The Psalms: What’s Your Trajectory?

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 of 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,[c] is in you.

Deliver Israel, O God,
    from all their troubles!

– Psalm 25

What’s the direction, the orientation of your life? God is the one whom David trusts (v. 2) and hopes in (v. 3). He is the one to whom David looks to for guidance (vv. 4, 5). He is the one who David turns to in his time of need (v. 16). He is also the one that David turns to for forgiveness for the shortcomings and rebelliousness of both the past and of more recent days (v. 6-7).

The good news of this Psalm is that living a God-orientated life is open to those who are aware of their imperfection and who get it wrong. Elsewhere in the scriptures David is declared to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13.14), not because he always got it right but because in his failure and weakness and his self-created mess he looks sooner or later to God.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) but that should not be understood as moral perfection or sinlessness. Rather Jesus’ call, as Jonathan Pennington makes clear in his recent book on the Sermon on the Mount, is to ‘wholehearted orientation towards God’ (The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing).

What’s the trajectory of our lives? Are they curved in on ourselves (Luther’s definition of sin) with our backs turned to God and to our neighbour, or in our failure and weakness nonetheless open to loving God and loving our neighbour?