Thoughts on the Fifth Psalm
A psalm of unmerited favor
Michael L. Ford, Th.D.
It is often the case that those in Christian work operate apart from the blessing of family and friends. I am grateful for the support of my family and specially want to recognize two in my extended family who have been encouraging to me even as they deal with the challenges life has brought them.
Harvey Ford, Deacon, my last living uncle
Joe Kenneth Parks, my cousin
Neither are anxious for public recognition.
But their love and encouragement is of great value to me.
I remark upon the value their approval and appreciation is to me as I struggle to go on in spite of infirmity so others who read this might remember some brother in Christ who also needs a kind word or appreciative accolade along the way. A fellow preacher remarked recently about how he regretted that he had not appreciated an older brother in the days when that brother struggled to serve the Lord without approval of friends and family. It is an oversight that cannot be undone.
Looking up Scripture related to some counseling material I was putting together, I visited verse eleven of the fifth Psalm:
“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.”
From the single Scripture verse my attention turned to the entire Psalm. Because it was the fifth Psalm I was looking for the evidence of grace within it. It was unsettling when I looked at the fifth verse of the fifth Psalm, which reads:
“The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”
According to theories of Biblical numerics, I was looking for that specific verse to say something positive on the subject of grace, and what I thought should be in the passage was not there. Could it be my understanding of the theory was wrong, or perhaps the theory did not hold up in all instances?
Finally it came to me how I should look at the Psalm in the context of grace. The Psalm tells us how to find the grace in God’s sight by not being and doing the things that God holds in disfavor. The prayer of the Psalm is for guidance. And, if we have the guidance of God through His Spirit and the Word, we will most assuredly be led into all grace.
We all Want God to Hear Us
The fifth Psalm opens with these words: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto Thee will I pray.”
It expresses the heart’s desire of every person, who has ever been conscious of need, when David beseeched God to listen to what he had to say. David was specific in that he wanted God to be responsive not only to the prayer formed by the lips, but to that which was inside his breast; the things that weigh heavily and yet sometimes we do not dare even to utter. We not only want God to listen to us, but we want Him to respond to us in a way our needs are met. For many people, it has been a frustration to them that they seek God, and yet feel that their prayers are getting no higher than the ceiling.
Notice in his address to God beseeching that He hear, David approaches the Almighty on three levels of relationship. He addresses Him as Lord, as King, and as God. In other words David realizes and is telling us He is praying with the full realization that in relationship the One he is addressing is all three of those things. When God truly occupies all three of those areas in His relationship to our lives it alters our conduct, our approach, and our attitude in relationship to Him. The big problem a great many people have in communicating with God and living within His grace is that their view of God is too small and therefore the relationship they pursue with Him is askew.
So much more could be written about this, but for the moment these examples to describe what I mean come to mind: When we see that He is Lord, the way He chooses to answer our prayers is unquestionably right; when He is King the way He chooses to direct our path is to be walked without regret; and when He is seen as truly God, our whole attitude of approach is altered. Too many think they have the right to demand of God as petulant children when they should be on their faces before Him with awe. The three realities of a correct approach to God is worthy of careful thought and application to our lives in Christ.
When our Prayers Should Start
Most people have heard the expression, “He got up on the wrong side of the bed.” That is usually used to refer to a person who started out their day being grouchy, and from there, the situation deteriorated. The truth is most people start out the day wrong and then wonder why nothing seems to go right. David put things in perspective when he told us how he found grace for the day: “My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.”
A couple of years ago I read some statistics about how most people now get out of bed in the mornings at the very last minute. Some people are so rushed they are still dressing themselves as they drive down the road towards work. Women are putting on makeup as they drive, and some men find portable electric shavers their best friend. A lot of fast food restaurants make millions catering to the drive through breakfast crowd. People start their day wrong and wonder why it is so hard to get through it. They have not found grace for the day.
David made the first occupation of the morning a conversation with the Lord. I think a big part of his first half hour was a committing of the day to God and a requesting of guidance as he worked his way through it. We think we have problems. He had to run a country, without benefit of any of our modern telecommunications, deal with other countries that appeared more powerful than him, and balance the relationships between a rather extended household. Troubles, he had some, and like us, some of his woes were of his own making. David found time to pray. I think he knew he needed to, and so do we.
Another thing about how David started his day was the position. He began on his knees looking up to God. That is the position of one who recognized that he is inferior in relationship to He who is superior. Too often we want to meet with God on equal footing. This means two things. The first is that we have too inflated an opinion of ourselves and secondly we have too small an opinion of God. Common sense should tell us that getting that right is important to receiving divine blessings.
What God Is Not
God gets a lot of criticism for defining Himself by what He is not. But think about it. He has to compete with false gods created on our false assumptions about life and get us to a realization of Who He is. That is quite a task when you think about it. One of the things that my life experience taught me is people have a tendency to define you by the part of you they know. Surely you have had such experience in life as well. If people can make false assumptions about a person it is not surprising that we all are in danger of leaping to false conclusions about God?
David begins by saying outright to God, “For Thou are not a god that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with Thee.” Psalm 5:4
This is quite a statement in itself and one that separates the True God from the false gods invented by Satan and man. Wickedness, any kind of wickedness, gives God no pleasure, and evil is neither part of God’s makeup nor something He is going to tolerate in people. That means that everything we do apart from Him puts us in trouble with God, and the multitude of our sins and shortcomings, no matter how small the world might consider them, separates us from the perfect relationship and eternal destination we long for. In this statement our need for God’s grace toward us is made so obvious their can be no doubt that apart from Him making special provision for us we are undone.
It also tells us that God’s very nature is so far apart from what is found in this fallen world, the language of the world comes short of being able to express it. Even heaven has a problem with giving voice to what this simple statement tells us about God. One of the finest expressions of what I am talking about is found in Revelation chapter 4. There you have cherubim in the presence of God “…who rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (verse 8) That is the pinnacle of what the tongue of men or angels can say on the matter. God does not simply possess holiness, He is holiness, and because of that we need His grace bestowed upon us if we are to have any hope at all. Fortunately God makes provision for us by His grace. 4.
Boldness of Folly
There are few people in Christian circles unfamiliar with the term “holy boldness.” It says something of a believer whose relationship with the Lord is such that he can commune with God over a subject he cares about. He intercedes with the Master about something heavy on his heart. When we see Abraham interceding for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah we see some genuine holy boldness in action. But there is another kind of boldness, and that is the boldness displayed by people who are full of ignorance and folly. Soldiers know of such people and stay as far away from them as possible in combat. They usually succeed in getting themselves killed and often others along with them.
The Bible is aware of such people as well. They are certainly to be seen in the statement “The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity,” (Psalm 5:5) Everybody has known someone that fits in this category. They are the kind of people that think when they get to hell they will have fun with their friends and go skiing across the Lake of Fire. Seriously, you often see such people challenging God and blaming Him for evil, when the Bible clearly tells us that evil is in the world, not because of God, but because of man’s sin beginning with the fall of Adam.
The person with a boldness born in folly thinks that they have a right to challenge, criticize, and even correct God. The Word makes it plain that when they get their chance to stand before God they will not. The people who know better than God and think they should instruct Him will be on their knees before Him on the day they think they will lodge their protest and tell God that He is unfair or misguided. It occurred that the connection with those who are foolish is one of the best of times for God to inform us He hates all workers of iniquity. For one reason here it is plain that foolishness is not an excuse for iniquity, but for another it emphasizes what has been in my mind the best two-word definition of sin that I have seen. “I will.” That is the same kind of logic found in the heart of a child when it intentionally disregards what its parents has taught it and behaves foolishly.
The follow up to the general statement concerning God hating all workers of iniquity in verse five of the fifth Psalm is very specific about a particular type of sin: “Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5: 6) “Leasing” is not a common word that we use every day, but since it offends God so much we should seek to learn what it is. It is not even a common biblical word, for it is only used one other place in the Bible. “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?” (Psalm 4: 2) Leasing is falsehood or deceitfulness, in other words, it was out and out lying.
In the fifth Psalm leasing is the speaking of lies for the purpose of deceit, and in the fourth Psalm falsehood or lies brings shame to God as people seek after means to do such things. It is no wonder that God would view such actions with abhorrence, but we do not find it easy to understand where the topic of blood comes in. That is, until we start thinking of the subject in terms of the suffering such things cause people both in this world and in eternity.
The Bible is full of condemnation for lying in both the Old and New Testament, but one of the areas of deceit present in both and also symptomatic of the end of the age. It is the deceit of false prophets. At one point as I meditated upon this passage, I thought I should write about such people as dishonest politicians. But, then I realized politicians, like people who lie in the legal arena, are as much false prophets in their own areas as are the purveyors of false religion are in their realm of action. It is an interesting thing that dealing falsely and misrepresenting the truth is a sign of the time of the end. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; heaving their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1Timothy 4: 1-2)
The warning that this would be the nature of the end of this age has been given to many a minister at the time of his ordination for generations. It is contained within the charge (2Timothy 4: 1-5) read to ministers within many denominations of the faith. Pg. 6
How to Get an Audience with God
Every person has before them a decision. They must choose this day Whom they will serve. The single-minded person makes that choice once for all, and goes ahead with life. A Christian makes that decision for the Lord Jesus Christ and his life is transformed by it. He may sometimes go through spiritual difficulty but his true course has already been committed. So David wrote: “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.” Psalm 5: 7
David knew that even under the time of the law, in which he lived, that the ultimate relationship with the True God was dependant upon His mercy, and like him, we have cause to be grateful that His mercy is without failing toward those who seek Him. If we come before God in any other attitude, then we come in a manner that is unacceptable to the Lord. We are looking to stand before Him as clothed in His righteousness and not our own. We should avoid the attitude that God is blessed by our presence but rather we are blessed by His.
Our generation is marked by a lack of fear, reverential respect, for God. Many have lost a true conception of who God is. Scripture tells us not to fear men who can kill the flesh, but to fear God who has power over both the soul and the flesh. That warning does not does not summarize who God is, but it should make the rebellious spirit think twice before it pursues folly. God does not choose to reduce us to a mass of quivering flesh in fear, but He does desire our respect for who He is, as He wants our love for what He is to us. When our attitude gets right, we find that the Lord has been eagerly awaiting our entrance into His presence.
There is one other thing about what David said that grips my mind, and that is his statement about worshipping toward God’s holy temple. It says a lot about whom we are by how we act when we are away from those who know us. We should not be changed by distance because, if for no other reason, distance does not separate us from God. Near or far, our attitude should be one of worship, marked by holiness.
Enemies are Distractions
The life in Christ is not an easy one to follow. People who pretend that once you get saved all becomes easy give me pause of concern. For one thing, you get a few people like that together in a single church and pretty soon it is no place for people who are honest about having problems and struggles in life to be. Christians are supposed to be saved and sanctified, not sanctimonious.
Then there is the problem of the rest of the world. Sometimes it seems like the devil’s crowd has a conspiracy afoot to get Christians to sin so they can be publicly condemned. If they do not put before the believer the false pleasures of sin for a season, they are trying to do something that will provoke an unchristian response. When either one of these temptations are submitted to then the wicked have a field day declaring how much like themselves those “phony Christians” really are.
David seemed to understand this when he wrote: “Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make Thy way straight before my face.” (Psalm 5: 8) It does not take much life experience trying to walk the straight and narrow before we realize that we need guidance from day to day, even moment to moment. As soon as one thing is dealt with we find that some other issue has arisen where we need to know how to choose to act with the mind of Christ. Sometimes we can feel as though the challenges are on every hand and seem to be overwhelming.
Having an understanding of the direction of the Scripture is part of the solution, but it is the leadership of the Holy Spirit that shows us how to correctly apply the written Word to the issues of life we run into. David’s plea for leadership and clear understanding (making the way straight) was a plea for continuous direction from the Spirit of God. Though he was not without failings, even as you and I, he had an understanding of the real work of the Spirit that seemed to be beyond most of the other Old Testament figures. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all knowledge and certainly some of the greatest knowledge we need is how to live in the presence of our enemies.
When we read Psalm 5 verses 8 and 9 together, our mind moves to the wisdom presented in the Proverbs when it warns us about the wicked. Passage after passage reflects the same idea we read in verse nine: “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulcher; they flatter with their tongue.” Sometimes we think the warnings are uniquely feminine when we read them in some of the Proverb passages, but David makes it clear that this is not so.
This week I read some reports of people who have taken the word sofia, which occurs in a few places in Proverbs and elevated the word to the status of a goddess, which they then claimed was in Proverbs. The people who had done this were people of status in some “religious” organizations. Finding out about them and researching them was a reminder of something I learned a long time ago. That is neither being religious; nor claiming to be a Christian makes a person truly Christian. There true position is revealed by what proceeds out of their mouths.
The Bible has warned us about false prophets who try to lead us to other gods, and Scripture certainly leads us to the conclusion that we should judge the words of people who present themselves as religious leaders, even as we should be careful of people who want to influence other parts of our lives.
People who want to lead us into trouble in our religious beliefs, just as those who lure us into compromising our Christian walk in other areas are distractions along the road of life. Because of them we should be very familiar with the teachings of Scripture concerning conducting our lives. Not only that, as the return of the Lord nears, it is ever more imperative that we are not ignorant of the wiles of those who have given themselves over to Satan’s service. This is a distraction when we would rather spend our time on other matters, but necessary because we want to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ in every thing.
We can compare this to how a soldier lives in preparation for warfare. It is often the case a soldier would rather be studying something other than what he is about at the moment, but he has to discipline himself to the understanding of enemy tactics and the means he has at his disposal to defeat them. This is done so when the encounter comes he is prepared to win the victory.
People Fall by their Own Folly
One of the criticisms aimed at the Old Testament is that it is too harsh. They view the picture of God they see in those books as angry, unyielding, yes, and even bloodthirsty. By the same token, the men of God that move across the pages from Genesis to Malachi are sometimes pictured as vindictive. I have heard some people express it as a sort of “get them God” attitude. Such a verse as is found in Psalm 5:10: “Destroy Thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast then out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against Thee.” But I have an alternative view to pose for consideration. Why should a person who truly loves righteousness want the Living God, who is righteousness personified to allow sin to continue? And why should He allow sin to continue when it is His own people who are often the victims of evildoers? Their must always come a time for a divine weighing in the balances of perfect justice.
Actually the expression of the Psalmist has its New Testament counterparts. The same justice David speaks of in this verse is contained in the words “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15) But some people do not like the Epistle of James so let us look at what Paul said about the matter under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. He remarked “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6: 7-8).
David agrees with God concerning the issue of sowing and reaping. Let them fall by their own counsels he says. Country folks used to talk about receiving justice for what you have done in life using the expression that a persons “chickens had come home to roost.” We should be grateful for mercy and longsufferance from God, for in this we find salvation, but there always comes a time when righteousness requires justice and our righteous God does gives it in accordance with the transgression.
The Blessed State
Verse eleven of the fifth Psalm is something of a prayer as much as it is a description of the blessed state that is possible to the believer. “But let all those who 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.” I say that it is possible to the believer because the blessed state the passage speaks of is not always realized in every believer’s life. David’s request of the Lord is for something that God very much wants to do. God never wants His children to fail in having the joy of His salvation.
God does not want to restrain us from rejoicing for out of that flows praise and worship. But David knew and expressed the secret for being in the blessed state of rejoicing in the Lord, and that secret is contained in the word ‘trust.’ For the trust of the believer begins with trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation but then must extend into trusting Him in every part of our lives. We often here the term “resting in Christ” or “resting in the Lord,” but it is not always easy to realize that this ‘rest’ comes from trust. Because we trust, we find rest, and where we do not trust, there is no rest.
We give little thought to the defense of God, and maybe this is why it is sometimes difficult to reach the blessed joyful state that every believer should live in. The defense of God exists in the realms of body, soul, and spirit. Some of the more obvious areas of this defense are in the intercession of Christ and the fact no believer is ever asked to go through more than he or she can endure in the power of the Lord’s might. But the defense of God also extends to His restraint upon how far evil can go in this world, for the sake of those in the world who are His own. In fact the only limitation upon the defense of God is that which He places upon it that He might receive glory.
In a summary thought, let us pause to consider one thing about what it means to love the Name of the Lord. God has a number of names that describe His nature to us, but it always seems that every believer has one that has special meaning to him or her. That Name says something about the believer’s greatest need that only God can fill. 11.
Blessing belongs to the righteous. That is a fact that should be without question. The alternative view of that is the fact that those who are unrighteous are outside of the place where they can be blessed. In the fifth Psalm, the position of the unrighteous is presented to emphasize the place of the believer in the grace of God. It is inappropriate however to think that the awfulness of the position of the person under condemnation somehow heightens the blessed state of the person who has the blessing of God upon them. One is so far separated from the other that any comparison of that type is the comparison of two totally different things. What is under God’s blessing and what is deserving of God’s cursing should be seen as connected to the very nature of God, Himself.
The fact of blessing belonging to the righteous is expressed in the positive manner in which the last verse of the fifth Psalm speaks: “For Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt Thou compass him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5: 12) The essence of that blessing begins with believing God. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness; the great faith chapter has at its core believing God and counting Him faithful concerning His promises. Faith in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross is the basis of receiving salvation and being numbered among the righteous. Without a doubt walking in righteousness, the blessed state, and receiving the benefit of that condition is tightly affixed to the issue of faith.
One of the things the believer who wants to live within that blessed state possible to the believer must remember is that God’s ways are not our ways, neither is His thoughts our thoughts. There are times when, if we are to be clothed in the righteousness of God in our daily walk, we must remember that God’s favor and defense is set for a higher and loftier purpose than we might be able to know. Then when the situation that might leave us feeling vulnerable and alone occurs we can be renewed with the knowledge that even if we do not know, there is never a moment when God does not know what is absolutely for the best in our lives. It is then in quietness and comfort we rest in His strength alone.
PO Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113
Subscribe to the Daily Thought
Visit our website: