Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 5: Lead Me, O Lord – Part 3
This is Part 3 of a 4-part series on Psalm 5. In Part 1, we examined David’s invocation to prayer in verses 1-3. In Part 2, we read David’s first complaint against his adversaries in verses 4-6.
In this article, we pick up Psalm 5 at verse 7:
“7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.”
In contrast to the ungodly, who do not stand before God, David is under no illusion that in himself he is pleasing to God. David has something infinitely greater in which to put his trust: he beholds the promises of the tender mercies of God; as he also wrote: “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.” (Ps 25:6) On the basis of the Lord’s compassion, David will enter His house.
David worships the Lord in the fear of Him. This fear protects David against the sin of presumption, i.e., that he is righteous in himself or that he may stand before God on the basis of his own good works. David knows from God’s Word that he is a sinner who deserves temporal and eternal punishment. But hope also comes from the Word of God. This hope beholds the promise that the Lord is gracious to penitent sinners, as David also wrote: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps 32:5)
Worshiping the Lord “in fear” is never meant as a deterrent to worship or to diminish our hope in His promises. Quite the opposite! By remaining in this fear, we preserve honor and glory for God alone and at the same time keep ourselves humble. While we do not justify ourselves, but in humility affirm God’s judgments, we nevertheless trust in God’s pardoning mercy, which Jesus Christ acquired for us on the cross.
“I…will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple….” (Ps 5:7)
The house of God (Heb: Bethel) or temple does not here refer to the temple in Jerusalem, which Solomon built after David’s death. Here it refers more generally to any location in any age where the saints gather together to worship God and hear His Word. It is called a house on account of the people.
On his way to Haran to find a wife, Jacob spent the night in a place and had a dream: “there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!” (Gen 28:12) This is where Jacob heard the Word of the Lord and named the place Bethel (28:13-19). From Jacob’s dream we are given a picture of a temple: It is a place where heaven and earth meet. The ladder joined heaven and earth.
Jesus later taught his disciples that He is the ladder prefigured in Jacob’s dream: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) This joining of heaven and earth is the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the divine, eternal Word who joined himself to human flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), was crucified for us, and rose from the dead for us. Jesus prophesied: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
“you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:14)
Today God’s house or temple is a spiritual house, which we call the Church. Jesus is the cornerstone and His saints are the living stones which make up God’s house. Whoever believes in Jesus “will not be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6), but for those who do not believe, He is a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Peter 2:8).
God’s house is located wherever two or three gather in the name of Jesus (Matt 18:20). We do not ascend to Him; Jesus comes to us. Why does He come? Jesus comes to unburden us and give us rest. He said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) This is the promise of the Gospel.
Jesus knows that people are burdened with a great many things in this fallen world. He desires to take our heavy burdens from us and give us his yoke (i.e., faith) in which we rest.
Thus, He calls pastors to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in His name through preaching and teaching and administering the Sacraments. Outside of the public ministry, His “royal priesthood” (i.e., all Christians) should be equipped to “proclaim the excellencies” of Jesus and the Gospel (1 Pet 2:9) in homes and other places as opportunities present themselves in the course of our individual vocations.
“Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.” (Ps 5:8)
In the midst of his enemies, who attempt to deceive the ignorant by corrupting the Word of God, David prays that he may hear and be led in the Lord’s righteousness by the undefiled Word. The Lord’s righteousness signifies here the grace of God offered in the Gospel. Paul also wrote of this: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” (Rom 1:17)
David prays that by the Word of God, the Lord would “Lead” David and make the way “straight” before him. In other words, “Keep me from the twisted thoughts and vain works of my enemies; lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil; and grant me faith and patience to overcome my trials.”
Our creator Father never promises to shield His children from suffering. To the contrary, in this strange (or alien) work, the Lord sometimes allows us to suffer in order that we might look away from ourselves and external circumstances and towards Jesus and the eternal hope we have in Him. Suffering with faith leads us to pray, whereby we experience intimacy with Jesus who suffers with us. As Paul said:
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom 8:16-18) Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 5 at verse 9 in which David prays for God to judge and cast out his enemies. Amen.