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Psalm 25

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.

Deliver Israel, O God, from all their troubles!

This past summer we flew with out kids for the first time. We went to visit family in Ontario for two weeks and we flew from Abbotsford to Hamilton. It was the first time my kids had ever been on a plane. Now, if you are a regular flyer, you know the process: domestic flights require you to be there an hour before your scheduled boarding time (maybe an hour and a half with the addition Covid-19 screening). And so, you get ready at home early and quickly and you drive to the airport. You hurry up to check in (if you haven’t done that online) and check your bags – and you wait to get processed. You then hurry over to the security check line – and you wait to get scanned or searched. And then you hurry over to your terminal or gate – you guessed it, just to wait for the next 30 minutes for your plane to start boarding. Finally, everyone frantically hurries to line up once boarding is called – and you have to wait again, only this time, standing because you’ve moved out of your seat. Finally finding your seats on the plane, you wait again for the tower to clear you for take off.

When our kids asked us what flying was like, we told them, “Flying is great. But most everything else is an exercise in ‘hurry up and wait.’”

Hurry up and wait. The paradox of modern airport travel. Psalm 25 presents a similar paradox, “wait eagerly.”

This Song of Prayer is a reflection on the nature and impact of trust and hope. The word that David uses, which the NIV translates as hope, literally means, ‘to wait eagerly’ (cf. vs. 3, 5, 21). When we understand hope as waiting eagerly it is easier to see that our waiting, our hoping, isn’t idle. That is, hoping in God and waiting eagerly for him, involves action. He prays, “Guide me in your truth and teach me…" (vs. 5) and he commits himself to integrity and uprightness (vs. 21). Even while he waits, even while his enemies hate him (vs. 19); even while he feels lonely and afflicted, troubled in heart, and full of anguish (cf. vs. 16-19), he is striving towards the truth of God’s Word and trying to live in integrity – a commitment that would be much easier to shirk off while you don’t see any particular ‘reward’ from it. It is hard to do what is right when everyone else around you is not; it’s not always easy to do right when no one else is looking and you could get away with it; when it seems like your ‘enemies’ are getting all the reward in life, it is hard to stay true to God’s calling for obedience. And yet that is what David is committing to in his hope. The obedience of waiting eagerly – of Christian hope – is fueled by a commitment to seeking the face of God in prayer. “In you, Lord, my God, I put my trust.” David prays. “My eyes are ever on the Lord…” People persisting in prayer is the means by which God preserves his children.

Christian hope is active – even our waiting is full of prayerful action, continued obedience, and integrity.

But it is still waiting…

Waiting for God to work. Waiting on God’s promises. Waiting, rather than over functioning and taking matters into our own hands. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Ps. 27:14); “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Ps. 37:7); “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.” (Ps. 38:15); “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Ps. 130:5). Tim Keller writes, “Waiting on the Lord is the epitome of wisdom.”[1] 

The truth of Psalm 25, of the whole of scripture really, is the only guarantee for life is to wait and hope and trust in the Lord. “Good and upright is the Lord.” (vs. 8), “He guides the humble in what is right…” (vs. 9), “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful…” (vs. 10). And while we acknowledge the reality that these are statements of belief, these are professions of faith, these are truths of God we maybe only barely comprehend on the best days of our faith; the truth of these statements don’t depend on my believing them. The efficacy of their truth doesn’t depend on me feeling like it is truth. For the Psalmist, and for us, these are ontological statements defining reality. Contrary to a post-modern assertion, the truth of this belief doesn’t require that I believe it.

Who God is remains immutably true whether I believe or experience him in that way. To be sure, while it might seem confusing at first blush as to how, this truth is actually a huge comfort to us as believers. The reality of the human heart and will is that we are fickle beings. The level of my affection, the capacity of my adoration, the strength of my will to believe and hold, in the supreme, the being of God, waxes and wanes like the moon and tides. If my security in the hand of God was in any way contingent upon the strength of my affection for him, I would never be sure; I could never have any true confidence or assurance. In short, if it was up to me I would never have hope, or trust, or faith.

But it is not. Praise the Lord!

Easily missed for it’s brevity, perhaps the supreme beauty of Psalm 25 comes right in the middle, in the first lines of verse 11: “For the sake of your name, Lord…” John Piper summarizes the theological center of Jonathan Edwards' teaching with the line: God’s passion for his own glory. The truth is, God’s passion for his own glory is the only reason why I can be confident in him. It is not my fickle feelings that connect me to God or cause him to will and act in the world. It is God’s commitment to himself, his Word, and his own glory that ensures the machinations of history move towards where he directs them; it is the immutable absolute goodness of God that ensures his sovereign will comes to pass. That nothing happens in this world without his willing it (actively or passively) is the precise reason I can have trust, and faith, and hope – even when it doesn’t seem to me to be true. The ground of David’s plea to God in this Song of Prayer is not David’s own experience, not David’s own feelings about who God is; rather, the ground of all our pleading with God, the ground of all our calls to justice, all our longing for protection, all our desires to know mercy and shalom (wholeness), is God’s own being. Because God is faithful to his Word, because God is faithful to his world, I can have trust, and faith, and hope.

Because God is faithful, I can wait eagerly – doing something in obedience and prayer. Because God is faithful, I can wait eagerly – patient in the sure provision of the Lord.

Hurry up and wait feels like an exercise in futility; waiting eagerly, however, is an act of faith in the only One who can (and will) do anything about it.

Father God, help me to wait eagerly. Help my waiting to be full of purpose and action in obedience and prayer; and help my waiting to be patient for your provision. Humble me when I act too fast; and encourage me with hope and trust when I am waiting for you to act. Thank you that you are passionate for your own glory, give me the faith that rests in your own being in the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

[1] Keller, Songs of Jesus, 46.