Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning (lament, sighing, meditation). Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice, in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you (plead my case to you, lay my requests before you) and watch.Psalm 5:1-3 ESV with alternate translations in ()
Psalm 5 is a beautiful morning prayer. As I have pondered it and read some thoughts by others, I have been encouraged, and I want to share with you some of the things I’ve found in my study of it this week.
First, the psalmist has an intimate relationship with God. In the first 3 verses, the psalmist is calling upon God to listen to him. Not so much to answer, but to listen. How do I know that? Well if you notice the colored words above, the blue, bolded words are what the psalmist is asking of God: give ear, consider, give attention, hear. And what specifically does he want God to listen to? Those are in green and underlined: my words, my groaning, my cry, my voice, my case or requests. The psalmist appears to have a lot to tell God. He is laying it all before Him, and all he specifically asks is that God would listen and pay attention.
Secondly, the psalmist knows the character of God. He knows that he is the king. He rules the world and has the power to act. He also has confidence that he will act. The last word of verse 3 is watch. The psalmist lays it all out and then he sits back and watches to see what God will do. He knows that he is a God that does not delight in evil. It’s an interesting thing about this psalm that the wicked are not the psalmist’s enemies nor are they even the point. He isn’t calling for God to destroy his enemies, but he describes the wicked in relation to the character of God
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.Ps 5:4-6
There is a clear description of wickedness in these verses, but it isn’t about the wicked; it’s about God. God does not delight in wickedness. God does not allow evil to dwell with him or the boastful to stand before him. God hates evildoers God destroys liars. God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful. God is the subject. And verse 4 starts with “For.” For _________ answers the unspoken why question. Why does God listen to the psalmist? Because God does not delight in wickedness.
But I through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear (awe) of you.Ps 5:7
That leads to my third thought which is the psalmist assumes he is not part of the wicked. He will enter God’s house where evil can not dwell because of God’s steadfast love, his mercy, his faithfulness to his covenant, his compassion. The word translated steadfast love here is a common description of how God relates to his people, and has many layers of meaning, but the point is that it is God that allows the psalmist to enter God’s house and worship. The psalmist bows down in God’s house whereas the boastful cannot even stand there. There is a difference in attitude about God and therefore a difference in position before God.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is not truth in their mouth; their heart is filled with destruction; their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they tell lies. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.Ps. 5:8-10
The psalmist having been led by Gods righteousness into God’s holy temple turns back to describing the wicked enemies. The enemies are plural, but they have one mouth without truth, one heart of destruction, one throat of death, one tongue telling lies. The wicked speak and act as one. And the psalmist wants the wicked to be exposed (to bear their guilt). He wants them to fall by their own counsel. And finally, he wants God to act and cast them out. The first two things are things that happen by their own hand. The final one is an act of God, and it is parallel to earlier statements in the psalm. In verse 7 it is because of God’s abundant love that the psalmist enters God’s house. Here it is because of the abundant transgressions of the wicked that God will cast them out of his house. The reason they cannot dwell with God is their rebellion which the psalmist described in verses 4-6. Their actions, words, and attitude have a direct correlation to where they are allowed to live. And the same is true for the righteous.
But let all who take refuge in you, rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love you may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord, you cover him with favor as with a shield.Ps. 5:11-12
And finally, those who turn to God for refuge as the psalmist does in the first 3 verse, will have great joy. They rejoice; they sing for joy; they exult in the Lord. Why are they joyful? Because God protects them. He listens to them (first 3 verses). He blesses them. He spreads his protection over them. He covers them with favor as a shield. They enter his house and worship.
Craig Broyles points out in his commentary that the word for spread in verse 11 has no direct object in the Hebrew. This word often refers to the position of the wings of the cherubim over the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Temple, and that this can be a metaphor for how God covers his people. If we connect that to the idea from verse 7 that the righteous have entered God’s house, his temple where the cherubim and mercy seat are (Exodus 25:17-19), we have a picture of how God “spreads” or “covers” his people. It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 about gathering Jerusalem’s children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. What a picture of God’s protection! His wings (not that God literally has wings, just a metaphor) are spread over his children, the righteous, and they are allowed to dwell in his house because of his steadfast love. And that leads to joy.
Prayer in an intimate relationship with God and it leads to joy. That’s the movement of this psalm. Prayer to a God who rules and is just; who doesn’t allow evil to dwell with Him; whose abundant steadfast love welcomes those who worship him into his house; who covers them. And what a joyful place to be. Rejoice! Sing for joy! Exult in the Lord our God!
May you be blessed by God’s word today.
Broyles, Craig C. Psalms. Ed. W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012. Print. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series.
Koester, Craig. The Anchor Yale Bible Commentary: Revelation. New Haven: Yale University, 2014.
Longman, T., III, & Garland, D. E. (Eds.). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.