Becoming a Confidant of Yahweh (Psalm 25:14)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (9:45)

Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn (Ephesians Dutch painter, 1606-1669), "The Return of the Prodigal Son" (1636), etching on laid paper
The best example of restored intimacy in the Bible is Jesus' parable of the prodigal son. Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn (Ephesians Dutch painter, 1606-1669), "The Return of the Prodigal Son" (1636), etching on laid paper, plate: 15.6 x 13.7 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

I am struck by Psalm 25:14 that talks about an amazing intimacy with God. The sentence is translated variously in different versions:

"The Lord confides in those who fear him." (NIV)
"The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him." (ESV, NRSV)
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." (KJV, NASB)

The key noun here is sôd, "counsel," with the emphasis on "confidential speech."1 Hebrew has more general word, ʿēṣâ, for "advice, counsel," but here the emphasis is on "confidential conversation."2

God never needs our counsel, of course, but we need his! As Jesus would instruct his disciples privately, we need the Lord's counsel, his gentle guidance as from a Friend and Master.

Intimate Friendship

What fascinates me, however, is that our verse teaches that we can reach a place where God confides in us, treats us as a trusted friend, and shares his secrets with us.

We see that with Moses. Yahweh tells Moses what he plans to do -- and stimulates in Moses an impassioned plea for mercy for God's people (Exodus 32:7-14). Even before the tabernacle in the wilderness is constructed, Moses sets up a tent that he called his "Tent of Meeting" (Exodus 33:7-11). He would go there to consult with God about people's inquiries. But it wasn't all work. This was also Moses' place of secret counsel, of intimacy.

"The Lord would speak to Moses face to face,
as a man speaks with his friend." (Exodus 33:11a)

When Moses would reappear from the Tent of Meeting, his face would be glowing.

Formal vs. Intimate Relationship

Compare this friendship, this intimacy with God, to what often passes for faith. So often we settle for a kind of formal relationship with God. He is big and up there, and you are small and down here.

You may come before him and petition him as would a subject entering the king's expansive throne room.3 You stand in the great hall a dozen yards from the throne elevated on a platform against the wall.

"Great King, listen, I pray Thee, to the petition that your humble servant putteth before Thee this day."

I've overdone it a bit, but that is sometimes the way we approach God -- from a distance.

But imagine what would happen if he were to put up his hand as if to stop you in mid-sentence and then to beckon you to come closer to his throne. The guardian angels stiffen a bit, as you get closer. You stop. He beckons again. "Closer."

You're apprehensive, but you come closer causing the angel to glare at you and tighten his grip on his broadsword.

Now, when you are close enough so he doesn't have to raise his voice, Yahweh says to you quietly, "Come with me into my private chamber." He gestures to a door at the side. "Let's have coffee together." He gets up and you follow him to a quiet place where you can talk -- just you and he. And later, he says, "Let's do this again -- soon."

That's how I interpret what the psalmist says when he talks about "confidential counsel" or "friendship" or "secret." And that's why this verse in Psalms is so special.

The Awe of the Lord

As we begin to grow in Christ, a longing for intimacy with God begins to grow in us, though we may not believe it is possible. My dear friend, it is possible! And this intimacy with him is his desire for you.

Psalm 25 explains how you can begin to move to this place. The "fear of the Lord" is key to this intimacy.

"Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct4 him in the way5 chosen6 for him." (Psalm 25:12)

"The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them." (Psalm 25:14)

Just what is "the fear of the Lord"?

 Fear isn't used here in the sense of terror, but of reverence and respect, of awe and love. 7 Terror, fear of going to hell, might initially drive us to God to cry out for mercy, but it doesn't lead to intimacy. Only love can do that (1 John 4:18-19). His love for us begins to build in us a trust that melts fear and replaces it with love and awe before him.

Longing for the Lord's Counsel

Psalm 25 is written when David is in deep trouble, very conscious of his sins that he mentions in verses 7, 11, and 18. He is struggling, but in his struggle he cries out to come closer.

"Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior." (Psalm 25:4-5)

Pride and Intimacy

What keeps us away from this secret place with God?

One big problem can be pride. Often pride will bristle when someone tells us what to do. Pride defends our "personal space" and independence. Of course, we need a sense of personhood so people don't run over us and take advantage of us. But this same pride can sometimes keep God at arms' length. We know what he would say about what we're doing, so we don't want him too close.

But to draw close, we need to let down our guard, and suppress our pride. David tells us.

"He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way." (Psalm 25:9)

So, David asks for forgiveness (verse 11) and humbles himself.

So long as you hold on to an inner resistance, your relationship with God cannot help but remain formal, distant. But when you are willing to let go of all that. When you begin to long to know him truly, like David, God responds. Why? Because God longs to draw you close and share with you who he really is.

"He makes his covenant8 known9 to them." (Psalm 25:14)

He makes himself known to you and the relationship of grace forged by the New Covenant in Christ's blood (1 Corinthians 11:25). The New Covenant, my friend, is not about rules you have to follow in order to gain God's favor, but commitments made to you by the Living God and sealed in his Son's blood. These covenant promises are forever.

Seeking Friendship with God

Where are you on your spiritual journey? Have you been content with formality and a sense of distance and propriety? Or does your heart long for more? Is your heart like that of the Apostle Paul who calls out "... that I may know him ... and the fellowship of his suffering!" (Philippians 3:10).

Where do you start? Repent afresh of your sins that you know of. Repent of a pride that has kept God at a distance. Humble yourself, and then simply say to him,

"Lord, I really want to know you better. Show me how. I want to know you as a Friend. Draw me close. Please!"

Pray that, and then look for an answer. Be patient, but expectant. For the promise to you and to me is very strong!

"The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them." (Psalm 25:14)


End Notes

References and Abbreviations

[1] Sôd, TWOT #1471a.

[2] Holladay, 129, H1.

[3] Hebrews 4:16.

[4] "Instruct" (NIV, ESV), "teach" (NRSV) is the Hiphil imperfect of yārâ, "teach" someone something (Holladay, 144, 2; TWOT #910).

[5] "The way" is derek, "way, road" (Herbert Wolf, TWOT #453a). More numerous are the metaphorical uses of derek. It often refers to the actions and behavior of men, who either follow the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.

[6] "He should choose" (ESV, KJV), "chosen for him" (NIV), "they should choose" (NRSV) is the Qal imperfect of ḥar, "to choose, elect, decide for" (TWOT #231).

[7] "Fear" is the adjective yārēʾ, "fearing, afraid" as in "God-fearer." The emphasis here isn't on terror as much as awe or reverence. A "God-fearer" will express his awe in practical righteousness or piety, obeying, walking in the Lord's ways (Andrew Bowling, TWOT #907a).

[8] "Covenant" is the noun bĕrit, "agreement, alliance, covenant," here the "covenant between God and men" (Holladay 49, III).

[9] "Make known" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "shew" (KJV) is Hiphil infinitive of yādaʿ, "know" (TWOT #848); "let someone know something, make known something to someone" (Holladay 129, H1).

Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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