Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, LORD, detest.
But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
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.
Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
When we sing the psalms, we sometimes find them abrasive. In Psalm 3, for instance, we see David appealing to God to deliver him from his enemies before adding: Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 3:7). Ouch. In today's psalm, we find David equally savage in describing his enemies. "Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies" (Psalm 5:9).
When we say we love the psalms, we usually mean the "nice" ones like Psalm 23 or the "powerful" ones like Psalm 91. Psalms like these rarely make our list of Top 5 favorites because some things David says seem offensive. However, we should appreciate them for being "real," as much of Scripture is.
David is a real person, who deals with the same emotions, temptations, and struggles that we do. And he also fails as we do. Scripture is filled with stories of people like David who are fallen heroes. It doesn't gloss over the failures of its superstars. It tells it as it happened in all its sordid detail. So we read about the sinfulness of David and Samson, who gave into their weakness for women; the cowardice of Abraham and Isaac, who passed off their wives as their sisters so that the Egyptians wouldn't kill them; and the animosity between Paul and Barnabas that became so sharp they parted company. We read about how Jeremiah and Job cursed the day they were born, while Elijah and Jonah wished they were dead! When we read Scripture and discover that Spirit-filled men have fallen but risen again, we have the hope that so can we.
Similarly, when we sing the psalms and read about the expressions of pain, anger, and despair contained in them, but also about how faith in God overcomes them all, then we have the hope that we, too, will triumph over adversity. David's cry in today's psalm is a cry for justice that we echo when we find the powerful trampling over us. We want the guilty to be punished for their misdeeds, forgetting, as David seems to have done, that we are all guilty. However, David's prayer for justice will be answered on the Day of Judgement when the King of Kings returns to sort the wicked from the godly. Two thousand years ago, however, he came to give us mercy so that all who believe in him will be made righteous in the sight of God. He also gave us his Holy Spirit, who would empower us to lead the type of righteous life that David so desperately wanted to lead, so his enemies would no longer be able to point an accusing finger at him.
Let us take hope from singing this psalm today that God WILL give us the justice we seek, rendering punishment to the wicked. However, let us act in the spirit of true children of God by asking him to be merciful to everyone, including our enemies.
God be with you.