Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 5

Introduction

Heading ‘For the chief musician, with the Nehiloth (wind instruments?). A psalm to/for David.’ On behalf of the choirmaster and written by or dedicated to David.

This psalm can be divided as follows:

· The psalmist’s plea to be heard (Psalms 5:1-3).

· A description of those whom God rejects (Psalms 5:4-6).

· His prayer for God to lead him (Psalms 5:7-8).

· His accusations against God’s enemies (Psalms 5:9-10).

· His prayer for the righteous (Psalms 5:11-12).

Verses 1-3

‘Give ear to my words, O YHWH,

Consider my meditation.

Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God,

For to you do I pray.

O YHWH in the morning you will hear my voice,

In the morning I will order my prayer to you, and will keep watch.’

This is an introductory plea for YHWH to hear his prayer. He asks that God will respond to his words, and consider his thoughts, and addresses Him as both his King and his God (compare Psalms 84:3, also Psalms 44:3; Psalms 68:24; Psalms 74:12). He exults in His majesty and power, and thus declares that He is the One to whom he prays and Who is able to do what he asks. He points out that his prayer is not haphazard. It is ordered and disciplined. Furthermore he wants God to know that he will be on the watch for YHWH’s response and direction, and on the watch so that he does not sin. It is a prayer for use in the morning as a person prepares for a new day, a reminder that we too should begin each day with prayer.

‘The voice of my cry,’ stresses the urgency of his petition. It is an imploring cry (see Psalms 22:24; Psalms 28:2 etc).

‘My King and my God.’ That is, his great Overlord and God, stressing the mightiness and sovereignty of the One to Whom he comes, and to Whom we also can come.

‘O YHWH in the morning you will hear my voice.’ He begins each day with prayer, for he recognises that he must go into the day with God.

‘I will order my prayer to you.’ Literally ‘I will set in order for you’ (‘prayer’ is read in). The word ‘order’ is used of setting pieces of wood in order on an altar (Genesis 22:9; Leviticus 1:7), or the parts of the sacrifice (Leviticus 1:8). So just like those who set in order the sacrifices he does not pray haphazardly but comes to God with an orderly approach, setting out his prayer before Him (compare Job 33:5; Job 37:19 for its use of ‘words’). This is a lesson we all need to learn. We should come to prayer with hearts and thoughts prepared. While extempore prayer is good, it should not necessarily be without previous thought. That can be lazy prayer. Some, however, see the words as indicating a morning sacrifice, at the offering of which he prays.

‘And will keep watch.’ He will be like a watchman on the lookout to hear YHWH’s word to him, no doubt throughout the day, and will guard his way so as to avoid sin (compare Isaiah 21:6; Micah 7:7). All God’s people should be watchmen in a similar way.

Verses 4-6

‘For you are not a God who has pleasure in wickedness,

Evil will not sojourn with you,

The arrogant will not stand in your sight,

You hate all workers of iniquity,

You will destroy him who speaks lies,

YHWH abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.’

This is why he is on the watch, so that he will not be like these. His words make clear to himself and others the kind of God YHWH is and the kind of people that God rejects. God hates wickedness, evil, the arrogant, workers of iniquity, men of deceit (repeated twice) and bloodthirstiness. That the psalmist refers to his own countrymen is suggested by the lack of reference to the nations, and by the fact that they cannot ‘stand in His sight’, that is, enter the Temple in true worship expecting acceptance. Thus this is a dreadful indictment on the nation and its condition.

‘Evil will not sojourn with you, the arrogant will not stand in your sight.’ To sojourn was to stay as a guest (compare Psalms 15:1). Thus none who are evil can spend time in His presence and be made welcome. Nor can the arrogant stand in His sight. That is, those who are presumptious, who assume that the approach to God can be made lightly and without proper reverence. They cannot come into His court to stand before Him. They may think that they can for they arrogantly sin against Him, and then equally arrogantly assume that it does not matter. But the psalmist tells us that it does matter. They may stand in the temple but they will not stand in His sight. If we would seek to know the presence of God we must do away with sin.

‘You hate all workers of iniquity, you will destroy him who speaks lies, YHWH abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.’ The worker of iniquity is the one who practises what is morally worthless and wrong, he acts contrary to God’s Instruction. Such are ‘hated’ by God because He is a holy God and must recoil from sin. Speaking lies and being a man of deceit are also spoken against in the strongest terms. Deceit is constantly condemned throughout the Bible (Psalms 10:7; Psalms 24:4; Psalms 35:20; Psalms 36:3; Psalms 38:12 and regularly). We are told in the New Testament that the liar will never enter God’s heavenly kingdom (Revelation 21:27 compare Psalms 14:5). So men of violence and deceit are ‘abhorred’ by Him. Notice the strength of the verbs which reveal God’s attitude; hated, destroyed, abhorred. Sin is no light matter.

Verse 7

‘But as for me, in the multitude of your lovingkindness I will come into your house,

In your fear I will worship towards your holy temple.’

His own entry before God rests in his confidence in God’s overwhelming lovingkindness (‘warm covenant love’ - chesed), His benevolence and goodness, and his own reverent awe and fear. He comes aware of the greatness and holiness of God, but also aware of His grace and mercy revealed through the covenant between God and His people, a covenant which has provided a way of forgiveness for all sin through the shedding of blood. And he worships (‘prostrates himself before’) God with proper respect and due deference.

This is why we too can come with such confidence. It is not because we are such good people, but because we come to One Who loved us and gave Himself for us, and it is in Him that we find a welcome. It is because He has made a new and living way for us through His flesh (Hebrews 10:20), so that we can come through Him.

He mentions God’s house and God’s temple. While mention of these may suggest that he lives at the time of what we know of as the temple, that need not be so. The phrase ‘God’s house’ is equally used of the tabernacle (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 23:18; Joshua 6:24;1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15; see also 2 Samuel 12:20) and so is God’s ‘temple’ (1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3). For God dwells in house, temple and tent without regard (Psalms 27:4-6). In view of the fact that Israel did not have a temple until the time of Solomon, to describe the tabernacle as God’s ‘temple’ would be natural, as a shadow of the heavenly temple (Psalms 11:4; Psalms 18:6), and in contrast with the temples of the nations. The words are all synonyms for God’s earthly dwellingplace. However, note that he worships ‘in God’s house’ but ‘towards His holy temple’. Thus he may be thinking of the house as earthly and the temple as heavenly (see 1 Kings 8:30). Or the latter phrase may simply refer to the inner sanctuary

Verse 8

‘Lead me, O YHWH, in your righteousness because of my enemies,

Make your way level before my face.’

He asks God, because He is righteous, to lead him, in view of those who lie in wait for him. He needs protection from those who are seeking to entrap him, and asks that God will show him the way ahead, and will keep his path level so that he will not stumble or fall on it.

For ‘in your righteousness’ see Psalms 31:1; Psalms 71:2; Psalms 119:40; Psalms 143:1; Psalms 143:11, where it clearly means ‘because you are righteous’.

The psalmist claims no merit of his own. He can walk in righteousness because the righteous God leads him, and because he has been forgiven. But it is God Who must lead him forward and make the way before him a level plain.

Verse 9

‘For there is no faithfulness (steadfastness) in their mouth,

Their inward part is destructions (or ‘a yawning gulf’),

Their throat is an open sepulchre,

They flatter with their tongue.’

He describes his enemies, those who are against him and against YHWH. He declares that what they say cannot be trusted, that their inner thoughts plan destruction for others, and especially for the people of God, that their throat is like an open grave i.e. what they say may result in death for the unfortunate so that they enter the open grave, or may lead to ruin. And yet at the same time they speak smooth words with their tongues. They are totally untrustworthy.

Alternately behind the idea of the open sepulchre might be the idea of a grave that has been opened and the stench of a rotting body rises from it. So are the lives of these wicked men, they stench rottenly, and those who have contact with them become unclean.

Verse 10

‘Hold them guilty, O God,

Let them fall by their own counsels,

Thrust them out (or ‘down’) in the multitude of their transgressions,

For they have rebelled against you.’

What upsets him is that these people have rebelled against God Himself, and so He calls for God to deal with them because they have rebelled against Him. Let Him recognise their guilt, he pleads, and hold them to it. Let Him bring their own clever schemes down on their own head, let the heavy load of their transgressions thrust them down. For they are unrepentant rebels against His Instruction (Law), and cause great problems for His people. Let them therefore reap what they sow.

Verse 11-12

‘But let all those who put their trust in you rejoice,

Let them shout for joy because you defend them,

Let those also who love your name be joyful in you,

For you will bless the righteous,

O Yahweh you will compass him with favour as a great shield.’

But in contrast let those whose trust is in YHWH and His covenant, those who love His name, rejoice, aware that He is defending them; let them shout for joy because they know that He will bless the righteous. So His defence of them and His blessing are causes of their great rejoicing. They know that the huge shield of His favour protects and watches over them.

‘Your name.’ That is His being, attributes and character. They love Him for what He is, the Deliverer of His people. See Psalms 69:36; Psalms 119:132.

So the psalm began with confidence and ends with triumph, triumph in the God of the righteous. Triumph in the name of the One Whose being, attributes and character they know so well, the One in Whom they can put their trust without any fear of being confounded.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 5". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/psalms-5.html. 2013.