“God Our Pathfinder!” – September 27, 2020
Psalm 25:1-9 (25:4-5)
Do you know people who do things or say things that are really hurtful, but never acknowledge the hurt at all? These oblivious people can make others uncomfortable, or downright angry. Even if they are shown clear evidence of their bad behavior or wrongdoing, they will not own up to it, at all.
Our Scripture reading today mostly talks about the flip side of this bad behavior – or living in God’s way, according to God’s paths. King David reflected on his life, and gives his readers an overview of his journey with God in this psalm. However, we are also given a few fascinating glimpses of David’s own stumbles – the sins and rebellion of his youth.
Which of us has not been foolish in our youth? Or, sometimes downright rebellious? Going our own way? Not listening to anyone or anything? Some people – even, many people stubbornly insist on doing things their way, over and over. And, they do not care or are oblivious of what happens to others who express caution or prudence. Knowing what King David was like in his youth, I can well see why David remembered certain situations (without giving us the painful details) right here in this overview.
As I just mentioned, certain people are foolish and rebellious into middle age, and even beyond. I suspect David knew a number of oblivious or malicious people. He must have experienced them in his life, too. In verse 2, he asks God not to allow mean, malicious people to shame him.
Do you and I have rebellious or malicious people in our lives? That is the wonderful thing about poetry, like in the book of Psalms. When you and I read one of these songs to God, it is so simple to put ourselves in the place of the psalm writer and with him, ask God to protect us from rebellious or malicious words, acts, and deeds – and people.
Today, we begin every worship service with a confession of sin. Just in case you or I have some sin or transgression in our hearts, thoughts or lives, this confession of sin helps us to clean our slate before God.
Before paper was common and cheap, and way before computer laptops and tablets, schoolchildren often used slates to do schoolwork. This was like a little chalkboard, and students could write their lessons out. Except – what would happen if you made mistakes? What if the math problem you worked was wrong? Then, you would need to clean or erase the marks on the slate. Just as we need to clean the slates of our lives each Sunday as we come before God in worship, we confess our sins, and we promise to repent.
To repent is to change your ways or turn from one thing to another. Based on what they hear in church, most people simply assume that ‘repent’ means to be sorry for something you have done. Today’s psalm reading implies that while being sorry is a good starting point, the real repenting doesn’t start until we start making changes. 
God’s rule book (the Bible) is a great guide and compass. David’s wise words help us know where to find God’s ways and paths. We can read Scripture, as we do together in church, we can study it and examine it more closely, and we can pray and ask God to help us continue to walk in a Godly manner, leaving behind the rebellious and malicious ways of the world.
However, I wonder about those who are really hurting. Those who are in great pain, or those who are actively grieving a great loss, or the death of a dear loved one. Yes, these words of King David are fine for most of us, most of the time. But, for those who are intensely mourning, these words to study and follow and hearken to God’s Word seem to ring hollow.
There are psalms that reach right down inside of a person and speak to raw, grieving, mournful feelings. Psalm 4, 32, 54, 116, and 139 are good examples of God reaching out to hurting people. And, of course, we all can think of Psalm 23 and how God walks with us through the valley of the shadow.
Scripture memory verses can help people when they are floundering through life. Many people remember memorizing verses of Scripture in Sunday school, and beyond. Some remember their children and grandchildren memorizing the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and even parts of different catechisms.
In this psalm, David reminds us “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me.” This psalm calls us to look to the past to see how God has provided both growth and forgiveness. It also calls on us to be honest about our past. 
So different from today’s “Gospel” of a secular culture that promotes self-actualization, self-sufficiency, and instant gratification, David reminds us all that we can follow God’s ways.  We all can journey with God on the upward path, and receive fullness of life from God, not from online merchandise or take-out food delivered to our door.
Have you gone off the path that God has set before each of us? It is not too late to change your heart and mind. Not only say “sorry” to God, but change our ways. Get on God’s path.
David calls each of us to follow God’s way! May it be so, dear Lord.
Worshiping with Children, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2014.
Commentary, Psalm 25:1-10, Beth L. Tanner, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2018
 McCann, Jr., J. Clinton, “Psalm 25,” The New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol. IV (Abingdon, Nashville, TN: 1996), 779.