Psalm 5 ~ "Grace and Justice"
[READ Psalm 5] Give ear to my words. give attention to the sound of my cry. And here in the first three verses we see three examples of David’s prayers. In verse 1 we see groaning and murmuring. This is quiet utterance of sorrow. Next, we see a loud and vocal prayer. David imploringly cries out to God.
Then in verse 3 we read “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” We notice several things going on at the same time in this short verse. First we see the time; the morning. We see David’s whispers and cries brought to the Lord in the morning. We also need to give attention to the verb; “prepare”. The English Standard Version translates this phrase as “prepare a sacrifice”, but if you’re reading out of the King James then you will read “I direct my prayer”. We read 2 different verbs and direct objects. In the original text, we find only a verb while the direct object is implied. The verb used in the original text does have a very specific meaning, to prepare or to arrange. This is the word used to denote how the priests meticulously arranged the sacrifices. However, in the context, David is not speaking of physical sacrifices, but prayers. So in the morning, before he gets busy with his day, his kingly duties, his duties as a husband and father, before get wrapped up in his plans of war, or perhaps the different people trying to kill him, before any of it, he takes every concern and thoughtfully arranges them in prayer to God. This time in prayer is a sacrifice in itself. I myself have been painfully guilty of trying to handle a few things on my plate first thing with the intention that I would immediately spend time in prayer and devotion afterward. And of course, by that time my heart and mind has already been given over to my worries, stresses, and prideful desire to be productive. To thoughtfully give everything to God in prayer before our day ever begins is a humble sacrifice and reminder that our day does not even belong to us, but to God.
Notice what David does after this prayer. He watches. This morning sacrifice requires discipline, but not discipline alone. We should never approach God as mere ritual, but in faith. We offer our all to him and then continue to look to Him for guidance. This is precisely why we should start our days and our endeavors with prayer and time in the Word. We don’t pray and move along, but we pray and then approach each appointment and task and encounter with a watchful and reflective eye for how God would have us live and serve.
How awful it is in my home when after periods of waiting and enduring some sort of inconvenience I actually bring home some large item that is supposed to make my life better and upon opening the box I realize three dreaded words... some assembly required. However much patience I displayed in saving up for the item and getting the maximum lifespan out the previous item or arrangement, that patience dies as I break the seal on the box. Directions shmirections, I don’t need no stinking directions. It’s just a simple box... or so one would think, because then I somehow manage to build something that doesn’t begin to resemble the picture on the box. And what the possible function is of this thing I couldn’t begin to tell you. So then, I finally look at the directions in hopes that I can fix one or two pieces that would allow the whole piece to come together, but of course you need to practically dissemble the thing and start again. And by this time the structural integrity is compromised because of the damage done while trying to force it together. How much better would it have been to be patient enough to fully understand and follow the directions. So also, when we pray to God, and in every matter, we watch. Watch for the guidance and wisdom that God gives.
Beginning is verse 4 we see a contrast. From a humble, disciplined, and prayerful man, we move to a wicked, boastful, bloodthirsty, and deceitful man. While describing this type of man, we also see the contrast of his interactions with God which in turn says something about God too. In verse 4 and 5 we see 3 negative statements. “NOT a God who delights in wickedness; evil may NOT dwell with you. The boastful shall NOT stand before your eyes;” Three negative statements which draw out God’s holiness, that is separate from sin and separate from those who refuse to humble themselves before His perfection and righteousness.
In verses 5 and 6 we see three affirmative actions. Hate, destroy, and abhor. “you HATE all evildoers. You DESTROY those who speak lies; the LORD ABHORS the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” We see the 3 negative statements and the 3 affirmative statements drawing out the fact that God is perfect both in principle and in practice. His nature is pure and holy and He therefore acts in perfect righteousness.
After seeing that the boastful shall not even stand before God’s eyes, we see more of the contrast in verse 7. “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.” David is contrasted in the fact that he enters God’s house while the wicked cannot stand before God. Not only that, but notice HOW David enters, “through the abundance of your steadfast love”. David acknowledges that God is the one who allows David to enter. It is God who has removed the wickedness from David and purified him. David enters before God in honest humility while the wicked are distanced from God through prideful rejection.
Vs 8 “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies.” We see a transition here. We see a plea from David, but that plea is made in relation to the wicked. He goes on in verse 9 to speak of the wicked’s deceit and flattery and that their throat is an open grave. Their words are death and their inmost self is destruction. This plea of David is to resist evil because of the temptations which are being placed before him. Starting the day off right in prayer and Scripture is not a formula and guarantee that the rest of your day will be perfect and easy. David is able to recognize these traps, but even though he sees them and is all too familiar with the compromise of sin, he admits that he’s still likely to succumb to temptation and that he needs God to lead him in righteousness. He has drawn out the night and day difference of the wicked and the righteous and he knows that he cannot merely consider himself righteous if he doesn’t live so. He needs to be righteous, and more correctly, he needs to be made righteous. He knows that the contrast must be lived out in his life. What a beautiful picture of grace; God being the one who carries us and leads us in righteousness and therefore allows us to be in fellowship and unity with Him.
And from this picture of grace we move into a verse which can be hard to reconcile. “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels.” In this verse we see what is labeled as imprecation; a spoken curse, an offensive word or phrase spoken in anger. This is a theme which we will encounter a number of times as we work our way through the Psalms. It’s part of the contrast which we’ve seen and David’s prayer can be understood simply as “God, help me and harm them!” This kind of language can catch us by surprise and unfortunately for some, can cause us to question if in fact the Bible we have before us is indeed the inspired word of God. Isn’t is selfish, petty, and vengeful to pray such a thing? Help me and harm them?
Turn with me to Nehemiah chapter 1 as we seek to understand this text. Nehemiah grew up in the kingdom of Persia. This event is happening approx. 95 years after the first wave of of exiles returned to Jerusalem. He doesn’t know the people who live in Jerusalem. He isn't familiar with the city. He is very much disconnected, but yet he is so grieved by the state of things that he is move to weeping and mourning for days. Why? Why was he so emotionally concerned? One would completely understand a degree of disconnect. Look at verses 8 and 9 [READ Nehemiah 1:5-11] Nehemiah’s main concern for the people of Jerusalem wasn’t a surface level concern for social justice and welfare. He properly understood the people of Israel as God’s people, where God’s glory dwelled. In short, he was concerned with the Gospel. He sought the glory of God above all else. Praying for the safety and protection of Israel wasn’t about gaining a military advantage that would allow them to conquer the world. It was about God’s chosen people who bore His name prospering in a way that would serve as a living testament and reflection of God. NEHEMIAH WEEPED AND PRAYED FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF THE GOSPEL.
That is exactly what we see in Psalm 5. Look at verse 10 [READ Psalm 5:10] cast them our because of the abundance of their transgressions. Cast them out for they have rebelled against you. Cast them out because YOU have nothing to do with righteousness and they want nothing to do with your holiness. Cast them out and let them bear the consequences of their sin for justice. David is praying for justice.We have all sinned. We all bear guilt. The debt of the believer has been paid in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus through faith, but the unbeliever must pay the debt for which they refused to call on the help of the Savior.
God is perfect, and God is love. But part of God’s perfection and holiness is that He is just. In the old testament, the words used for righteous and just are in fact the same word groups. If Christ had sinned, he would have died the death of a sinner and the grave would have been unconquerable and the separation between God and man would be irreconcilable. If God were not holy and wholly righteous, His love would not be a perfect and pure love. It would not be the steadfast love which redeems us and makes us wholly clean and new. David is not praying for selfish vengeance but he is praying to see the righteousness of God fulfilled. He is praying for the contrast and the distinction to be made between life and death, wickedness and righteousness. How sweet is the grace of God when we realize just what it is that He spares us from through his mercy and love knowing He is perfectly just and makes no exceptions and doesn’t cut any corners. He fulfills all righteousness.
[READ vs 11-12] We see the final contrast made here. The punishment for sin is death. Those who reject God reject forgiveness. Those who reject forgiveness embrace punishment and death. Those who take refuge in God have entered into that safety only through humble surrender. David asks for the contrast to be made, that they receive the blessing of that refuge to the glory of the one who is able to actually give that refuge, the almighty God.
Psalm 5 is a plea for grace and a plea for justice. It is a plea to be led by grace in the straight path of righteousness. It is a plea for the crookedness of sin to be made plain. In the distinct contrast, we see the irrefutable glory of God. If we truly come on our knees, recognizing our need to take refuge in Christ, then it should be our utmost desire for that refuge to be extended to all. We offer that refuge when we are the walking and living proof of Christ’s power, love, and hope. We will not know that power if we are not communing with him. We must pray in our pain when we only have the strength to whisper. We must cry out to Him with all our strength. Arrange our words with intention and humility as if sacrificing our first fruits. We arrange and structure our days, schedules, and lives as a sacrifice. Then we watch for Him. And finally, in our watching, we pray that He would lead us and use us for His glory. Our lives must demonstrate the glory of the difference between the worlds wickedness and God’s grace. In doing so, we display God’s justice and righteousness.