5:1: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing.”
Another psalm in which the psalmist bares his soul to the Lord. And once again his lament and pain of heart is that so many reject God and do not honor him with the praise and glory he deserves.
He sighs for God, longs for him, yearns for him. His yearning is all the more passionate because he is surrounded by, and lives in the midst of, a host of those who despise God, the One he loves and treasures. Is this not the constant, heartfelt experience down through the ages of all those who revere and love God?
“The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22,23).
5:2: “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.”
He pleads for help, for God to lift up his soul in the midst of this depressing atmosphere of unbelievers and wicked people.
5:3: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
This is his morning prayer, when he lays before God his requests. It is his petitionary prayer–appropriate for the morning because it is the start of a new day of challenges and he seeks God to provide all he will need to meet those challenges.
In the evening, however, the nature of his prayer changes, from petitionary to one of thanks for how God met the challenges of the day and also to one of praise and worship for who God is. He does not want to come to God all the time simply asking for things for himself; he wants ample time to come before God simply to praise him and worship him, without any thought of receiving anything from him.
In the morning, then, he asks of God. This is verse three of this psalm, where he lays his requests before him. In the evening, he worships God for who he is:
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night” (Ps. 63:6).
I remember when the Holy Spirit first showed me this distinction between these two types of prayers suitable for these two times of each day. I decided that if this was good enough for the psalmist of old and good enough for the Holy Spirit to point it out to me, it was good enough for me to incorporate into my own daily walk with God. And so I did. Although I don’t make a definite distinction every single day in this way, I do tend be more engaged in asking God for his help in my morning prayers but more relaxed and simply enjoying his company in the evening. It sure makes for better and healthier sleep, as well as wonderful, intimate times with the Lord through the watches of the night.
5:4,5: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.”
Yet even here, in the psalmist’s petitionary morning prayer, he mentions God’s holy character because his petitions have to do with this milieu of evil that surrounds him. Thus he joins a reflection on God’s character, normally a part of his evening style of prayer, with the more pressing need to petition God for help in battling the evil about him. The two go together.
We humans like to categorize and put everything into neat little boxes, including even God. But God is so much bigger than all our little mental exercises and need for a reality that fits our limited conceptions. Thank God that he enables us to blend whatever is needed of him together into a unified whole as we all face the same situation the psalmist faced of living in a world of evil while trying to stay pure and holy before our holy God. Because God is faithful, we are preserved while those with no regard for God or his ways are destroyed. The next two verses contrast the divergent destinies of these two groups of people, the evil and the righteous:
5:6: “You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors.”
5:7: “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.”
But how will the psalmist–and anyone who reverences God–be able to do this, to keep from falling into the wrong pathway of evil men and stay true to God, to come into his house? Only if the Lord himself leads him there.
5:8: “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies–make straight your way before me.”
He needs to see this straight pathway of the Lord because his enemies constantly try to entice him to follow their own crooked path.
“My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, ‘Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse’–my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood” (Prov. 1:10-16).
But he is not fooled by their smooth words. He knows what they are really like and what their end will be.
5:9: “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.”
Jesus pronounced this judgment on such men:
The psalmist wants no part of their rebellion against God–and he says so.
5:10: “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.”
Rather, he trusts that the Lord will reward those who stay faithful to him and his righteous ways.
5:11,12: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
And so the psalm ends the way it started, with a reference to the words of a person’s lips. It began with a plea to God to hear the psalmist’s words (v. 1). It ends with a desire to see those punished who wrongly use this precious gift of God to man, the ability to communicate through language, and a firm hope and trust in God that he will reward those who rightly use this gift for its intended purpose, to praise God. Therefore, I who write this and you who read this, let our words be united together in praise to God.