Psalm 5 — Lead Me in Thy Righteousness
Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
10 Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12 For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
Few people in our day have heard the utterance of an imprecatory prayer. For those who have heard one, they never forget it. David opened Psalm 5 with a lament petitioning for God to listen to him (v. 1). God promises to hear His people when they pray to Him. The natural state for the child of God in this world is trouble. We face the ultimate foe in Lucifer. He is the prince of this world and its political and economic systems. He is the prime enemy of God. The righteous man has realigned allegiance to God in Christ; but the vast majority of people in every age remain allied with the murderous father of lies, Satan.
David identified God as King in his request to be heard (v. 2). From the days of the Exodus, YHWH was recognized as King of Israel. This was lost as people did what was right in their own eyes during the period of the Judges, leading to the placement of a human king. David knew from his position as king that only God could rule in righteousness. Therefore, he called on YHWH for help.
This prayer for help belongs to the morning and anticipates a reply (v. 3). God hears the prayers of Israel at all times, but David was acutely aware of the looming trouble beginning each day. Therefore, he called on the Lord in the morning. We are inclined to seek direction for the day and for protection from daily dangers in the world. We, too, must pray and wait for a reply as a sentinel calls for orders and eagerly awaits his instructions from high command.
David ascribed holiness to God for His displeasure with evil (v. 4). The attributes of God are highlighted as David makes his worshipful argument for calling on YHWH. Holiness and evil do not mix. God is completely free of evil. The purity of God is seen in all His perfection. The common error of man is to equate his own character with God. He does not understand holiness, and the devil excuses his meager endeavors to be right with God. Man fails because of his sin nature producing an incessant flow of iniquity against God (Gen 6:5; Jn 3:19; Rom 3:23; Eph 2:3). God and man, estranged from the Garden of Eden, do not meet on man’s terms.
David ascribed justice to God in His displeasure with evildoers (v. 5). “You do hate all who do iniquity” is a glaring statement in opposition to the preaching of our day. “God hates sin but loves sinners” is the rhetoric of deceived reasoning. Here, the text echoes Psalm 11:5. God hates sin and sinners; and the proof is in His willingness to rain snares, fire, brimstone, and burning wind upon the wicked. This often overlooked or diluted dimension of God is in perfect alignment with God’s righteousness (11:6–7). God is a just Judge (Ps 89:14; Jn 5:30), who protects His holiness with perfect justice, which warrants the wrath of God against all unrighteousness (Rom 1:18).
David ascribed judgment to God in extending His wrath against slanderers and liars (v. 6). There is a close parallel with Psalm 4:2. Verbal sins are noted in vv. 5, 6, and 9. We can contrast the righteous petitioning God in prayer with the wicked, who are boastful, speak falsehood, use unreliable speech, whose throat is an open grave, and flatter with their tongues.
David distinguished himself from the wicked by vowing to worship YHWH (v. 7). God extends mercy to worshipers (Jn 4:24; Rom 9:15, 18, 23), allowing those receiving imputed righteousness to come in humble reverence. God demonstrates His love toward the elect that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). The Christian’s right response to God’s faithful love is to bow in reverence.
David supplicates for guidance on the path of righteousness (v. 8). David’s foes, who are the problem, have prompted his petitioned prayer. Their words and actions have compelled him to draw near to God and request aid in walking the path of righteousness (Ps 23:3). Narrow is the way that leads to life, but unaided, the believer will stumble and fall into sin. Our prayer is to the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who is our guide through the whole of life (Jn 14:17, 26; Rom 8).
David exposed the malicious speech of his opponents (v. 9). First, the wicked have unreliable words to say. The words of a person emerge from his heart. David argued his opponents spoke wrong words from a deceitful heart (Jer 17:9). He used the metaphor of an open grave with the wafting stench of death pervading the throat of his enemies. Finally, he condemned the flattery used in public by his detractors, in order for them to gain supporters.
David requested, by imprecation, that God solve the problem of his rebellious adversaries via self-destruction (v. 10). This is the equivalent of calling down curses upon one’s enemies. Seven psalms are classified into this category, but single verses in the same genre appear as in this case. God is slow to anger and slow to wrath, but He also hears the cry of His people. Vengeance belongs to the Lord (Rom 12:19).
Although most modern readers are offended by the prospect of the righteous wishing evil on anyone, in the real sense of a person being offended, because God is offended, is made known by imprecatory prayers. Most modern-day examples are from Islam rather than Christianity, but David certainly seeks justice from and for the just Judge. God is the offended party in view, and the Psalmist knows righteousness demands justice.
David requested God give comfort to His people in return for his/their vow to praise God (v. 11). The disjunctive conjunction, “But” changes the readers’ focus. Joy is the reward for finding refuge in YHWH. Gladness is expressed in song. The expansion of David’s prayer seems to encompass the community of faith, noted by the plural pronouns.
Loving God for His character attributes reveals one’s own identity. A clear distinction is made between those who love the name, “Jesus” from those who hate it. Expressions of exuberance are natural for the child of God, for his position in Christ grants him all spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3).
David uttered confidence in God’s protection for the righteous (v. 12). God blesses the righteous (Deut 28:1–14). No one is righteous, however, except Jesus Christ (Jer 23:6; 33:16; 51:10; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Jn 2:1). By keeping the Law of Moses perfectly, Jesus fulfilled righteousness and then imputed it to His chosen ones. In return, our sin was imputed to him and punished on the cross of Calvary (2 Cor 5:21). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
In sum, we have seen David’s humble request to be heard at the throne of the King of kings (1 Tim 6:15). He presented evidence of an assault on God’s character by loose-lipped evil doers. David stands before God in the righteousness provided to him by grace through faith. He is agitated by those who offend him and His God and King. He distances himself from them and calls for the Lord of righteousness to bring judgment and wrath upon them.
True worshipers are set apart from those who sin with their tongues (James 3). Worship of God has an appointed place and position. David bows low, but he expects a reply that will give the righteous a new song of joy to reflect the blessing of God’s favor and protection. Are you singing praises to your God, today? Lead on, O King Eternal! We follow not with fears. The cross is lifted over us. We journey in its light, as a banner of love over us.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 23, 2021