World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
A psalm of David.
1 Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. 3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. 4 show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. 6 Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.
Here we have David's professions of desire towards God and dependence on him. He often begins his psalms with such professions, not to move God, but to move himself, and to engage himself to answer those professions.
I. He professes his desire towards God: Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul, v. 1. In the foregoing psalm (v. 4) it was made the character of a good man that he has not lifted up his soul to vanity; and a call was given to the everlasting gates to lift up their heads for the King of glory to come in, v. 1. To this character, to this call, David here answers, "Lord, I lift up my soul, not to vanity, but to thee." Note, In worshipping God we must lift up our souls to him. Prayer is the ascent of the soul to God; God must be eyed and the soul employed. Sursum corda—Up with you hearts, was anciently used as a call to devotion. With a holy contempt of the world and the things of it, by a fixed thought and active faith, we must set God before us, and let out our desires towards him as the fountain of our happiness.
II. He professes his dependence upon God and begs for the benefit and comfort of that dependence (v. 2): O my God! I trust in thee. His conscience witnessed for him that he had no confidence in himself nor in any creature, and that he had no diffidence of God or of his power or promise. He pleases himself with this profession of faith in God. Having put his trust in God, he is easy, is well satisfied, and quiet from the fear of evil; and he pleads it with God whose honour it is to help those that honour him by trusting in him. What men put a confidence in is either their joy or their shame, according as it proves. Now David here, under the direction of faith, prays earnestly, 1. That shame might not be his lot: "Let me not be ashamed of my confidence in thee; let me not be shaken from it by any prevailing fears, and let me not be, in the issue, disappointed of what I depend upon thee for; but, Lord, keep what I have committed unto thee." Note, If we make our confidence in God our stay, it shall not be our shame; and, if we triumph in him, our enemies shall not triumph over us, as they would if we should now sink under our fears, or should, in the issue, come short of our hopes. 2. That it might not be the lot of any that trusted in God. All the saints have obtained a like precious faith; and therefore, doubtless, it will be alike successful in the issue. Thus the communion of saints is kept up, even by their praying one for another. True saints will make supplication for all saints. It is certain that none who, by a believing attendance, wait on God, and, by a believing hope, wait for him, shall be made ashamed of it. 3. That it might be the lot of the transgressors; Let those be ashamed that transgress without cause, or vainly, as the word is. (1.) Upon no provocation. They revolt from God and their duty, from David and his government (so some), without any occasion given them, not being able to pretend any iniquity they have found in God, or that in any thing he has wearied them. The weaker the temptation is by which men are drawn to sin the stronger the corruption is by which they are driven by it. Those are the worst transgressors that sin for sinning-sake. (2.) To no purpose. They know their attempts against God are fruitless; they imagine a vain thing, and therefore they will soon be ashamed of it.
III. He begs direction from God in the way of his duty, v. 4, 5. Once and again he here prays to God to teach him. He was a knowing man himself, but the most intelligent, the most observant, both need and desire to be taught of God; from him we must be ever learning. Observe,
1. What he desired to learn: "Teach me, not fine words or fine notions, but thy ways, thy paths, thy truth, the ways in which thou walkest towards men, which are all mercy and truth (v. 10), and the ways in which thou wouldst have me to walk towards thee." Those are best taught who understand their duty, and know the good things they should do, Eccl. ii. 3. God's paths and his truth are the same; divine laws are all founded upon divine truths. The way of God's precepts is the way of truth, Ps. cxix. 30. Christ is both the way and the truth, and therefore we must learn Christ.
2. What he desired of God, in order to this. (1.) That he would enlighten his understanding concerning his duty: "Show me thy way, and so teach me." In doubtful cases we should pray earnestly that God would make it plain to us what he would have us to do. (2.) That he would incline his will to do it, and strengthen him in it: "Lead me, and so teach me." Not only as we lead one that is dimsighted, to keep him from missing his way, but as we lead one that is sick, and feeble, and faint, to help him forward in the way and to keep him from fainting and falling. We go no further in the way to heaven than God is pleased to lead us and to hold us up.
3. What he pleads, (1.) His great expectation from God: Thou art the God of my salvation. Note, Those that choose salvation of God as their end, and make him the God of their salvation, may come boldly to him for direction in the way that leads to that end. If God save us, he will teach us and lead us. He that gives salvation will give instruction. (2.) His constant attendance on God: On thee do I wait all the day. Whence should a servant expect direction what to do but from his own master, on whom he waits all the day? If we sincerely desire to know our duty, with a resolution to do it, we need not question but that God will direct us in it.
IV. He appeals to God's infinite mercy, and casts himself upon that, not pretending to any merit of his own (v. 6): "Remember, O Lord! thy tender mercies, and, for the sake of those mercies, lead me, and teach me; for they have been ever of old." 1. "Thou always wast a merciful God; it is thy name, it is thy nature and property, to show mercy." 2. "Thy counsels and designs of mercy were from everlasting; the vessels of mercy were, before all worlds, ordained to glory." 3. "The instances of thy mercy to the church in general, and to me in particular, were early and ancient, and constant hitherto; they began of old, and never ceased. Thou hast taught me from my youth up, teach me now."
V. He is in a special manner earnest for the pardon of his sins (v. 7): "O remember not the sins of my youth. Lord, remember thy mercies (v. 6), which speak for me, and not my sins, which speak against me." Here is, 1. An implicit confession of sin; he specifies particularly the sins of his youth. Note, Our youthful faults and follies should be matter of our repentance and humiliation long after, because time does not wear out the guilt of sin. Old people should mourn for the sinful mirth and be in pain for the sinful pleasures of their youth. He aggravates his sins, calling them his transgressions; and the more holy, just, and good the law is, which sin is the transgression of, the more exceedingly sinful it ought to appear to us. 2. An express petition for mercy, (1.) That he might be acquitted from guilt: "Remember not the sins of my youth; that is, remember them not against me, lay them not to my charge, enter not into judgment with me for them." When God pardons sin he is said to remember it no more, which denotes a plenary remission; he forgives and forgets. (2.) That he might be accepted in God's sight: "Remember thou me; think on me for good, and come in seasonably for my succour." We need desire no more to make us happy than for God to remember us with favour. His plea is, "according to thy mercy, and for thy goodness-sake." Note, It is God's goodness and not ours, his mercy and not our own merit, that must be our plea for the pardon of sin and all the good we stand in need of. This plea we must always rely upon, as those that are sensible of our poverty and unworthiness and as those that are satisfied of the riches of God's mercy and grace.