Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 5: Lead Me, O Lord – Part 4
This is the concluding article in a 4-part series on Psalm 5. This week, we begin at verse 9:
“9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.”
In verses 9-10, David intensifies his complaints against the ungodly and adds imprecatory petitions. His adversaries, who claim to speak truth, actually speak lies, which come from unbelief. Words have consequences, and false words may lead to the destruction of those who follow them. Therefore, David asks God, whose name and Word are being defiled, to judge the ungodly and cast them out.
During David’s reign, Absalom fit these petitions. It is written that “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam 14:6) by lying about the merits of their disputes and by flattery to gain their loyalty (15:1-6). Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel (14:25). By setting himself against David, Absalom rebelled against God and His anointed king, David. His rebellion cost the lives of 20,000 men (18:7).
After David’s reign, Jeroboam fit these petitions. He was chosen by God (1 King 11:37-38) to deliver the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom from the idolatry of Solomon. But Jeroboam rebelled against God by setting up golden calves in both Dan and Bethel, because he was afraid that if the people continued worshiping God at the temple in Jerusalem, they would eventually return to the House of David (12:26-33). Jeroboam usurped the vocation of the Levitical priesthood, appointing his own priests and creating an apostate religion. His rebellion led the Northern Kingdom to its eventual destruction and exile.
Jesus also warned his disciples of the deceitfulness of false teachers “who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers.” (Luke 20:47) Jesus does not spell out how those teachers devoured widows’ houses, but it may have been by subtly coercing the poor to make sacrifices or other offerings they could not afford.
“their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.” (Ps 5:9b)
Lest we flatter ourselves, let us take note that Paul quotes verse 9b in a scathing sequence of accusations against all mankind (Rom 3:10-18), the result being that according to God’s Law, all mankind – every one of us, are by nature sinners; and no one is justified in His sight through the Law.
This is why David in verse 8 prays to be led “in the [Lord’s] righteousness.” This is the same righteousness of which Paul wrote: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom 3:21-22)
Faith in Christ and trust in His Word are essential for avoiding false teaching, because, by definition, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) Therefore, faith clings to God’s Word and promises and opposes anything contrary to them.
“Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.” (Ps 5:10a)
Without the Word of God to make the Lord’s path straight before us, the wicked, the false teachers, and the hypocrites are dangerous, because they often appear as godly, having the greatest reputations and largest followings. We may think we have the Word of God, but if we do not believe it is the unchanging, infallible, divinely inspired Word, then for all practical purposes we lose it by a thousand cuts and may fall prey to those who twist it.
But God will not be mocked. The Word will judge the ungodly; if not in this life, then at the final judgment. We pray for God’s judgment – “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), but we leave judgment to God, as it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19)
The evangelical manner of imprecatory prayer is for God to judge His enemies to the end that their schemes would fail, but that they might repent and be turned to faith in Christ. There is not a sinner on earth who Christ did not die for; until his or her final breath, may we pray that sin would be judged, evil restrained, and the sinner saved.
“11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
David ends this psalm by interceding for all the faithful, that is, for those who “take refuge” in the Lord. To have God as a refuge is to trust and hope in Him alone, and particularly in the face of contrary appearances.
Where there is rejoicing only in times of prosperity, trust in God is feigned. And where there is no joy in times of adversity, trust in God is also only feigned. In these two cases, there is no trust or hope in God at all, but only in those things or people who help us experience outward happiness. But as anyone can see, the faithful in the Lord are not shielded from temporal suffering, grief and sorrow.
However, David did not say “some,” but “all who take refuge in you rejoice.” Therefore, there must be a joy for “all” who take refuge in the Lord, which transcends the world and our flesh. This joy comes from hope. Paul said, concerning hope: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 24b-25)
Christians may rejoice in all circumstances, whether in prosperity or adversity, because the Lord is our refuge; that is, He is in His Word and promises the One in whom we should place our trust and hope. In this way, the Lord spreads His protection over us, blesses us, and covers us with His grace as with a shield.
At the first Passover, the Israelites were shielded from the 10th plague, the death of the Egyptian firstborn males, by the blood of lambs put on the doorposts of their homes. On that night, the Lord also executed judgment on “all the gods of Egypt.” (Ex 12:12)
The Lord saved the Israelites, as he promised, pre-figuring the ultimate salvation He would accomplish for the whole world. Jesus Christ, the Father’s only begotten Son, is the Lamb of God who came from heaven and took upon himself our flesh to take away the sin of the world. God provided the Lamb, so that death would pass over us! The blood of Christ is our shield! He atoned for our sins, was raised from the dead, and was declared the Son of God in power (Rom 1:4).
Therefore, Jesus, who gives himself to us, in His Word and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, is our eternal joy, hope, protector and shield. Without Christ there is no true joy, no hope, no protection and no shield. However, in Christ, we share in an everlasting joy, and may rejoice with Paul, who wrote:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Rom 8:38-39) Amen.
Thank you for reading. This concludes our look at Psalm 5. Amen.