Praying the Psalms: Psalm 5

We are beginning to notice a recurring theme that dominates the psalter. It is the theme of lament, mourning, and petitioning to God in a moment of crises. We have seen a few of these already, and here again Psalm 5 is one of lament. It is a desperate cry to God in a moment of need. Though Psalm 5 is a little different than some of the other lament psalms we've studied so far. This lament includes a specific prayer for the down fall of the wicked. This psalm includes an imprecatory prayer, asking God to "destroy those who speak lies". Can Christians pray in such a way and should we ask God to not only save us from our enemies, but to also destroy them? These are some of the ideas we will explore as we study Psalm 5.

Commentary

v. 1-3 - The Psalm begins in a desperate cry out to God. David summons the Lord's attention asking for his ear. David is groaning in pain and agony. The psalm does not give us any sort of historical circumstance this psalm is based on, all we know is that it was a moment of great crises in David's life. David again models for us how we should be quick to go to our knees in prayer in our moments of crises. Here it seems David arose in the morning to go to the temple and prepare a sacrifice for the Lord. David is intentionally and zealously seeking after God in his moment of need.

v. 4-6 - David then begins his requests by appealing to the holiness of God. He affirms God's own character, that he is holy and good. God is not a God who "delights in wickedness". David affirms that evil may not dwell with God. The boastful will not stand before him. David affirms that God "hates all evildoers". He not only hates them but he destroys them and abhors them.

A common Christian cliche that is thrown around today is that God hates the sin, but loves the sinners. Yet, Davids prayer seems to refute that Christian cliche. A we read here about evil doers, we must understand that this is every single human being. Because of our sin we cannot dwell with God. We are unable to stand before God. But, its not like our sin is something outside of us. Sin is who we are, we are sinners. We are evil doers. Left to ourselves, none of us can stand before God. God in his holiness not only hates sin, he hates the sinner. In his righteous wrath he abhors sinners and destroys them.

v. 7-8 - So does God hate sinners? Yes. Does he love sinners? Yes. David too is a sinner. He is one of the evil doers that he writes about. David himself was a adulterer and a murderer. How is it that David can come before God like he is? David tells us that it is "through the abundance of your steadfast love". It is through the love of God alone that David is granted access to God. This is foundational for us to remember. The only way any human being has access to God is through the love of God. And how is it that God demonstrates his love? It is through the crushing of Jesus, absorbing the destruction you deserve in your place. It is only by Jesus substituting himself in your place that you are spared from the wrath you are do and it is only through Jesus that God is able to pour out his love on sinners. The cross of Christ is the great display of God's just wrath towards sinner as he vindicates his holiness and his great love for sinners and he absorbs that wrath through the blood sacrifice of His own son.

So David comes before God in confidence bowing before God in his holy temple. It is on this basis that David appeals for God to lead him and make his way straight. Because of Jesus we too have confidence to come before God. We have a faithful high priest in Jesus who allows us to come before God and intercedes on our behalf. Though we are defiled sinners, through Jesus we can come before a holy God and be accepted, only because of Jesus.

v. 9-10 - In this stanza, David begins to describe his enemies. They are liars bent on destruction. Their words are open graves. They are the wicked evil doers. David just stated they should be destroyed because of God's righteousness and holiness. Then in v. 10, David asks God for their downfall. He wants God to deliver justice against his enemies by causing them to bear their own guilt and fall by their own counsel. He wants them to be cast out because of their continual rebellion against God. How should we think about David's prayer? Is it appropriate to pray the same thing for our enemies? Does David's prayer contradict Jesus' teaching when he tells us to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be son of your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:44)?

First, we must know it is a proper thing for a Christian to pray for justice. As we look at the world around us injustice is everywhere. From terrorist attacks, to rape, to murder, to mass shootings, this world is filled with injustice. In many of these events, justice can never be fully given in this life. How do you give justice in a mass murder situation? Capital punishment seems inadequate. Yet, the Christian knows that though the state may be unable to fully give justice, there is a God who will. Men and women who comment such vile, violent, and detestable acts will get what the deserve as the righteous, holy hand of God pours the bowl of his wrath on the in the eternal fiery destruction of hell.

Second, we must remember that this destruction is what we deserve. We must not think that David is praying this prayer in self-righteousness as if he is more deserving of God's favor than his enemies. It is only by God's grace that David is the man he is. As we think about our enemies, we must understand that we deserve no less than hell itself too. We too are sinners. This is why Jesus says that we must love our enemies. The Christian is no better than any other person, it is only by God's grace that he has been saved and redeemed.

Third, we must pray for the conversion of our enemies. Just as our savior urged us to pray for our persecutors, we must ask the Lord to save. There is no sinner so hard hearted that he cannot be in a moment born again by the power of the Spirit of God. We must pray for our enemies to recognize their wicked ways and turn from their sins and trust in Jesus.

Fourthly, as we keep all of the preview three truths in mind, it is appropriate to pray for the downfall of the wicked. As we pray, we must do so knowing that it is an act of mercy to pray for such a thing. For we are asking that their comfort, prosperity, and self-confidence would be stripped away by God. To pray for our enemies to fall is to pray for a gift from God. When God breaks a sinner in this life it is often to get his attention. God by his mercy allows men and women to hit rock bottom so they can see their great need for a savior. When we pray that our enemies would "fall by their own counsels" it is a prayer of love hoping that their God would bring them to a state of desperation so they can see their sin and call out to God in faith. All the while knowing that as we pray justice will be given. Justice will be had. For either our enemies will bear the full weight of God's righteous wrath in a place called hell or God will spare them by making justice and peace on the cross.

v. 11-12. David concludes his prayer by celebrating the confidence the faithful have in God. All who take their refuge in God rejoice. They are protected, covered by the blood of the lamb. The Christian is not only spared from the consequences of his own sins, but also from his enemies sin against him. In our crises moment, God is our shield and though justice may sometimes be delayed God will bring justice upon the wicked as he covers his people with the shield of his son.

Prayer Guide

  • Pray in your your moment of need, knowing that God heard you. Be devoted to prayer and go to him.
  • Praise God for his holiness, righteousness, and justice.
  • Thank God that because of Jesus and through his abundant love you have access to God.
  • Pray for justice in this world.
  • Pray that God would break the wicked and bring justice.
  • Pray that God would save your enemies.
  • Adore God that he is your refuge and shield, rejoice in his protection.