The Gospel for Real Life

Christ in Psalms – 5

Psalm 5 can be broken up in at least three different categories: 1) David’s Requests, 2) The Consequences of the Wicked, and 3) The Blessings of the Righteous.

David’s requests are mentioned in verses 1-3, 8, 10 and 11.

Verses 1-3 are merely repetition of what David is about to do and say.  But, there is very important wording here.  He is asking and pleading for God to listen to him.  This is many times missing in the prayers that we make to our Father.  While Jesus says that God listens to His children, He also communicates that we need to go to Him with dependency.  The mere fact that David is pleading to God for Him to answer reveals that he is not arrogant in his attitude.  He can, in other psalms, boldy say, “Save me, O my God!” and “Arise, O LORD,” but he always asks that on the basis of God’s character – not ultimately on the basis of his own character.  David asks humbly and then expectantly looks up to God for an answer.

Verse 8 is a personal request.  David says, “Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies.”  This is a two-fold request which is summed up nicely at the end of verse 8: “Make Your way straight before my face” (see also Prov. 3:5-6).  What this means is that God will bring us to our expected end.  David expounds on that here by saying that we will only get to our expected end if the LORD – Yahweh, the covenant-keeping Creator – leads us every step of the way.  David is asking that God’s righteousness would be worked through his actions because of David’s enemies.  David seems to be asking that the Lord would lead him and work His righteousness through him so that God’s enemies would see that God’s path is right and just and best.  In other words, David wants God’s enemies to be put to shame in their sin and to see God’s Truth.

In verse 10, David asks that God would pronounce the wicked guilty, and he asks that a just punishment is given to them.  David wants their own sin to be their ruin and he prays that God would cast them away from His people.  This theology is also seen in the New Testament in Romans 1.

All this said, David’s requests do not end on punishment.  Instead he focuses on God’s design for human beings.  Verse 11 gives us David’s final request: let all who trust in Yahweh, rejoice.  David emphasizes the word joy three times.  When authors in the Old Testament times wanted to reiterate a fact, they would say something three times.  They didn’t have punctuation.  They didn’t have exclamation points.  They could not put a question-mark and an exclamation.  Instead, they would say something like, “Rejoice, shout for joy, be joyful!” God desires that we be full of joy.  If those who trust in God understand the severity of God’s punishment (which all of us deserve) then we ought to be people who are full of joy.

The next question one may ask is, “What does God’s punishment look like?”  That’s another theme David addresses: the consequences of the wicked (vv. 4-6, 9-10).  In order to understand the riches of God’s grace, we need to understand the horrors that our sins deserve.  David cries out against the wicked because they have turned against the Lord.  Since David is confident that God is righteous, he knows that the Lord will act righteously towards those who do not trust in Him.  A few points we see in verses 4-6 (which are similar to 9-11) are that 1) God takes no pleasure in wickedness, 2) Evil will not dwell with God, and 3) The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  This does not negate the chance they could repent and receive God’s eternal love.  This does not mean that God is not showing mercy to them even today in allowing them to experience many of His blessings.  But, the Bible does say that God’s wrath abides on such a one who has not turned to God through Christ.  In some mysterious way, God can hate and also display love towards unbelievers for a time.

The promise is that because the people are living this way, they will never dwell with God because evil will not dwell with God.  Some argue that God cannot be loving and send people to Hell; however, in the Scriptures, we see a portrait of people in Hell who continue to deny Him.  Hence, we can more fully understand a phrase like, “Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions.”  Throughout all eternity, if you do not trust in the LORD, your sin will be yours.  It will cling to you and you will waste away in that sin for eternity – always being tormented, never finding relief because you cling to your sin.

This is justice.  And, as we see clearly in the Scriptures, this is what we all deserve because we are sinners, all our words are like a grave (see Rom. 3 where part of this Psalm is quoted).  Our most inward part of our being is destruction because we are sinners – hence Hell is our destination if we have not turned to Yahweh.

Is there any hope?  Yes, definitely!  The final piece of this Psalm that we need to see is the blessing of the righteous.  Again, since God is righteous in His very being, He will act righteously towards the wicked and also towards the righteous.  But, there is none righteous, no, not one!  Thankfully, as we saw in our study of Psalm 1, only Jesus could be considered righteous, and it is on the basis of His righteousness that we, too, can be declared righteous.  All blessings are given to Jesus, and we receive them by trusting in Him – the LORD.  As a result, we experience an infinite number of blessings from the eternal God.  “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.”

What are a few of the blessings this psalm tells us that we receive through the Messiah?  First, God hears the prayers of the righteous.  Even if we cannot come up with the words and we can only groan, God will answer us (note: “meditation” means “to groan”).  Second, unlike the wicked, the righteous enter into God’s house.  Third, those who trust in God have His steadfast, forever faithful, love.  In spite of our disobedience, God showers down a love that never wavers.  Fourth, believers can truly worship God because of His forgiveness.  David realizes that he deserves to be punished, yet he says, “But as for me. . . .”

Ultimately, it is God’s character and actions that matter – not ours.  We need Him.  David makes this more clear even in the names he uses to reference God: 1) O LORD, 2) My King, 3) My God.

He recognizes God is the covenant-keeping God of steadfast love towards His children.  He recognizes that He can’t solve all of life issues and can’t bring about true righteousness – only the King can do that as He reigns from His throne on high at the present time.  He realizes that this God is not just a God off in the distance but He is his God.  One commentator pointed out that in Hebrew, to call God, “my God” was the greek equivalent to saying, “Abba” (Longman, Tremper & David Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, p. 115).  It is no wonder that Jesus prays that way and we even find Paul calling God “Abba.”

So, what do we see of Jesus in this psalm?  Obviously, there could be a myriad of pictures of Jesus here.  I will touch on a few.  First, we see David, the anointed one, praying on behalf of those who trust in God. In John 17, we see Jesus, the Anointed One, praying on behalf of all who will trust in Him.  Second, we see that the LORD also refers to Jesus.  Salvation belongs to Him.  Through Jesus, we are saved.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Third, we see that Jesus is also the King.  In Isaiah 6, Isaiah talks of God in the temple on the throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Then in John 12:41, the Scriptures say that Isaiah’s revelation was of Jesus’ glory.  Jesus is King. In this King, we can bring all of our cares – knowing that He will take care of us.  Fourth, we receive blessings through Jesus.  The last two lines can also be translated, “You will crown them with favor as with a shield.”  One commentator said, “From one hand the Lord extends his protection and favor, likened to a ‘shield’. . .; from the other hand he bestows his royal glory on the godly. . .” (Longman, Tremper & David E. Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 119).

It is very true what the psalmist says.  Those who trust in the Lord are immeasurably blessed and have eternal blessing in store for them.

Rejoice, all those who trust in Him!

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5 responses

  1. enenennx

    Slightly off topic, but relevant because many theologers make sweeping statements I often don’t understand.

    You say: “evil will not dwell with God”.

    I imagine you also purport the omnipresence of God.

    Is this a paradox? A mystery? It is certainly a logical impossibility (not that logic guarantees truth), is it not?

    Also, as all True Jews (TM) don’t see Jesus in this (or any Psalm), do you believe all True Jews read their own scriptures wrong? As a friend once told me, “The literary dice have been loaded ever since the time of Christ.” Finding a Jesus parallel is just not that significant – it is an imaginative enterprise, easily contrived. Point me to practically any novel (even many that predate Hebrew Scriptures) and I’ll make an apologetic-worthy argument that demonstrates the in-text presence of any of the myriad of pictures of Jesus which contemporary evangelists imagine. I respect your creating Jesus pictures out of Hebrew scriptures, but what might you say to someone of the Jewish tradition to convince them at Psalm 5 presages Jesus?

    I imagine your fellow church goers aren’t tough to convince. But the world is made of more that just such insular circles. Cheers.

    September 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    • I’ll try to answer your questions here:

      1) That can definitely be a very difficult question to answer in light of the omnipresence of God. We see that conundrum faced when the Bible talks about God sitting on a throne or God residing in the heavens or God’s presence being in the “Holy of Holies.” Even in the New Testament, we see God dwelling in believers. Yet, I also see that God is everywhere. The Psalmist says that if he goes anywhere to hide, God is there.

      I think the key is the word “dwell,” and the contexts in which it is used. Even in Hebrew, the word “dwell” gives the connotation of connecting oneself to something. Hence this word can be translated as such: “sojourn,” “cohort” or “seek hospitality with.” Dwell seems to relate to the “relationship” with something not so much the proximity to something.

      2) With regards to conversations with Jewish people (or other people for that matter), I would explain to them why I see Jesus in all of the Psalms. Passages like Luke 24:25-27, 44-48 and John 5:46. However, I am in agreement that someone of the Jewish tradition (or any other belief) could simply say that I’m inserting something into the text that was never intended. That is an individual’s choice to accept or deny those passages, and what Jesus said regarding the Old Testament.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

  2. enenennx

    You say “That is an individual’s choice to accept or deny those passages,”

    Might I say that that is loaded and cloistered language used to set apart one people from another. People don’t really choose to accept or deny that Jesus is in those passages as you describe and claim. People are exposed to evidences and they find it convincing or they do not, and make assertions based on their understanding. I feel to say someone of the Jewish faith “denies” that Jesus is in the Psalms is the Christianese you refer to in the next post. It is more neutral than that; they just don’t find the evidence you present and your handling of the arguments very convincing. And when your presentation and your handling of the passage fails to convince a Jewish person of Jesus’s presence in the Psalms, do you believe they are still going to burn in hell eternally because they have denied Jesus?

    I know, I know, you didi MEAN it that way. I’m just mentioning it, and your insider status probably blinds you to how such language comes off. Continue to use it as you please, I’m just alerting you to how it comes off to outsiders (so far as many have told me).

    Also Psalm 5 holds a verse that stands in contrast to contemporary christian christianese. The contemporary slogan oft uttered is “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Granted in practice “love” in this sense is often contorted out of all its meaning.(advocating for legislation prohibiting equal rights for gays, etc.). The verse in question is Psalm 5:5, which states, clearly God hates all who do wrong. God may also hate the sin, but is it not clear in this verse that Jesus also hates the sinner?

    I mostly agree with theconnotative meanings you ascribe to “dwell” in the Hebrew scriptures. Cheers.

    September 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    • I actually think what I said in this being an individual’s choice really falls in line with what you stated that people make assertions based on their understanding. I’m not sure how what I said and what you said at that point really was different. I agree. People will choose to assert that, based on their understanding, that what I’ve said is wrong (i.e. – my arguments weren’t convincing). Ultimately, though, it’s not my arguments that they need to listen to. According to the Bible, it’s the argument from Creation and the Scriptures that people need to listen to and heed the call to trust in Jesus.

      Side bar, are you saying that you are alerting me of the many people who have talked to you about how I come off or how Christians come off, in general. And, I’m wondering if it is Christians in general, then I would hope that you are not placing your understanding of other people into your interpretation of how you read my posts. Not saying that you are, but I hope that is not the case.

      Re: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Interesting you mention that since many Christians have held that slogan up. I know at least some of the intent of that, but it does fly in the face of passages like Psalm 5. Hence my description of God being able to display kindness while at the same time have His wrath abide on those who refuse to turn to Him.

      And, with regards to Hell, I do believe in an eternal hell. It’s a scary reality that Jesus came to save people from: John 3.

      September 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

  3. Enenennx

    You say, “Side bar, are you saying that you are alerting me of the many people who have talked to you about how I come off or how Christians come off, in general.”

    I have no idea how you specifically come off to other people. I know well how your style of preaching and teaching and blogging comes off to other people.

    You say “I’m wondering if it is Christians in general, then I would hope that you are not placing your understanding of other people into your interpretation of how you read my posts. Not saying that you are, but I hope that is not the case.”

    I wouldn’t but my understanding of this blog into my understanding of “christians in general”; but you do, on this blog, fit a certain mold, in you expression and thoughts, and into that mold I don’t place you, you place yourself. But not all christians are like you, no.

    September 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

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