Notes (NET Translation)
The psalm is acrostic with a few irregularities. Two verses begin with the letter resh, the letters waw and qoph are absent, and the last verse, which begins with the letter peh, seems and addition or afterthought.1
1 O LORD, I come before you in prayer.
2 My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!
The attitude of trust is the key to the psalmist’s preparation, for trust signifies dependence and hope based upon the covenant character of God. He trusts because God is faithful as the God of the covenant promises; he trusts because those who have trusted in the past have experienced the presence and help of God. Trust, then, is neither naive and misplaced confidence, nor is it self-confidence; it is a human response to God’s self-revelation in covenant and in historical experience, both personal experience and that of the community. But inevitably the confident statement of trust (v 2a) is mixed with anxiety until such time as God actually responds, and so the words of trust pass into prayer — “let me not be put to shame” (v 2b).2
3 Certainly none who rely on you will be humiliated. Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.
4 Make me understand your ways, O LORD! Teach me your paths!
The verbs suggest “more than teaching in the sense of causing someone to understand something conceptually; they denote a teaching that affects the life.”3
5 Guide me into your truth and teach me. For you are the God who delivers me; on you I rely all day long.
6 Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O LORD, for you have always acted in this manner.
7 Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O LORD!
The psalmist prays that the Lord will not remember his past sins, shortcomings, and rebellious spirit. This confession need not imply that he had been a gross sinner but could refer to sins of omission. He prays that the Lord will deal with him not in accordance with his lack of loyalty but with God’s own commitment of loyalty. It is difficult to convey the force of the emphatic atta (“you”) at the end of v. 7b (lit., “according to your love remember me you!”). Craigie renders it: “Please remember me according to your lovingkindness.” In archaic English it would read better: “According to they love remember thou me.”
The ground of forgiveness is God’s goodness toward his people, as guaranteed by his name (cf. 23:3, 6). The word “goodness” (cf. 145:7), together with “love,” is also found in 23:6. The psalmist petitions God’s forgiveness on the basis of his “love” and “goodness” as expressions of the “name” of God. The symmetry of idiom in vv. 7c and 11a requires a consistent translation:
7c: “for the sake of your goodness, O LORD”
11a: “for the sake of your name, O LORD”
Forgiveness is that amazing act of grace whereby God extends his love as though the sin had never taken place!4
8 The LORD is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
Because God is fair he cannot ignore sin, but because God is kind he can forgive sin.
9 May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!
10 The LORD always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your reputation, O LORD, forgive my sin, because it is great.
12 The LORD shows his faithful followers the way they should live.
13 They experience his favor; their descendants inherit the land.
This verse speaks of Israel continuing to live in the land promised to them by God.
14 The LORD’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.
Verse 14a can also be translated: “The Lord confides in those who fear him” (NIV). The faithful are God’s confidants.
15 I continually look to the LORD for help, for he will free my feet from the enemy’s net.
16 Turn toward me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and oppressed!
17 Deliver me from my distress; rescue me from my suffering!
18 See my pain and suffering! Forgive all my sins!
19 Watch my enemies, for they outnumber me; they hate me and want to harm me.
20 Protect me and deliver me! Please do not let me be humiliated, for I have taken shelter in you!
21 May integrity and godliness protect me, for I rely on you!
Integrity and godliness may be the attributes of the psalmist or personified attributes of God.
22 O God, rescue Israel from all their distress!
Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.
Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.
Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.
VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.