- How we approach God matters to Him. One of the lessons the Lord was trying to teach the people of Israel by having a special priesthood was that God desires His people to approach with holy hands and godly hearts. The book of Leviticus describes how the priests were to work in the presence of God. Thus, when Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering an unauthorized fire, one of the main lessons was that how we come to God matters.
- In Psalm 5 we are able to see the characteristics God desires for us to have when we approach Him in prayer. Many times we can have a very flippant attitude in prayer. Many times prayer is an afterthought or merely a ritual around a dinner table. But to be able to enter into the presence of God and lay our petition at His feet, there are certain requirements that the Lord demands. This will be the thrust of our study this evening.
- Before we begin examining the details of Psalm 5, I would like for us to notice the overall movement of the psalm. Psalm 5 moves in contrasts between the righteous request of David and the wicked enemies of God. This psalm consists of five stanzas which alternate between these contrasts. The first, third, and fifth stanzas show the psalmist standing face to face before God. The second and the fourth stanzas illuminate the contrast between God and the wicked and the righteous and the wicked. The title reveals that this is a psalm composed by David.
I. Our Spirit In Prayer (5:1-3)
- The psalm immediately begins with a sense of urgency on the part of David. Notice in the first and second verses the words used by David: give ear, consider, and listen. To give ear has a literal meaning of “broadening the ear” as with the hand. The word “listen” literally means “to incline the ear.” Therefore, David is asking the Lord to perk up His ears to the things that David is about to say, if you will.
- Prayer was important to David. David is not merely going through a prayer routine as he begins to speak to God. David has an intensity and urgency in his prayer. It is so important for us to move our prayers from the optional to the urgent. How often our prayers merely come from a sense of routine and not a sense of urgency. Yet it is this spirit of urgency that is needed in our prayers. When is the last time that we put our prayer to God with such urgency that we said “Give ear to my words, O Lord?” We have that right and ability to do so, yet how rarely we bring a zeal to the Lord concerning our requests. David shows us that to approach God in prayer, we ought to have intensity and not a prayer formula. In the New Testament, James refers to Elijah who “prayed earnestly” that it would not rain, and it did not (James 5:17 -18). It is that kind of urgency that receives answered prayer.
- Further, we also see a persistency in the prayer David is bringing to God. Twice, in verse 3, we read that David prayed “in the morning.” David was not praying only on one morning. By David saying “in the morning” he was saying that he was praying every morning.
- We have spent many lessons noting the various times Jesus taught the need for persistence in prayer. In Luke 18:1 we are told that Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” David shows us the example that we need to continue to ask of the Lord even when the answer is delayed. In our study of the psalms thus far, we have already seen the many desperate situations David found himself in. Yet David still relied upon prayer, repeatedly asking for the Lord to answer.
- The third verse ends with David saying that he will wait in expectation for an answer to his prayer. The NKJV says “and I will look up.” But this is not an entirely accurate rendering of the Hebrew. Instead, the Hebrew literally means “to look out, to be on watch.” Therefore we are presented with the image of David offering his prayer and then looking all around him for the answer. David is offering a prayer in faith and not in doubt.
- This is another excellent example of the type of spirit we must have in prayer. Many times we have a spirit of hopelessness and not a spirit of expectation which the Lord is looking for. When we ask in doubt, we cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. The Lord desires us to have the spirit of expectation when we approach the throne.
- In noting these three characteristics of spirit in approaching God, one may notice that it is a contrast between a spirit of optimism and pessimism. If we have the positive outlook of expectation in prayer, we would be more persistent in prayer and our prayers would have more urgency. However, a pessimistic spirit toward God will not expect answered prayer and therefore will not be persistent and urgent in prayer. We must have an attitude change when approaching God in prayer.
II. Manner Of Prayer (5:1-3)
A. Types of prayers
- I would also like to notice the types of prayers that David says he has been uttering to God. In verse 1 David says, “give ear to my words.” This is the most common and most obvious form of prayer to the Lord. But we should notice that this is not the only way to offer prayer to God.
- Notice also in verse 1 David says, “consider my sighing.” The word “sighing” also can mean “groaning,” as translated by the New American Standard Version. There are prayers that are a matter of our spirits groaning and sighing to God. We cannot muster the power to speak any words, but the agony is so strong that we simply turn to God and groan for help. God hears our groaning and sighing, showing all the more what kind of compassionate God we have.
- In verse 2 we see that David is also crying to God. Our cries are heard by God as well. Those times of pain when tears flow so great that we would believe we could make a pool out of our beds, God hears. This reinforces our knowledge that God knows our suffering, our anguish, and our hurts, and hears and sees us in our times of struggle.
- We learn that we can approach God even with pain that cannot be put into words. God does not hear us simply because we begin with “our Father in heaven” and close with “in Jesus’ name.” As we saw earlier, God hears when we approach with a righteous spirit.
B. Relationship with God
- God also hears when we are in a right relationship with God. Notice that David does not speak of God as being in a third person relationship. In verse 2 David does not say that the Lord is king and is God. Such a statement would be a mere acknowledgement of the character of God. David, however, is describing the relationship he has with the Lord. David says that the Lord is “my King” and “my God.”
- I am afraid that too many of us do not really have a relationship with God. The only connection that many have is simply through attendance on Sunday. When we do not have the feeling and knowledge of intimacy that God is really a Father for us, then we have not taken advantage of the spiritual blessings that are available. How poor we are when we have not brought the Lord on our side! We can deepen our relationship with God by surrendering ourselves to Him and continuing in prayer, study, and meditation.
III. Contrasting the Relationship of Wicked and Righteous
A. God does not hear the wicked (5:4-6)
- While David has the confidence of answered prayer, he recognizes that others who are outside the covenant relationship with God do not have these blessings. Notice how strong the Lord is against those who sin:God takes no pleasure in evil (5:4)
God cannot dwell with the wicked (5:4)
God cannot have in His presence the arrogant (5:5)
God hates those who do wrong (5:5)
God destroys those who tell lies (5:6)
God abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men (5:6)
- We need to see the severity of sin, for we often take sin too lightly. If we did not take sin so lightly we would likely not sin as often as we do. Instead of abhorring sin as the Lord says He does, we are more interested in knowing how much sin we can be involved in and get away with and still go to heaven. This is usually the frame of our questions, when we say “Do you think God really cares if I do….” We want to know if we can do something that is extremely questionable or sinful and still be right in God’s eyes. The answer is that we cannot get away with any sin.
- Notice that God does not overlook the workers of iniquity and wrongdoers. God hates them; God does not send to heaven those who lie. God destroys them, He does not give them eternal life. We must understand where we stand with God when we sin. Sin prevents us from approaching God. Sins must be removed before we can come into His presence.
- Further, God’s children must adopt the same attitude toward sins as God has. We must abhor sin and have a hatred of sin down to our very core. When our Father hates sin, we cannot cling to it and consider ourselves His children. True children will act just like their Father, and so if we are Christians we must adopt this characteristic in our lives.
B. Why we can approach God (5:7-8)
- This leads David to speak about why he and others can approach God. In verse 7 David says that he can come into the house of God “by Your great mercy.” David does not begin by trying to plead his own righteousness. Our own righteousness gets us nowhere with God. All of us have committed wickedness and have been workers of iniquity and wrong. It is only by God’s mercy that we can have any standing with God and are not destroyed. In Titus 3:5 we read that it is according to God’s mercy that we are saved and not by our works of righteousness. Because we need the mercy of God, we are led to two actions.
- Reverence. First, David says that he will have fear, or reverence, toward God when he worships. We must be in awe of the great mercy of God that allows such vile creatures as ourselves to offer Him honor. How careful we must act in regard to our worship to God. Since the Lord hates and abhors all things that miss the mark, how terrible it is for us to miss the mark in how we should worship the Lord! Worship is only true and reverent worship when it is done the way the one being worshipped desires. Therefore, we only show reverence when we worship God in His way. We cannot add or remove things from the worship for our benefit.
- Led in righteousness. Knowing that the wicked are abhorred and will be destroyed, we need the Lord to lead us in His paths of righteousness. Our path of righteousness will not do us any good since we lead ourselves to destruction. But because of God’s mercy we can be led in His righteousness, which leads to justification. This request is really at the heart of David’s prayer, which is found at the end of verse 8. David requests the Lord to guide him down God’s straight way. How rarely we remember to pray for guidance in our decisions, yet how badly we need God’s direction in our lives. Only God’s guidance and direction can keep us from destruction with the rest of the ungodly. We show true wisdom to ask God to guide our lives.
C. Corrupt words of the wicked (5:9-10)
- David now turns his attention back to the wicked. Earlier David noted how the Lord would destroy all those who tell lies (5:6). Now David is going to spend more time talking about the speech of the wicked. David begins by stating that none of their words can be trusted. Why do we listen to counsel of sinners and the advice of the ungodly? Why do we think that they can help us with life decisions better than God? Their throat is an open grave and all who follow their words will make their grave. Their tongues are full of lies and deceit, their mouths are not trustworthy, and their hearts are filled with destruction.
- The heart is where the lies and deceitfulness stem from. The corrupt and wicked heart is the problem of the deceitful. This is a common problem that afflicts all people. In Romans 3:13 Paul quotes this verse of the psalm and applies it to the whole human race. All people have been charged under the guilt of sin, both Jews and Gentiles. Can we get away with having corrupted hearts and deceitful words? No.
- According to verse 10, David warns that God will declare them guilty. The very thing that is devised and done by the wicked will be their own downfall. In our language today, we say “what goes around comes around.” Thus, David implores the Lord for this justice to be executed. Let the wickedness come back upon them.
- This needs to be a reminder for us when we think about speaking malicious words and plotting against others. Eventually these things will come back upon us. Proverbs 29:6 says, “An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.” God takes note of these things and will judge them according to their actions. Because of their rebellion, they are cast away from God. No one who speaks these words and has this kind of heart can approach God.
D. Blessings of the righteous ( 5:11 -12)
- The final stanza is the joy that can be found among the righteous. When righteous people approach the Lord, they will find the Lord as their refuge. When we go to God for protection, we will not be turned away and left to defend ourselves. When we approach God with the proper spirit and holy hands, we will find gladness and joy. We know this is the case, but how quickly we forget the good that God can do for us.
- David continues by saying that God will spread a covering of protection over the righteous so that they may rejoice. Notice the movement and emphasis that David is trying to place within our minds for us to learn. When we turn to God for protection we will find joy. When we turn for help, we will find gladness. When we turn to God as a refuge, we will find rejoicing.
- The final verse strikes this point the strongest. “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous. You surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Look at the great spiritual blessings we come away with when we approach the Lord! The blessings of God continue to be given to us to aid us and strengthen us for the Lord.
- Finally, the righteous are surrounded with the favor of God like a shield. This shield is a buckler which when set up would offer protection for the warrior. We are surrounded by the favor and mercy of God. Though the world is condemned with sin, by God’s mercy He still shows favor to us when we approach Him properly.
Ephesians 3:12 says, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Let us properly approach Him and receive His great blessings of help and protection.