The Sword Of Judgment And The Shield Of Favor: A Series On Psalm 5 (Part 3)

Having given this wonderful text of Psalm 5 an expositional and pastoral survey in the previous two articles, we return one last time for a third installment, wherein we will consider further implications and applications from this marvelous psalm. With great indebtedness to the pastoral insight and style provided by the nineteenth-century Southern Presbyterian William S. Plumer in his (seemingly-exhaustive) commentary on the Psalms, I will offer some practical applications from the Spirit-inspired wisdom of Psalm 5 that Christians can implement in their lives:1

  1. What a comfort this psalm is, showing that our own inadequate articulations are no hindrance to God, in either his hearing or answering our prayers. As Plumer says, “If God gives us a heart to pray, he will give us a blessing in answer to our prayers.”2 He is the God who sees, hears, and knows (Gen 16:13), and he is able to discern even the most inarticulate cries, groans, and sighs of his people when their words and tongues fail them. God discerns, translates, and understands completely the mediations of his people’s hearts. He will not quench the smoking flax, but can hear a groan and cry just as well as the most articulate and pious of words.
  2. With reference to verse 2: “All sin is a wrong to God. That which hinders, or corrupts his worship is a direct affront, a daring robbery.”3
  3. Note the tone and tenor of the psalmist. His prayer is earnest and importunate. “True prayer is never careless or listless.”4 True prayer meditates on God’s Word, internalizes God’s Word, and thinks and muses in light of God’s Word—but it also cries out.
  4. David says in verse 2: God is both “my king” and “my God.” It is well worth noting that if a person would have God as his Savior, he must also have him as his King. How many people want God for a rescuer but would prefer not to have his kingly rule over their lives? One must have God as both King and God.
  5. But also from verse 2: God is not just a king or a God in the abstract. To David, he is my King and my Therefore, he is to his people, our King and our God. He is ours and we are his. We need not have any fear in bringing our cries and needs before him. He has summoned us to do so—and all the more in Christ. He has bid us, Come and welcome in Jesus Christ, commanding us to cast our anxieties on him, because he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7). “Nothing but our unbelief holds us back. If he calls us his sons, surely we may cry, Our Father.”5
  6. Psalm 5 teaches us that true prayer is lively and stems from an energetic (though certainly imperfect) faith. That is, genuine obedience and submission to God will not produce some kind of stoicism or quietism, much less fatalism or practical atheism. Rather, it brings the soul into greater communion with God and fosters a dependence upon him. Genuine prayer looks expectantly to God for an answer—not arrogantly or presumptuously, but with a trusting expectation that God will hear the cries of his children and will answer accordingly and rightly.
  7. Without wishing to lay down a mandate or to bind any conscience—though it may seem trite to some—rising early in the morning for communion with God appears here as a commendable and trustworthy pattern of devotion. As the smoke from the morning sacrifice goes up at the tabernacle, the psalmist approaches the Lord and cries out before him, “in the morning” (v. 3). There is much to be said about spending one’s freshest hours with the Lord. And if such a commendable devotional habit applies to the average day, how much more to the Lord’s Day? Consider these stirring words from Robert Murray M’Cheyne, in which he urges us to squeeze every last drop of grace and goodness out of the weekly soul-feast which is the Lord’s Day:

A well-spent Sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. For this reason we wish our Sabbaths to be wholly given to God. We love to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is taken up in the works A necessity and mercy. We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.6

Or as Plumer puts it:

What a wonderful example was that set us by our Lord: “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). It is not to be supposed that this was a solitary instance (Luke 6:12; 21:37). Is there a thriving Christian on earth, who gives his earliest thoughts to the world and only later ones to God?7

  1. What a comfort is God’s immutability and unchanging nature. How fickle, unreliable, swerving, and even traitorous are the words and emotions of man. How quickly our passions cool or alter our commitment. How feckless we are with our vows and promises. Not so with God. He is ever just, ever holy, and ever dependable.
  2. Considering God’s unchanging nature, incorrect and unbiblical views of God are detrimental to true faith. God is not like his errant and erring creatures; yet how many men and women conceive of God as just a larger and more powerful version of themselves? God is not so. He is inflexibly just and inviolably holy. Evil cannot abide with him, and he will always do rightly. No miscarriage of justice or granule of unrighteousness will be found in his everlasting kingdom. Wickedness will be put down and unrighteousness will be dealt with in the end (vv. 5–6). The day is coming when Christ the Conquering King shall return, and everything wrong and upside down will be made just and right-side up. And all shall be well.
  3. We are reminded from Psalm 5 that persecution against God’s holy ones is no new thing. Suffering is not foreign to God’s church—it never has been. Though it certainly adds to the pain, misery, and frustration of life in this fallen world, the reality of sin, avarice, malice, and the scheming of enemies is not novel. But God’s people may take heart: “Good men have always been hated, hunted, harassed by evil doers. Demas will forsake the church. Diotrephes will form parties. Absalom and his friends will seize on the temple. But the triumph of the wicked is short.”8
  4. Psalm 5 provides us with a sound doctrine of sin. We are reminded from this psalm that God can in no way be the author of sin, because it is entirely contrary to his holy nature (v. 4). Sin is repugnant, odious, detestable to him (vv. 4–6). God is entirely sovereign over sin without being its author (Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1). Yet in the holy mystery of his providence, he permits it, governs it, and even subverts it for his own glory and his people’s good.
  5. Psalm 5 reminds us what a source of joy and balm to the soul public worship is. Even in the heat of persecution, David expresses a longing for the solace of worshipping God in his “house,” in his “holy temple” (v. 7). This is true of all God’s saints, who have a deep and abiding longing for the presence of God and to meet with God in worship. What a refreshment, what a succor public worship is—what a hope it gives and what a kindness of God to give it to us every one day in seven. “It is a great mercy in God to give us public ordinances. They reprove, cheer, warn, reclaim, animate, strengthen all God’s people.”[9]
  6. Verse 9 of Psalm 5 helps us stare depravity in the face. Sometimes we creatures are too eager to downplay the heinous nature of our sin, or to excuse it away in some fashion. Sin and its ramifications are just a part of life, we reason. Yet verse 9 forces us to behold sin in all its ugliness: like the aims of the wicked against David, there is in all sin “no truth . . . destruction . . . an open grave” (NASB 1995).
  7. In light of the ugly horror that is sin, what a reminder Psalm 5 is of the sinner’s need for grace and the abundant and glorious provision Christ gives. The only hope for sinners is in God’s mercy, through the abundance of his steadfast love (hesed; v. 7). Plumer notes Calvin’s comment on this verse:

The general truth, that it is only through the goodness of God that we have access to him; and that no man prays aright but he, who, having experienced his grace, believes and is fully persuaded that he will be merciful to him. The fear of God is at the same time added, in order to distinguish genuine and godly trust from the vain confidence of the flesh.10

  1. What a comfort the Scriptures have always been to God’s people in times of sorrow. Even as David is hunted by evil men, he is comforted by preaching and rehearsing God’s promises to his own soul. God’s people have drawn comfort from the holy assurances of Psalm 5 for ages. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4, ESV). And because of this great comfort, this psalm also shows that God’s people have the most sure and enduring joys, despite all the hellish terrors leveled against them. How strong and constant are the solaces of the children of God! “Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.”11
  2. Psalm 5 ultimately points us to Christ, the Righteous One. Verse 12 reads, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord” (NASB 1995). The Hebrew there can be translated, “the Righteous One.” And if it is true (and it is) that the Lord covers his people roundabout with favor as with a shield (v. 12), it is because the Author and Perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2) has gone before us. Christ Jesus is the Righteous One, the Holy One who will not see decay, whose soul has not been abandoned to Sheol (Ps 16:10). And because of that, he is the firstborn of many brethren (Rom 8:29) about whom this will also be true. The Holy One has taken refuge in his God, found God’s protection spread over him, and so he sings for joy—and so will his people (v. 11). The victories won by Christ shall be enjoyed by his people, who will ever “rejoice,” “sing for joy,” and “exult” in him (v. 11). God’s righteous ones are ever blessed in The Righteous One (v. 12).

May the Lord bless the truths of Psalm 5 to our hearts and minds, to our piety, our practice, and unto our eternity.

Notes

  1. W. S. Plumer, Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2016), 88–92.
  2. Plumer, Psalms, 88.
  3. Plumer, 88.
  4. Plumer, 88
  5. Plumer, 89.
  6. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “I Love The Lord’s Day,” in The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), 326.
  7. Plumer, 89.
  8. Plumer, 90.
  9. Plumer, 90.
  10. Plumer, 90–91.
  11. John Newton, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” 1779.

©Sean Morris. All Rights Reserved.

You can find the whole series here. 


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    Post authored by:

  • Sean Morris
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    Sean was educated at Grove City College, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), and the University of Glasgow (Scotland). He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, and serves as a minister at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He also serves as the Academic Dean of the Blue Ridge Institute for Theological Education. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sean lives in Oak Ridge with his wife, Sarah, along with their children and useless beagle.

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