One of the complaints unbelievers make against Christians is that their understanding of sin causes them to think of themselves as better than other people. But that is not actually the case. In fact, it is the opposite. The next stanza of the psalm shows what really happens (vv. 7, 8): “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make straight your way before me.”
The second stanza (verses 4-6) is a reflection on the wicked, growing out of the psalmist's approach to God in verses 1-3. Each of the preceding psalms has spoken of the wicked, though differently in each psalm. Psalm 1 considered "the way of the wicked" as opposed to "the way of the righteous" (v. 6). Psalm 2 traced the rebellion of the wicked against God, particularly that of the kings and rulers of the earth (v. 2). In Psalm 3 the psalmist has been attacked by the wicked and asks God for protection from them (v. 7). In Psalm 4 the wicked have slandered the psalmist, and he is asking God for vindication. In the psalm we are studying now, David refers to the wicked as those whose prayers the Lord will not hear and in whom he has no pleasure.
The first three verses are an appeal for God to listen to the psalmist's prayer. Many psalms begin in this way, such as Psalm 4, which we just studied last week. Have you ever been stopped in your prayers by doubts about whether you are approaching God rightly? Almost everyone has had doubts like this. If you have, notice what these verses teach us. They teach three things.
I have called this psalm "A Prayer for Coming to God's House" because of verse 7: "But I, by your great mercy will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple." But we must not think of it as restricted to a formal worship setting. It is actually a generic prayer showing how we must approach God, if we would be heard by him, and what we can expect of him when we do.
Were David's enemies likely to follow his advice, tremble before God, offer sacrifices for their sin and begin to trust the Almighty? It was not very likely! It is not even likely that David spoke these words to them. They are part of the psalm, words that David spoke to God and would have liked to have spoken to his enemies but probably did not have the chance to utter. But here is the important thing: although his enemies did not come to trust God, David did. He had trusted God in the past. He had laid his grief over the false accusations of his enemies before him. Now God provided the peace he was seeking. There were three things God provided.
The Alliance is a coalition of pastors, scholars, and churchmen who hold the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and who proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today's Church.