Theme: Rejection of the Wicked and Blessings of the Righteous
In this week’s studies David prays that the Lord would show his justice against all who do evil, even as he asks that the Lord’s blessing would rest upon the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 5:1-12
At this point David turns to the wicked again. Earlier he had spoken of them as “those who tell lies” (v. 6), but this was only one descriptive phrase among many. In these verses (vv. 9, 10) he describes them in terms of their wicked speech or words, probably because he had just prayed for guidance (v. 8) and was thinking of how the words of the wicked can’t be trusted.
Ah, but it is even worse than that. Their words are destructive, and those who follow them will perish. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul quoted part of verse 9 in his great summary of the sin of the race in Romans 3:10-18. In that summary he quotes four psalm passages in succession (Ps. 14:1-3 [par Ps. 53:1-3]; Ps. 5:9; Ps. 140:3; Ps. 10.7). Then, after adding a text from Isaiah (59:7, 8), he ends with another psalm quotation: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (36:1). His point is that the human race is utterly and incurably wicked: “there is no one who does good, not even one” (v. 12).
Verse 10 contains the second petition of the psalm (after v. 8) and is the psalter’s first imprecatory prayer. That is, it is a prayer asking for judgment on the wicked. Prayers like this present a difficulty for many people, and for that reason we will be considering them in detail later where more extensive examples occur. In this case, 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 responding to personal attacks than he.) Rather his concern is that they have rebelled against God (cf. Ps. 2), and his request is for God’s condemnation of their sin–condemning it rather than justifying their sinful behavior–seeing to it that their stratagems fail and banishing them while they are in such a state of rebellion. It is exactly the kind of prayer we should be able to pray when we see the effects of evil in our fallen world.
The final stanza (vv. 11-12) is a happy one in which the concerns of the psalmist broaden out to include all the righteous. He encourages them to “take refuge” in God, “be glad,” and to “sing for joy.” He also asks God to “spread your protection over them,” which he is certain God will do. The last words say, “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
When Martin Luther was making his way to Augsburg to appear before Cardinal Cajetan who had summoned him to answer for his heretical opinions, one of the Cardinal’s servants taunted him, asking, “Where will you find shelter if your patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert you?”
“Under the shelter of heaven,” Luther answered.
That was the psalmist’s shelter too.
What is an imprecatory prayer, and what does David mean by it in this psalm?
What does this psalm teach us about God and his ways?
Reflection: How has the Lord shown himself to be your protection and shield?