Psalm 5

Psalms1John Carter – July 12, 2015 – Psalm 5 – Lament
Grace Upon Grace

Musica Theologica Translation (MTT)
English Standard Version (ESV)[1]

In the common childhood story about the 3 Little Pigs we are introduced to three interesting pigs. The first two pigs end up in search of a home that is safe because the big bad wolf has blown down their houses of straw and stick. I wonder how palpable the feelings of frustration and disappointment the first two pigs were experiencing as their houses failed. These first two pigs sensed that the big bad wolf is winning and that thought seems to pummel the strength out of even the most faithful of pigs.

Now, we are not pigs, and there is not a big bad wolf coming to blow our house down. But I wonder about how well this story displays the experience of many people today. If you find yourself in a low spot (or if you ever think you will) I want to strengthen you to look for the indestructible house. A house that we not only hope for but also know is there.

Holy Spirit, make the Father big to us so that we might better understand how to endure pain and sorrow especially while pursuing the work of Jesus. Amen

Pain and sorrow are not foreign to the life of the Christian. Whether it is the attacks of our adversary, Satan, or the attacks of people, or if it is the trails of life. Today as we study Psalm 5 it is my desire to teach believers and unbelievers how to respond to a Psalm of Lament.

Psalm 5 is an individual lament Psalm written by King David. We learn that this Psalm of lament was written by David by reading the introduction to the Psalm. And by reading the plea for help we know that it is a lament. A lament is an expression of pain and sorrow. We should never fear to express lament or sorrow before God. For who better to answer our plea for help then our creator?

Verse 1:
At the very start of this Psalm we are confronted with David’s very expressive call for help. This is a call that many of us have given when in the desperate situations of our lives.

Not in pride, not in arrogance, not in a whiny tone, but in brokenness, and hurt, and pain King David approaches his King and God begging for help. This expressive humility is not the stereotypical posture of a King. Yet here is Israel’s King in tears seeking the help of a God whom he believes to be compassionate enough to answer his cry for mercy.

The idea behind the word ‘groaning’ is a constant muttering or speaking of a specific topic. In essence David is meditating. Although meditation is commonly thought of as an Eastern Religious activity we should also understand what Biblical meditation is. Biblical meditation is not sitting on the floor humming and drinking a lot of tea. Biblical meditation is memorizing scripture and repeating it all day long, it is being silent before God, and in this case it is being in a constant conversation with God. That is why here in Psalm 5 and in Psalm 1 meditation is closely related to prayer and thinking on God’s word.

Verse 2:
As we are studying the words of Psalm 5 we see that these are not the words of a man showing great composure and dignity. Rather here we see a grown man sobbing on the floor placing all of his trust into one basket. When we read ‘for to you do I pray’ we should know that David’s thought behind this that David’s prayers begin with YHWH. Seeking YHWH is not David’s plan B. David’s only hope is in the compassion that he anticipates to receive from YHWH. How often do our prayers come after action? Like David we too should respond to our problems by first bending our knees.

Verse 3:
And David exemplifies that these prayers should begin in the morning. Some might say that this interpretation is being legalistic. If your morning prayers are a demand for God’s actions then this is legalism. But morning prayers drenched in humility and devotion are anything but legalism. Spurgeon said, “Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.”[2] We would be wise to treat YHWH as our God and King and not as a genie. This means we come to him with humble expectation but not in prideful demands. Although there is a sense of urgency in David’s prayers there is also patience.

Look how David prepares for God to answer as he watched (waited) expectantly. The language that David uses resembles that of a host setting a table for a guest of honor and waiting for that guest to arrive. David has set this table before and he knows that YWHW always arrives.[3]

How often have you and I said a last minute prayer and faithlessly waited for a response? Our instant gratification culture teaches us that anything worth having is not worth waiting for. So we are prone to make last minute and hurried prayers. Spurgeon comments on this verse and says, “Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well kindled fire.”[4]

Now would be an excellent moment to pause and meditate on the prayers that we need to rise early and watch for.

Verse 4-6:
David is under attack from his enemies. He is seeking relief from his God. So David is recalling the character of God to remind himself of God’s disposition towards evil men; a reminder that YHWH does not dwell with evil. YHWH is not the author of evil. Evil does not even bring YHWH happiness. When the person who loves to boast enters the presence of YHWH he will not stand. Everyone who makes trouble or who ‘does evil’ is hated by God. David uses harsh language to express God disapproval of liars, murders, those who love to deceive. But if Jesus says that Satan is a murderer and a father of lies[5] and also says that hell was created for Satan,[6] then what end but death is there for those who willing engage in lying, murdering, and deception?[7]

Certain death seems like such strong language to condemn what our society would consider common sins. Lying is excusable as long as it does not hurt anyone. Murder is acceptable as long as the victim is an unborn baby. Deception is the standard practice on the internet and social media accounts. But despite our culture approving all of these sins, God will administer justice and will judge these sins. This is where we should pause in humility and thank God for the mercy he has shown towards us. Why? Because, it was while we were still in sin that God came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth to save us.[8]

Verse 7:
It is this same mercy shown through Jesus on the cross that David was able to enter into the dwelling place of YHWH. Not because of who David was but because of who YHWH is.

What a privilege it is that we no longer need to go to Israel to come before God’s presence. Rather, it is through the gathering of the local church that the presence of God is made more real.[9]

It is not in pride that we enter God’s presence, but humility. For by fear we come before God. Culturally we do not like to use the word fear in the sense of trembling but that would take the beauty and clarity away from who God is. But making God safe does not make him more awesome. Rather it makes him less awesome. It is infinitely more awesome to pet a wild lion then to pet a domesticated cat. Why? Because unlike the house cat the lion has the power to take our life. Let this Biblical tension of entering the presence of God in fear and boldness[10] live in our attitude of worship.

Verse 8:
This tension resides in an attitude of humility. David had this attitude of humility that Jesus had when he became a man.[11] It is an attitude that submits to the pleasure of the Father for the glory of the Son. David knew that if God did not intercede, then he would fail in following God. David knew that his enemies were waiting for him to fail so they could attack him. What better time to kick someone then when they are down? That is what David’s enemies intended to do.

Verse 9:
In verse 9 David describes his enemies with vivid terms. Let these descriptions resonate in your soul with the same disgust and pain that David experienced. His enemies have no truth in their mouth. Literally David is saying, “There is nothing in their mouth.” They are established in their evil. Like a rusted bolted that has seized up, they are set in their ways.

The description about their mouths being an open grave is something worth meditating on. In our culture we have been separated from death. So when we think of an open grave we think of a freshly dug grave that is ready to be used. But that is not what David is saying about the throats of his enemies. David is not thinking of a grave empty, but a grave that is in use. He is thinking of a grave filled with a corpse. David is not warning us so that we do not fall into the grave. David is expressing the repulsion and disgust from the sights and smells that assault your senses when you open a grave that is in use. Think of what Martha told Jesus when he commanded the stone on Lazarus’ grave to be rolled away, ‘He Stinks!’[12] How repulsive is the tongue that is empty and filled with flattery!

Verse 10:
David’s request was clear: penalize them, fail them, judge them. But I would like to warn us from using this language against our own enemies. You and I, we are not David. David is a picture of Jesus. So before we begin to judge our enemies we must first meditate on the truth that it is Jesus who is truly righteous, not us. It is in this passage that the Christian is in an interesting predicament. The Christian longs for God to judge sin but by the mercy of God we desire him to overlook our own sins.

Compassion mixed with judgment is such a perplexing thing. For the Christian’s righteousness comes at a great price. Each of us has been found guilty and in need of God’s pardon. This is because God must judge sin – not to be fair or consistent, but because of his holiness. Just as paper is consumed in fire so too is sin consumed in the presence of a holy God. Although David sought the judgment of his enemies the Christian should seek the salvation of his enemies. ‘For God so loved the world’ is the equivalent to ‘for God so loved his enemies.’

Verse 11-12:
This is why the redeemed have reason to sing with loud voices; because those who have given their life to follow Jesus are no longer rebels in the traitors army, but refugees in their Saviors protection. Happy are those who seek shelter in God. Verses 11 and 12 reflect the worship and praise of those who call Jesus ‘My King & God.’ Those who intimately-love the name of Jesus are bold in their love and devotion. For it is in the security of God that we are infinitely covered and protected from the harm of the evil one. This is where we say, death where is you victory, where is your sting![13]

So, what is our response to this Psalm of Lament? Among the many responses I will only point out three: Witness, Humility, and Perseverance.

We are to be a Witness to what we know. Knowing who YHWH is should compel each of us to go and tell others what we have learned and know. This knowledge is too big to contain. For how can we contain the depths of the ocean within our soul. Christian, David sought the presence of God in the Temple, but now that that the Church is the new temporary temple she has become the visible location of the presence of God. No longer is the temple bound geographically where the nations are required to come to it, but now the temple, the Church, comes to the nations. YHWH is the future and even better temple.[14] But until he comes each and every believer now moves and goes into the world to declare the presence and glory of YHWH – Christian you are a witness!

Our second response is Humility. This Psalm reminds us of who God is, who we are, and who the true enemy is. 1 Peter 5:6-8 is an excellent summary of the humility needed.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

God has supreme authority over us and he cares for us. We must submit to this reality. But we must also understand that Satan is looking for someone to devour. Becoming prideful by rejecting the authority of God is a certain way to find ourselves in the jaws Satan.

Our third response is Perseverance. 1 Peter 5:9-11 is an excellent summary of Perseverance.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

David was a man after God’s own heart[15] and he suffered. Jesus promised that if you follow him you will suffer.[16] Tertullian, a 2nd century Christian said that, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”[17] Christian, do not give up, do not despair! Because we have a faithful God who will never leave us or Forsake us.[18]

Looking back on the story of the 3 Little Pigs we can look to God and know that he is the indestructible house that we long for. The Christian faith is like that the story of the 3 Little Pigs. That is why we are right to be afraid when we are hiding in our straw and stick houses. But when we seek and enter the comfort and refuge of the Temple of YHWH not even the fiercest evil can blow down our solid refuge. That is why in this Psalm of Lament it is my desire that we respond in Humility, in Witness, and in Perseverance.

[1] ESV – English Standard Version, Crossway 2001-2015.

[2] C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Vol I (Hendrickson; Peabody), p 46.

[3] A dinner table is set in anticipation of the arrival of dinner guests. After the places are set it is then time to wait expectantly for the guests. This is a formal dinner and not a fast-food happy meal. That is how a Christian is to pray; with thoughtfulness, planning, and patience. Because in prayer the Christian is looking for God’s direction. Not an invisible mystical will that needs to be deciphered, but a will that is often revealed with time and patience. Too often the Christian is impatient with their prayers. Just like a child who impatiently asks, ‘are we there yet?’, so too Christians are often impatient waiting for an answer to their prayer. James 1:5-8 reminds us to ask in faith.

[4] C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Vol I (Hendrickson; Peabody), p 46.

[5] John 8:44

[6] Matthew 25:41

[7] “What an astonishing thing is sin, which maketh the God of love and Father of mercies an enemy to his creatures, and which could only be purged by the blood of the Son of God!” Thomas Adam, Thomas Adam’s Private Thoughts quoted in C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Vol I (Hendrickson; Peabody), p 52.

[8] Romans 5:8

[9] Matthew 18:21

[10] Hebrews 4:16

[11] Philippians 2

[12] John 11:39

[13] 1 Corinthian 15:55; Hosea 13:14

[14] Revelation 21:22

[15] 1 Samuel 13:14

[16] John 15:20

[17] Retrieved July 10, 2015 from

[18] Hebrews 13:5