From My Soul Waits
Make me to know thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me. (vv. 4-5)
Some psalms make use of a poetic device known as an acrostic. Psalm 25 is one of these. Each of its twenty-two verses begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (Others are Psalms 9, 10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145.) Psalm 25 takes this one step further. The opening letters of the beginning verse, the middle verse, and the last verse spell out the Hebrew root for teach or learn (aleph), which in fact summarizes the content of the psalm. “Show me thy ways, O Lord, and teach me thy paths,” (v. 3). This psalmist, who is apparently experienced in the ways of God’s mercy (“remember not the sins of my youth”), requests God’s guidance in the midst of his troubles, even as his enemies threaten to destroy him. This is a prayer for instruction and direction that can be useful in any situation.
As in so many of the psalms of lament, the psalmist holds up his soul before God in search of assistance. The image is rich with feeing, as if the psalmist has succeeded in reaching down within himself, taking his inquiring heart within his own feeble hands, and raising it before his Lord and Maker: “To thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul,” (v. 1).
In a time of trouble, rather than answering back to his adversaries, or acting vengefully on his own behalf, the psalmist exercises his faith and turns his aching soul to the Lord. “Let me not be ashamed,” he prays, (v. 2). He is asking that the faith he puts in God not be placed in vain. By answering, God will sustain the psalmist’s faith and show to his enemies that such faith is not misplaced. No sooner does he make this plea for deliverance, however, than the psalmist prays for guidance: “Show me your ways,” (v. 4). With this petition, the psalmist puts legs on his trust in God. For faith in God’s power is empty if not accompanied by obedience to God’s ways.
Certainly, the psalmist is mindful of the mercy and grace of God. He remembers them “from of old,” (v. 6), and he is counting on them now in order to be delivered from his troubles. But his trust is not passive. With his eyes “ever toward the Lord,” (v. 15), he expects not only deliverance but also counsel. The psalmist looks for the hand of God so that he might do the will of God.
From The Fathers
God will teach his ways not to those who want to run on ahead, as if they could rule themselves better than he can, but to those who do not strut about with their heads in the air or dig in their heels, when his easy yoke and light burden are set on them. (Augustine)
Lord, what more could I ask than to have you as my Teacher?
Because you are my Creator, you know me through and through.
Because you are my Lord, there is nothing beyond your wisdom.
Because you are my Savior, you will always help me in my weakness.
What better Teacher could I ever desire?