“The presence of enemies, a shadow seldom absent from David’s psalms, if felt here chiefly through the menace of their propaganda (5:6,9)” (Psalms 1-73, Derek Kidner, p. 57). There is a tension in this psalm. On the one hand is God, who is free from sin (5:4), on the other hand are David’s enemies who are evil men.
David pleads that God would hear his groaning, or his innermost thoughts that break out from time to time in sighs. Yet David’s inarticulate sighs become actual words and a definite cry to God for help. In addition, there are prayers which are words, there are prayers which simply cannot be put into words and then there is the prayer in which we cry out to God.
Give Ear: 5:1
“One characteristic of this prayer is its urgency expressed in the imperatives: ‘give ear’, ‘consider’, and ‘listen’. They mean that David was not merely going through a prayer routine. He was intensely serious, and all prayer should be serious” (Psalms, Volume 1, Psalms 1-41, James Montgomery Boice, p. 45). “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
You Will Hear My Voice: 5:3
A similar belief that God will indeed answer his prayer is seen at the end of verse 3 where David says, “and eagerly watch”. David fully believed that God did hear and answer prayer (James 1:5-6). The word “watch” is often used in the prophets as the prophets awaited the first sign of God’s response (Isaiah 21:6,8; Habakkuk 2:10).
An Ordered Prayer: 5:3
The word “ordered” can also be translated “prepare. This same word is often used in a priestly context for laying the fire on the altar and arranging the sacrifice for a burnt offering (Leviticus 1:6ff). Once again, a reminder that the simple act of prayer needs to be taken with the appropriate level of seriousness. Probably too often our prayers are just kind of thrown together without any sort of forethought.
- “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
- In the New Covenant, each and every Christian is a priest and part of a sacred temple (1 Peter 2:5). The Holy Spirit notes that our sacrifices are to be both spiritual and acceptable (2:5).
- “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
- As we ponder such things should we do some serious soul searching, is there any order or consistently to our prayer life? Or, do we only tend to pray when others remind us to pray, that is, at a meal or during a time when the congregation gathers?
- Prayer is a conversation with God and are we becoming rather poor conversationalists? One red flag would be that when praying we are tempted to zone out. If that is becoming a problem and if I am forgetting to pray for various situations or individuals, maybe I need to start putting together at least an outline or list of what I really need to talk to God about today. If we were to have a really important meeting with another human being, we would take the time to prepare and make some notes.
The God to Whom We are Praying
“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness. No evil dwells with You” (5:4).
- “The prayer is not only for protection from wicked persons, but also a prayer for protection from becoming like them” (Craigie).
- In order to be heard, David realizes that he must abhor evil. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
- This is one more verse that reminds us that in God there is no darkness (1 John 1:5).
- “God is not a man, that He should lie’” (Numbers 23:19). “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
“We take sin too lightly. If we did not, we would not sin as grievously or as frequently as we do… This is a good way to measure how well you are praying and whether, as you pray, you are drawing close to God or are merely mouthing words. If you are drawing close to God, you will become increasingly sensitive to sin, which is inevitable since that God you are approaching is a holy God” (Boice, p. 47).
This Holy God
The verses that follow demonstrate that God is far more than One who is unconnected with sin, rather He is strongly opposed to it. When we are not reading the Bible, attending or and praying as we should it can be very easy to allow Satan to convince us that our sins are different from the sins of others. That there is some excuse for our sins, that God tends to understand them and that God will simply ignore them in the end. Yet such is only a fantasy, and a poorly written one at that.
- The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes.
- You hate all who do iniquity.
- You destroy those who speak falsehood.
- The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.
The Pilgrim Spirit
In contrast to the wicked, David says, “But as for me”, as Joshua had equally said long before (Joshua 24:15). David realizes that he is not perfect or sinless, because he will enter God’s house due to God’s abundant mercy. Yet the difference between David and the sinners, is that David is seeking to forsake his sins, and is humbly bowing and submitting himself to God. David realizes that God is the only real defense or check against the evil in this world.
Make Your Way Straight
One aspect of bowing before God in reverence is accepting the fact that we are not clever enough to figure out things on our own. David is not looking for his own unique “way” (Proverbs 16:25), rather, he desires to be on God’s path (Matthew 7:13-14), and fulfill His will (Luke 22:42 “Yet not My will, but Yours be done”).
There is Nothing Reliable
The bloodthirsty and deceitful men of verse 6 are now exposed and prayed against. “With such people all the resources of speech, mouth, throat and tongue combine to achieve (and conceal) the designs of the heart. The methods are those of the serpent of Eden, and of its minor brood the flatterer and the scandalmonger” (Kidner, pp. 59-60).
Hold Them Guilty
David is not being vindictive here. As Boice reminds us, “It is necessary to note only that David’s vexation with the wicked is not personal. Few people in the Bible were more forgiving in response to personal attacks than he. (Compare how David was incredibly forgiving and merciful with Saul). Rather, his concern is that they have rebelled against God (5:10) and his request is for God’s condemnation of their sin.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017