet who claims to receive direct revelation from God and presumes to speak for God, even when his dreams, visions, and illusory words from God prove to be false or contradict God’s word? How many people believe someone’s mystical experience is more intriguing and trustworthy than Scripture? How many have ruinously trusted in the charlatanic, unsubstantiated claims of some predatory faith healer?
If we think we can insure our security and well-being by refusing to trust in God but rather our idols and alliances, all we will get is shame and disgrace. Scripture offers no encouragement to wait for what God has not promised. We have no reason to hope for that which is contrary to God’s revealed will, and it is sheer self-deception to think that God will bless what He has already condemned. We cannot expect to receive what is promised to those who forsake all to follow Christ if we have not forsaken all to follow Christ. We will not receive what is in the promise for trusting Jesus for all things if we do not trust Jesus for all things. But when we wait for that which God has already told us it is His will to give, or when we hope for the fulfillment of a promise, the conditions of which we have sincerely attempted to perform, or when we avert praying for what is in a promise “with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3), then we have every confidence to expect we will not be disappointed.
The Trustworthy God
God is all powerful. He has the ability. The giving of a promise implies the sincerity and willingness to give what is promised. God cannot promise what He has no intention of fulfilling. God does not participate in bait and switch tactics. His promises are not hidden under layers of imperceptible contingencies in order to leave Himself an out. It is impossible for God to lie, mislead, or misrepresent. God will never disappoint because He is always trustworthy, and the history of man is replete with the testimonies of those who have waited on Him and not been disappointed – people such as Noah, Abraham, Job, Daniel, William Carey, Adonirum Judson, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, and countless others less well-known. Waiting on God is a great expression of trust in God’s character, His nature, His attributes, and His promises.
David does not fear disappointment because, “in Thee I trust” (Psalm 25:2). His trust has only one object – God. It is a single-minded devotion. Spiritual failure is always the result of failing to trust in God alone. Exclusive trust in God never results in spiritual failure, a truth which Scripture unequivocally affirms, “In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and You delivered them. To You they cried out, and were delivered; in You they trusted, and were not disappointed” – i.e. “ashamed” (Psalm 22:4, 5). Four times in two verses David emphasizes the exclusive object of “our fathers” trust – “in You, and You, to You, in You – God and God alone was their trust. The exact identity of “our fathers” is irrelevant. The point is that the sole object of their trust was the God who had revealed Himself in Scripture, not some idol, false prophet, mystical experience, political entity, or their own abilities and intrinsic self-worth. As a result, they were not disappointed, ashamed, disillusioned, dismayed, or confused. They never suffered the consequences of a misplaced trust.
The only One we can rely on in times of turmoil is God. David knew this, and God wanted us to know it too. We’ll continue this study with part two tomorrow.