This is the second part of the message on Psalm 5. I found this part of the psalm especially challenging as David prayed, not simply for safety but for godliness.
The video is below, followed by the notes distributed to those without internet.
We’re picking up from where we finished last week. The first 7 verses of this psalm teach us how to pray. Like the previous two psalms, David is facing trouble. Here in psalm 5, David is praying for his own relationship with God in this broken world. This psalm is so important to us today because, although we live in modern times, the people of our day are the same as David’s day, and the need that David had – to stay in the path of righteousness – is the same need that we have. This is why David prayed this psalm; and this is why we need to pray also.
Just to recap from last week. We saw (I) The Priority of Prayer. Even David the king prayed. Every one of us needs to pray. (II) The Confidence for Prayer. David is able to pray in a troubled world because God is a God of justice. (III) The Way of Prayer. Prayer is drawing near to God, which we can do so only because of His saving grace given to us in Christ.
While we do pray about the condition of the world around and we ask God to act (as David does in these verses), we do not pray from a position of superiority but as grateful recipients of grace.
IV) The content of prayer (v8)
So what does David pray for first?
Firstly, let’s not forget the foundation is grace (v7). It is the abundance of the Lord’s steadfast love that enables him to pray. Prayer is coming into His presence (“I… will enter Your house”). Prayer involves worship (“I will bow down”) and awe (“in the fear of You”). These statements also show that prayer involves submission to the Lord. We come because we need Him but we come realising that He alone is God.
Then, in v8, he begins to ask God. So far, David has not asked the Lord for any specific thing other than that the Lord would listen and understand (verses 1 & 2). Then he worships and confesses who God is. Effective prayer needs to focus on who God is. Without reflecting on who God is, we ask without faith. It is more of a “hope so” than a certain hope. This psalm is grounded in certainty because of its focus on the character of God – and our prayers will become bolder, and we will have a greater expectation, if we take time to reflect on who God is and to express that in worship.
David asks the Lord to:
- “Lead me.” This is the same as Psalm 23:3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” He is entrusting the direction of his life into the hands of the Lord.
- “…in Your righteousness.” This is not direction simply in terms of what he does with his life, for wisdom to be a king. This is a prayer for godliness. He wants to walk in God’s righteous ways. He wants to be on the way of the righteous of Psalm 1v6.
- “…make Your way straight before me.” He wants the way to be smooth and not twisted, to be clear in the way he should take.
- “…because of my enemies…” These are the people of verses 4-6 and 9-10. Notice verse 9, these people are deceitful. So David wants to be kept on the narrow way, the straight way, the way of the righteous and not to be led astray by lies.
So, this prayer in verse 8 is a prayer that God would keep him godly despite the pressure of living in a broken sinful world, that he would honour Him, know how to live in a way that pleases Him.
The straight way is more important to David than the safe way. In my 20 years in full time ministry, I have been asked to pray for people hundreds of times but have rarely been asked to pray for someone to grow in godliness. I, also, have made that request too infrequently.
I find this hugely challenging. I (and suspect most of us) pray for safety and provision and comfort far more than I pray for holiness. If you ever read older books of prayers from earlier generations, you may be uncomfortable with them because these people, who stood through religious turmoil and persecution in this country, prayed far more for their holiness than for their physical needs.
Also, the Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done” comes before needs. May your will be done in me and may my life reflect your will.
This prayer is here because David cannot stand without the grace of God. We are the same. We might think that we are strong, but without Him we are weak. The language of scripture about sin and temptation is the language of warfare. We are told to take up the whole armour of God. We are told to resist the sins that wage war on the soul. We are told that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. So, we need to pray like this.
V) The reason for prayer (V9-10)
The next verses unpack this further. David returns to the situation in the world around. It could be a description of our own world. Again we see strong language. Verse 9:
- The world is truthless. “No truth” in v9 means “truth is non-existent.” These people are not only telling a little lie, but the direction of their lives is filled with untruth. We see it in politics, we see it in relationships and throughout society.
- This lack of truth flows from within: “their inmost self is destruction.” The inner being of the unbelieving soul is damaged beyond repair (verse 10 says, “they have rebelled against you.”).
- Lies bring death (“their throat is an open grave”) and flow from a dead life.
- Yet, the lies are made to look attractive – “they flatter with their tongue.”
This is a graphic picture of the world without Christ, and also the individual life without Christ. Of course, unbelievers can and do tell the truth, but at the heart of unbelief is a lie – a lie that God does not exist or that God can only exist in the way that I think He should. So, the very foundation of life without Christ is a lie. Everyone who is not in the truth is in the lie and needs to be brought from lies to truth and from judgement to salvation (which is how this verse is used in Romans 3:13).
These are not just the lies of the world around; David would also be thinking about those who claim to be God’s people. There are those who say they are Christians but do not believe the Bible and those who claim to teach the Bible but teach error. And so, this is also a prayer for God to keep us in that straight path of righteousness, to be kept on the narrow way that leads to life, to be protected from false teaching.
Verse 10 is a prayer for God to act. Again, this prayer is difficult for us as Christians as it seems to go against the command to love our enemies. However, the people that David is praying about are dangerous to the true people of God. Also, look carefully at what is being prayed for. This is not a prayer about personal vengeance (which would not be right), but prayer for the defeat of those who are opposed to the Lord (v10d: “for they have rebelled against You.”)
Also, while we should start by praying for mercy and that God would grant them repentance, the language of verse 10 shows these people who will not repent. They are hardened in their sin (“guilt”… “abundance of transgressions” [contrast with the abundance of God’s steadfast love in v7]). They are scheming against God. So, David prays:
- That their sin would be exposed (“Make them bear their guilt”).
- That their plots would be confused (“Let them fall by their own counsels”).
- That they would be removed from troubling God’s people (“cast them out”).
This prayer flows from knowing that God is a God of justice and that He cares for, and defends, His people. Praying of the removal of the enemies of God’s people, that they would reap what they sow, is a legitimate prayer. This is not a selfish prayer; it is not a prayer for God to strike down a neighbour who has offended us, rather a prayer for God to deal with those who would attack His people. We are not to use this kind of praying to ask God to deal with people who annoy us; but this is a legitimate prayer when God’s people are under attack.
V) The purpose of prayer (v11-12)
The purpose is that the blessing of the Lord would be upon His people and that they would be people delighting in the Lord and secure in His covenant protection. Yes, we may be surrounded by pressure and lies, but we can be sure that the Lord keeps His people.
Verse 11 starts with an invitation:
- “Let all who take refuge in You rejoice…” To take refuge is to go to Him for safety (like Psalm 2:12, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”) The true people of God go to the Son for safety from the ultimate storm – death. Every Christian was in the place of verse 9-10 but, by grace alone, we have taken refuge in the Son.
- So we can “rejoice”. We can “sing for joy.” Yes, we live in a fallen world, a broken world, a truthless world. Yes, we are surrounded by untruth, but we have a God who is the God of truth, a God of righteousness and without injustice, a God who has stepped down to save us.
Verse 11 continues with a prayer:
- “Spread your protection over them.” The Lord keeps His people, but we also can pray in line with His will, “protect us, Lord.”
- So that, “those who love your name”. This is the Christian, the one who has been set free from slavery to lies and destruction, who has moved out of verse 9 and 10 to verse 11, who has found refuge in the Son. This person loves the Lord and all that He is.
- “…may exult in you.” Exult means to sing with triumph. We can celebrate what God has done. He will not let His people go and so we will sing through the ages, “blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” We will sing of the triumph of His grace.
The Psalm ends with confidence (v12). Those who take refuge in Christ are recipients of divine goodness, are surrounded (wrapped around) by God’s presence as with a shield. The enemy may come close, but the Lord is closer. He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Our minds may be filled with turmoil and fear, but the Lord is renewing our minds. Our hearts may be broken and grieved, but the Lord indwells us.
‘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?”James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 49.
“Under the shelter of heaven,” Luther answered.’
We can pray for the straight way more than the safe way, because the straight way is safe. It may not be easy, but it is ultimately, eternally safe.
As we draw to a close, let me ask you these questions:
- Are you in verses 8, 11 and 12 (taking refuge in the Saviour) or are you in verses 9-10 (living the lie that God does not exist, or that He is not the God of the Bible)? You need to come to the refuge of Jesus the Son.
- Christian, do you pray more for safety or more for sanctification? Commit to the Lord today to change the balance of your praying. Pray that you would not be led off the straight path by the lies of the world or the lies of those who falsely claim to follow Jesus.
Finally, be assured that, if you are a Christian, whatever happens, you are as secure as those already in heaven.
The Hebrew word translated “cover” is only used in one other place – 1 Samuel 23:26. It says, “Saul and his men were closing in [lit: covering/surrounding/wrapping up] David to capture him.” Then 1 Samuel 23:27 tells us that, at just the right time, Saul received a message and was called away and David was delivered. You may feel surrounded, that the enemy is closing in, but the Lord is closer, the Lord is with you. As Dale Ralph Davis says:
“The enemy cannot wrap us up if Yahweh has already wrapped us around with His favour.”Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, (Christian Focus Publications, 2016), p69