Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10 - Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long. ... Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote a play that was first performed in 1944 in Paris. In the play, titled, No Exit, Sartre depicts hell as three people trapped in a room with no escape. They are stuck with each other, forever. Their conversation is seductive, accusatory, dishonest, envious, and endless. They try silence without success. Along the way of eternal conversation, one of them delivers the famous line: "Hell is other people."
Interestingly, the play was written and produced during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II and actually made it through the Nazi censors. During this time, French nationals called the Nazis "the others." These "others," Sartre believed, stole the freedom of the French. Sartre also believed that human beings achieved their highest potential and purpose when left alone. "Hell," in other words, is "others."
Sartre had walked away from his Catholic faith and religion of any kind. He believed that being alone allows human beings to make their own choices and shape their own future. Being with others, he thought, interferes with and limits one's autonomy, control, and self-actualization. So he presents hell as three people stuck in a never-ending conversation with no way out.
How different is David in Psalm 25! His crisis may not be eternal, but it seems that way. He talks about waiting for the Lord "all day long." He uses the language of "ways" and "paths" to express his desire for God to show him a way through his conflict and suffering. In verse 4 he prays, "Make me to know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths."
David's vision in these inspired song lyrics is significant for Christians today. For one thing, David is not so much looking for an exit door or a way out of his predicament as he is searching for a way through. He recognizes that, along the way of his prolonged challenge, the Lord will teach him. He sings in verse 9: "He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way." In other words, along the way of my struggle, I will remain humble enough to learn something from the Lord.
Throughout the psalm David's vision is focused on the Lord. "My eyes are ever toward the LORD," he sings in verse 15. He knows his Lord. "You are," he sings, "the God my salvation." He sings about "the friendship of the LORD" in verse 14. There is no self-actualization in Psalm 25, self-awareness, to be sure, but no self-actualization. If David is to make it through and out of his protracted dilemma, it will be because God shows him the way.
David sings in verse 16 that he is "lonely." In that single word, he points to the truth that each of us is incomplete without God. We need our friendship with the LORD to be who we are and to do what needs to be done. And we also need others. David ends the psalm with a prayer for his people: "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." David is not at his best apart from others. He needs them and he prays for them. No, hell is not other people.
One cannot read this psalm without thinking of Jesus Christ, who on the way of our salvation, kept His eyes on His Father and on our needs. For Jesus, the best way out and home to the Father was through His suffering. With others, we follow in His train.
WE PRAY: Lord, in the crucibles of life, when there seems to be no exit, we need You and we need others. Show us the way through our struggles, Lord, even as You have shown us the way to eternal life. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Dean Nadasdy.
1. When have you seen God take you through a seemingly endless struggle and make you stronger on the other end?
2. In what specific ways do you keep your eyes on the Lord, especially when the going gets tough?
3. Whose conversations in difficult times have been especially strengthening for you? Say a prayer of thanks for these good friends.
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