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Hope, waiting, and honor go together in God’s economy. Those who hope in God learn to wait, and they trust that God will honor them in the end. This formula is embedded in Psalm 25. We do not know the context of composition, but one can imagine many times in David’s life where he could have prayed this psalm—his flight from Saul, his many battles with the Philistines, or his escape from Jerusalem engendered by a coup from his very own son, Absalom. In all these times, David learned to hope and wait.
From a comparative point of view, what David did was countercultural. The insights that come from Jerusalem are often different from what comes from other cultural and religious centers. As an example, hope was not considered a virtue among the Greeks and Romans. In fact, hope was considered irrational. When it does not look good, there is a good reason for it—a more powerful military force arrayed against you, a lack of resources, or the sheer brokenness of the world. Who would be altruistic enough to come to your rescue when a pound of their flesh might be required? Not much has changed since David’s day. There is still a famine of hope.
For those who do hope, waiting is the necessary corollary. This quality makes hoping more difficult. Living in trying times is hard enough; having to wait makes life that much harder. Yet hoping and waiting move together. We also see this in David’s life. He was anointed king as a ruddy youth, and he would have to wait another 15 years to become the king of Israel. During that time, the waiting was painful and, at certain times, almost lethal.
With the benefits of hindsight, we can state that this waiting was essential for David because during that time God worked on him—his character, his faith, and his outlook. Even then, David had shortcomings. Imagine if David had become king without waiting. A veritable concoction for disaster. David learned to wait, trust, and obey. We see this point in Psalm 25 as well. David’s prayer, while he was waiting, is for divine guidance: “Show me your ways … teach me your paths … guide me in your truth” (Ps. 25:4-5). Later these imperatives are matched with declarative sentences. “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, he instructs sinners in his ways” (Ps. 25:8). “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Ps. 25:9). Here we see that David’s petitions are reflected in God’s faithful actions. God guides and teaches, and David seeks to obey. Waiting, therefore, is never passive; it is filled with seeking God and living up to what one has become convinced and convicted of.
The Psalm ends on an incomplete note. David prays, but did God deliver him? Judging with the benefits of time, the answer must be affirmative. David is considered Israel’s greatest king, a paradigm for all others. This point is remarkable when we consider his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah and his own family. Notwithstanding these episodes, God honored him. Shame for a season, to be sure, but seasons pass. Love and mercy triumph. And honor comes. In this sense, David was right to pray, “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame” (Ps. 25:3).
David teaches an important lesson in our age of concrete, steel, speed, and showmanship. The godly will still need to hope, wait, and obey. When they do, they, too, will never be put to shame. Honor, in God’s perfect time, will descend like the spring rains.