Psalm 5: Holy but Approachable

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.

– Psalm 5 (NIV)

The Psalms are intensely personal but they are also public. The instructions at the head of the Psalm indicate that these verses were to be set to music and the Psalms are often referred to as the hymn book of ancient Israel. As well as a hymnbook, they are also a prayer book and this Psalm is a good model for our own prayer life.

Perhaps the first thing to notice is that prayer was David’s regular practice (verse 3) and it is clear from his personal and intense tone that this was no mere formality for him.

Central to David’s prayer was his understanding of God’s character, not just the Sovereign King and the Holy One but a God who was approachable, at least by the humble.

Reflection on God’s character led David to intercede for God’s world and David prays in very personal terms for the defeat of evil and, in effect, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is an urgency in David’s prayers about the wicked and the rebellious, particularly about those who shed blood. It is a reminder to us to lift our prayers beyond the personal and pray against those who do evil and to pray for the victims of injustice and oppression. David’s appeal to ‘spread your protection over them’ echoes Jesus words about deliverance from evil and, like the church’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, concludes with the acknowledgment that the power and glory and honour belong to God.

As we have already noted in these Psalms danger and distress do not immediately flee but reflecting on God’s revealed character can help us experience his ‘encircling, providential care’ (Kidner).