The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

A Lectio Divina Reading of Psalm 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 17, 2012

The Following comes from the Lectio Divina Homepage.

Vs. 1: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Note the act of lifting, nasa’, a verb we saw in vss. 7 and 9 of Ps 24 with respect to gates and doors. It is as though the king upon entering Jerusalem now lifts up his soul once these entry ways have been lifted to receive him. Consider this in light of King Solomon’s prayer of dedication with regard to the temple, 1 Kg 8. This nasa’ suggests an almost universal perception of the divinity being “up there” to which a person assents.

Vs. 2: O my God, in you I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. The three-fold desire of the psalmist spells out that nasa’ or lifting just discussed. The expression of trust, batach, implies waiting or expectation. “And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards” [Ezk 28.6]. In vs. 2 the psalmist perceives a threat of being shamed, bush, which involves a failure of hope or that batach just mentioned. In the meantime, he has his soul lifted up to God (vs. 1), suspended, as it were, between heaven and earth much like Christ on the cross.

The exulting of enemies, halats, fundamentally is an expression of joy as in this positive sense: “I will be glad and rejoice in you” [Ps 9.2]. It is kind of upward movement just like the psalmist’s nasa’ of his soul of vs. 1, so we see a struggle between two types of upward gestures where the outcome is not yet certain.

Vs. 3: Yes, let none that wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Waiting or qawah forms a basic theme to all genuine religious expression, and this example is no exception; qawah almost suggests strength, and from it is derived qaw, rope, cord; in Ps 19.4 this word reads “yet their voice goes out through all the earth,” voice being (measuring) line. We may envision the persons of which the psalmist speak as hanging or being suspended on such a qaw which is open to shame by others, bush.

To shame or bagad also means to oppress from which is derived beged, a covering, so we get the idea of being veiled in disgrace. The following verse applied to Christ’s suffering on the cross suggests this twofold meaning: “They parted my garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots” [Ps 22.18, Jn 19.24]. Reyqam, treacherous, intensifies this bagad, for it means vanity. “You shall sow your seed in vain” [Lev 26.16].

Vs. 4: Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Two examples of passage, ways (derek) and paths (‘orach) which comprise two types of comprehension, a desire to know (yadah) and a desire to be taught (lamad). This wish for instruction in the psalmist eyes pertains to something with which he is unfamiliar; both courses are in the plural and imply a multiplicity of goals.

Vs. 5: Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. An amplification of derek in vs. 4 with the verbal form, darak, to lead, that is, with respect to truth, ‘emeth, not just truth but “your truth,” God’s. Instead of a desire to be taught in divine paths (again, vs. 4), vs. 5 has a desire for being directly taught by God whom the psalmist identifies with salvation, yeshuah, “Jesus.” I.e., leading and teaching are brought in line with “the God of my Jesus.”

For you I wait all the day long. Here waiting, qawah, (cf. vs. 3) applies to kal-hayom, all the day long, “day” being a kairos expression of time as event.


Vs. 6: Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Often the Psalter has the psalmist speaking about the necessity to remember (zakar) God, etc, but here his wish is applied to God himself or more specifically, his mercy, rechem (cf. Ps 18.1 for a note on the former). In vs. 6 an alignment, as it were, is brought between rechem and zakar (mindful) together with chesed, steadfast love. The psalmist is quick to note their ancient quality, “from of old,” holam, which refers to indefinite temporal extension however long. Perhaps he has in mind not only God’s favoring of Israel but holam as extending back to the Genesis account of creation. As noted earlier, zakar is the verbal root for male; it is as though the psalmist wants God to propagate the two qualities of mercy in the sense of making them an inheritance for extension into the future.


Vs. 7: Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Note the continued insistence upon remember, zakar, only here applied to the psalmist’s sins, chata’ah (singular), or better, “from my youth,” nehurym, which is plural in form. “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” [Gen 8.21], words uttered after the flood. This chapter of Genesis begins with “But God remembered Noah,” another instance of zakar, that is, he takes steps to insure propagation of Noah into the future. In addition to the psalmist’s sins, he wishes that God also not zakar his transgressions, pesheh (singular), which connotes rebellion. “My transgressions were bound into a yoke” [Lam 1.14].


According to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! An association of zakar with chesed. Note the connection of the psalmist with God in relation with this chesed according to the Hebrew: zekar-ly-‘atah, “remember-me-you” with the psalmist sandwiched in between. He ties in chesed here with divine goodness, using the general tov.


Vs. 8: Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. Two general attributes, tov and yashar, applied to God; while familiar to readers of the Psalter, their frequent usage acts as a reminder and as words of introduction to a more particular facet of the divinity. In this instance, it is God’s faculty of instructing, darak, the verbal root for the noun way frequently used thus far. For sinners we have hanawym, a word associated with those who are afflicted, not necessarily by sinfulness (cf. Ps 22.26).


The second part of vs. 8 contains the word derek, way, which here is unspecified but assumed to be the divine Torah; also applicable to Jesus Christ as the way. Sinners are instructed, lamad, the verb from which Talmud is derived; also note that in the Syriac version of the New Testament Christ’s disciples are called talmydim.


Vs. 9: He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Continuation of the theme of leading and the way discussed just above, only here with respect to the humble, hanawym, who are mentioned twice. The second example is in conjunction with lamad; note the different use of hanawym here as opposed to sinners of vs. 8.


Vs. 10: All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. Paths or ‘orek (singular) are “of the Lord,” not to the Lord, indicating those qualities he wishes to manifest which here are steadfast love, chesed, and truth, ‘emeth. A person becomes attuned to this divine outflow, as it were, by keeping, natsar two things: the divine covenant and testimonies, beryth and hed. Cf. Ps 12.7 for mention of natsar as watching; while suggesting a keeping, it also involves watching in that one can loose them as well as gain further insight into them. First mention of beryth is Gen 6.18: “But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” The last mention is Mal 3.1: “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” With these two covenants in mind, it is interesting to observe the various usages of beryth in between, as it were, them. Hedothayu (his testimonies) are more specific rules or features of the general beryth.


Vs. 11: For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Not so much as for YHWH himself but for his name which we may assign as the person of Jesus Christ; better, “for your Word’s sake,” Logos. This incarnation of the divine shem, name, or Jesus-as-salvation is directed toward extending pardon, salach, which has the notion of lightness, of lifting up (for example, on the cross of Christ).


Vs. 12: Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. A rhetorical question which can be taken as addressed to a crowd, fear or yir’ath being the first step on the road to acquire wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” [Prov 1.7]. Here beginning, re’shyth, is used in the sense of embracing all other aspects; it is a kind of Alpha implying an Omega (cf. Rev 22.13).


Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. Here the choice is up to the person, after which the Lord will instruct him, yarah, which can also mean to lay foundations, to sprinkle, both which have the basic meaning of casting something: “Behold, the pillar which I have founded” [Gen 31.51]. And, “He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” [Hos 6.3]. Implied is human free will (bachar) which makes choices under divine inspiration after which comes yarah which has a specific path, way or derek.


Vs. 13: He himself shall abide in prosperity, and his children shall possess the land. Nephesh or the common word for soul is used for “he himself,” one’s inmost being. Such prosperity, tov, is contingent upon the vs. 12, fear of God, which implies a continuous state signified by the word abide, lun; used more specifically for spending the night as in Gen 32.21: “and he himself [Jacob] lodged that night in the camp.” Such lun was a preparation for Jacob’s wrestling bout with the mysterious divine being who bestowed upon him a change of names, i.e., to Israel. Compare with Sg 1.13: “He shall lie all night between my breasts.” In the case of Jacob, his new name of Israel suggests the presence in his person of future generations, the children of vs. 13 who “shall possess the land,” yarash, in the sense of becoming inheritors.


Vs. 14: The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. Those who enjoy divine friendship, sod, stem from Jacob/Israel discussed in the preceding verse; it requires that fear of Prov 1.7. Sod also means a couch, assembly, therefore an abiding relationship; the notion of reclining may be associated with sharing a meal as Christ with his disciples at the Last Supper. At a sod there is often intimate conversation, reminiscent of Christ’s discourse on his mission and coming of the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ divulged to the disciples his covenant, beryth: “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” [Mt 26.28]. The act of making known, yadah, suggests an indirect disclosure where one must do active work or searching to realize what is being done.


Vs. 15: My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. In God’s relation with Moses, he never disclosed himself but only spoke with Moses: “and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” [Ex 33.23]. In light of this, how can the psalmist’s eyes gaze upon YHWH? Toward, ‘el, suggests in-the-direction-of, not necessarily in the sense of direct gaze; perhaps the psalmist had in mind God’s words to Moses just mentioned, namely, that God’s back can be seen, not his face. In this light, his gaze is following God as he is in the act of moving.


This gaze fixed towards God thus directs a person’s actions signified by feet which God will pluck from a snare, yasta’ and resheth. Once liberated, the psalmist can then follow God’s back. “Draw me after you, let us make haste” [Sg 1.4].


Vs. 16: Turn to me and be gracious to me; for I am lonely and afflicted. Perhaps the desire for God to turn, panah (from which is derived face), is a wish to see God in light of Moses’ wish discussed in the previous verse. God can turn about but this would kill Moses who is well aware of the fact which is why vs. 16 can be put in Moses’ mouth, be gracious, chanan, which implies an inclining gesture.


The psalmist appeals to God for this chanan by stating his miserable condition, lonely or yachyd and hany (from hanah, same verbal root for eyes of vs. 15).


Vs. 17: Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distresses. Troubles derive from the verb tsarar which pertains to something which is pressed, and applied to the heart or center of feeling connotes extreme distress. The psalmist wishes relief from such constraints, rachav, to be spacious. “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” [Gen 26.22].


And bring me out of my distresses. The two verbs here are vivid descriptions of the psalmist’s predicament, for they are similar sounding, mimtsuqothay and hotsy’eny; matsoq can mean column and comes from the same verbal root as tsuq, to be narrow which is similar in meaning to tsarar.


Vs. 18: Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Haneny (again, hanah) is the word for affliction which the psalmist wishes God to consider, ra’ah, or more accurately, to see, which is his way of having God reciprocate his words in vs. 15, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord.” The second object the psalmist wishes God to ra’ah is his trouble, hamal, more specifically, labor. This word is frequently used in Ecclesiastes to reveal the vanity of human endeavors: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun” [1.3]? With this verse in mind, the psalmist intimates that God should consider his vanity, havel.


Finally vs. 18 has the psalmist beseeching God not simply to cast a look upon his situation but to actively step in and forgive his sins (chete’, singular), nasa’, more fundamentally, to take them up as though removing that havel from his eyes.


Vs. 19: Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Another instance of ra’ah for consider, i.e., to see, this time with respect to the psalmist’s foes, ‘eyvah (singular); the first ra’ah seems to concern his own inner turmoil, whereas this second one is external. Their hatred, sin’ah, is intensified by the wording of the Hebrew, “They hate me with cruel hatred,” sin’ah being used twice. Chamas, violent, a frequently used word in the Psalter; this term is situated in between the two words, sin’ah


Vs. 20: Oh guard my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. When nephesh is used for life, almost always it suggests soul which here the psalmist wishes God to both guard (shamar) as well as to deliver (“me”), natsal which implies a pulling out of a dangerous situation. Note use of natsal in conjunction with me, not nephesh, perhaps signifying a more pointed or urgent request for assistance from God.

The act of taking refuge, chasah, is bound up with the notion of fleeing, of hurried flight from a dangerous situation; it also means to trust: “under whose wings you have come to trust” [Rt 2.12]. Although in vs. 20 the psalmist bids God to deliver him-thereby implying a chasah-he nevertheless adds the statement of already having accomplished this same chasah.

Vs. 21: May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Tom and yosher are two elements which preserve (natsar) the psalmist, the former signifying fulness or completion and the latter straightness. It is the function of natsar to effect these two types of protection; it signifies a type of watching as in Jer 31.6: “There shall be a day when the watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim.” Actually vs. 21 expresses a wish of the psalmist, not its accomplishment and his based upon his expectation or waiting, qawah. Vs. 5 above specifies this qawah by saying it is “all the day long.”

Vs. 22: Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. This concluding verse of Ps 25 shifts attention away from the psalmist’s personal woes to the larger community in which he belongs, Israel whom he wants God to redeem, padah, which means a setting free. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing” [Is 51.11]. This notion of setting free is enhanced by “out of all his troubles,” tsar; cf. vs. 17: “Relieve the troubles of my heart.”

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