We’ll approach Psalm 5 like we have all the psalms. We’ll explore its genre, underlying situation, structure, topic, and theme. And finally we’ll study each verse of this psalm.
Psalm 5 Genre
As has been our custom, we start these lessons considering the genre of the psalm that we’re studying. And Psalm 5 is another lament psalm. You probably didn’t believe me when I said in our first lesson that lament psalms account for about 1/3 of the entire book of Psalms. But this is the 3rd lament psalm we’ve seen in the first 5 psalms.
So Psalm 5 is a lament psalm. But how do you know it’s a lament psalm? Let’s just remind ourselves about the essence of a lament psalm. Otherwise known as complaint psalms, these psalms always feature some sort of complaint. In Psalm 5, the complaint is primarily found in Psalm 5:9. Typically the complaint is about wicked people. For example, back in Psalm 3 where the complaint involved David’s enemies who were seeking to destroy him. Or in Psalm 4 where the complaint was directed toward faithless Israelites who were turning to idols. And these people very much affect the poet writing the Psalm. These evil people are creating a crisis in the life of the psalmist. And it’s this crisis that lament psalms aim to deal with. In fact, in lament psalms we see the psalmist actually mastering this crisis in his life.
Well, what is the crisis of Psalm 5? That’s where we get into the second general phenomenon that we look for in a psalm – the underlying situation.
Psalm 5 Underlying Situation
The underlying situation is the thing in the life of the psalmist that caused him to write his poem.
You remember that in Psalm 3 the underlying situation was easy to get. It was stated at the very beginning of the psalm. David was being chased by his son Absalom.
Psalm 4 was a little more difficult to get. It was harder to get, but finally we discovered that the underlying situation of Psalm 4 was a drought that was threatening agricultural Israel’s harvest.
But what’s the underlying situation for Psalm 5? It’s pretty vague again – probably even more so than in Psalm 4. This time, I think what’s spurring David on to write this poem is wicked people. Again, that’s nothing new or special to this psalm only.
But in this case, a certain part of the body of the wicked is repeatedly mentioned. Psalm 5:9 – “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.”
And because this is the case, David asks for the Lord to – Psalm 5:8 – “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.”
So, David needs the Lord’s guidance and protection because of his enemies. And in particular, these enemies are using their mouths to attack David. Remember – In Psalm 3, the enemies were using “sticks and stones” – so to speak – and were trying to “break [David’s] bones” or worse. But in Psalm 5 they’re using “words” to “hurt” David.
So, the underlying situation in this psalm is – “wicked men using their words to destroy the righteous”.
Now, I want to point out one thing here. When we talk about a psalm being a “Psalm of David”, we shouldn’t immediately assume that the psalm was written by David when he was king. David was a king for a good part of his life. So, any psalm he writes very well may be from that period in his life. But he wasn’t always a king. Any one of his psalms could have been written when he was a shepherd watching his father’s sheep. Or some of his psalms could be written during the tumultuous years when Saul was pursuing him. Sometimes, we just don’t know. And you can imagine that depending on when he wrote his psalms, he was probably facing some really different kinds of challenges. A shepherd faces different issues than does a fugitive than does a king.
So, Psalm 5’s underlying situation – the wicked using their words to destroy the righteous – could have happened at various times in David’s life – either times when he himself personally faced this kind of ordeal or when he witnessed others experiencing it.
This psalm could have been produced after Doeg the Edomite told Saul that the priests had helped David, his enemy. And Saul slaughtered the priests because of the words of the wicked Doeg.
There were at least two times when David was hiding in a city from Saul. And then the citizens of that city went and told Saul and were planning to hand David over to him. Maybe David wrote this psalm after one of those times.
The psalm may have come from the time that his son Absalom was winning the hearts of his people and then led them in rebellion against David.
We don’t know for sure. But all of these are possibilities. And here’s what’s more important than locating a certain recorded episode in David’s life that brought about this psalm: Do you know what this is like? Can you identify with David? Do you know what it’s like to have wicked men use their words to try to destroy you? Does your church know what it’s like to have wicked men try to shut the doors through their gossip and slander? Well, then this psalm applies to you. It’s a psalm to emulate and pray personally to the Lord when you’re facing these kinds of problems.
So, Psalm 5 is a lament psalm written because David wants to complain to God about wicked men who are using their words to try to destroy the righteous.
Psalm 5 Structure
Now, let’s talk about the structure of this psalm. Surely by now we all know how many components make up the structure of a lament psalm. Five. So, let’s find them.
We see the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3. The psalmist is calling on God. And he says
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. 2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. 3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Next, the psalmist expresses his confidence in the Lord in Psalm 5:4-7.
For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. 7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
And it’s interesting, because the psalmist approaches expressing his confidence in God in two different ways.
First, he states that he is confident in God’s purity. And that purity will not allow unrighteous violent men to get away with their wickedness.
But the psalmist isn’t simply confident that God will punish evil, though. He’s confident that God has been and will continue to be merciful to him.
So, that’s the two-pronged approach that the psalmist gives concerning his confidence in the Lord.
Next, we have the psalmist’s petition in Psalm 5:8 and Psalm 5:10. It’s kind of split up. He says
Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
And we’ll get to Psalm 5:9 in just a bit, but skip to Psalm 5:10.
Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
The psalmist’s petition is similar to his statement of confidence in God. It also has two aspects.
First, the psalmist asks for guidance and help in the journey of life. But he needs that guidance because of his enemies.
And so second, he also petitions the Lord to destroy those enemies – these wicked men who are using their words to destroy the righteous.
And that brings us to the 4th part of the structure of Psalm 5. The lament. It’s found in the verse that we just skipped over – Psalm 5:9.
For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
Then lastly, the psalm’s structure ends with praise in Psalm 5:11-12.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. 12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
So, Psalm 5 is a psalm in which David laments the fact that there are wicked men using their words to destroy the righteous. And we just saw the layout and structure of the psalm.
Psalm 5 Topic/Theme
Now, we’ll try to grasp Psalm 5’s topic and theme. What is the psalm about?
Well, you could say – isn’t it just about the wicked – and how they try to destroy the righteous?
The answer – not exactly. That’s the underlying situation. But the underlying situation isn’t necessarily the same thing as what the psalm is about.
The topic of a psalm needs to somehow be related to everything that’s stated in that psalm. So, the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3 – they have nothing to do with wicked people destroying righteous people – for example.
So, what is the topic of Psalm 5? I think it’s about deliverance. That’s a common theme in the psalms – especially in the lament psalms.
So then, the invocation is where the psalmist is preparing to seek deliverance from the Lord.
The statement of confidence serves as the psalmist’s way of expressing trust in God to deliver.
The petition is where the psalmist requests God to deliver.
The lament is the reason the psalmist gives for needing deliverance.
And the concluding praise section gives the psalmist’s praise to the Lord for deliverance.
So, what’s Psalm 5 about? What’s its topic? Deliverance.
Theme: The Righteous Delivered from the Wicked
But what’s the theme of Psalm 5? How would we summarize what the psalmist says about the topic of deliverance?
I think we could sum up the theme of Psalm 5 this way. The Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked. That might sound a little generic. It might seem like most lament psalms could be summarized this way. But that doesn’t make it any less the theme of this psalm. I think Psalm 5 is communicating that the Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked.
Psalm 5:1-12 Commentary
So, to summarize, Psalm 5 is David’s lament to the Lord that there are evil people using their words to destroy the righteous. It’s also David’s request for God to deliver the righteous from those wicked individuals. And ultimately, it’s David’s expression of confidence that God will indeed deliver the righteous from those wicked people.
So, let’s take the remaining space here going through the psalm one last time, noticing the details of this poem. We’ll start back with the invocation in Psalm 5:1-3.
Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD;
in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Let’s look at those first two statements. The psalmist wants the Lord to give ear to his words. He’s going to speak and he wants the Lord to listen and respond to those words.
But there are more than words being expressed here. Because the next line has David requesting that the Lord would “consider” his “meditation”. A meditation is not something verbal – at least not in a coherent form. Other translations translate this word as “groanings” or “sighings”. In fact, the only other place this word is used, the KJV translates it as “musing”. So, this meditation is an utterance that cannot be clearly understood by the human ear. It’s communicating something, to be sure. But sometimes that’s how our prayers are. Sometimes you can articulate your concerns to the Lord or to others. But sometimes your problem overwhelms you in your own mind and heart to the point where you’re communicating something. But no one could possibly understand. But the Lord can.
The Lord gave ear to David’s words. He listened to them. But for David’s meditations or groanings or sighings – the Lord does something different. The Lord doesn’t hear these things. He rather “considers” them. The KJV translates that word in other places as “understand” or “perceive” or “discern”.
So, the Lord listens to audible words. And he can even perceive our deepest thoughts.
Next, David in Psalm 5:2 brings in this image of God being a king. And this fits so well. Who better to deliver the righteous who are being afflicted by the wicked?
Israel’s executive branch was her king. The king was to keep law and order. And even David – whether he was king or not at this point in his life – recognized that he needed the Lord to act as king and make matters right.
Innocent people were being destroyed. The Lord our king must act! The Lord must deliver!
And since the Lord is king, David is going to approach him with his case according to Psalm 5:3.
It makes you think of a court room setting. Early in the morning, David is going to come to the king’s palace and plead his case before the only one who can ultimately do anything about his problem.
And when David comes to the Lord’s palace to plead his case, he really does have a case. When the KJV says that David is going to “direct” his prayer, he’s saying that he’s going to lay out his case in order. He’s going to bring the evidence of the wicked men’s wrongdoing. He’s going to bring the evidence of the innocence of the righteous. He’s going to lay it all out before the Lord.
And then he’s going to watch to see the Lord’s verdict.
And there’s no doubt in David’s mind that the verdict will be favorable to the righteous. Because what we have next in Psalm 5:4-7 is his statement of confidence in the Lord.
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness:
neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight:
thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing:
the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy:
and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
David knows God’s character. God won’t let the guilty get away with their assault against the righteous.
Psalm 5:4 reminds me of the statement in James 1:13 to the effect that God can’t be tempted with evil. Evil has no influence on him because he has nothing in him that answers to evil’s temptations.
And not only does God have no pleasure in evil. But evil won’t even be granted temporary residence with God. The psalmist uses a pictorial word in Psalm 5:4. The word “dwell” is actually “sojourn” – like a brief stay. Evil can’t even visit God. He’s that holy.
And back to the courtroom setting. In Psalm 5:5 we’re presented with this group known as the “foolish” in the KJV. The word is actually halal – as in Halelujah – Praise the Lord. It has to do with praising something. And in this case, these foolish folks are praising themselves. We could refer to them as the boastful.
So, these boastful fools might present themselves before God to defend themselves. But they won’t stand. They’ll be found guilty and condemned. Why? Because God hates those who practice evil – and in the context he is hating those who use their words to destroy the righteous. God hates those kinds of people.
And David continues in Psalm 5:6 describing his confidence in the Lord to render the right verdict against these wicked men.
It’s interesting that he uses two more terms that have to do with the wicked using their mouth wrongly.
They speak leasing – they lie, is what that means. And they’re deceitful.
And all of this wrong speech that the wicked practice – it isn’t just for amusing themselves. They’re bloody, the text says. They use their words to kill people.
Think of Jezebel’s command to certain worthless men to lie about Naboth. “Naboth did blaspheme God and the king!” they said in 1 Kings 21:13. That one lie resulted in the stoning to death of an innocent man.
Those kind of people God abhors. He detests them. He is repulsed by them.
Boy, you might think, I’m not used to God thinking this way of people. I’m used to him “so loving the world” (John 3:16) and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29) and praying for the forgiveness of those who crucified him (Luke 23:34) and such.
And he does all those things. We’ll even see that kind of character from him in the next verse (Psalm 5:7).
But I think if we don’t see the true repulsion that God has towards sin, we can take even the incarnation of Christ lightly.
What’s the big deal about God the Son living among sinful men if God loves man’s sin?
But he doesn’t. And he’s repulsed by it.
And at the same time, God is merciful to many. To all who trust in him and turn from their evil deeds.
So, in Psalm 5:7, David is expressing confidence that God will deliver him from those deceptive bloodthirsty men.
In contrast to them, David will enter God’s house. Why? Because David never sinned? No. Because of the multitude of God’s mercy – his chesed – his loyal covenant love. That makes all the difference.
It’s because of God’s loyal love that any of us are any different from the wicked world around us. It’s God’s loyal love that pulled some of us from a way of life that resembled these wicked men in Psalm 5. And that same loyal love is what gave David confidence to enter God’s house. Just like he’s one of God’s family. He can come right in – experience the protection of a home, the warmth, the comfort of a home – but only because of God’s great loyal love.
And even though David is a welcomed guest in God’s home, he’s not taking that privilege lightly. He’s not going to be putting his feet up on the table any time soon. He enters in reverence and in fear of displeasing this great, loving, holy God.
Now, the last word of Psalm 5:7 is “temple”. And that’s a legitimate translation. But in 10 out of the 80 times that word appears in the Old Testament, it’s translated in the KJV as “palace”.
Remember what David said God was in the invocation? A king. Where do kings live? Not usually in temples, but in palace. Though this king is also God and so his palace is a temple.
Now, in light of David’s confidence that God will deliver him from the wicked, we have his specific petition to the Lord starting in Psalm 5:8.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies;
make thy way straight before my face.
Let me draw our attention to the last word before the semicolon – “enemies”. The word is typically translated as “enemy”. But it has the idea of someone watching. So, you’ve got David on the narrow dark path that life sometimes is for us. And what makes matters worse is that he’s got wicked people who are watching him and waiting to destroy him. It’s no wonder that he cries out to God for leading along that path.
And that path – the path of life – might have dangerous twists and turns along the way. And so David asks God to make that path straight. Remove the obstacles. Take away the things that would cause him to stumble on this path.
Well, what would cause David to stumble? Answer – the very ones who were watching for his life. The wicked.
And so, in Psalm 5:9, David actually interrupts his petition to God in order to break into the lament of this psalm.
David more graphically illustrates the effect that these wicked men are having on the righteous:
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
their inward part is very wickedness;
their throat is an open sepulchre;
they flatter with their tongue.
This is why David needed to be guided by the Lord on the path of life and to have his path straightened out. Because these very guys are on that path. And when you get the picture of what David is saying, it’s pretty terrifying.
David again points to their mouth. And let me try to reveal what the psalmist is really communicating.
Let’s start from the end of Psalm 5:9. They flatter with their tongue. Literally, they make their tongue smooth. Their tongue is pictured as being smooth, then. Not literally, but metaphorically. This is a poem after all. So we’re picturing their smooth tongue.
And tongues are kind of connected to and proceed from the throat. Well, David next pictures the throats of these wicked men – the throats that give voice to the words that they use to destroy the righteous – as open graves.
And finally, the inward parts – their belly – is not necessarily “wickedness” as the KJV has it. This word refers to destruction or calamity or ruin.
So, it’s a strange picture and one that only poetry can get away with. But here’s what’s being pictured. The righteous are walking along the path of life. They’re unsuspecting and suddenly they slip on the smooth tongue of the wicked and into the open grave. And like dead men, the righteous fall into those graves and meet their destruction. And all of this is picturing the effect that the words of these wicked men have on the righteous.
So in light of this happening, David returns to his petition for deliverance – with more of a focus on God stopping the evil deeds of these wicked men.
10 Destroy thou them, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions;
for they have rebelled against thee.
As opposed to David entering God’s house in the multitude of God’s loyal love, David asks that these men be cast out in the multitude of their transgressions.
And if we’re continuing with this royal motif, the king can do this – right? A king can banish his subjects for their rebellion.
And that’s what it comes down to in David’s mind. The sin of these men are not against men only. These wicked men – by slandering and lying and doing all sorts of other evil with their tongue – they’re rebelling against God ultimately.
Well, the psalm ends on a happy note.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice:
let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them:
let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous;
with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
As opposed to the wicked, who will be cast out, those of us who are righteous like David – we just need to rejoice. Do you see the three different words expressing this emotion? “Rejoice”, “shout for joy”, and “be joyful”. Why should the righteous rejoice? Because we trust the Lord and love his name and because he ultimately defends us from our enemies and from all evil.
Again, God is a shield for the righteous – for those who love his name and trust him. And this shield is all around us. He’s not going to let anything touch us.
The Lord shows this kind of favor to these kinds of people. And we praise him for this – the blessing and protection that only he can provide.
So, Psalm 5 – the Lord will deliver the righteous from the wicked.