Monday, August 10, 2015

God is My Shield: Learning to Pray Psalm 5

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.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
11 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.
12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

 In Psalm 5, the psalmist is desperate to worship the LORD in the temple, but his path is blocked by his enemies. These may be literal enemies or our own inner voice that tempts us to turn from God. This psalm invites us to ponder: What kind of person do I need to become to pray this psalm with integrity?

Verses 1–3 establish the lament. The psalmist calls out to God for help. The new day has dawned and the psalmist begins with prayer. He addresses the LORD as “my king” and “my God.” These are statements of loyalty and relationship and imply a deep trust. The psalmist needs  an answer from God.

Verses 4–6 detail the psalmist’s plight. He desires to worship the LORD, but evil people are blocking the way. As we read the psalmist’s words, his prayer invites us to reflect on negative attributes and attitudes that we may have in common with the psalmist’s enemies. What are the types of persons who stand in contrast to the righteous? Persons who act wickedly, live arrogantly, do wrong, tell lies, and act in bloodthirsty or deceitful ways. God is not pleased with such persons. As we pray this psalm we must open ourselves up to God’s work in our lives so that we may join the psalmist in his desire to worship God rightly.

Verse 7 contrasts with verses 4–6. Unlike the wicked, the psalmist can enter God’s house because of God’s faithful and loyal love. There is one key attitude that the psalmist embodies here: reverence. This is a humble recognition of God’s greatness and our deep need for him.

Psalm 5 ends with a long prayer asking the LORD to take action on behalf of the psalmist (vv. 8–11) and a final declaration of the psalmist’s faith (v. 12). The psalmist needs the help of the LORD so he pleads for God’s guidance and direction past all of his enemies. The psalmist does not know the precise way but he trusts that God like a GPS will direct his path so that the psalmist arrives safely to the house of worship (v.8). Verses 8–9 are requests for direct action against the enemies. The mouths  of the psalmist’s foes are full of lies. In Romans 3:13, Paul quotes Ps 3:9 as part of his description of human sinfulness. Our psalm reminds us of the devastating effects that human speech can have on others if used wrongly. The psalmist asks God to announce their guilt and banish them for their sins against God. The unstated assumption here is that the psalmist’s foes are likely asking for the same to be done to the innocent psalmist. In verse 11, the psalmist asks God to act on behalf of all who take refuge in God and love God’s name. Notice the shift from individual concern to praying for all God’s people. This is a key learning from the laments. Each of us has individual needs, but the life of faith calls us to remember our brothers and sisters too.

Verse 12 ends the psalm with a statement of confidence in the LORD. God is the protector, blesser, and shield of God’s people. With God’s help, God’s people can enter God’s presence in security.

What character traits does this psalm assume that we as God’s people live out daily?

Reflect on how this psalm may help us in times when we find ourselves falsely accused?

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