Morning Pages: Psalm 5
Psalm 5 is like many of David’s psalms. He is experiencing hardship and is turning to the Lord for help. What I love about this one is that it seems to have a rhythm—a repeated pattern of a petition followed by a declaration. David is not only turning to the Lord for help; he’s preaching the truth of Yahweh to himself—bolstering his soul.
Vs. 1-3 “Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. 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 and watch.”
I am drawn to the way David expresses himself—especially in his use of repetition. David asks the Lord to hear and respond to him three times and in three different ways (give ear to my words, consider my groaning, give attention to my cries). The repetition and visceral language capture my attention and make it hard to skim past without connecting to it emotionally. He draws me in and reminds me of those times I've cried out to God, times I feared I’d be overtaken by grief or fear or some circumstance beyond my control, and I am desperate for him to hear and respond.
Two things in these first few verses stick out to me. First, he uses personal, possessive language, calling Yahweh “MY King and MY God.” I don’t know why I love this so much, but I do. It indicates David's allegiance to the Lord. But it feels more profound, more intimate than just a subject to his master or the vulnerable to the one in power. It reminds me of the Song of Solomon, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” It’s a belonging to one whom you love and who loves you. And the foundation of that relationship leads David to seek Yahweh with the expectation that he will hear and respond.
David then moves from his initial petition to a declaration:
Vs. 4-6 “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.”
This is something David often does in the psalms. He is declaring the character of God back to God, and at the same time, he is reminding himself, grounding himself in the truth of who Yahweh is.
I'm reminded of a time when Ken and I were on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean—no land in sight and at the mercy of strong wind and waves for the second or third night in a row. There was no moonlight or stars, just utter darkness. Everyone else was asleep below, and I was on my night watch. And in this place of utter darkness and powerlessness, keenly aware of my smallness and fragility, all I could do was say, “You are the God who created the seas and gave them their borders, saying to them, ‘Thus far you may go and no further; here is where your proud waves halt.’ You tell them, ‘Peace, be still,’ and they obey you.”
God already knows this to be true of himself, so it’s not like I’m giving him some new information. I’m only agreeing with him and steadying myself in those truths. I think this is what David was doing as well. He reminds himself that though evil and wickedness surround him and threaten to overtake him, God is just and righteous, and he will not allow evil to prevail. Its ultimate end is destruction.
Vs. 7 “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”
"But" is one of my favorite words in the psalms because it not only sets a sharp contrast to the previous verses but also often prefaces a powerful declaration of truth. David again declares the truth of God back to God and over himself. While evil may not dwell in the Lord’s presence, David will enter Yahweh’s house because of the abundance of the Lord’s “hesed,” which is often translated as steadfast love. “Hesed” is a rich word that encompasses the kindness of God toward us. It is his love, mercy, goodness, and favor on us not because of who we are but because it is who Yahweh IS. His very nature is loving, kind, compassionate, good, and faithful. So in times of trouble, we can look to him and cry out for help.
But this doesn’t always feel true in moments of suffering or crisis. Sometimes the silence of God feels more true than his nearness or aid. So it is in those moments I must repeatedly remind myself of who God is and of the ways he’s been faithful in the past—especially when I thought he was absent.
David moves from declaration back to petition in verse 8:
Vs. 8 “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”
He knows his vulnerability to his enemies, so he asks the Lord to lead him on the right path. David was facing physical enemies, and he needed the Lord to help him make wise decisions so that he would not fall prey to their deception or schemes,
Vs. 9-10 “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. 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.”
He prayed for Yahweh to lead him and that the Lord would execute justice. I find it very interesting how often David characterizes evil and wickedness through sinful speech in the psalms. In this psalm, he describes the wicked as:
—those with boastful speech
—who speaks lies
—there is no truth in their mouth
—their throat is an open grave
—They flatter with their tongue
I’m guilty of lying, flattering, and boasting, so this indictment isn’t lost on me. All of us sin with our speech, and Jesus said that the fruit of our mouths indicates the health of our hearts. But it goes beyond the garden variety sin of speech found in all of us at any given moment. David’s language is absolute. There is no truth. Their words are open graves; a death trap others fall in. Rather than turning toward the Lord, they have rebelled against him. And David says the result is that their inmost self is destruction. They are utterly, downright evil. And David prays for Yahweh to cast them out—to banish them once and for all.
David then moves into his final petition and declaration,
Vs. 11-12 “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 your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as a shield.”
David prays that those who rebel against and turn away from Yahweh would be banished but that those who seek him would find refuge, protection, and joy. And then he reminds himself that this awaits those who follow the Lord because Yahweh is faithful to keep and safeguard those whom he has called and loved as his own.
I’m not always facing physical enemies or circumstances that threaten to overtake me. Sometimes the enemy I face is mental, emotional, or spiritual. It might be my own thoughts or expectations. Maybe it’s lies I believe about myself or God, or perhaps it’s a spiritual enemy wreaking havoc on my soul. So while my enemies may be different than David’s, the hope of this psalm is the same. When war wages against my soul, my refuge—or what T.S. Eliot calls my "still point of the turning world"—is the faithful, steadfast love of a God who hears me and sees my need. He may not always protect me from painful circumstances, but he does promise that, because of Christ, he will allow me to enter into his presence and dwell with him forever. And that gives me enough hope for today.
Until next week,