As God began teaching me with this passage, I was a bit reluctant to study Psalms. I know of several people who love the Psalms; I, however, have never felt too drawn to them until this day. God made verses 12-14 stand out and from there I had to delve into this psalm. I see this psalm as the psalmist’s recognition of God’s sovereignty and His place as Redeemer. This psalm also shows where men and women are in relation to Yahweh. David gets even more specific and talks about the ones with whom HE has a very close bond, an intimacy. He then goes the final step and speaks from his own personal experience as one of those who do have this close, personal, intimate relationship with I AM. Not only David had this intimacy but others such as Adam, Abraham, Samuel, Elijah, Paul, and Peter. We have each know at least one person who was this close to the LORD if we ourselves are believers.
We must set the background for this psalm. Most commentary writers say the time this was written was most likely while David was running from Absalom after he declared himself king of Judah. Up to this point, David had been a shepherd, warrior, calmer of a king, and a king himself. The people held him in great esteem, even God considered him a man after His own heart.
David begins this psalm with his explicit statement, “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul” (vs. 1). First, we must understand that David was not talking about God his close buddy and chum. He was talking to the LORD, all uppercase, denoting I AM of the Old Testament or Yahweh. David was addressing I AM, the One who was before time and will be after time concludes. This is the GOD to whom Abraham, in his understanding, offered his greatest sacrifice, his son. This Yahweh God is all mighty, all knowing, and all-powerful. This is the ONE GOD Who made promises in the Old and New Testaments. This is the ONE GOD Who adopts even those from Gentile backgrounds to be a part of the covenant promise to Abraham. This is Yahweh for David.
In this next section of the psalm, David puts for this pleas for God’s intervention on his behalf. Verses 1b-7 contain these eight pleas: lift me, your servant, up with You (this is implied) [hold me out of their reach]; do not let me be ashamed; shame my pursuers; make me know your ways; teach me your paths; lead me in Your truth and teach me for You are salvation; remember Your loving-kindness and compassion; and do not remember my sins. Notice he does not just ask for help; he couches it in a statement about the God Whom he follows, knows, and worships, i.e. in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed (verse 2) or make me know Your ways, which comes with the implied Your ways are higher than mine (verse 4). Through verse 7, David makes pleas to God based on Who God is and who David is, a mere human who fails, is pursued by evil, and who sins.
Verses 8-10 begin the next section of the psalm. David is no longer talking to Yahweh; he is speaking to his hearers/readers of this psalm. He states that Yahweh, the LORD, is good and upright. Because there is no evil in Him, He can instruct sinners in the way to go. Next, David states that I AM leads the humble in justice and in His ways. To be able to follow anyone, a person must realize he or she is subordinate and the other is superior and worthy to be followed. David established Yahweh’s goodness and uprightness in verse 8. In case a person doubts whether he or she can follow Yahweh blindly, David states that all I AM’s ways are from His loving-kindness and truth. You may ask, what exactly is loving-kindness? It is kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. It is some of the traits we have each wished for ourselves, but to which we have not met the mark at all times. How do we know what the “mark” is? We look to Yahweh and see the “mark” and standard for goodness, kindness, love, and faithfulness. Therefore, when David speaks of the paths of the LORD being loving-kindness, we can know this is genuine and real love, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Yahweh is not faking or trying to trick you or me.
Verse 10 does not stop with just this. David says, I AM leads people who keep His covenants and testimonies. That is a mouthful. What does it actually mean? We must understand this to be able to grasp the rest of the chapter. God had a covenant several times in the Old Testament (testament means covenant, by the way). Each of the Old Testament covenants was conditional on actions kept between two parties, Yahweh and a person, like Abraham, David, Moses, and Israel. For keeping to their covenant, I AM covenanted to keep them safe, provide for their needs, and be their redeemer, the One who will pay the price to gain their freedom. Each of these Old Testament covenants were not fulfilled because humans are fallible and were not, could not, keep their side of the covenant. Yahweh was willing to fulfill His side of the covenants of grace; humans were unable. I AM saw their willingness. He called David a man after His own heart. He called Abraham a friend. He took Elijah before death so that he would not have to taste death. There were people who kept most of God’s covenants and Yahweh gave them His grace to overcome their shortcomings upon their confession and repentance. David refers in the last part of verse 10 to these people. These are the people who kept His covenants and His testimonies. They not only had a relationship with Yahweh, but they bore witness, they testified, to I AM’s goodness, faithfulness, love, and grace to the rest of Israel.
Now that is explained, we move on to the crux of David’s psalm, the reason David wrote in verse 11, “For Your name’s sake, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” David, the man after God’s own heart, recognized, confessed and repented of his iniquity/sins. David was in a desperate situation; his own son was pursuing him to kill him and take over the kingdom of Judah. Now, after he has spoken to God and told Him his plight and what he needed and spoken to the hearers not only of I AM’s greatness and goodness, but to whom Yahweh speaks and is in covenant, David must put first things first. He must confess those things that separate him from God, those sins that have put some distance between him and I AM. Since Yahweh is all good and kind, He cannot be in its presence. To be in the LORD’s presence then, David must recognize himself as a sinner, confess those sins, and repent, to be given grace from I AM which makes him clean to go before the LORD. David has repented, but he realizes that it is not for his sake alone that he needs repentance but for Yahweh. He is so close to I AM that he does not want his sin to blacken the name of the LORD. All people knew that God had chosen David. If David was seen running from his son in fear, the people could believe that God was punishing him, maybe God’s favor was withdrawn from David, or Yahweh was not strong enough to save His chosen one. David did not want there to be any doubt that Yahweh was strong enough and he did not want all the great things that I AM had done for His people to be negated by this incident. David had to make sure to have all his sin removed so that he could go before the LORD and know that he was being heard by I AM. More importantly, David had to make sure that he could hear God, that his path to I AM was open so he could hear exactly what God would have him learn and do. This, then, becomes David’s faith statement; YOUR name is great, YAHWEH, and I am a sinner. David has laid it out for all to hear him and know this is the God Whom he follows and trusts.
In the next section, David talks about the LORD again. He spends three verses telling his hearers/readers about Who Yahweh really is. He is the One who will instruct a person in the way he should go. He is the one who will give prosperity to not only the physical person but to the soul of a person. Added to that, He will not only give it to the person, the one who follows the way of I AM, but promises to give land, His provisions, to his descendants. This is a reiteration of Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. David is calling the hearers to remember this covenant for them and he is telling those who will be their descendants, later hearers and readers. Additionally, He is recalling God’s faithfulness to himself as well and acknowledging it before the LORD and his hearers.
Verse 14 is the apex of this passage in the psalm. “The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” There is the implied statement that the LORD is so immense that He should be feared. The king of Judah, the man after His own heart, acknowledges that this LORD, this I AM, is so great that He commands fear, reverence, and awe. This says a lot. Yahweh does not demand it, but commands it by His presence and greatness, love and faithfulness. This statement by the beloved king speaks volumes to adoring subjects of that time and readers and hearers later. It says this I AM is the ONE GOD and HE is worthy to be worshipped and trusted. The other part of this verse that makes it the apex of this chapter is David’s wording about a “secret of the LORD.” This secret, in the Hebrew language, means an intimacy with the LORD that makes one so close to Him that not only do you fear and worship Him in awe, but also you hear Him when He speaks. Not only to you hear Him, but also you obey because it is your heart’s desire to follow the One you love and to make Him glad with your actions and attitudes. This is the secret of the LORD, you know Him so intimately and love Him so dearly that you will know in your heart, mind, soul, and body what His covenant of grace really is. His love for you desires you to be in a very intimate close heart and spirit relationship with Him. At this point, you are close enough for Him to counsel and guide you moment by moment. Yahweh can teach you and make you know in your inmost parts of His covenant/pledge/promises. Yahweh is the Almighty One from before all time, until beyond time and come to the point of revering Him.
Where does David go from here? He has laid it out exactly Who I AM is and who he, and we, are, sinners in need of Yahweh, redeemer GOD. David makes his personal faith statement. It is right there; David, the king said it, “My eyes are continually toward the LORD, for He will pluck my feet out of the net” (verse 15). David said it also in Psalms 123 and 141; our eyes are continually toward the LORD. Why? Because He is God. His actions and intentions toward us are and always have been faithfully loving, good, and kind. It is to Him from Whom we seek refuge because we know inwardly from our spirits and from God’s actions over the thousands of years of His interaction with humanity that He is I AM, Yahweh, “the existing One.” He is the One Who not only can, but also will, “pluck my feet out of the net.” Literally this means He will “bring out” my feet from the net. Additionally, this “net” is used doubly not only to mean the trap in which he is caught by men, but the judgment that is due him because of his sin. I AM has plucked him from the judgment by His love and grace, by His covenant promise to His children of Israel.
The remaining of the verses David is speaking to I AM again. He has confessed and been redeemed. There is no longer a wall between Him and Yahweh. This one who is a part of the “secret of the LORD” and is intimately related to Him is close enough to be bold in his pleas. Instead of couching his requests as a sinner before the holy I AM, he can now go before the LORD as His child, a part of the secret of the LORD. He can boldly ask for Yahweh’s assistance. He asks eight things in verses 16-22, just as he asked for eight things in verses 1-7. This time his asking looks like demands; he is boldly going before Yahweh, his Redeemer. He states to I AM, “Turn to me and be gracious” (vs. 16), “Bring me out of my distress” (vs. 17), Look at my affliction and trouble…Forgive my sins” (vs. 18), “Look at my enemies” (vs. 19), “Guard my soul…Deliver me” (vs. 20), “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me” (vs. 21), and “Redeem Israel out of his troubles” (vs.22). He speaks of his external physical trouble and moves inwardly towards the needs of his Israel before the LORD. When he speaks of Israel, he is speaking of Israel at that time, the Israel in turmoil politically, as well as Israel’s spiritual state, a sinful people. He is also speaking of Israel as the descendants of Abraham, not just the Hebrews, but also the body of believers who are adopted by Yahweh through the covenant of grace He has provided for them through the blood of Jesus as the sacrifice. David is speaking about himself and to the hearers and readers in all times of this psalm.
Verse 22 is a reiteration of verse 1. In verse 1, David states that the LORD is the One to Whom we should and can turn to seek help, not only for our physical bodies in this time, but for our souls, for all time. Verse 22 states unequivocally that God is the Redeemer and will help in all our troubles. Yahweh does not want to be called upon only when we are in a crisis and do not have any other options. He desires to be in an intimate relationship with us at all times so that we do not necessarily have to call upon Him for guidance and counsel, but we will already know because of our intimacy. This is the promise He has given us a multitude of times in His Word, such as in Jeremiah 29:11.
[One additional note needs to be given. The structure of this psalm is chiastic. It starts with David speaking to God for seven verses. Next David speaks about God for three verses. The center of the psalm, verse 11, states the theme of the psalm. David then goes on to speak to the hearers and readers of the psalm for 3 verses followed by him talking to Yahweh in the final seven verses. It looks like this in structure.
Speaking to God, 7 verses (pleas when unconfessed)
Speaking about God, three verses.
Theme of the psalm, verse 11.
Speaking about God, three verses, with verse 15 as David’s own statement of faith.
Speaking to God, 7 verses (demands when David’s relationship is restored
Structurally, too, verses 1, 15, and 22 provide the verses of redemption. These become the encasement for the psalm, the vehicle for David’s psalm.]